Jesuthason Selladurai is serving as the director of the Malaysian Missionary Movement, the missions arm of the Tamil Methodist Church in Malaysia. He served as a missionary to a minority people group in Thailand for 15 years, speaks several languages and desires to see a revival of mission-minded churches in the nation.
Jesuthason Selladurai became the man of the house at eight years old when his father passed away suddenly. The eldest son of four children took on the task of helping his widowed mother support the family.
It was not an easy time. Jesuthason’s mother had left her previous faith to become a born-again Christian, a decision her family opposed. When she became a widow, they did not offer much help and she was left to fend for her family on her own.
“So at a young age, I felt a responsibility to assist my mother. I began working at a coffee shop when I was 12 years old, every weekday after school and all the way until SPM. That was life growing up for me.”
Alone and struggling, the church became their community and family
Jesuthason’s mother was a woman of grit and faith. With four children in tow, she would take the bus and walk to church every week in Taiping, Perak. “We would be early in the church and the last to leave; our life was home and church. The church became our community and family,” he remembers.
But as the years went by, Jesuthason began mixing with the wrong group of friends, and he began living a lifestyle he knew didn’t please the Lord. Again, his mother’s faith stood in the gap as she prayed relentlessly for his life.
When he was 17 years old, he woke up in the middle of the night to hear his mother praying. When he saw her, she was on her knees crying out to God to bring her son back to Him. As if awakening from a reverie, he recommitted his life to Jesus that night.
“Do not say you are young or slow to speak. I am God calling you to step out.”
After that night, there was an acceleration in his life. He moved to Klang to continue his tertiary studies, but struggled with low self-esteem and conversing in English (in Taiping, he mostly spoke Bahasa Malaysia and Tamil).
“In Klang, everything was new: community, friends, the culture. I had grown up with an inferiority complex and it was my first time leaving my family. At the Taiping bus terminal, I still remember crying all the way; my whole family was crying. The man who sat next to me thought I was going overseas, but it was just to KL,” he says with a laugh.
In Klang, again the church became Jesuthason’s family and community. He got involved in Sunday School and the youth ministry, becoming a leader to English-speaking youth at 19 years old. It was a season of being shaped by God in every way.
In 1995, he attended his first missions conference and his life changed forever. It was the first time he had ever been introduced to the concept of missions, but hearing missionaries share their experiences and listening to new terminologies stirred an excitement deep within.
Two years later, he travelled to Thailand for a 10-day mission trip. “It was a life-changing experience for me, to be able to bring the gospel to others,” he remembers. And in 1999, he went back on a second mission trip to minister to a minority group.
“I felt God saying, “They need you.” I struggled because of my inferiority complex, but Jeremiah 1:7-9 (the call of Jeremiah) came to me. It was as if God was saying, “Do not say you are young, slow to speak, I am God calling you to step out.” At the end of the year, I committed to the life of missions.”
After nine months of training, Jesuthason went to Thailand for two months of field ministry exposure. He ended up staying for 15 years.
Making the commitment was the first step, and carrying it through came next. Jesuthason was torn because a life of missions would mean leaving his family. But when he spoke to his mother, she said, “If God has called you, just go. He will provide for everything here.”
So, after nine months of formal training, Jesuthason returned to Thailand for two months in the field. But he didn’t leave but committed and stayed for 15 years, supported by the MMM – Tamil Methodist Church of Malaysia.
“My time in Thailand did not start off easy. For the first two weeks, all I did was cry every day because the team of pastors who came to send me to the field had to return back to Malaysia. . It was a church planting movement ministry and Bible studies, children’s ministry and livelihood projects were some of the initial ministry started. We also helped with the Scripture translation and radio broadcasting ministry. But the first two years in the field were just learning both Thai and the local dialect, Patani. ”
But whom God calls, He equips. Jesuthason realised that he had an interest in languages and a gift for learning them. Just as God helped him learn English during his days in Klang, He empowered Jesuthason to learn the local languages of the communities around him.
Today, Jesuthason speaks Bahasa Malaysia, Tamil, English, Thai, Patani dialect, basic Tagalog and Bisaya dialect.
When you serve a faithful God, He watches over everything, even when the milk powder supply runs out
Jesuthason met his wife, Lalaine, in the Philippines. Both of them were attending the same missions training school and did long-distance for two years. “In the entire classroom, only the two of us wanted to serve the same faith group and so that was confirmation too,” he adds.
They have a daughter born in the Philippines, and a son born in Thailand. As young parents, it was not easy raising children in the mission field without any family support. Jesuthason remembers days when he and Lalaine would watch helplessly as their infant cried, having tried everything and at their wits’ end.
But God brought the community to them, another missionary family also raising children in the field, and provided for all of their needs.
“There was a time we ran out of milk for our daughter; there was only one scoop of powder left. We looked all over the house and found only five baht (RM0.60). I mixed the milk with that last scoop. As my daughter was drinking the milk, right then the phone rang. A friend said, “God just told me to send some money to you.” It was RM500.”
Looking back, Jesuthason says it was a beautiful life: just one motorcycle, two children to raise, a church and community to serve. Quoting Hudson Taylor, he says, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”
“Never then, never now. God has provided, He is providing. Not because of who I am, but because of who He is. As I continue to strive to be faithful, I see His faithfulness.”
A gruesome threatening letter on their van’s windscreen
The missionary life, however, is not a bed of roses. Jesuthason remembers a time when they found a message placed on their van. “It said, “We know who you are, we know what you’re doing, we know why you’re coming here. This will be the last day you come into this village. If you come back, you will be killed.” .
Although shaken, the team consulted with the seeker’s Christian family in the village who promised to stand by them and encouraged them to keep coming.
