(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)
Wesley in the news – The Borneo Post
Be forward-looking, Wesleyans told
By Gaing Kunding
Celebrate golden jubilee this year with faith and compassion: Bishop
SIBU: Bishop of Methodist Churches in Malaysia Reverend Dr Hwa Yung has called on all parishioners of the Wesley Methodist Church Sibu to continue to be forward-looking, faithful and compassionate as they celebrate their golden jubilee this year.
Besides praying and embracing the Word of God in the Bible, he also reminded all Wesleyans to remember the words of John Wesley: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all ways you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can and as long as you ever can.”
Rev Hwa made the remark when he spoke at the 50th Anniversary Thanksgiving Dinner of Wesley Methodist Church Sibu held in conjunction with the Golden Jubilee celebration of Wesley Methodist Church (1958 – 2008 ) at the civic centre here last Saturday.
The theme of the celebration was ‘To God be the Glory’.
In her welcoming speech, organising chairperson of the celebration who is also the principal of Methodist Pilley Institute here, Judy Wong said the dinner and celebration was also a homecoming ceremony as many of the church’s former missionaries, former pastors and former Wesleyans had returned from abroad and other places in the country to mark the one-week event from April 30 to May 4.
“Four of them are former missionaries from the UK, and three from the US, who are here together with their spouses. They are such a fun group.
“Their laughter, enthusiasm, humour, their love for life and for God, being so sporting, has lifted our spirit and made many of us feel young again,” Wong said as she introduced each one to the audience.
Also present at the dinner were 15 representatives from four nearby Iban longhouses that Wesley Methodist Church has adopted.
The past pastors from overseas were Rev David MacDonald and wife, Rev Geoffrey Senior and wife, Rev Philip Williams and wife, Rev Chris Tomlinson and wife, Rev Jim Hopkins and wife, Rev Jim Brinks and wife, and Rev Lionel Muthiah and wife.
The president of Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference (SCAC) Rev Dr Su Chii Ann, Bishop Emeritus Datuk Dr Peter Chio, SCAC secretary general Ting Kong Siin, lay leaders Hii Ching Chiong and Chang Jih-Ren, Rev Kong Chong Ling and wife, Pastor-in-charge Rev Dr Tiong Chung Tiing, and past missionaries – John Vas and wife Sandy Davis, Gail Pilley-Harris, Jackie Fries and Sandy Berg were also present at the dinner.
Also present were past local pastors including Rev Wong Kah Nguon and wife, Rev Dr Khoo Ho Peng and wife, Rev Dr Tie King Tai and wife, Rev Dr Lau Hui Ming and wife, Rev Hoo Sing Hang and wife, and Rev Tai Sing Leh.
There were also a CD presentation each on the history of Wesley Methodist Church, and were entertained by individuals as well as by the Boys’ Brigade First Company Sibu band.
The Golden Jubilee Celebrations in The Connection.
Over 20 former missionaries and their spouses came from different parts of the world to attend the Golden Jubilee of Wesley Methodist Church (WMC), Sibu, which was celebrated from 30 April to 4 May 2008. On 2 May, Methodist Theological School (MTS) has the honour to have Rev. Geoffrey Senior (second missionary pastor of WMC and lecturer of MTS from 1959-1962) to speak in their school chapel.
Standing at the same pulpit he preached years ago, Senior said, “Fifty years ago this day (2 May), we set off from England with our 3-month-old daughter to Sibu. I learned the Chinese language with 2 teachers. I used to be able to preach and teach in Chinese but I am afraid I cannot do it now.” The Seniors spent four years in Sibu. They were then posted to Medan, Indonesia and later, Hong Kong. After that, they were back to London to pastor at different churches until their retirement 14 years ago.
“Wherever we are in this world, we always feel at home in the family of God’s people. And we always have a gospel of reconciliation in Jesus Christ to preach. Back then, WMC was a multi-racial and multi-national church, members were from different parts of the world. I particularly enjoyed the time of administering the Holy Communion because we were indeed one in Christ.” Senior reminded us that our Lord can bring down the barrier between people.
At the end of the chapel, Rev. Geoffrey Senior blessed the MTS community on the pulpit in his beautifully spoken Chinese. (Winnie)
An Early History of Wesley Church
Wesley Methodist Church, Sibu, came into being out of a need for Christian worship service conducted in the English Language. It officially began on 5 May 1958 when 19 Methodists and 9 Christians from other denominations under the leadership of a Methodist missionary, Rev. David Macdonald, met in the MTS Chapel to inaugurate a regular English worship service.
