4 Jan 2013 by Natasha Kim CM-
Su Chen has always been a person by the books ever since she was younger; a good student who did everything that was asked of her. Adhering to what everyone wanted came easy to her, but it wasn’t long until she found that particular system of life to be meaningless. When she decided to break free and pursue what she truly desired in accordance with God’s will, she slowly began to find fulfillment in her daily life.
Growing up, every child knows the unspoken rules in the family; that should be done to make everyone happy. However, there’s always an internal battle between your own wants, your family’s wants and of course God’s plan for your life. Su Chen realized that her calling to help people and the community was strong! “I believe that as Christians we carry that light with us and power within us that we are able to help people. I am so grateful each day for the purpose that He has called me to, and the passion that He has given me for children and families. I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life on earth!” she shared.
The Beginning Journey
Brought up in a Buddhist family, Su Chen used to attend a Methodist Girls School in Klang which exposed her to Christianity. “They had a chapel that was run by Christian teachers. Every Friday morning I’d attend the chapel since I was about 10 years old. It was like a mini Sunday School,” she said. As she continued attending all the way until secondary school, she even started attending Christian Fellowship (CF) with her friends. At the age of 15 years old, she accepted Christ through those experiences that touched her. At that time, she wasn’t sure if her family knew if she had accepted Christ, all she knew was that she just wasn’t allowed to go to church because her family didn’t want her to.
The year that followed, her father passed away and it was both difficult on her and her family. She had to be strong as she continued to do what she needed to do, to make her family proud. It was only when she entered university and pursued her degree in engineering that she went out and experienced life on her own for the first time! “This was a course that was acceptable to my family and I didn’t mind doing it because I enjoyed it,” she said. She didn’t explore any other options or rebel because she was happy to study a course that her family approved of. After her dad passed, she saw her mom having to juggle many things and she thought of her father who would’ve wanted it that way too. She did well and was awarded an Intel scholarship.
During this time, she started attending church as well. “I was away from home and I finally got to decide to attend. I was happy that I got to go with my friends to church every Sunday,” she said. Throughout university, she and her friends were very active in CF. “If anything, I think CF was what grounded me and gave me the foundation I have today,” she shared. It was then that she also got exposed to mission trips and community service. “That sparked the interest I have today,” she said. Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES) put a staff worker in every country and a lady named Annette whom Su Chen looked up to mentored and trained them.
The final year before graduating, she realized that she wanted to be in a workplace where she could help people. Unfortunately, due to the scholarship, she was bonded with Intel for four years, in Penang. “After graduating, I felt that I was struggling and it was one of the biggest crossroads in my life,” she said. Su Chen prayed really hard and consulted Annette (FES staff) about it. “Annette was very instrumental because she told me that, “The plan that God gives you should flow. Why would you be given a scholarship if you were to just forfeit it at the end, it doesn’t make sense. She said something like that and it struck me very deeply. Through a series of talking to people and prayer, I gained a sense of peace, and made the decision to move forward with Intel,” shared Su Chen. Through this, she also came to a realization that she was actually fighting with God regarding this decision because she didn’t want to move to Penang and work there for four years. However, God was telling her to go.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
“Intel was very demanding. It was a lot of work and it required a lot of my time. I had to go to the United States for three months every year,” she said. She did really well in her job and got promoted very fast. It was God’s favour through it all. Close to the end, when entering the fourth year of the bond, 26-year-old Su Chen felt the same sense of restlessness once more. “I enjoyed my job when I was in Intel because it was very challenging. I worked so hard but it suddenly felt so meaningless,” she shared. “I reflected a lot then and thought, 'if I’m going to live my life once, I’m going to make it count,'” she said.
