This news article appears in thesundaypost on April 27, 2008
SIBU: “When I left Sarawak I took part of you with me. And I left part of me with you. For that, I thank God.”
Rev David MacDonald, the first pastor of Wesley Methodist Church, said this when he was interviewed by The Borneo Post during a visit in 2001.
And since that year, he has made it a point to look up that of him that he has left here, and bring with him that part that was entrusted with him.
In the same unfailing spiritual relationship, come April 30 Rev David MacDonald will be here once again, which will give him the better reason to thank God he is capable of this brotherhood ever since that day in 2001.
Many will share in his communion on April 30 because on that date the Wesley Methodist Church will be celebrating its Golden Jubilee. Undoubtedly, it will be a time to renew friendship and exchange experience.
The Wesley Methodist Church started its first service in 1958 with Rev MacDonald as pastor.
Prior to that, from December 1955 to April 1958, the members who called themselves “English Vespers” were worshipping at the Masland Church.
The Wesley Methodist Church has every reason to rejoice and attribute its achievements in different ministries to the faithfulness of God on its Golden Jubilee celebrations.
A line-up of programme has been planned for the past pastors, guests and members, whether they are from afar or from home.
A welcoming dinner has been planned for the guests from overseas together with local church members on April 30.
Guests will also be visiting some Methodist Institutions on the same day.
Itinerary includes: May 1, the guests will be visiting a nearby longhouse; May 2, a Praise Night where Wesleyans and guests will tell how much God has done for them over the past 50 years; May 3, from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm a forum, “Reminiscing the Past, Reflecting the Present, Reckoning the Future” will be held at the church. During the forum, some missionary pastors, early local pastors will be speaking to the participants.
Other highlights are a Jubilee Thanksgiving Dinner at Sibu Civic Centre on May 3 at 7:30 pm while Sunday worship services o May 4 will see speakers in the persons of Rev Dr David MacDonald, Rev Dr Peter Chio and Rev Dr Hwa Yung.
Rev James M Brinks (Pastor of Wesley, 1969 to 1972), who now resides in Huston, Texas USA, said prior to his homecoming, “It is a great joy to be returning for this wonderful and very significant event in the life of Wesley Church!”
The homecoming pastors and missionaries from overseas to rejoice with Wesleyans are Rev & Mrs David MacDonald, Geoffrey Senior, Philip Williams, Chris Thomlinson, Jim Hipkins, Jim Brinks, Lionel Muthiah, Jackie Fries, Sandy Lovett Berg, Edna Floy Brown and spouse, Camille Funk and spouse, Gail Pilley Harris, Sandy MacKay and spouse.
Past Wesleyans and members of the public who are interested to know more about the Golden Jubilee programme can call the church at 04-336210 for further information.
You can also log on to https://wesleyjubilee.wordpress.com for a line-up of activities and welcoming note from the organizing chairperson, Judy Wong, who is also the Chairman of Wesley Exco.
By God’s grace and provision, the Program Book for Wesley Golden Jubilee is out! Grab a copy on Sunday at the Church! One for each family!
You would be walking down the memory lane of 50 years in pictures.
Remember to –
1. Pray for the various celebration events.
2. Pray for the safe journey of former pastors, missionaries and invited guests from overseas.
3. Pray for celebration committee members.
4. Pray and select the events that you wish to participate and hand in your response cards to the church office or ushers. This would allow the various organizing committee to prepare and provide.
5. Thanks God for His faithfulness for our first 50 years and pray that His blessings will be in abundance in the years to come and all glory be to Him.
You are part of Wesley – our very own Church!
Dear Pastors and Wesleyans from far and wide,
It is indeed my greatest pleasure to welcome you back to Sibu and specifically to Wesley Church in our Golden Jubilee Celebration!
It has been a long-awaited journey for you all. For some it was a year ago that you made that affirmative, joyous and excited “Yes, we are coming!” piece of news.
Thank God for such conveniences as emails. As I continued to receive more confirmation of your coming with such eagerness and spirit of Jubilee as “home-coming and reunion”, I was deeply touched and humbled.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for coming to us once again. It is indeed an attestation of God’s unceasing grace and providence that you are all here. With your presence, your reminiscing, we, the present Wesleyans will be blessed once again as we reflect on our present church growth and ministry, and be challenged to reckon with the future..
