Word of Mouth, Internet or Google?

Brandon Chan, 2024 MDiv in Intercultural Studies and Theological Studies; President’s Leadership Award and Academic Excellence Award recipient.


It started with a Google Map

Below is the story of how one of our students stumbled upon EAST, took on a visiting class, and how through his journey of faith, he took on leadership role as a Student Council President. In the recent 30th Commencement, he received not just an Academic Excellence Award but also the President’s Leadership Award for being a servant leader during his time at EAST.

A recent survey showed that most students found EAST through “word of mouth”, “internet search” and “EAST website”; 10% came through “others.”

Brandon Chan’s “others” was ‘Google Maps’.

“I was heading home after a game at ‘Farrer Park: Sports Complex’ when my phone led me to a big green sign: ‘East Asia School of Theology’ at Dorset.”*

“So I checked the school out online, liked what I read especially courses like ‘Urban Missions’, and enrolled,” says the church worker.

Brandon, 33, had wrestled with the idea of entering full-time ministry since he was 15 years old, after a mission trip to Cambodia. “This conviction grew as I worked among youths in schools as a sports coach, and at church.”

As part of the ‘pandemic cohort’, his first school year – from classes to conducting an outreach among students in East Asia – was on Zoom. “We had to adapt on-the-go,” he says. “But every class I took from day one changed my life – how I study God’s Word, share Christ, and do ministry.”

 “In the past I like to makan [‘have a meal’ in Malay] with someone, talk about life, pray, ok, I’m discipling you. But after classes like ‘Spiritual Movement’ and ‘Spiritual Life and Transformation’, I have a discipleship plan. My conversations are more directed. When I see changes in how others respond and grow, it was very satisfying.”

Brandon had no illusions that going back to school would be tough. “Trusting God for finance, getting into the rigors of studies, and, yes, studying Greek and Hebrew,” he says, “I couldn’t even handle Chinese well in school.” But he prayed to God for courage, jumped in – “like how Dad threw me into a pool one day and I learned to swim” – and conquered his fears.

“I was an asthmatic child who went through three operations on my skull and eye before I was six,” explains Brandon. “To toughen me up, Dad exposed me early to the outdoors.”

By God’s grace, the self-professed “accident-prone naughty boy” overcame the odds, and even trained to be a sports coach in Australia.  By the time he was in university, he was already into skydiving, paragliding, bungee jumping and rock climbing.

Looking back, Brandon feels that the greatest lesson he learned at EAST was to walk by faith. “There were times when the mental and emotional stress was overwhelming,” says the former Student President and natural leader – from leading school-wide prayer walks to coordinating the Inter-Collegiate Games to heading ministry outreaches here and overseas.

“But God used these to teach me dependency.  That I may serve Him better.  That I may lead with humility.”

Brandon’s Tips for “Freshies” at EAST:

  1. Stay connected to people, keep your community as priority and serve people.
  2. Create space and plan ahead. Stress always happens when people don’t plan. Give yourself enough time to to have a clear head to know what is on your plate and be involved with people.
  3. Keep your health as number one priority – mental, spiritual and physical health. Learn how to say no (especially to those who are your superiors, e.g. your professors & pastors). Learn how to rest.


*EAST ran its first classes in 1992 at the Cru Singapore Training Centre. Between 1993 and 2020, the school was at Christ Church, Dorset, for 25 years, and Grace (SCC) Church for two years.  In 2020, EAST moved to its present location at 118 Joo Chiat Road.

The above article is adapted from a piece by Dr Lau Ying Kheng, originally written for the EAST 30th Commencement brochure.

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