Assuming the reins



Pete and Jo Ong, with their children Teaghan, Lucas and Micaiah, arrived in Malawi in 2012. Pete’s role was to develop the work with the youth of SIM Malawi’s partner church, the Africa Evangelical Church. In addition he has also taken the lead in disaster-response work. On 1 February 2021 he took over as Country Director for SIM Malawi. Malawi Amoto asked him about his hopes for the immediate future


What is your vision as you take over as Country Director of SIM Malawi?

I would like to preface my answer by firstly dealing with the “why” question. Why does SIM Malawi exist? And I think the SIM purpose statement is helpful here in addressing this. SIM Malawi exists because we are “convinced that no one should live and die without hearing God’s good news, we believe that He has called us to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in communities where He is least known.” Our purpose underpins our vision.

Secondly, I would like to preface my answer by saying that my vision for SIM Malawi is guided in many ways by our existing team vision which centres around the five focus areas of (1) Pursuing the unreached, (2) Building the church, (3) Reaching Children & Youth, (4) Impacting the AIDS Crisis, and (5) Advancing Mission.

Meet the Ongs New Country Director Pete Ong with wife Jo and children Teaghan, Lucas, and Micaiah

By faith, I would love to see at the end of my five years as Country Director, SIM Malawi flourishing as a Christlike community living out our purpose intentionally, being disciples of Jesus and making disciples for Him in the communities where He has placed us.

In five years, I would love to see our pursuit of communities where Jesus is least known - among the Yao and other Lakeshore communities, the Diaspora Chinese community, the Indian community, and in the health and business communities - result in healthy Christ-centred churches being planted.

I would also love to see the deepening of our partnerships with local churches and organisations from being one of dependence to inter-dependence, as we work hand in hand in God’s Mission. I would love to see more pastors spiritually formed and equipped to build the Church by raising up more disciple-makers in their congregations.

In five years, I hope to see a generation of emerging leaders among the youth, stepping up in spiritual leadership in the churches, and intentionally making disciples of the younger generations coming after them.

In five years, I see SIM Malawi continuing to make disciples wholistically by impacting human need through compassionate care and serving the forgotten vulnerable members of society.

Pete’s Prayer Points

Please pray for

Posture of listening to God and to others in the team to discern the way forward in this new season under challenging circumstances caused by covid.

Discernment in aligning people’s giftings and passions to the work of SIM Malawi.

Wisdom to appoint Ministry Cluster leaders.

For Jo and the kids as we adjust to the demands and challenges that the director role brings.

My own growing relationship with God; that I will lean upon Him in all things. The best way I can love the team is to ensure that I am abiding in Christ and growing to be like Him so that I can lead like Him.

In five years, I would love to see SIM Malawi advance God’s mission by firing up more churches for mission in their communities and beyond. I would love to see SIM Malawi become a leading entity in training and sending missionaries from Malawi into the world. At the end of my term, I would love to see SIM Malawi’s leadership capacity multiplied such that we have many more within the team willing to step up to take over as director when I step aside.

What are your hopes and fears for the new role?

Besides seeing SIM Malawi living out our purpose and vision, my hope for the team and myself  is that we would flourish together in our relationship with God and in our service for Him. I hope that we will be growing in Christlikeness and serving out of our relationship with Jesus.

One fear that I have for myself and the team relate to ‘losing’ ourselves in our work. By this I mean finding our identity and security in what we do for God rather than who we have been made in Christ. Our missionaries and ministry workers are often very driven people, and it is easy to let the work define us, rather than we define the work.

When we seek significance in our work rather than who we are in Christ, it is easy to lead and serve out of our insecurities, and this can often have a negative impact on others around us and on the ministries that we serve in. My prayer for myself and the team is that we will serve out of a deep relationship with Jesus.

We can’t expect deep spiritual transformation in others when we have not experienced deep inner transformation in our own lives.

Disaster Relief Pete has led SIM Malawi’s work in disaster relief, working with partners such as the AEC and the Evangelical Association of Malawi

What kind of changes in direction, if any, may we see under your leadership?

Since our 2019 Country Review, there has been a shift in direction with regards to the way that we do ministry, moving from working solo in our individual ministries to working together united by a common purpose and vision. I will continue to facilitate this change to move to a more integrated team-based approach to doing ministry in the various areas we are currently engaged in; facilitating conversations and interaction across the various teams so that missionaries and ministry workers know how their ministries relate with and impact one another.

This approach also opens up conversations to how we as SIM Malawi can identify new communities where Jesus is least known and seek to make disciples in those communities through a collective, collaborative approach, so that it is not just dependent on having missionaries on the ground. We will be able to leverage off experiences and skills of missionaries and ministry workers from across the various teams.

In the near future, there will be an opportunity to review our team vision in each of our five focus areas in light of the Country Review. I envisage that each of the Ministry Clusters will actively engage in this process of reviewing vision in their respective areas. 

National Youth Camp: Young people enjoying Bible Study in the open air at an AEC National Youth Camp

I will continue to lead the process of aligning our ministries to our agreed purpose, vision and core values as SIM Malawi.

Another area of conversation will be around our SIM Malawi’s governance structure.

We will need to review the existing function of our Board of trustees and the Malawi Field Council to see how these can best serve SIM Malawi to enable the flourishing of our work on the ground.

How do Jo and the children feel about this new role?

When I received the news that someone had nominated me for the role of Director while I was on Home Assignment in Australia, I remember asking Jo and the kids whether I should accept the nomination. They were excited for me and encouraged me to accept the nomination and go through the discernment process with the search committee. One month into the role,

I think Jo and the kids are still excited and supportive!

What developments have you seen in the Youth Ministry since you became involved?

There have been a lot of developments, but some of the main ones would be:

· AEC Youth Work – the church paying the salary of their National Youth Co-ordinators, developing greater ownership of their own ministry to their youth.

· Development of AEC vision/mission/strategy and governance structure for their youth ministry so that people understand their roles and responsibilities.

· The ability of the youth to mobilise to come together from all over the country for National Youth Camps, as well as to empower youth groups in Area Councils to come together to organise their own youth camps.

· Establishment of training programmes such as the neXGen Youth Leadership Development programme to train up youth leaders in the AEC and the Mtengo Youth Vocational Discipleship programme working with unemployed youth in the AEC.

· Greater networking with other like-minded organisations through platforms like the Youth Pastors’ Bookset Conferences.

· Development of more youth ministry resources in Chichewa. Greater interaction with SIM International through the Ministry Point Person for Youth and Young Adults.

· Development of a Youth Worker Internship programme, resulting in Jonathan Njiragoma coming on board as full-time paid SIM Malawi Youth Worker.

Friends and Colleagues Pete and Jonathan behind a ‘wall of books’ at a Youth Pastors’ Bookset Conference

What will happen to the youth work for which you have been responsible for many years?

Last year, even before my appointment as Director, Jonathan came on board as a SIM Malawi Youth Worker. Jonathan has been working as an intern with me over the past two years. He will be taking up some of my responsibilities as SIM Malawi Youth Co-ordinator, especially in working hand to hand with our ministry partners on the ground, like the AEC. I will still be mentoring Jonathan and having an oversight role of the youth ministry in these early days. We will be working to get the neXGen Youth Leadership development programme and the Mtengo Youth Vocational Discipleship programme off the ground again after covid settles. As mentioned earlier, we are moving to a team-based approach to ministry, and the youth, children and sports ministries will be coming together to form a ministry cluster, led by a team leader whom I will appoint in the near future. I am excited by this development which will enable the ministry to expand and impact more children and youth in Malawi.