“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov 22:6)
Japanese gardens provide a stunning visual experience—trees are beautifully shaped in ways that are very pleasing to the eye. The clever gardener can envision the potential beauty of each young sapling and guide its growth so that eventually each tree will be shaped differently yet be equally pleasing. To achieve this effect, gardeners prune and sculpt the trees during their early growth, and shoots are guided around wires. The twists and turns of the young tree’s stems and branches are supported until the trunk is stronger. In the end, these trees are shaped to their natural inclinations and bents.
We could view the nurturing of children in the same way. Wise teachers and parents will teach and guide their children, understanding the latter’s natural inclinations and “bends”. They can recognise and support desirable tendencies whilst smoothing the rough patches and shaping out undesirable attributes.
This was the aspiration of Singapore Methodist Missions when the Rev William F. Oldham set up Singapore’s first Methodist English language school in 1886, giving birth to the educational mission of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS). Today we have 14 Methodist schools and these schools have impacted many generations of students and brought many young pupils to Christ.
This is also the aspiration of the educational mission of Methodist Missions Society (MMS) in Chiangmai. The Bible teaches that every child should be given the chance to start right. We aim for this in our two schools, the Vineyard Methodist School in Sansai district at the outskirts of Chiangmai and the Little Candles Methodist School in Phrao, a two-hour journey to the north.
When Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon asked me to set up a School Board for the Vineyard Methodist School (VMS), I leapt at the chance to do what our Methodist schools in Singapore have achieved, for the education of Thai children. On 28 Sep 2018, I was appointed to chair the VMS Board and have never looked back. It will always be a privilege to start a young Thai child in the way they ought to go.
The VMS was the brainchild of Mrs Yeo Sungwan, a former MMS missionary who had a passion for the education of young children in Thailand. Together with her husband, the Rev Henry Yeo, currently the district superintendent of the Mettakij Church Association in Thailand, she started a nursery, a student hostel, a kindergarten and the VMS Primary School.
In 2004, the Vineyard Kindergarten was officially dedicated to the glory of God by Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, with the Governor of Chiangmai, Mr Suwat Tantiphat, as the guest of honour. In April 2011, it expanded into a primary school and was renamed the Vineyard School of Chiangmai.
In 2012, the school was named the VMS. A new building was officially declared open by the Governor of Chiangmai, Mr Panada Diskul, and dedicated to the glory of God by Bishop Emeritus Dr Solomon in Feb 2012.
The VMS has consistently won awards as an outstanding school in the Chiangmai Province and is well sought out by parents to enrol their kids.
The VMS will be starting a Secondary School and renovations to accommodate the new school will be required. Donations to the VMS Building Fund are most welcome.
Little Candles Methodist School (LCMS) was established in 2012 for the purpose of Christian outreach through education. It stems from a vision to bring the Gospel to the Thai people when Ps Daniel and Sharon Loo arrived in Phrao as missionaries in 2008. They had a heart for church planting but where the local Thais fight shy of joining a church, they readily embrace the idea of Christian education even if it means praying to God, singing praises and studying the Bible.
The school has grown, and in 2019 enrolled 165 students at kindergarten level and 40 students at nursery level, making it the biggest kindergarten in Phrao.
LCMS has provided a platform for effective Christian outreach to the students, staff, parents and community over the years. This has included Christian teaching to the students through weekly bible activities, praise and worship during assembly, and prayers before meals. The teachers attend a weekly bible study class, and are required to join LCMC’s church service (conducted on the school premises on Sundays) once a month.
The school’s overall success, reflected by its awards and students’ achievements, have made a positive impact on the community. This has enhanced the image of Christianity and the Church in Phrao.
The LCMS will be starting a primary school, will require a new building on site. Donations to the LCMS Primary Building Fund will be most welcome.
Dr Lionel Lee is a retired SAF Brigadier-General and a former Professor with NTU. He was the Chief of the SAF Medical Corps, Director of the Defence Medical and Environmental Research Institute and the Executive Vice Dean of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine. A member of Charis Methodist Church, he has been involved in the Education and Missions ministries of the Methodist Church in Singapore serving on the Boards of Geylang Methodist Schools, Vineyard Methodist School and Little Candles Methodist School.