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“When I choose to pursue God, He takes good care of me” – Thomas Pang, a 28-year-old counsellor and Bible college lecturer

Thomas Pang was forced to mature quickly as he left his childhood behind at a young age. By the time he turned 15, he found himself living independently in a rented room, juggling his studies and meals while navigating his way to and from tuition classes. 

“I did not have a lot of fun memories in my childhood days. It was more about surviving on my own, figuring things out and performing well academically,” he recalls. 

Thomas has come a long way since his challenging upbringing. Today, he is a registered counsellor and lecturer at the Bible College of Malaysia (BCM), where he heads the Chinese-language division of BCM’s counselling programmes. At 28 years old, he is also currently the youngest faculty member at the college.

Thomas’ journey from lone wolf to the helper of many is a remarkable one. As the young man says, one cannot deny God’s hand at work every step of the way. 

Thomas, a registered counsellor and lecturer at Bible College of Malaysia, sees God’s hand upon his life every step of the way.

No real relationship with Jesus 

Growing up, Thomas remembers a relatively normal childhood in a ‘typical’ Malaysian Chinese family. His father’s job required him to travel often and his mother brought them up in a strict environment. 

His family was Catholic at the time, but Thomas remembers having no real relationship with Jesus. “My relationship with God was just done out of obedience to my parents.” 

When Thomas turned 10 years old, his life changed. His parents divorced, and suddenly he was being raised in a single-parent home. 

His mother worked tirelessly to provide for her three children, but due to her demanding schedule, she was unable to be there for them both physically and emotionally. In an effort to find stability and support, Thomas moved in with his godmother at the age of 14. However, due to unforeseen family circumstances, he moved out on his own just a year later. 

Thomas (first row, far right) with his high school class.

An encounter in the attic

For the rest of his high school years, Thomas lived alone in a rented room. The A-student threw himself into his studies with the goal of becoming a doctor, often saying no to hangouts and opportunities for fun. 

“It was when I was 17 years old that I hit my lowest point. The question, “What’s next after SPM?” was hovering over me and in that season, I faced issues with family, friends and relationships. At that time in my life, I had no one to turn to,” he shares. 

By then, his sister, mother and brother had become Protestants and reignited their faith in Jesus after having found various churches they felt comfortable in. They encouraged Thomas to pray and seek the Lord. 

“One day I was in an attic, just praying for direction and finally, I experienced God’s peace and love and realness in a very tangible way. I knew then that He was real,” he says. 

After SPM, Thomas decided to do his A Levels. He also began attending New Life Restoration Centre, where he was baptised and started serving in the youth ministry. It was also in this season that he realised he did not want to pursue medicine anymore. 

Finding his passions in people, teaching and helping others

With no dreams and aspirations left, Thomas took a gap year in 2014. Upon advice from his pastors, he enrolled in BCM to pursue a Certificate of Biblical Studies (CBS). 

“I didn’t want to waste my gap year,” he says with a laugh. 

As the months passed, Thomas realised he loved working with, helping and serving people. In the past, he didn’t think much about psychology, but as he grew, his eyes began to open to the possibility that studying people could be his calling.

After he completed his Bachelor of Psychology at HELP University, a random call came. 

“A BCM acquaintance reached out to me after three years of no contact and mooted the idea of pursuing my Master’s degree with the intention of contributing back to BCM. I had always enjoyed teaching but it never crossed my mind; I was just a young graduate. However, God gave me a gentle slap and said, “It’s possible.”,” he said. 

Thomas pursued his Master’s in Counseling at HELP, obtained his licence and is now a practising registered counsellor at Rekindle Centre for Systemic Therapy in addition to being a lecturer at BCM.

Thomas (in maroon) with his fellow coursemates in the Master’s of Counselling Programme from HELP University.

A God-given opportunity to impact the wider Christian community

As the youngest faculty member at BCM, Thomas is grateful for the opportunity to observe and learn from so many experienced lecturers. “They are ever willing to listen, guide, share and connect. We are also very united and move forward together,” he says. 

The young millennial also credits BCM president Rev Dr Victor Lee for his visionary approach and sincere belief that the college has much to contribute in this season and generation. 

“The field of theological education provides the opportunity to get in touch, empower and equip so many churches. If I were to do what I’m doing just through a church, institution or NGO, my impact would be limited to that immediate circle. This way, I’m connected to many leaders from so many churches,” he shares. 

Need for more counselling ministries in Malaysian churches

As a counsellor and lecturer, Thomas has observed that churches in Malaysia are now more open to the idea of counselling. It is a great step forward. 

“The next milestone would be for pastors to be equipped to care for their sheep and members with counselling skills. Traditional pastoral care coupled with counselling skills can be even more effective,” he says enthusiastically. 

Another milestone for churches is to establish counselling ministries. Thomas says very few churches have a proper set-up, and those that do are often run by well-meaning church members who have some counselling skills

“With more people equipped, the load can be shared and it can even act as an outreach or initiative to provide counselling help and assistance to the wider community,” he says.

At BCM, many of their students in counselling study programmes are church leaders, lay leaders and even ordinary members who want to serve their cell groups, team members (for marketplace leaders) more effectively or resolve their own issues. 

Being able to serve and walk with his students has been immensely fulfilling for the young man who, unlike many of his peers, has opted for a career path less travelled. 

Finding his passion for people, Thomas (far right) during his internship at Rekindle before becoming an associate.

Drawing young people into full-time ministry

As a young person, Thomas understands the tug-of-war between the world and God. A current worldview, he shares, is that our youth should be spent on chasing big dreams, financial success and securing enough for the future. 

When young people share their dreams of entering full-time ministry, whether as a pastor or lecturer at a Bible college, reactions from friends and family can be mixed.

“The thinking is, “I’m still young, I can pursue my own dreams and all of this [ministry work] can come later. That has been one of the greatest challenges to attracting young people into ministry and theological education. So you must have conviction and passion,” he says.

There are two critical questions to ask, the young lecturer says. Do you know God, the gifts He’s given you and the calling He has for you? Secondly, do you have the faith to respond to the calling? 

There’s no easy answer because a calling such as this requires you to give up everything. 

“But as church leaders, parents and mentors, it would be helpful to show a good example to young people, have open conversations and mentor them in their journey while they’re trying to find their way through life,” he adds.

A new beginning: Thomas (third from right) at his BCM student orientation.

“God laid every stone in the path that has led me here”

For this young lecturer and counsellor, his life is a shining example of having a God who cares. “God laid every stone in the path that has led me here,” he says. 

Although the future can be uncertain, he looks back at God’s faithfulness and knows he can trust Him always. For others his age seeking direction and purpose, he encourages them to seek mentors and mature Christian leaders. 

“Intergenerational relationships are very helpful. Not only in terms of obtaining godly advice, but these conversations also reveal practical insights into the life or path you’re considering. This can help you be better prepared,” he says. 

God has been faithful to Thomas Pang. He saw the 17-year-old struggling to walk through life on his own and threw him a lifeline filled with hope. 

“I pray that my heart will continue to be soft before Him so that I can fight the good fight and finish the race well. When I choose to pursue God, He takes good care of me,” Thomas says without a hint of doubt. “He lays the path for me and provides for me. But it takes faith on your own part to believe that God can do the same for you.”

The Bible College of Malaysia offers affordable study programmes (from diploma to Master’s degree) in ministerial counselling that will equip you not just for ministry, but for impact in every circle of influence. To find out more, click here

All photos in article provided by Thomas Pang. Cover photo provided by BCM.

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