It is my sincere wish and prayer that your return to Sibu will be another memorable one in every aspect.
HAPPY HOMECOMING !
It’s a hymn specially written for Wesley on its 50th Anniversary Celebrations –
On this day of celebration,
We would offer thanks and praise
For the way that God has led us,
Guiding us throughout our days.
We have seen His sovereign purpose
In the coming of His Son
Jesus, ‘Word made flesh’ among us,
Reconciling all in one.
Help us to proclaim His Gospel,
Telling of amazing grace,
Seeing love expressed in suffering
On the Cross – to save our race.
Now we know death could not hold him,
He arose to set us free,
Here in majesty and splendour
Jesus reigns in victory.
Holy Spirit, source of power,
Working with God’s people still,
Changing lives and old directions
Teaching us to know his will.
Now equip us for his purpose,
Share the gifts which you inspire,
Now let Pentecost renewal
Come on us like wind and fire.
Tune [‘Hymn to Joy’ Beethoven’s 9th]
[David H MacDonald 2008]
Rev David MacDonald said in an email to Judy Wong, the Organizing Chairperson of the Celebrations,
Needless to say we are beginning to get excited about our visit to Sibu to share in the celebrations.
A few weeks ago whilst beginning my own preparations for the 7.30am service, a hymn tune came
into my mind which I remember singing when I was minister at Wesley 50 years ago.
The words I believe were – Joyful, joyful we adore Thee – (or something like that! )and the tune was from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony ‘Ode to Joy’.
( I notice the tune is also in Mission Praise no 600)
Since then I have worked on the enclosed hymn which I finally finished this morning!
It seems to go well with the tune and I would very much like to dedicate to Wesley Church.
(Phyllis Wong walked down memory land in 2002 with Rev David MacDonald, the first pastor of Wesley Methodist Church, Sibu)
I have the priviledge of walking down memory lane with some very inspiring and distinguished persons for the past four months in my course of work. Life of a journalist is colourful and just full of life!
If you are from Sarawak, in particular from Sibu, if you are struggling with learning of Chinese, you want to know what’s Bishop’s Soup, if you want to know how a person could leave part of himself in Sarawak and take part of Sarawak with him, please read on …. it’s a little of history, may be nostalgic to some, but surely all honour and glory go to God!
The engine throbs into life, and the boat vibrates…. People are still clambering up the gangplank, women carrying children and bundles of vegetables, followed by other small children sucking on ice-cream…
Highways are waterways in Sarawak. Some people ply the river in small craft powered by outboard motors, but most are content to let the public launch trundle them home from market.
Bicycles, sacks of meal, oil-drums, timber, pigs, hens, ducks, edibles and passengers all seem to constitute a legitimate load …
This was how Rev David Hill MacDonald described Sarawak, in particular Sibu back in 1959.
Early Missionary Pastors
Rev MacDonald was one of the early missionary pastors from England who served in Sarawak from 1957 to 1960.
After 42 years, he is back “home” here in Sibu. During the afternoon at Ida Mamora’s house, I joined Rev MacDonald as he reminisced about life back then. He bantered on about old friends, missionary work, the youths in Sarawak, sowing seeds, and studying Chinese.
Meeting Old Friends
“Yes, I have been meeting old friends during the past few days,” Rev MacDonald said. He has been amazed by the growth of Sibu, particularly the people and the churches. He is particularly impressed by the enthusiasm of Christians and their outreach program.
“It speaks of the continuing work of God in this land,” Rev MacDonald noted with much joy and satisfaction.
Rev MacDonald was the founder and first pastor of Wesley Methodist Church, Sibu. Asked on the setting up of the Church, Rev MacDonald said prior to the founding of the Church, he and other missionary colleagues had conducted worship in the form of evening vespers.
Added he, “The worship provided missionaries, their families and colleagues, an opportunity of meeting together.”
As time progressed, they were joined by civil-service expartrates, those employed in the hospital and the business community. He recalled that the Church was formed on May 5, 1958. Appropriately, it was known as the Wesley Methodist Church, Sibu.
