POINT LOOKOUT – Tim Cheah grew up as a missionary kid, but it wasn’t until college that he began to understand what it meant to personally live out the Great Commission in every sphere of life.
Born to Malaysian parents, Cheah spent most of his childhood on the mission field in Indonesia. His parents served through an organization called Ethnos 360, laboring to build relationships between the people and local churches in the area. In a predominantly Muslim country where animistic beliefs are commonplace, life wasn’t built around the church in the way it often is in the Western world. Spiritual need was unquestionably apparent. “Ministry was everywhere,” Cheah says.
Growing up on the mission field taught Cheah a lot and shaped his worldview, but “it was just where I lived and grew up,” he says. “I never really thought, ‘oh, I’m here to make disciples.’ It was just kind of like, ‘I live here.’”
Before moving to Indonesia, his family had spent time in Missouri, where both of his older sisters attended College of the Ozarks. When his own turn for college came around, the decision to follow in his sisters’ footsteps was a no-brainer. While it may have been a choice of familiarity, it “was a vital part of my life…probably the most influential,” he says. Away from his own family, Campus Missionary Kyle Rapinchuk and his wife, Kristin, became like “a second mom and dad,” he says.
Like many youths leaving home for the first time, college gave Cheah the space to learn who he really was and what he truly believed. Thankfully, that journey only solidified the faith of his childhood and added fuel to the flame of his passion for Christ. His involvement in Ozarks BSU was a big part of that.
“BSU really taught me what it means to be in community with believers as well as how to go as far as the Great Commissions – to go and make disciples,” he says. He quickly learned that though College of the Ozarks is a Christian college, not everyone there is a Christian, and the mission field in front of him was just as ripe as his parents’ context in Indonesia.
Rapinchuk’s discipleship instilled in Cheah a Great Commission perspective to his everyday life. “Kyle said one time that we all go back to our own little world – where we work or who we live with,” Cheah says. “BSU taught me to bring what I know in my faith into those other places. Basically, just going and making disciples in my neighborhood, workplace, etc.” Each week, he says, “we would leave BSU with the best thing and take it with us.”
This idea of “taking the best thing” with him into his spheres of influence has shaped his post-college life. In his workplace, most of his coworkers don’t share his beliefs and worldview. But Cheah looks for opportunities to “throw out little cues” in his life – to give God credit for the good things that happen, for instance. “It’s the little things we throw out that make a difference,” he says.
Like many other post-college graduates, Cheah found that finding solid community and a context for spiritual growth was challenging without the convenience of college ministry. But his experience being part of BSU motivated him to persevere in finding a local church, getting plugged into community, and building relationships with his neighbors. “If it wasn’t for BSU, I don’t think any of those things would have happened,” Cheah says. His advice to other graduates is to “embrace the awkwardness” and pursue community and spiritual growth after college, no matter how hard it is to adapt. “It’s not going to be easy at first,” he cautions, but “it’s definitely rewarding in the end. And if we don’t pursue that, our faith is just kind of stagnant because we’re not trusting God to lead us into the world or where we’re living.”
For the Rapinchuks, Cheah is the perfect example of what they hope to see happen in the lives of BSU alumni. Recently, Cheah called Kyle to thank him for the investment he and Kristin made in his life. “I was honored and humbled by his thoughtfulness in calling and the things he had to say,” Rapinchuk says. Cheah also shared with the Rapinchuks about his involvement in his community and local church in Kansas where he now lives and works.
“We have always said that our motto is to model the local church, not be the local church,” says Rapinchuk, “so that we can teach our students to be lifelong servants in the local church according to their gifts. Tim is an excellent example of what we hope to see our students be and do after college. Whether they are engineers, schoolteachers, salesmen, farmers, or any other multitude of careers, we always want them to view their Christian vocation as a calling to be disciple-makers, gospel-proclaimers, and ministers of reconciliation in their communities through their local churches. In short, we want them to be like Tim.”
As he looks back, Cheah realizes what a treasure his time at the BSU is. “BSU has taught me to not only serve but also live life with a goal, to obey the Great Commandment to love God and love others, and to go obeying the Great Commission.”
That’s all any Campus Missionary could ask for.