Towards the end of the four years, she got married to a man named Joash Koh whom she met at Intel and left the company after the last month of her bond. She moved back to KL with her husband and began searching once more; they began attending Sidang Injil Borneo (SIBKL). Leaving her high profile engineering job wasn’t easy and she struggled with people in her family who didn’t really approve of her leaving. “I wanted to search for my own identity. It’s true that the loss of something that gave me that prestige or name to being just a student and NGO worker, was a journey I had to go through to define myself. When I was growing up. Academic success was the way to define me. When I left Intel, I had to go through that journey where I’ve lost doing well academically to learn to redefine myself and not let what I do define me. Until now, it’s a journey of learning who God has create me to be, and that is, a child of God,” she shared.
She Found herself by Loving God and His people
During her search, she decided she wanted to look into doing a degree in psychology. The universities couldn’t take her in for a number of courses because she only had an engineering background. Instead, they suggested a Masters program in counselling and it turned out to be just what she was looking for! “I went in, I liked it, and gradually I enjoyed it more,” she said. Many of her peers were surprised because she came from an engineering background! So she studied part time and lectured at Sunway College for a year. And then she went on to help out at Generasi Gemilang (non-profit organization that works with government to help the next generation). She found that she wanted to teach and impart values to the next generation.
"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-17)
Time flew by and soon enough it was already 2012, when she joined Dignity for Children Foundation to fulfill a clinical internship of one-year as part of the Master's program. There, she pioneered and set up mental health department at Dignity. "I got connected with them through the pastors and worked with them,” she said. While she was doing that, she also took an online course in trauma and loss. She was trying to gather as much knowledge she can to help as many people she can. When the department was up and running, she left. In 2013, she joined KIN & KIDS (Marriage, Family and Child Therapy Center) and became a 'Licensed & Registered Counsellor' from the Malaysian board of counsellors.
Through this journey, Su Chen found that she loves helping kids in their growing stage. In addition to that, she also works on community service projects, such as helping refugee teachers in schools throughout Kuala Lumpur and Seremban (from Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, etc.) to care for themselves and to empower them to help other kids. “I’m always looking for different projects that I can jump into,” she shared. There has been changes in her life every year for the past four years. “It’s been different seasons that has helped me acquire the various skills and experience. Moving forward I don’t really know what will happen but I’m very happy working with Kin and Kids because I have the flexibility and time to reach out to communities,” she said.
“What I’m trying to do now is to connect my professional peers into doing this kind of work because there is so much need. These organizations cannot afford to hire a full time mental health staff. That’s something I feel very strongly about,” she said. When asked, what’s the biggest miracle she had experienced in life she answered, “I don’t think it’s just one miracle, the journey that I’ve gone through is filled with so much praise! I look back and see that God has enabled all this to happen and for me to be where I am right now, to be able to have all these skills, knowledge, and experience to help others. I am so thankful for that. I’ve come to a point where I can say, yes I am doing this but this doesn’t define who I am whether being a counselor or consulted… but truly it’s who I am, created by God. It was difficult initially but it’s still an ongoing journey and I am still learning,” she said. In terms of future plans, Su Chen and her husband plan to build their own family.
“I think the greatest privilege that we’ve been given is to love, because God first loved us, and so we have the capacity to love because we’ve been given that love. I would like to remind everyone and even myself that the things that we do ought to be out of love, not to correct or not to advice so much because we have to love first. Can we allow ourselves to meet people where they are in their pain no matter their differences?” said Su Chen. She shared that Jesus as a role model used to meet people where they are, He didn’t expect them to do something they cannot do because that was the right thing. For example, He met the Samaritan woman at the well in the hot sun and he knew she would be there. “He would meet them first and He would serve them first before saying that this is my law. If we can do that as Christians, then we are loving the way Jesus does and I think that’s so important because we forget and we feel what people need are scriptures and bible verses,” she shared.
“I’ve learned to be more accepting towards myself and towards other's and I’ve learned to depend on God. I know I have the skills and knowledge to help people but at the end of the day because of my own journey, I know that the people that I’ve worked with and those who have grown or healed through the time were together,” she said. She knows that everything that has happened in her life is because of God. Just like Su Chen, the lesson here is to allow ourselves to move with God and to accept people without expecting them to be better first. We must do more as Christians!
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and Love your neighbour as yourself" (Luke 10:27)