Not the typical tentmaker – MMS’ professional volunteer programme

Eugene serving with other Wesley MC members to promote Singapore in Laos

The Singapore Mission School (SMS) in Laos began in 2010 as a playgroup for a handful of young children aged between 4 and 6 years. Since then, it has developed into a kindergarten and primary school of choice for Lao parents wanting a mission school experience for their children, one which emphasises quality education and good values.

The work of starting and running a Christian mission school is, to put it mildly, challenging. Most will understand a “good school” as one which has a strong academic curriculum, led by dynamic leaders, and taught by inspiring teachers. However, from the organisational perspective, there are also factors related to operations, statutory compliance, human resources and finance that need to be developed to make a school truly “good”.

These elements can be especially demanding in jurisdictions outside of Singapore.

Through the years, the SMS and many of our sister mission schools in the region have been blessed by the work of specialist volunteers from Singapore who have contributed a unique but precious resource—their professional expertise. These “professional volunteers” visit to spend time in our classrooms and commit to long-term activities to develop specific areas of school operations.

Volunteers with teaching and school management experience have contributed in areas of:

  • Mentoring teachers
  • Training teachers
  • Developing the curriculum
  • Evaluating teaching processes

There have also been many non-teaching professional volunteers from accounting, management consulting, healthcare, and technical fields, who have helped on projects related to:

  • Conducting audits related to risk, safety, and internal financial processes; training and professional development for administrative staff; and health-based assessments for members of the school community
  • Providing input on the work of local professionals
  • Documenting operating procedures related to accounting, procurement and HR practices
  • Supplementing the local workforce during crisis or transition

These volunteers sacrifice time and offer professional expertise for a sustained period. Not all are from well-to-do backgrounds, and some even leave their families behind in Singapore for weeks. The common thread that weaves these individuals together is the shared belief that their secular vocations are their ministry to God.

The service of these highly skilled professionals from Singapore complements the work of pioneering founders and school staff, especially in domains where local professional expertise may be unavailable or may not be at the level required to comply with the expectations of stakeholders in Singapore. This is crucial where adaptations and revisions of processes are required for the mission’s endeavour to build capacity and develop long-term sustainability.

Many of our professional volunteers serve at their own expense. Some choose to put their careers on hold while others make off-site work arrangements while in Laos. There are certainly material and personal costs in volunteering for weeks on end.

Thank-you notes from the students

Christians in Singapore aid our professional volunteers by offering personal financial support for out-of-pocket expenses, such as airfares and accommodation. Other forms of help come from short-term missions programmes instituted by Methodist churches.

These support mechanisms are invaluable, as they reinforce the message to both our local volunteers and workers on the ground that their work is not taken for granted, and that there are people in Singapore who stand by them, in prayer and through sacrificial contributions.

To all our professional volunteers and enablers serving with us in the field—thank you! You are making a significant impact on the generations that come after us.

Eugene Chew

After receiving Christ in secondary school, Eugene Chew, who worships at Wesley Methodist Church, served as a Sunday school teacher in his late teens. He discovered an affinity for teaching which led him to embark on a teaching career lasting more than 30 years.

In 2018, Eugene responded to a challenge to use his natural giftings for missions work and went to Laos as part of a cultural outreach programme. Eventually, this led to him spending more time in Laos to help the SMS with teaching and staff training.

“Serving with dedicated believers in Laos has provided me insight into how our faith is lived outside of comfortable Singapore. This continues to challenge me to live my life meaningfully in our Lord’s service.”

Grace Ling

Grace Ling spent more than 30 years as a secondary school teacher before retiring 20 years ago. She keeps her professional skills relevant by taking up relief or adjunct teaching positions in MOE schools. This, in turn, supports her missions work in the region as a teaching professional. Coming from a family with four generations serving either as pastors or missionaries, Grace deems Christian work as part of her family’s heritage. Grace worships at Foochow Methodist Church.

“In considering whether ‘professional volunteering’ is something you should do, I believe that the key priority is to seek the Lord and stay close to him as his ways are higher than our ways.”

A version of this article was first published in Harvest Force 2024 issue 1.

MMS refers to professional volunteers as our “Delighters”. Let us know by emailing us at mms@methodist.org.sg if you want to be a part of MMS’ Delighters Fellowship.

Jason Chin works with regional private schools, providing consulting services in areas of curriculum development and strategic management. He worships at Christ Methodist Church and has served two terms as Vice-Chairperson of the Singapore Mission School Board. / Photos courtesy of MMS