But the group who made the threat, to prove they were serious, shot someone else dead to prove that they meant what they wrote and sent it to the seeker’s family, who shared it with Jesuthason.
“So we were really in a dilemma. But God found another way. A man in the village we were discipling got badly sick and had to be transferred to the hospital outside the village. There, we were able to minister to his family and extended relatives and share the gospel with them. The man eventually passed away from his illness, but it was not all sadness for he said, “I’m passing with Jesus in my heart.”
In 2015, God called Jesuthason back to his homeland
Living and breathing the heart of missions, Jesuthason always thought God had called him to the field and that he would end his life in the field. But in 2015, he burnt out. He remembers so much dryness, discouragement, team members leaving and a season of questioning.
With nothing left in him, Jesuthason tendered his resignation with many unanswered questions. But God, with impeccable timing, brought a visiting team when he needed it most. All they did was pray for and encourage Jesuthason, and it made a huge difference.
“I felt I was in a corner, at a dead end. But at that moment, God allowed me to understand that it is His work. I should not be carrying everything — it is His work, His people, His call. I just need to go back to Him.”
After that, God revealed that He was bringing Jesuthason into a new season. And as proof of His hand at work, the transition of the work in Thailand was smoothly carried out. “Jesu, your time is done here. It’s not you, it’s Me. I’m bringing you to another season of life.”
The word from the Lord was clear as a bell and granted Jesuthason peace to move.
In 2015, God called Jesuthason back to his homeland to build a heart for missions amongst Malaysians
But first, a season of rest and renewal was waiting. Jesuthason and his family moved to the Philippines for him to pursue his studies in urban poverty and leadership at the Asia Theological Seminary. After a year, they returned to Malaysia refreshed for the next step in their journey.
“In January 2017, I became missions director with the Malaysian Missionary Movement (MMM), the missions arm of the Tamil Methodist Church (TMC) of Malaysia. Now as a leader, I feel I have substance to bring to the local church — not just knowledge and training, but experience as well.”
He supports missions across 54 churches under the TAC umbrella, working with every church’s missions chairperson as they carry out local missions. MMM-TAC also supports nine field missionaries serving overseas in places including Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar.
But Jesuthason’s heart is about making missions part of every Christian’s life, from the children to the adults. “Missions is John 3:16 — God has given us His one and only Son, so that none of us should perish. That is me. God didn’t want me to perish. Just as I have received it for myself, I wish to bring it to others,” he says emphatically.
MMM-TAC organises children’s missions camps and mobilises churches to be involved in missions through short-term missions trips, camps and prayer movements. MMM-TAC also recruits, trains and mobilises young people for missions. And recently, God has also been speaking to him and the MMM Board to create a missions prayer movement.
It’s about getting the whole message of missions out to the churches, not just a part
Planting the seed of missions in the Malaysian Church is hard work. Jesuthason points out that one of the biggest challenges is getting the whole message of missions across: what missions mean, why missions as well as when, where and how to carry it out.
Then there’s also the prevailing mindset that missions are just an activity or programme. “It’s not, it’s a mandate entrusted to us, and we need to do it now. But there’s also the challenge of being inward-looking. At church prayer meetings, we’re praying for our ministries, family day, and camps, it’s always about us. And our finances, so much is poured back into our church. We need to look beyond.”
An example, Jesuthason shares, is the shoebox project (care packages) MMM started in 2019 to bless the refugee and diaspora communities in the Klang Valley. That year, they managed to raise enough for 280 shoeboxes.
In 2020, the pandemic struck but Jesuthason just asked, “Lord, what’s next?” They forged ahead, raising enough for 1,650 shoeboxes. “That’s 1,650 families we were able to visit and minister to,” he says.
And last year (2021), God did it again. 2,100 shoeboxes were filled, packed and distributed amidst travel restrictions, economic pressures and uncertain times. It was God showing up, using willing hearts to bless the nations (people groups) in Malaysia.
“Young people these days are always looking for something exciting. Missions is exciting!”
When asked how Malaysian Christians can grasp the heart for missions and fulfil the mandate the Lord has given each one of us, Jesuthason says it starts with understanding the current move of God in this time.
“What is God doing at this point in time? What is His move today? Missions opportunities are at our doorstep; God has brought nations to our doorstep. About 2.4 million migrants are here. International students, diaspora community, refugees, so many Orang Asli groups and 500 kampungs have yet to be reached with the gospel.”
He shares four points that every Christian seeking to live the missional life can take note of:
- Nothing happens without prayer. We pray for ourselves, our families, and our church, now we have to pray for nations.
- We need to be trained and equipped for missions. Kairos, D’Explorer.
- To give sacrificially. It has to be intentional to unreached people groups, to missions work, to the needs of others.
- Go. If you don’t go, all the 3 points above that you’ve done or doing will continue on as it is, still serving within the four walls of the church.
He shares how MMM organises youth mission camps: four-day trips so they can learn about missions with their minds, hearts and hands. “Young people these days are looking for something exciting. Missions is exciting, it’s so exciting. Until and unless we get them exposed, they won’t be excited. They want to do something, but they’re not being given the opportunity,” he says.
The work is bearing fruit; youth who return come back with a heart for missions and some are now serving in their local churches’ missions departments and committing as long-term missionaries.
“That’s really what missions and loving God is, VCM coming back to Jeremiah 1:7-9. It’s about us being faithful to God, and God faithfully using our lives to impact others. I always had an inferiority complex and struggled with low self-esteem, but God would always say, “It’s not you, it’s Me.”
Jesuthason is supported by AsiaCMS, a trans-denominational mission movement based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and established in 2012. AsiaCMS connects people, organisations, and churches to meet needs; facilitates collaborations for mission initiatives, and resources people and organisations through mission education, cross-cultural ministry training and support.