BY SAMANTHA LEE
COR welcomes Wendy as our new Youth Pastor! Samantha finds out if COR's latest staff member was poached by Rev David.
As I entered Tipo, the casual Italian joint recently made Instagram-trendy thanks to its delicious handmade pastas and build-your-own meals, Pastor Wendy Yong stood from our table to greet me. Already embarrassed committing the cardinal sin of keeping my invitee waiting, I was also sweating through my shirt. I made my apologies and was immediately soothed by her amiable presence.
The first thing I noticed about Pastor Wendy were her large silver hoop earrings and it occurred to me that we would, for the first time, have a woman lead the Mustard Seed Service. She had smiley eyes and a lilting voice that could put anyone at ease. She emanated a warm energy through cute hand gestures and genuine laughter that unlocked the serotonin-loaded recesses of my mind. “New bestie?”
In our tiny country, it is inevitable that we would share common experiences with strangers, but the number of times Pastor Wendy has crossed paths with COR is uncharacteristically high. Her brother had been baptised by Canon James Wong at Malan Road; she was briefly attached to SPS in 2014 as part of her field education; and she was classmates with Rev Jem and Rev Ian in TTC. Besides this, one of her first jobs was being a Social Studies and History teacher at St. Andrew’s Secondary School, where she uncovered a hidden gift of understanding youths. It struck me that all these coincidences might have been God’s way of dropping little easter eggs for Pastor Wendy’s eventual arrival at 1 Francis Thomas Drive.
As our pasta arrived , my hands moved on autopilot as I executed the most typical Gen Z move - snap a picture of our plates and geotag the restaurant’s location for my Instagram story. Feeling bashful after, I was at first relieved when Pastor Wendy said she was unfazed by what I did, and then grew incredulous when she told me she was pals with local internet celebrity Aiken Chia, better known as Food King, who often composes the perfect shot of his meals for legions of Singapore foodie followers.
This revelation was key to understanding her involvement with the Anglican church. She met Aiken when she was a member of the chaplaincy team at St. Hilda’s Secondary School. St. Hilda’s was the first and only church she called home (until now). After the seeds were sown in her heart in her time at CHIJ St. Nicholas, she was invited by friends to Festival of Praise, where she was “tricked” into saying the sinners’ prayer. She told me everyone suddenly called her “sister” and that freaked her out.
After a few years away from the church, the turning point for her was when, after a night of revelry, she told God, “If you wake me up at 7 a.m., I'll go to church.” A near impossible undertaking by oneself, but nothing is impossible for God. From that day on, she never stopped attending church and became a member of St. Hilda’s in 1999. Realising that her true passion was the spiritual education and guidance of youths, she took another step of faith into full-time ministry in 2006. She led the youth service at St. Hilda’s from 2010 to 2012 before furthering her education in TTC.
So how did we adopt her? I had my suspicions but she assured me that Pastor Dave DID NOT poach her. He had merely mentioned that there was a position opened for a Youth Pastor COR . On a silent retreat, Pastor Wendy heard the Lord tell her that it was time to move on from St. Hilda’s. A while later, she was again confronted with the question “What makes you happy?”. These two events culminated in some soul-searching, leading to an epiphany that young people’s ministry was truly what made her spiritually fulfilled.
The idea of a silent retreat intrigued me. It was both torture and a luxurious vacation; and I do not mean it in a materialistic sense (Pastor Wendy bunked with nuns in a convent), but rather how a silent retreat is a true way of eluding the hectic life of the outside world. Few are comfortable away from social media, human interaction and their jobs, but Pastor Wendy was immensely at ease with the Holy Spirit being her only company, to witness her setting new goals and guide her toward the next steps of her journey.
Pastor Wendy was initially appalled when I shared some of MSS’ more quirky characteristics, like having at least two medics at every youth camp for how violent and competitive we can be , but she then divulged some of her own crazy ideas! I truly believe she would make a good addition to our community because she comes across as an older sister or fun aunt, one who can coach you through tough times without judgment or condemnation. She believes good communication as the key tenet to building strong relationships, which she desires to forge with us, her new community.
Being a pastor is hard work, and she shared that the role of a pastor is increasingly important in our current times. In a world where we have limitless access to information, many see and read what they want to understand instead of what they need to understand. This is where a pastor’s role is pertinent to combat ignorance and cynicism while nurturing ideas of faith and acceptance. Her plan for MSS is to work in alignment with the direction of the church, toward discipleship.. Our conversation took an existential turn as we discussed great models of faith, of which I was impressed by her great insights on faith and service.
As we finished our pasta and swept all our prawn shells to the side, we shared a hug goodbye and I was touched by our conversation. I left feeling spiritually fulfilled, knowing that Pastor Wendy had helped me gain new momentum in my faith through the stories we shared about our lives I felt renewed after a long spell of feeling detached from the church, a side-effect of the piling Covid measures. Although I am sure all of us are sad to see our friend and mentor Rev Ian go, I cannot help but feel anticipation for the fresh energy Pastor Wendy will bring to Shaw Hall.
FUN FACTS ABOUT PASTOR WENDY
She is a foodie! She is an excellent cook and baker - one look at her Instagram page had me salivating. (She also fell victim to the lockdown sourdough craze!)
She used to be a Manchester United supporter, that is, until David Beckham transferred out…
She studied political science and EU studies in NUS, where she learnt how to read and speak french! (She is very rusty now.)
Her favourite cuisine is Japanese, but has recently fallen in love with non-basic Chinese food (meaning: not Din Tai Fung or Crystal Jade). Her favourite dishes come from Vietnamese cuisine.
Her go-to meal is a simple roast chicken and vegetables, and her favourite sweet treat is a watermelon strawberry cake (a pastry she had discovered in Sydney).
To my disappointment, she is not a fan of bubble tea. Thankfully, she is a deal great interested in other types of drinks I’m also into...
Like many Singaporean children, she was trained in piano. but like many Singaporean youth pastors, she can play guitar and sing.
She doesn’t have pets because her mother, with whom she lives, declared that she does not have the capacity to care for one since she cannot even take care of herself.
Her classic karaoke tunes mostly revolve around the Mandopop genre, but as a true blue Singaporean her favourite artistes are JJ Lin and Stephanie Sun.
Her favourite form of exercise is going for really long walks, mostly by the cool of night. Unfortunately, she and her walking kakis often get lost or begin ambitiously without a planned route, leaving them stranded in the ulu corners of Singapore at 3 a.m.
Her MBTI personality test states that she is an ISFP (adventurer, open-minded etc.), while her two main love languages are words of affirmation and quality time.
When she was young, she had stabbed her brother's hand with a pencil and then proceeded to the bathroom to cry because she thought she would kill her brother by lead poisoning and, even more devastating, be caned for it.
Her best vacation would be a birthday trip she took to Perth in 2019 as a silent retreat, where God awoke her early on her birthday to show her his marvelous sunrise.
Her favourite TV show is Haikyuu!!, a very popular Japanese volleyball anime.
Her greatest pet peeve is… loud chewers! She even mimicked what they sound like to me, but all I could think about was if I had made this mistake.
While Samantha's primary focus in life is being a GCG (Good Christian Girl), she is also part of Generation Z, often following TikTok trends and using phrases such as ‘bestie vibes only’. These days, she moonlights as IT Support for her grandparents.