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My Teenage Years

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12

I became a Christian at the age of 13 due to the witness of my brother. He came to Christ through some Christians in his school.

I started attending Glad Tidings Church in PJ, which has a dynamic youth fellowship which met on Friday afternoon, called “Inter-School Christ Ambassadors” (ISCA). Almost everyone came to this meeting in their school uniforms after our morning school session. The Friday meeting started with worship and then a sermon. Some of us will come earlier for Bible Study, Follow up or Prayer groups. We were using Navigators materials then.

This youth group was spiritually serious and it showed in the way we worshipped and shared about our faith. There were emphases on the gifts of the Spirit, Baptism of the Spirit, experiencing God etc. I don’t remember playing a lot of games in our meetings but these tend to happen outside of the meetings. At one point we grew to around a hundred. I joined the leadership team when I was 15 and served all the way till I leave PJ for my studies in NUS. I should note that worship was done a bit differently in those days. We had some of the usual worship songs like How Great Thou Art but we also sung "sing-along" communal songs like “I know a Place” or “Pass It On.”

Preaching and teaching were very much centered on the Bible in the usual evangelical way. Being a Pentecostal Church, there was a lot of emphasis on being filled with the Spirit, practising spiritual gifts and healing. Then there is evangelism which we had a lot of zeal for, in schools and even house to house “tracting”. The Charismatic renewal was also kicking in and impacted the way we worship and so on. One thing was certain, we were very serious with our faith and walk with God. Maybe we were a tad too intense!

On Saturday and Sunday, we joined the rest of the church for meetings and other “Adult” Services. While there was certainly focus on peer leadership and ministry, we were also consciously a part of the wider family. I did served as ISCA President for three years and we had to figure out the shape of the ministry, plan the services, themes, work out the teaching and so on. I suppose I was “cutting my teeth” in spiritual leadership and very much thrown into the deep end. We did have an adult advisor who was also a fulltime church worker.

From time to time, we had to wrestle with controversial issues. There was a lot of push back then on Pentecostal or charismatic teaching. On the other extreme end, we sometimes have zealous self-proclaimed prophets who were influential and insist they are the “true believers.” Our members were more susceptible to extremism rather than

more intellectual ideas. As I looked back, I wish were more intellectually solid as little was done to prepare some of us who were to later study at the tertiary level.

ISCA, though a local church initiative, also interfaces with Christian Unions or Fellowships in Schools. In those days, the CUs or CFs were quite active and official in some schools. I remember being invited to preach or share in some of their meetings.

I am indeed thankful for those formative years as a Christian youth. I was blessed to be in a church which gave a lot of space and priority to youth or student’s involvement. Though some gave up their faith or grew cold as they studied in universities or enter the work force, many are serving in either lay or fulltime capacity today. Being Malaysians, we are of course scattered all around the world.

When I moved to Singapore and started my studies in NUS, that was the beginning of an exciting season. I will share about that another time.


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