Written by: Joseph Koh (Photo by: Mikeel Araña)
Interview with Kok Hiang
Have you wondered what it is like to be a father? When I examine my father’s life, I would think that it’s a terrifying journey, given the need to juggle between expectations at the workplace and at home and faced with the implicit pressure to be a role model for the family.
With Father’s Day around the corner, we’ve taken this chance to learn more about fatherhood from Mr Lam Kok Hiang, Country Leader of Cru Singapore. As a father of two teenagers, he delves into a unique perspective on being the head of the household, and unravels the inspiration behind Cru’s new #OurFathers digital video series, highlighting why we are all in need of fathering today.
Founded in 1972, Cru Singapore has established itself as one of the most recognised Christian organisations in our country today. Could you share with us what has remained the same through the years?
Cru Singapore (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ) is committed to help fulfil the Great Commission in our generation. Over the years, while the context of ministries and strategies has changed and evolved, we have stayed true to our mission of reaching boldly, building deeply, and sending urgently. We seek to stay relevant to our calling of evangelism and discipleship, both locally and globally.
What has changed in the organisation today?
We changed our name five years ago to better reflect the evolution of our ministry as we matured over the years. While we started out with a focus on students, we have since established ministries that cater to different people at various stages of life and maturity. We call this “life-stage discipleship” and we hope to journey with professionals and homemakers, whilst remaining committed to reaching students.
However, our mission remains the same: helping to fulfil the Great Commission by raising spiritual multipliers for the Kingdom of God. We seek to disciple believers to be effective witnesses for God, so that they can disciple others to do the same.
Could you share with us the vision behind Cru’s #OurFathers digital video series?
The vision behind the #OurFathers digital video series is, firstly, to champion the role of fathers in our society. We all know the importance of fathers in our families, but somehow it has never really been featured in the media. We also wanted to feature Asian fathers as it connects better within our societal context. The series features ordinary fathers — the same persons you would meet in the MRT or at the hawker centre — and their journey. We did not want a scripted testimony, but an authentic sharing of their victories and struggles.
Secondly, we hope the series will help fathers out there who are looking for encouraging role models and stories to persevere in their fathering journeys. No father is perfect, but we can learn from others, and most of all, to look to our Heavenly Father as the key role model.
How did Cru Singapore decide on the four fathers to feature in the series?
We searched various sources — from father groups to churches, from personal networks of our staff to social media. It was a tough start and we actually came to a point where we were unsure if we could feature four fathers who had a compelling story, were able to articulate their story, and were comfortable to share their story in front of the camera.
As we trusted God to appoint each of the four fathers, we got to know them one by one: Edgar via Instagram, David through a staff, Jason through an Alpha course session, and Mark through much convincing since he is our colleague. To our amazement, the individual stories connected to one another and resonated with many others. This in itself is a story of how God was a faithful Father to us.
As a father of two yourself, what have been the greatest struggles you’ve gone through?
My two children are each very different. The challenge is to embrace their uniqueness, strengths, and weaknesses; and to father them as unique individuals. For example, I now relate to my 19-year-old daughter as if she’s an adult; I engage her in major family decisions.
The other challenge of fathering is choosing the right battles to engage in. As a father, do I focus on academics or character building? Often times, I ask myself what is the loving thing to do at that moment. The loving thing to do is choosing to focus on the bigger picture and on the goal of the parenting process. I have also learnt that parenting is not telling our kids a list of dos and don’ts and imposing our expectations on them. It is about shepherding their hearts and teaching them the fear of God in their lives.
How do you overcome these struggles?
We are all works-in-progress, including us — adults. I see every situation my children go through, both positive and negative, as God-shaping moments in their own journey towards maturity and Christ-likeness. I take comfort that our Heavenly Father is also watching over them and He is constantly at work in their lives.
What do you think are the biggest issues that you’ve observed among Singaporean fathers today?
We, fathers, are not very engaged in the lives of their children. We are great providers, but may not be present — physically, emotionally, and spiritually — in our children’s lives. Most wives have a desire to see their husbands be more engaged in parenting the kids. Hence, I hope to witness fathers becoming more engaged in the parenting process with their wives.
Our children will go through different interests as they grow up — sports, music, fashion, relationships — hence it is important for fathers to get into the “world” of our children. We need to engage them in conversations around the things that interest them. My son is currently into K-pop music, which means that I get an education from him about this genre of music. I also make it a point, where possible, to be present in those significant moments in their lives. It could be showing up at their school’s CCA competition or meeting the teachers during meet-the-parent sessions in school.
Has fatherhood altered your perspective of God, our Heavenly Father?
When my children disobey or make poor choices, I grieve as a father. In the same way, whenever I make similar choices in my relationship with my Heavenly Father, He must be grieved too. The range of emotions I experience as an earthly dad mirrors my Heavenly Dad’s.
“He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents” (Malachi 4:6). Do you see this happening in Singapore?
Yes, I do. There has been a growing emphasis on fathers in recent years through different movements in Singapore. Even in our schools, many more “Dads for Life” chapters are today actively championing fatherhood. There are also more seminars/talks on fathering offered by many organisations and churches in Singapore. A few years ago, I attended “Date with Dad” with my daughter, an event organised by Focus on the Family. It was a special time for me to be my daughter’s first date!
What is your hope to see in Singapore in five years?
I hope to see a strengthening of the family unit in Singapore. It starts with fathers rising up to provide leadership in their homes.
#OurFathers is a digital video series produced by Cru Singapore. It attempts to provide authentic answers to “How to be a father?” and ultimately ask, “Do you want to know the best father of all?” This project is released in partnership with fellow kingdom builders such as YWAM Singapore, OM Singapore, YesHeis, Cru Media Ministry, East Asia School of Theology, and more.