‘Nothing to lose’: Alan Nguy on pursuing university ministry

by Vanesia To, Communications Cadet

When Alan Nguy became a Christian, he began sharing his faith with customers while serving coffee. But what led him to begin following the path towards university ministry?

Growing up in a culturally Buddhist family, Alan didn’t think much about God. Even when he joined a Christian youth group, his priority was to see friends and play basketball. It wasn’t until Alan grew older and started caring about his life that he began to dwell on the reality of God – and faced the alarming realisation that he had been ignoring Jesus his whole life.

As he began to read Luke’s gospel during train rides to university, Alan was unaware of the doors that God was about to open for him to an entirely different life and career.

Alan with his wife and child

A whole 180 flip

Alan became a Christian towards the end of his university degree, and realised that he needed to publicly profess his faith and share this news with his parents. Alan remembers, “I helped them see that if I believed in Jesus as my Lord, then it meant that my whole life had to do a 180 flip.”

This certainly became true of Alan’s life! He began serving at church and youth group, and in his work as a barista he sought out opportunities to share Jesus with his customers. His conviction grew stronger as he saw how so many people, especially young people, didn’t think they needed Jesus at all.

“The reality came head-on,” Alan shares. “It became real one day when I was working, making coffee, and one of my youth kids rocked up who I hadn’t seen in a long time. She had left the church and was convinced that there was something better out there for her than Jesus.”

After this encounter, Alan began to wonder if he was making the most of the gifts God had given him to share the life and hope of the gospel, which he knew nothing else in the world could offer. This led him to take his next step in faith.

An apprenticeship is ‘not a lifetime contract, it’s like dating’

Having witnessed others at church serve through a ministry apprenticeship, Alan started to wonder about taking up this opportunity for himself, yet he was apprehensive about the idea of signing his life away to full-time vocational ministry.

But a conversation with the campus director at Deakin University changed his mind. He realised, “It’s not a lifetime contract, it’s like dating. You’re not stuck in that relationship forever, and it’s a good opportunity for you to see what it’s like and whether it’s suitable for you, as well as receive wise and objective feedback from a trainer.”

Alan had heard good things from past apprentices who had served at Deakin University. But what sealed the deal was when Alan met his future MTS trainer, Dan Kong. Dan openly and helpfully shared with Alan about his own story of seeking to serve God with his whole life – something which Alan wanted to do too.

A precious time to grow in Jesus

But what prompted Alan to choose the university campus for his apprenticeship?

Having grown in his own faith during university, Alan saw how the campus provided amazing opportunities for gospel proclamation. He shares, “It’s a time where you’re finally free from your parents, free from the pressures of high school, and free to decide who you want to be. It’s a precious time to tell students about Jesus.”

Alan enjoyed many highlights during his time as a ministry apprentice. Not only was he encouraged by students sharing their faith openly with their peers, he was also able to witness what a holistic Christian life looked like, where ministry is an all of life experience.

He reflects, “I saw how my team lived as Christians, what being a husband looked like, what being a dad looked like. That was very formative for not just my MTS apprenticeship but also my Christian life as a church-goer, a husband, a son and a dad.”

As Alan became involved in the lives of his students, he was overjoyed to see moments where they were transformed by God’s word and set up habits and patterns and grew in godliness before transitioning into the workplace. “ University ministry is invaluable,” he affirms.

Finding strength in the challenges

Of course, Alan’s apprenticeship had its challenges. As Alan was exposed to the hardened hearts of students during walk-up conversations and even saw some walk away from the faith, he was reminded of how much the world needs Jesus. At times he also found himself comparing his ministry to fellow apprentices at Deakin and temporarily forgetting his identity in Christ.

But amidst the obstacles, Alan was reassured by his trainer that this was a normal part of the MTS experience. Alan recalls, “He would remind me by going back to God’s word. I am united in Christ, saved by him, adopted as his son. These truths are key. They reminded me not to listen to what my feelings were telling me, but to listen to what God has to say.”

Overall, Alan was thankful for the lessons he learnt during MTS. He shares, “I’m thankful that God taught me that it’s only through his Spirit that someone can respond in faith to Jesus, and that convicted me more and more of the power of his word. It was a good lesson for me.”

Beyond the MTS apprenticeship

After completing his apprenticeship, Alan wrestled with whether he was should pursue vocational ministry, since he knew he could go back to sharing God’s word as a barista – a job he had really enjoyed.

But his trainer challenged him, reminding him of the short time he has on earth, especially in light of Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:37: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Listening to Dan helped Alan to make a decision. He says, “Just as I took one small step into an apprenticeship, I’ll take one small step into Bible college.”

Now in second year at Moore College, Alan would love prayer that he’ll grow in conviction to share God’s love for all people, especially during lockdown.

While Alan remains excited about university ministry as a possible destination after college, he is also interested in church ministry, recognising the important place the church has in God’s mission.

Advice from a past on-campus apprentice

Campus ministry helped Alan to learn principles of ministry which can be applied to all sorts of circumstances and contexts. He reflects, “I was glad I did an apprenticeship because if I just relied on myself or jumped straight into college, I would have kept my unhelpful, maybe subjective, probably sinful view of myself and my suitability for vocational ministry.”

He encourages those who are thinking about serving in vocational ministry to start with an apprenticeship! It doesn’t mean you’ll be “stuck in ministry forever”, and is a wonderful opportunity to be better equipped to love and serve Jesus for your whole life.

“So in a sense, you’ve got nothing to lose.”