A taste of seminary life in Asia

‘Sabah Theological Seminary are looking for help.’

Full marks if you know Sabah is part of East Malaysia, home to Mount Kinabalu, wonderful diving sites and orangutan. This seminary serves a variety of church denominations, offering teaching in English, Malay and Mandarin. Courses are typically degree level, running full-time, residentially.

I am a psychologist and my wife is a teacher bringing English language skills. Neither ordained, nor with high degrees in theology – but speaking Malay from years in Indonesia – we were welcomed onto the faculty with open arms.

We quickly discovered our roles would extend beyond the classroom: Within weeks the Dean of Students was made a Methodist bishop and I was asked to take his place, representing the students to the staff, and relaying decisions back… running orientation week… sorting out students who fell in love and planned marriage (hugely tricky if from different denominations). I was later made assistant chaplain, running the annual retreats.

Joining a strong local church, I helped mend fences between them and the seminary, and ended up being asked to decide on preaching schedules, join the choir and play in the band.

Discovering a love for teaching in remote Borneo villages, running intensive weekend courses as part of two-year diploma courses. Driving through palm oil plantations without Google Maps for comfort, sleeping in spare rooms, teaching groups of 15-20 greatly varying in age and education. Learning how hunting wild boar for days as a couple was their cure for all manner of marriage ills.

Learning to Zoom during the Covid-19 pandemic, sometimes with students isolating in the next room! The jungle grew noisier as the city grew quiet. Previous students loved getting back in touch easily, seeking help with knotty counselling issues, joining Bible studies or simply checking their English sermons.

Church leaders with a burden to faithfully proclaim God’s word are being trained across East Asia today. Joining in to add mission perspective takes you out of your comfort zone, but adds spice to your life.


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