Words from Rev Jon Phua 潘乃光牧師

Annual Report – Sept 2021 – Rev Jon Phua

It continues to be a blessing for me to serve amongst EM, with so many positives amongst the Covid related frustrations! We have seen God at work, in the evolutions of the various ministries, with the physical resumption of ministries at our church building.
July – December 2020
In August, the livestream of the 11am Worship Service began from the church building, soon after NBN was installed. Music teams resumed playing music live in the service, & due to the 4sqm social distancing, with only 30 people allowed in the Chapel, bible study groups were rostered/allocated which Sundays they could attend for evenly distributed opportunities.
EMT & I met for our ‘Day Away’ on 29th August to analyse the EM & people, using the forms suggested by ‘The Trellis & the Vine’ Ministry book. This gave us opportunities to consider present & future training needs & growth possibilities.
In October, Switch began meeting physically at church again, after surveying parents & youth. Whilst Kids’ Church still remained online, a KC combined picnic at church was enjoyable for parents, teachers & kids. Outgoing KC Coordinator: Ellen Law was officially farewelled after she was married & moved to her husband: Anthony’s church. New KC Coordinator: Chester To was welcomed, commissioned to work with the other current Coordinator: Hannah Leong.
In November, 3 EM people were baptised: Nathan Castellino, Vanora Hou & Reihane Chow, & good to see their friends & family present with numbers as appropriate to the capacities.
The Young Adult Ministry team formed & began in November, with the aim of advancing the ministry of Young Adults by: working within the existing structures; organizing combined events, lunches & 1-1 opportunities, for the age range of 18-30.
After a brief period of 2sqm social distancing in December, 4sqm returned due to the Northern Beaches Covid cluster. Nevertheless, Christmas Day was still joyful, & EM pleasantly surprised me with unexpected generous gifts, showing much kindness to my family & I.
In February this year, 2sqm returned, enabling Kids’ Church to resume at church from being online, as all parents could attend the 11am Service. Switch resumed to meeting fully at church. However, as masks were no longer required, singing was not allowed yet. On 20th February, around 20 people gathered at church for a watch party as City Bible Forum was holding a day conference on ‘Under Pressure’ helping Christian workers be good witnesses at their workplaces. On 27th February, I married an EM couple: Brandon Poon & Renee Chow at St Mark’s Anglican Church, Darling Point, with 50-60 EM people at the service. On 28th February, I baptised Agatha Kim at 11am Service, & it was encouraging that Agatha invited family & friends to attend as an evangelistic opportunity.
Bible Study cell groups were rebranded as ‘Growth Groups’ to further convey more positive meaning & purpose. Leaders again were happy for Growth Groups to follow the sermon series.
2021 has marked a change & expansion of ministries for me: taking up a new Weds Scripture class at Lindfield Learning Village, a new weekly Weds Growth Group, leading with 2 other leaders, a new fortnightly Saturday families Growth Group, hence my day off changed from Weds to Mon.
On 27th March, the Men’s & Women’s Ministry Team conducted the combined seminar at church on Emotions. Speaker Ros Harrison spoke well: defining emotions, working through biblical & secular material & providing practical suggestions on processing emotions. The seminar is available to EM people. Approximately 60 people attended: 40 in person, 20 online, with good feedback reported.
Singing resumed in time for our Easter Services, that made it especially joyful & uplifting, with Easter Sunday the biggest: 103, since pre-Covid levels. Switch reported a good attendance at their Easter Camp of 50 with 40 youth & 10 leaders, Speaker: Ryan Verghese spoke on 1 John.
In May, EM benefitted from re-measurement of the church building capacities by DB: Chapel 63, Side Hall 68, allowing more comfortable Sunday attendance & seating for regulars & newcomers. This was especially appreciated on 30th May with the EM Baptism of: Caleb Cheung, Stephanie Kah & Jessica Li, who all invited a good number of family & friends to attend their baptism.
The Young Adults Ministry organized 2 lunches for 8 amongst the young adults, with a high number participating & good feedback.
Next Gen Pastor Hoong Cheong Hiew, his wife Lee-Ling & son Zachary, were interviewed & officially welcomed by EM on Sun 6th June, they are attending Switch, have met a number of Switch leaders & EM people, it has been good to have our own EM pastoral meetings with Ps Hoong.
On Sat 12th June, the Men’s & Women’s Ministry Teams ran a combined BBQ lunch for all ages, with approximately 60 in attendance. Some great fellowship across the ages & I gave the talk on ‘Why have men’s & women’s ministry?’
On Sun 20th June, I spoke on ‘Welcoming & Encouragement’ & announced expansion into our EM culture of welcoming, integration, encouragement in how we not only relate to newcomers but each person with friendliness, love & care. After church, EM had our first newcomers’ lunch since I started in Feb 2020, & it was exciting to have 20-23 people attending, including Ps Hoong & family, my family & other newcomers who have joined us since last year. We had an official welcome & explanation of EM: history, ministries, serving, giving & membership.
Strengthening welcoming & encouragement is one of many aims to further our discipleship & disciple-making as part of our wider EFCA strategy. Also EMT is reviewing each of our ministries in this next 6 months as per the EFCA timetable outlined by Rev Tse.
We are glad that our Paolo Santillan has been accepted as a Student Pastor for EFCA by DB, starting 4th July. Paolo will be starting his studies at Moore Theological College in July, with a 25% load this year, & 75% load next year. He studied Education at Sydney University, did the 2 year Christian Ministry Apprenticeship called Howard Guinness Project with the Evangelical Union, and has been doing casual high school teaching. In EM, he has been preaching, leading services, leading a Growth Group, and this student pastor role will mean continuing these, as well as serving in the Switch Youth Ministry. In the future, God willing, Paolo would like to do ministry in Sydney’s Western Suburbs, amongst working class people, especially Filipinos.
In evangelism, EM people including Leo Pang, others & I, have joined the monthly Chatswood Street Evangelism which has been a valuable experience for each of us. We are still hoping to conduct a Christianity Explored Course for EM’s interested unbelieving friends.
Even with the current Sydney lockdown until 9th July, & possibly longer due to continuing Covid spread, under God EM has shown resilience, flexibility & commitment to cope with the adjustments, so we continue forward with our ministries, trusting in the Lord’s sovereignty & goodness!