“A Land of Decision”
It was established at a time when Sarawak was at the crossroads. Back then, British and American churches had designated Sarawak as “A Land of Decision” in the belief that the following 25 years would witness monumental changes.
American churches were then focusing their missionary work in two areas, including Sarawak. Resources poured in to ensure its success.
The Methodist Missionary Society has long a deep appreciation of, and concern, for the Chinese community. So when invited by the American Methodist movement to jointly operate in Singapore, Sarawak and Sumatra, they readily joined in this new field of service.
Three young ministers were sent from England – Rev David MacDonald, Rev G.R. Senior and Rev J L Hodgkinson.
Rev MacDonald said the Vision has been fulfilled.
Church of the people
However, missions have had to give way to church growth especially for the church to take root. He said, “The churches here have become self-financing, self-governing and self-propagating to become truly a church of the people.”
In illustrating what he meant by “truly church of the people”, Rev MacDonald said a few months ago he read a book called “Mangoes or Bananas?” by Rev Dr Hwa Yong. There is a simple parable to remind us that whilst partnership and learning is a vital part of the pattern of the Church – each culture needs its own way of expression faith in Jesus.
Rev MacDonald is sufficiently conversant to preach in Mandarin. He showed me the text of his first sermon in Chinese. I was amazed by the neat handwriting, easy to understand presentation on the sermon topic. Besides being the pastor of the English Church, he also helped out at the Kwong Hua Chinese Church.
He said, “The newness of the work from my own point of view was exciting and challenging.”
He emphasised that the study of Chinese language helped him understand himself better.
“There are profound thoughts in the Chinese culture that have made me into a better Christian.”
The understanding of the Chinese langauge and culture has taught him to spend time in meditating on the goodness of the Lord. Moreover, it helped him allot time for meditation.
In 1989, Rev MacDonald studied Chinese in China. This, said he, was to ensure he maintained common ground with the community.
He elaborated that what Christians have in common are the Bible, the Creed, The Lord’s Prayer and fundamental beliefs. Therefore, Christians should seek the common ground and agree with the little differences.
Rev MacDonald focused much attention on youths. His greatest satisfaction was being able to communicate on the same wavelength with local youths, emphatising with teens who were struggling to remain faithful.
He said it was great to be with young people, and watched them grow, There were about 50 to 70 members in the youth fellowship who met every week. About six young men went into the ministry; others become lay leaders and lay preachers.
“Together we built each other up,” he said.
He notes that youths today tend to be so different.
Observed he, “Youths today have access to all sorts of information that it is difficult for them to evaluate what’s wrong and what’s right.”
It’s his hope that youths will walk with the Lord and stand in the way of the gospel.
Rev MacDonald recalled his first Christmas at Sungei Aup Longhouse which he has visited during this trip back “home”.
However, the most unforgettable one was Christmas 1959 when he was hospitalised.
Today, he is still overwhelmed when recalling this experience – awakened in the middle of the night by Christmas carols on the Rejang River. It was a group of young Christians carolling in a boat!
Rev MacDonald brought along with him some magazines published by the Methodist Missionary Society in the United Kingdom in 1959. The magazines contained stories from the early missionaries here.
The Bishop’s Soup
One of our missionaries visiting a Chinese family in Sibu was told an old Chinese joke. The halfway line in a Chinese Feast is marked by a change from Savoury pork to sweet lotus seeds in syrup. A bowl of warm water is therefore, placed on the table at this point for the guests to wash their spoons.
A certain Bishop, on one occasion, dipped into this washing bowl and drank from it. His host, not wishing to embarass him, said, “Guests, taste with me the Bishop’s soup,” and all drank with him.
Christian folks now call the bowl “The Bishop’s Soup”.
“My work here was sowing the seeds. My ministry is shaped by the people. You made me what I am.”
Rev MacDonald showed me his Elder’s Credentials. He said this is a reminder that it was here in Sarawak that he was ordained.
During a dinner organised by the members of Wesley Methodist Church Sibu for him in a local restaurant, Rev David MacDonald said,
“I have never forgotten the kindness and love shown to me.
Above all, what I learnt here from you has travelled with me throughout all my years of ministry.
When I left Sarawak I left part of myself here
and took part of you with me.
For that I thank God.”
The Celebration Program Book in the making. Be the first to have a look at the Program Book Cover!