(News from The Connection)
The Archives Centre covering the past 50 years history of Wesly Church was officially opened and dedicated to the Lord on 4 May 2008 at 6:30pm after the evening service. This Archives Centre embodies the obligation of each generation to identify and affirm its historical identity and belonging, to impart its treasures of wisdom and knowledge and history to the generation following.
The church’s heritage may enrich and stimulate its present membership to deeper commitment and more profound service. It is an essential matter when the sense of meaningless has pervaded so many lives in this generation. (Winnie)
Fries: I left my heart in Sibu
(From the connection)
“My time in Sarawak did not do a lot for my cheque book but it did something for my life that a cheque book cannot do.” (Jackie Fries, former missionary-teacher of Methodist Secondary School)
As Wesley Methodist Church celebrated its 50th anniversary, all 7 former missionary-pastors accompanied by their spouses together with a few other missionary-teachers came back to join this joyous occasion. All came except for one – Rev. Roy Aylott – who has gone home to be with the Lord earlier. I could not understand why these missionaries in their 70s and 80s would travel all the way from UK or USA to join this event. I wondered, there has to be something “magical” about Sarawak. I just did not get it until I talked to them….
Jackie Fries or Miss Fries (affectionately called by her former students even to this day) used to teach Physics, Maths, Religion and Bible Knowledge at Methodist Secondary School, Sibu, from 1964-1971. While having a very “heavy” high tea in Judy’s house, Connection caught up with her to ask a few questions.
Connection: What made you want to come to Sarawak to teach?
Fries: I was at that time a Mathematician working with a research group. I figured life must be more than just developing missile projects and doing research. So I applied to the Methodist Mission Board. It was a tough process. We had to go through lots of screening. I passed all and they told me Sarawak need-ed a Mathema-tics teacher, so I went. I spent 10 months learning Chinese in KL before coming to Sibu.
Connection: How was life and what were the students like back then?
Fries: I lived next to the school compound. I tried to spend some leisure time with the students like playing basketball with them. I found great joy in teaching them.
Connection: Have you been back since you left?
Fries: Yes, I returned for the class 1971 reunion in 1999. The students were very kind to invite their teachers back. Even then, Sibu was very different already.
Connection: What do you do now in your hometown Maryland?
Fries: I still tutor Maths occasionally. I serve 3 mornings a week in the security department. I am an amateur radio service operator. I obtained a flying license and I do civil air patrol. I love to take challenges.
Connection: What impressed you most when you came back this time?
Fries: I am very pleased to find out that some of the students I met are doing very well and accomplished.
Connection: Most missionaries stayed here only for 2 or 3 years. You stayed more than 6 years. When you look back, what did Sarawak do to you?
Fries: It changed my life. I began to have a new appreciation of life. The students were great and just the thought of being able to give a little input in their young lives is very worthwhile. My friends in USA made comments that I left my heart in Sibu. I think it is true. Sibu is where my heart is. I found it difficult to share with someone who has not been to this part of the world. They just could not understand. When our plane landed at Kuching when we came, Sandy Berg (another missionary-teacher) and I turned to each other and said, “Home again!” That is exactly how I felt.
As Fries relates, “It is the timing of the Lord. If I would have come to teach now, maybe it will be a completely different story.” Indeed, it was the grace of the Lord upon Sibu during those “magical” years. Can we call that period “The jubilee year of the Lord”? The period of time that God chose to bless those who came to minister to us and those who were being ministered? After seeing these missionaries day in and day out over those few days, they are no longer merely names to me. Their legends and stories come alive in my heart and will be passed on. (Winnie)
(From the Connection)
Praise Night was held on 3 May in order to give thanks to God for all the blessings of the past 50 years. Wesleyans were joined by missionaries and pastors from the past to praise God. Rev. David MacDonald, the first pastor of Wesley Methodist Church (WMC), shared about how he came to write the Anniversary Hymn. He had prayed to God, wanting to do something for Wesley’s celebration. God gave him the words for the hymn, which was sung loudly and majestically by the entire congregation on Praise Night.