Most of the worshippers were missionaries (and their families) who served in the local churches which used various local languages and dialects. They felt the need for fellowship and worship in their own language, and a Sunday school for their children.
The Church grew steadily in importance and number under the capable and dedicated leadership of Rev. David Macdonald (1958-1959); Rev. Geoffrey Senior (1959-1962); Rev. Roy Aylott (1963); Rev. Philip Williams (1962-1965); Rev. James Hipkins (1965-1967); Rev. Chris Tomlinson (1967-1969); Rev David Chiew (1969).
All those years, the serving pastors served only on a part-time basis and it was not until 1970 that Rev. Jim Brinks was appointed the first full-time missionary pastor. More and more local residents joined as full members and regular worshippers as greater outreach was made. This period also saw the further reduction of foreign missionaries to Sarawak.
In December 1976, the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference appointed Rev. Peter Chuo to succeed Rev. Muthiah, and so the first Sunday in Jan 1977 saw the first full-time local pastor step unto Wesley’s pulpit. By that time, Mr. and Mrs. Ed Shields were the last missionary members of Wesley Church. After they left in October 1978, Wesley Church completed its transition from an English worship service catering for missionary families to providing services for local residents. (Excerpt from “Wesley Methodist Church, Sibu: A Historical Perspective” by Judy Wong)
This is an account of the Wesley Jubilee Celebrations reported in The Chinese Methodist Message dated 18th May 2008
赞美之夜于5月2日假诗巫卫斯理堂举行。Rev. David MacDonald在台上分享他如何在祷告中，上帝给了他一首歌，做为庆典的主题曲。MacDonald是卫斯理堂首位牧师。在他之前，卫斯理堂只是一个黄昏祷告小组，参与者主要是当时外籍宣教士、政府人员与家眷。
Rev. Jim Brinks上台分享时说到，他于1969年踏足诗巫。当他与家人踏上这片土地时，他们有踏上天家的感觉。他形容在诗巫的短短几年，是他人生的高峰期。他很高兴看到卫斯理堂有不同的服事和事工。
5月3日（星期六）晚上，卫斯理堂在民众会堂筵开110席，庆祝上帝过去五十年来的带领。感恩宴之前，举行了一个隆重的男少年军检阅仪式，由华勇会督和诗巫第一位男少年军军官（BB Captain）Rev. Chris Tomlinson检阅。Rev. Tomlinson回忆他以前在诗巫牧会时，祷告寻求该如何帮功这里很多的男孩。因他在英国曾是男少年军的队员，他想也许可以让这里的男孩子参加男少年军。于是在1967年开始了男少年军事工。第一次的聚会共有36位男少年军参加。现在诗巫男少年军第一团共有差不多600位的少年人，是全马来西亚最大的少年团。
当晚有八位男少年军的队员和两位军官从Rev. Chris Tom-linson手中接过勋章和礼物。对这些男孩来说，是人生中只有一次的机会。
在缅怀过去中，每一位宣教士都分享了一部份他们在诗巫的经历，既温馨又带欢笑。他们分别是Rev. David MacDonald、Rev. Geoffry Senior、 Re. Philip Williams、Rev. Jim Hipkins、Rev. Chris Tomlinson、Rev. Jim Brinks、Rev. Lionel Muthiah，荣誉会督朱新进博士也在其中分享。他是在“宣教士牧养时代”结束后的第一位本地牧者。朱博士说到当年宣教士逐渐离开，聚会人数下降。他有两个选择，一是关闭，一是继续奋兴教会。感谢神，当年的朱博士没有选第一条路，不然也不会有今天的卫斯理堂了。
会督用他的一个经历带出一个属灵功课。之前，他在沙巴与林厚武会长去深海钓鱼，这是他第一次的钓鱼经历。他们一整天才钓到几条一公斤多的鱼。对善于深海钓鱼的人来说，这些是小鱼（ikan bilis）。后来，会督先行睡觉，林会长却继续奋斗，但一夜未有所获。会督醒来，看见如斯情况，便提出祷告。他向神求大鱼，以验证神的恩典与临在。不出 20分钟，他的鱼竿被扯弯成90度。旁边的人立刻上前帮忙，挣扎了一阵子，一条重达30磅的石斑鱼上钩了。对一个“初哥”来说，这是“神迹”。
We have all sung the Wesley Jubilee Song. Wesleyans who were at the Praise Night heard Rev David MacDonald sharing the “birth” of the song. Rev David MacDonald shared,
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 and the tune was from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony ‘Ode to Joy’. I notice the tune is also in Mission Praise no 600.
