Of plans and prayers

Alvin Tan Wei Jianh began fulltime ministry with the Lutheran Church in Malaysia (LCM) after completing the Masters of Divinity program at Seminary Theology Malaysia (STM). This is the story of Alvin’s journey towards a call from God.

Alvin was born and raised in Ipoh, the capital city of Perak state in Malaysia, the eldest of two children in his family. Ipoh is Malaysia’s third most populous city and its architecture tells a story of a rich heritage and cultural background. Alvin grew up as a second generation Christian, being baptised as an infant in the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Ipoh. His mother faithfully took him to church every week and played an important role in his religious upbringing. Alvin’s father was not affiliated with any religion until, after many years of prayer, he too was touched by the Lord. When Alvin was 12 years old, his father accepted Christ and was baptised.

Alvin remembers having a tough time during his high school years from the pressure of studies and expectations about what university and course he would pursue. He felt bombarded with questions about his future plans and worried about not being able to meet expectations from family and friends. He studied hard, knowing that his results would be important, even though he did not feel confident in his ability as a student. Prayer became an important part of this journey, as Alvin felt no-one understood better than Him. Alvin asked God to open a door and reveal the path he should take, as he could not see a clear way to make such an important decision.

One night, after much praying, Alvin had a vision, a dream that was so real he has never forgotten it:

I saw the coming of end times and the judgement day stated in book of Revelation. I saw my loved ones who were non-believers were left behind and suffered. That does not only include my non-Christian family members and friends but also others out there who do not know God. They do not know God simply because there was no one there to share to them the gospel. The people need the Lord and yet there was no one there to reach out to them. It was a very sad and painful scene”.

Alvin woke up from the dream and cried. He saw clearly the urgency of sharing God’s word with the people. He felt God calling him into His ministry to bring forth the good news.  Romans 10:13-15 gave a clear message, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!

Alvin remembers that dream recurring many times during that year, not just as a once-off, “I felt God is speaking to me and telling me about His plan for me. He speaks to me while I’m resting, while I’m doing my daily devotion, in sermons and many other ways. All pointing towards the same message which is to go fourth and share the good news”.

Eventually, Alvin decided to respond to His calling into the ministry, but he was still troubled and chose not to share the calling with others, including family members. He was afraid of what his parents and family and friends would think. He worried they might not allow him to take up the calling, and he still had many doubts. Despite responding to God’s call, Alvin still felt unsure and needed more assurance from God. Perhaps it was just a dream or an influence from movies or books! So, Alvin asked God to give him 10 years, before making the commitment to fulltime ministry.

During those 10 years, Alvin completed an engineering degree and started his working life, experiencing the pressures and challenges of this world. During those years, he felt his faith consistently under threat. He found himself drifting away from God many times and questioned his response to His calling.

But God never failed to pull Alvin back. During his university days, Alvin was blessed to become the president of the Christian Fellowship and was invited into the National Youth Leadership Development Team of the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and actively involved in many church events; “God had blessed me through many ways and had created many opportunities for me to serve him”.

Alvin was 16 years old when he asked God to give him 10 years to prepare before taking on fulltime ministry. In 2015, after 9 years had passed, Alvin looked back on his life, amazed at how God had set the path and guided him. God knew Alvin’s needs, just as Scripture says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you.”

Alvin reflects, ‘In my life as a Christian, I had come across many friends who questioned me on Christianity and about our Lord, Jesus Christ. Some of them took the initiative to discuss the Christian faith with me, while for others I had to find an opportunity to share the gospel. The experience of sharing the gospel with others was good but it was never an easy task. I always felt I did not do enough to answer their question and convince them. Besides praying for them after those discussions, I realised that I can do more and there is much room for me to improve and learn from God. As God’s people, it is very important to be fully equipped to do His work and fulfil the great commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28:16-20. God had blessed me tremendously in many ways and now it is the time for me to bless others by bringing God’s messages and His love to them’.

Alvin felt strongly the need to seek to know God more deeply, to learn more about Him and to understand His teachings; ‘I always prayed that I will be drawn closer to the Lord each day while I am studying His word. Tough days are ahead, but the Lord is my strength and shield, my heart trusts in him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him (Psalm 28:7). I understand God is the one that transforms and changes the lives of people who hear the good news. It is God alone who does the miracles, the one who saves and rescues. But as God’s children, we should always be ready to play our part by being equipped with His word and to share it with others’.

In 2016, Alvin finally started fulltime theological studies at STM. He graduated with a MDiv in 2018. To his surprise, his first assignment was to return his home church – LCM Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Ipoh, where he grew up. His first year of assignment was under the supervision of Reverend Linda Chan. After a year of pastoring at his home church, he is now reassigned to LCM Christ Centre Lutheran Church in Petaling Jaya. (The church is located in the LCM HQ – Luther Centre itself). Indeed, year 2020 is a very challenging year. Having just managed to know the members for 2 months, and begin to start some ministries, the COVID-19 pandemic hits. The church ministries were greatly affected. However, Alvin says, ‘Though I have no idea what’s coming ahead but I fully trust in the Lord and commits my worries to Him always. All Glory to God’!

Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to www.lca.org.au/international-mission/act-now/pray

Read more stories about our partner churches in Malaysia at http://www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/international-partners/malaysia-peninsula/