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Annual Report – Sept 2020 – Rev Jon Phua

Since commencing with EFCA English Ministry (EM) on the 4th February until now, it has been a blessing for me to join in the ministry and the church family of 11am EM! The welcome was warm and appreciative that I had come, especially as EM had been without English pastoral staff for over one year. The EMT with guidance from Rev Tse had managed EM well yet were receptive to pastoral input from me as the new Adult Pastor. There has been a great balance between the EMT and myself, as they have maintained their diligent responsibility of their portfolios, allowing me to ease in, give input, and not for me to be overwhelmed to have to do everything!

Both EMT and cell group leaders have been responsive to my suggestions for matching sermon and bible study series. So, John 13-17 bible studies in the leadup to Easter, then a matching Genesis 1-11 sermon and bible study series, followed by two: Christians & Climate Change sermons with matching bible studies. The feedback has been mostly positive: people appreciating the reinforcement of learning with sermons and bible studies on the same points, solidarity across groups with doing the same material. Having leader’s meetings has allowed briefing on these series, as well as pastoral care training (on 28th April).

Since the COVID-19 pandemic required all ministries to go online from 22nd March onwards, naturally this has been frustrating and hard for all of us in different ways. It has slowed the building of relationships for my family and myself with EM people. Yet fellowships and ministry has continued online: my wife Lika has joined the EM women’s morning teas. Our daughter Joanna continues with online SWITCH, our son Joshua joins in with online Kid’s Church with Lika and other families. I have made phone calls and had video chats with people, more recently having lunch with EMT members, and look forward to meeting more people in person as restrictions continue to ease.

EM have shown great patience and resilience through numerous glitches and evolutions in our online Sunday services.  Gradually, more elements have been introduced: Kids Spot, Peacemeal, interviews, songs, Q&A so it resembles more typical services with plenty of input from various people. In my observation: cell groups have adapted quite well to the Zoom format, using breakout rooms for sharing/prayer, having games for fun & fellowship. Kid’s Church & Switch have also worked hard to send material, engage people online, be creative to have fun and make it enjoyable. Our recent Kid’s Church bible training session (27th June) back at church made us appreciate physical fellowship again, and we look forward to more group meetings/training sessions at church again soon.

Our next move, once NBN is installed at church, will be to livestream Sunday services from church at 11am. Due to social distancing, the size of our building will not allow enough of us to meet in Sunday services to make it worthwhile at this stage. So, a maximum of 50, no Kid’s Church, nor SWITCH is possible.  Hence it seems most are content to wait until social distancing lifts sufficiently to allow for enough advantages in meeting again physically, to outweigh the disadvantages of doing so. In this transitional time, I’m confident that EM has much cohesion and loyalty to wait and stay together, for in the 12 months without English pastoral staff, there was not many members leaving for other churches that have pastoral staff. Under God, I believe that as most members have supportive relationships through cell groups, there is a strong cohesion. Even with the 5pm service closing at the end of 2019, specific transitional follow up of people helped to re-integrate them into 11am quite well, that very few people left EFCA. I look forward to the continuing work of the Lord amongst EM.

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