In August this year Annette Arulrajah will become the regional secretary for East Asia. We took some time to find out more about her, and her long history of serving IFES in this region.
What does your role in East Asia look like at the moment?
I serve together with the current regional secretary, Ung-Seop Shin. Both of us make up the East Asia regional team. I joined him in April 2011, so six years and counting.
Both of us have undertaken to visit the 16 movements in our region. In the eight which I travel to, my role is to walk alongside the general secretaries and provide pastoral care. Often, we are asked to do training for the staff teams.
My greatest learning curve came from undertaking the pioneering of Timor-Leste, together with the Malaysian movement, as we sought to reach out, pray over, and strategize.
How long have you been involved in student ministry?
I studied Computer Science at the University of Science in Malaysia, and after graduation I joined as a staff of FES Malaysia. Nine years later I also pursued a Masters in Counselling at University Putra Malaysia.
My original intention was to serve a term of three years, then look for a job outside. That never happened. This August, I will celebrate my 29th anniversary in the ministry.
What are some of the highlights from your travel across the region?
I travel at least twice a month to different movements, spending about 3–5 days each time.
I attended the KGK Japan student conference in March and was very moved to see some international students there; there were two Koreans, a Malaysian, someone from Guam, and two people from China. They all told me that they had to come to Japan to find God. Our God uses the unlikeliest of instruments!
What are some of the ways that East Asia differs from other IFES regions?
East Asia is one of the few IFES regions in which we do not share a common language. Communication sometimes involves acting, or writing, but more often than not speaking slowly in English gets us by.
Our region is made up of 18 countries. We have 11 established movements that are fully affiliated to IFES, and one that is not-yet affiliated.
Some of the countries in the region have thrived amidst great persecution. We are undergoing many challenges in the political arena and religious hostility is on the rise.
How has your faith been shaped over the years?
I am a Malaysian and grew up in a small town south of our capital city, Kuala Lumpur. Life was very different as almost everyone knows everyone and people are referred to as uncle and aunty. So, a sense of community and family largely shaped my upbringing.
My father went home to be with the Lord when I was only nine, so my mother sacrificially raised me and my two siblings. The faith of my parents was real, and their faith inspired trust in God on my part.
Relaxation for me is spending time with my best friend, reading, and bowling. I find capturing photographs of nature very therapeutic.
How can we pray for you and your work?
In August, the region will host the quadrennial East Asia Regional Conference (EARC) for students. We are expecting about 650 participants and a handful from the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). Our theme is: Hostile Times, Prophetic Pilgrims.
We are living in hostile times in our region, with rising tensions in politics and religious sensitivities. We want to rise up to be prophetic pilgrims, who anchor ourselves in God’s Word and live out our calling to the glory of his name.
Please also pray for the leadership transition taking place in August as well, and for good handover between Mr Shin and myself.