News

Jusuf Kam, a worship minister for more than 30 years, has died

Jusuf Kam passed away on the morning of 2 March 2023. He was 61 years old. Best-known for giving well-known Methodist works new tunes, he is survived by his wife, Susanna; son, Jovan; daughter, Nadia, and son-in-law, Joshua.

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Jusuf Kam (1961-2023) seen here conducting at Wesley Methodist Church, 2019

The making of a worship minister

Jusuf Kam (born Jusuf Julianto Kamadjaja) called Bandung, Indonesia, his first home. He was trained in a wide range of music in Indonesia. His formal training was in civil engineering, after which he pursued education studies where he met his wife Susanna, graduating together with Honours. In 1987, the couple came to Singapore and attended Singapore Bible College, each graduating with a Bachelor of Church Music (cum laude).

While serving as the Youth & Worship Pastor in Acts Baptist Church, he was recruited by then Pastor-in-Charge of Wesley Methodist Church (WMC), Rev Dr Kang Ho Soon, in September 1993 to be the Lay Ministry Staff for Worship & Music. His mandate was to expand and enrich the Worship & Music (W&M) in WMC. God blessed Jusuf and Susanna with a daughter Nadia (who recently married Joshua) and a son, Jovan, during this time. The whole family served the Lord faithfully.

W&M focuses on the traditional worship services with more than 60 ministry/ sub-ministry groups involving over 600 volunteers—more than a tenth of WMC’s congregation. Hence Jusuf was closely associated with WMC’s worship life and known by many.

Jusuf the Servant

Jusuf was the embodiment of service with a God-given passion. He never missed an opportunity to touch people with music, convicted that music is a tool used by God to complete worship, reaching the innermost person.

He was known to be demanding during interviews or auditions for W&M volunteers, not just for musicians but also ushers, worship leaders and communion stewards. But his high standards came from the conviction that serving the Lord required only the best—in talent, but more importantly, commitment and the right heart.

Yet, he cared for those under his charge, often finding time from his busy schedule to fellowship with all the sub-ministry groups.

Jusuf the Friend

Behind the scenes, Jusuf was known to be a loyal friend, stepping forward to help those who needed a hand.

“I first met Jusuf in the early 90s and was inspired through his leadership to participate in music projects at Wesley. One significant project was ‘Christmas at the Fort’ in 1996 where we had to sing to choreography and dancing, and that was certainly new to me then. From that experience, I learnt from Jusuf that service to God often meant having to come out of our comfort zones. We soon became good friends due to our interactions in these projects, and when I moved house in 1999 I asked Jusuf for help. He obliged without hesitation, wholeheartedly moving boxes and furniture, including cabinets! It certainly was a back-breaking day, but it truly exemplified what Jusuf is like—humble and genuine in friendship,” said Samuel Wong, Worship Leader of the Dawnbreakers Choir.

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Jusuf with the Wesley Young Ensemble after Easter Combined Services in 2015

Jusuf the Musician

Those who participated in the key services—such as church anniversary, Easter, Christmas—always marvelled at how he pulled the services together. The end result for these services was always uplifting, inspiring and worshipful, with the elements of liturgy, programming and performance coming together seamlessly. The Lord used Jusuf as his willing instrument to achieve this.

With his classical music training and background, he had a particular interest in encouraging the use of sacred music from the classical masters such as Mozart, Handel and Bach, as well as the old Wesleyan hymns. These hymns are an integral part of traditional Methodist worship, deep in meaning, and have withstood the test of time. Jusuf’s particular interest was to re-tune old pieces. His best-known tune is the “Wesley Tulus”, which he composed for “The Lord’s Prayer” and is now sung in many Methodist churches.

His prodigious talent was also evident in how he seamlessly moved between composing, arranging, conducting and performing. He was a skilled pianist and keyboardist, and could also play the guitar and ukulele. He set up sub-ministry groups for various instrument groups: angklung, ukulele, string ensemble, and wind ensemble. A particular success was in drawing out the youngest musicians in Wesley’s congregation. Who can ever forget the Wesley Young Ensemble musicians who were barely as tall as the cello!

The pandemic brought different challenges to church life, which required putting services online and new skill sets. Jusuf stepped up to the plate, developing skills in digital audio mixing and video editing, all because he was driven to ensure worship could continue uninterrupted, albeit online.