Missionaries Stephen and Jennifer Yeo also shared about their experience in Phnom Penh. They stressed the need for more experienced teachers to come and help teach English in the Methodist School of Cambodia. Despite rising petrol prices, the Yeos were able to reach out to the non-Christian students. Jennifer Yeo also shared on behalf of Rev. Lenita Tiong, who was unable to make it on that night. Rev. Lenita, who is currently in Miri, has become the bridge to bringing local people to Cambodia.
Some of the former missionaries also went up to the pulpit to share. Rev. Geoffrey Senior, the second pastor of WMC, said that his old home used to be where Wesley’s sanctuary is standing now. Indeed he felt it was “homecoming”.
Rev. Jim Hipkins said that it was great to see the young people gathered to worship God.
Ray Sisson, who was a missionary kid at Wesley years ago, told about how Wesley impacted his life as he grew up in its fellowship groups.
Rev. Jim Brinks, who arrived in 1969, said that the first time they set foot in Sibu, they thought they had reached heaven. He regards the years in Sibu as the highlight of his life and was thrilled to be introduced to all the outreach pro-grammes during the past few days.
Jackie Fries, former teacher of Methodist Secondary School, shared that she had always left her heart in Sibu, while Shirley Ling said that while Sibu is a small place, its people are big in heart.
The Praise Night ended with a Grateful Medley and a benediction said by Rev. David MacDonald. (Joy)
Bishop Rev. Dr. Hwa Yung preached the message, “To Spread Scriptural Holiness over the Land” during the evening service of Wesley Methodist Church on 4 May. In his sermon, the bishop said that holiness is a theme that runs through the entire Bible. The root word of “holy” means “different”. Therefore, holiness is to be different in a positive way. During the first few centuries, people saw that Christians were different with changed lives and love for others.
Can Christianity, when effectively proclaimed and properly practiced, bring about social change? It is possible, as a top social science think tank in China admits that the heart of the country’s success is Christianity.
Why did God put the Methodist church in this country? The bishop emphasized that this was a question we needed to ask ourselves. The church has done much over the past years, contributing in areas such as schools and social outreach. Despite that, there is still much to be done as tremendous opportunities open up everyday.
Some may wonder what we can do, as we are small in number. The bishop, however, reminded us that it is not the number; it is the quality of life that counts. According to a leading sociologist, if 2% of people begin to live differently, an entire culture can be changed.
If we want to cause change, we must put our household in order and correct our life. We say government officials are corrupt. Are we, too, corrupted? Do we truly love our neighbours, eg. Malays and Bumiputras, and treat them as equals?
We need to put our household in order and make a commitment to obey God. How many parents are willing to obey God and give their children for the gospel? As for the young people, if God calls, do not wait. Many spiritual revivals around the world have been started because young people obeyed the call of God. If you are older, then you should get down and pray. (Joy)
Tiong: A Foretaste of Heavenly Banquet
On the night of 3 May, Wesley Methodist Church (WMC), Sibu, held a grand Thanksgiving Dinner in conjunction with its 50th Anniversary Golden Jubilee celebration. There were altogether 110 tables in Dewan Suarah, 34 of which were held by the Boys’ Brigade. Among those present were Bishop Rev. Dr. Hwa Yung, President Rev. Dr. Su Chii Ann, former missionaries and pastors, and guests from Wesley’s adopted longhouses.
Pastor-in-charge of WMC, Rev. Dr. Tiong Chung Tiing, said that the thanksgiving dinner was like a foretaste of the future heavenly banquet. President Su, on the other hand, acknowledged the leadership of the Wesleyans and praised the Wesleyans as good people. The bishop, in his dinner speech, said that in the past, the age of 50 was considered to be a time of retirement. And now, 50 should be a time of being truly effective and a meaningful time. He encouraged the Wesleyans to continue to strive and labour in God as the work will not be in vain.
Highlight of the night was a hymn presentation from all the former missionaries and the honoured guests. It was a sacred moment.
A performance by the Boys’ Brigade from the Methodist Children’s Home stole the night while Rev. Chris Tomlinson, the first BB captain of WMC some 40 years ago, gave away prestigious awards and prizes to a number of boys and officers. It was surely a memorable moment for all. The dinner came to an end amid gratitude for what God has done for Wesley Church in the past 50 years. (Joy)