Introducing Ben OngOur people | Our stories
From time to time we will be sharing the stories of our people - new mission initiatives, new students, innovative ideas, anything that sums up the spirit of our Diocese and our future. Today we are introducing Ben Ong and celebrating his selection as our representative to the Face-to-Face mission programme in Hyderabad. We invite you to pray for Ben as he begins his study programme in Otago and prepares to travel.
Here is Ben in his own words.
Ko Tararua te maunga
Ko Manawatu te awa
Ko Lord William Bentinck te waka
Ko Saint Peter’s Cathedral te marae
Ko Pākeha rāua ko Tiaina tōku iwi
Ko Beverley rāua ko Murray ōku mātua tūpuna
Ko Roselyn rāua ko Chee Siong ōku mātua
Ko Benjamin Ong tōku ingoa
Kia Ora e te Whānau,
My name is Ben Ong, I am 23 years old and I hail from Palmerston North in the Manawatu, although, I consider the mighty Waikato to be home. I am a recent addition to our diocese in Waikato-Taranaki, and I will be heading to Hyderabad in India in February as the New Zealand candidate for a program organised by the Council for World Mission.
So, who I am? My Mum, Rose, was born and raised in Te Awamutu and Dad is originally from Singapore but has been a Kiwi for nearly thirty years. I have two older sisters, named Sarah and Ami, one of whom is married and has two handsome boys, Axel and Wolfgang. Teaching apparently runs in our blood as Dad and Ami are both primary school teachers, while Mum and Sarah are early childhood teachers and I have some adult teaching and tertiary theological teaching experience. Until very recently, I was working with a local organisation called TrainMe, which provides educational opportunities to people from all walks of life. My role in the company was as a tutor for young people who were removed from the traditional high school environment as well as for different at-risk youth. Aside from my working life, cooking for people and sharing in hospitality is a much-loved pastime with some form of Bolognese being my favourite dish to prepare.
My journey to into the Anglican church felt like it was a long time coming. After having studied some contextual theological papers, I found a yearning in myself to continue to reflect and practice the deeply incarnational theology I had encountered. Slowly, over the course of about two years, the Holy Spirit changed my perspective on the world where we dwell. The encounter with incarnational theology invariably led to concepts of sacrifice, self-emptying, reconciliation, liberation, and healing; all of which, resonated deeply with me. During 2017, I felt called toward finding a church aligned with this renewed understanding of faith. A church that practised contextual and incarnational theologies. So, I set off to explore. Over the course of about two months, I participated in a number of different denominational settings searching for the Spirit's call. Close to the end of this exploration, I decided to go to Te Hākari Tapu at St Peter's Cathedral in Hamilton, a Eucharist service I had known about for some time but had not had the opportunity to attend. I was warmly welcomed by the presiding priests, Rev. Pine Campbell and Rev. Phil Wilson, immediately feeling this deep spiritual connection in the theology, liturgy, and community. What I found in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia was nothing less than serendipitous. The glorification of God, the richness of the history, the depth of liturgy, the connection with te whakapapa o te whakarongo (the family of the faith), the embrace of Te Ao Māori and Polynesia, the concern for social justice, and the openness to questions were some of the life-giving aspects of our church that immediately resonated with my theological rhythm. I knew this was where the Holy Spirit had been calling me.
In 2017, I completed a Master's Degree at Laidlaw College with a thesis entitled "Who's Welcome at Paul's Table? A Comparative Study of 1 Cor 5:9-13, 11:17-22 and 11:33-34." My research focused on the inclusion and exclusion instructions which Paul gave to the Corinthians as a way to understand gospel proclamation and group identity through the 'fellowship meal' and the Lord's Supper. Currently, I am in the first month of a PhD in New Testament Studies, at the University of Otago. My research is now focusing on hospitality around food as a means for reconciliation in the New Testament. That is, viewing the practices of hospitality around food described and implied in Scripture as a means for finding reconciliation in divided churches.
In February through until March, I will be going to Hyderabad in India to participate in a program organized by the Council for World Mission. The program, entitled "Building Life-Affirming Communities: Face to Face with the many poor and the many faiths in Asia," is an invitation for learning, reflection, and encounter with inter-faith dialogue in the context of vast poverty. The aim of the program is to help us to find new ways to reflect on poverty in a pluralistic context and to provide an opportunity to encounter poverty in a new way so that our real-world experiences can truly influence and inform the theological reflection. I am very excited for this opportunity that our Diocesan Educator, Rev. Stephen Black, originally told me about. And I am looking forward to encountering such a polarizing context, and then being facilitated to contemplate and reflect. What I am most looking forward to, however, is the 'so what' of the trip; the hope of finding a starting point to meaningfully engage with this complex and challenging issue in their context, our context, and beyond.
This is just a bit about who I am and what is happening at the moment. I am prayerful that together we can journey with God in his specific mission to Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia.
Kia tau i te rangimārie ki a koutou.
Story Published: 5th of February - 2018