Jusuf the Teacher and Mentor

Jusuf willingly and joyfully participated in each sub-ministry’s meetings, gatherings, celebrations and Bible studies—coaching and sharing his abundant talents. He spent many hours coaching individuals, so that others could serve in excellence.

Jusuf typically signed off on his scores in the same fashion as J S Bach, with “Soli Deo Gloria”. On 2 March, he bade his final goodbye to us. We will miss his warm, welcoming smile and his beautiful sonorous tenor voice. But we know that he is singing and smiling for his beloved Lord and Saviour, now and for eternity.

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Christmas Combined Services in 2013 at Wesley Methodist Church

Tributes

“Jusuf is a dear friend, an excellent co-worker for Christ, and an inspiration to me for close to the 30 years I have known and served with him. Wesley is truly blessed to have such a committed and passionate staff who has faithfully stewarded his wonderful gifts and abilities for the glory of God. He will be dearly missed.”

~ Rev Raymond Fong, Pastor-in-Charge, Wesley Methodist Church

“Jusuf leaves us the ‘Wesley Tulus’, a beautiful setting of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. We will miss his new tunes, but will keep singing the old ones. We thank God for the beautiful music he leaves behind! May light perpetual shine upon him.”

~ Dr Judith Laoyan-Mosomos, Director of Worship & Church Music, Methodist School of Music

“On my last retreat with Wesley’s pastoral team, Jusuf and I were seated in a sampan (a tiny boat) steered by an oarsman towards a Sarawakan longhouse when the sight of steep mountains around and calm waters below us electrified Jusuf. He composed ‘I Lift My Eyes To The Hills’ (based on Psalm 121). The tune of this song is ‘Air Tenang’ or ‘Peaceful River’ which encapsulates the meaning of the three Chinese characters that make up my name 江和顺. He presented the composition to me as a farewell gift when I was leaving Wesley at the end of 1994, for another posting. Jusuf will always be a precious part of me—a dear and faithful friend who ministered with me, and to me in his own unique way.”

~ Rev Dr Kang Ho Soon, retired Methodist pastor now worshipping at Trinity Methodist Church

“Jusuf wrote the music for seven of my songs, including my first song, ‘I Shall Praise You, Lord’. He had the knack for discerning the spirit of songs and came up with appropriate tunes that fit well with the lyrics. It was a joy to work with him. Jusuf played a key role in the annual Aldersgate conventions by arranging stirring music provided by instrumental ensembles and choirs. His able musical directorship made the services particularly memorable. He worked very hard and was diligent in his service for the Lord. Even in the most stressful of times, he was willing to help and serve with a smile. While his death is unexpected, we can be sure he has joined the hosts of worshippers, singers, and musicians in heaven praising God with perfect harmony and joy.”

~ Bishop Emeritus Robert M Solomon

Highlights of compositions and works by Jusuf Kam

The Lord’s Prayer (Tune: Wesley Tulus)
Besarlah Kasih Mu (How Great Is Your Love)
You Are The Anchor Of My Life (also in Mandarin)
I Lift Up My Eyes To The Hills
I Shall Praise You, Lord
O Lord, You Are My Hiding Place
From Many Shores (Music with Bishop R Solomon)
The People Of The Way (Music with Rev M Huang)
Give Me The Faith Which Can Remove (Music arrangement of CW 300 Faith)
O Lord, We Pray, Bless Singapore (O Singapore)
Merry, Merry Christmas
A Mother’s Love

For Sunbeams Children’s Choir:

Silent Night
My Soul ­­­­Shall Praise Your Name
You Are The Anchor Of My Life
Great Are You Lord
You Are My Light
Give Me
Here Our Heart We Bring
God He Is Good
Great Almighty God
Find Him Now
Go, Go My Friend
Jesus
Gloria (3 versions)
We Follow The Star
Nothing Is Impossible with God
I Surrender All To You
My All For You

Robin Viva Thevathasan and Irwin Seet serve in the Worship & Music Ministry at Wesley Methodist Church as chairperson and steward respectively. Additional reporting by MCS Comms. / Photos courtesy of Nicholas Tan, Christopher Leong, Rachel Lim and Wesley Methodist Church

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