It seems to go well with the tune and I would very much like to dedicate to Wesley Church.
Now, listen and meditate on the words while our Evening Choir singing our Jubilee Song –
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]
For many Wesleyans, it was a week that they are trapped in a sticky web for an exhilarating experience that’s too brief too satisfy… too deep to describe… probably, too personal to share too?
I do not know about you. I like Glen Campbell. His “Gentle on my mind” always sends me down to the memory lane. And this week, it still did.
I did not grow up in Wesley. I started worshipping at Wesley when Rev Dr Peter Chio was going to leave and Rev Dr Su Chii Ann was to start his term.
Besides Rev David MacDonald whom I met seven years ago, and the “Muthiah” who stood out distinctively among them, it was a taxing time for me to remember the Hipkins, the Brinks, the two Sandy, the Seniors and even the Williams! Believe, it caused trembling feet. I had to check, re-check and check again with Judy and Peter if I got them wrong.
I wonder who has the memories of our first beloved pastor who has said this to the press some seven years ago when he made a come-back. Rev David MacDonald said,
When I left Sarawak,
I took part of you with me,
And I left part of me with you,
For that, I thank God.
Yes, I was the journalist who interviewed him. After that interview, I made it a point to remember all the good words of people who passed through my life. And my life could never be the same as before.
That’s very profound. That’s also very heartwarming. These are not mere words. Rev David MacDonald shared during the Thanksgiving Service on 4th May at Wesley Methodist Church that he has been praying for the Wesleyans on every Tuesday morning!
Rev MacDonald shared at the forum on 3rd May that he could still remember his first sermon shared at Wesley. It was based on the text taken from 1 Timothy 1:50.
A group of missionaries, English speaking locals called themselves the English Vespers were worshipping together. One day, by chance, one member said, “Why can’t we be a proper church?” Rev David MacDonald related.
“The person was asking for structure so that they can be properly organized.” He said.
“So, on May day, our group met. It took us only half an hour to form the church!”
How could he remember things that happened 50 years ago?
“I wrote to my mother once a week. My mother kept all my letters. There was also a British magazine called Kingdom Overseas.”
Rev David MacDonald ended with a “high”. He always does,
“I thank God to be here at the beginning,
I look back with warm memories
I thank God for that early beginning.”
The other person who remembers Wesleyans in his prayers is Rev.Geoffrey R Senior. He shared at the Forum,
It was a wonderful experience to develop the work of Sunday School, Youth fellowship groups. My wife started the ladies’ group.
Rev Geoffrey then shared with the Wesleyans the story of a Chinese girl who is now with the Lord. Zheng Yue Mei (Chinese translation) wanted to be baptized. She knocked at the door of Rev Geoffrey one day. The first word she uttered was, “I want to be a Christian.”
Rev Geoffrey invited her in and they talked. Yue Mei was from a Buddhist background. She was trained as a nurse in a hospital in England where she met a wonderful nursing sister. Yue Mei wanted to be like her. Knowing that this sister was a Christian, Yue Mei also wanted to be a Christian.
Rev Geoffrey baptized her later.
“Whenever I think of Yue Mei, I thank God for the seed planted by the nursing sister in the heart of Yue Mei. And God gave the increase. It was God who worked in her heart.”
Rev Geoffrey ended with a “High” –
We are all fellow workers of God. Whether we are in Malaysia. Indonesia or Hong Kong, we are one mission in this one world of His.
Rev Philip D Williams made three “wonderfuls” in his sharing at the Forum,
The first “wonderful” was the experience as the minister of Wesley.
The next “wonderful” was the joy to come back to Sibu.
It was also a “high” for the last wonderful he claimed –
How wonderful it is to celebrate the first 50 years. God will provide us with the next 50 years!
“I learnt many Chinese folk songs during those days.” shared Rev. James R Hipkins who pastured the church from 1966/1967. He did not share the names of the songs.
Rev Hipkins said he had an interesting time in Wesley. The choir then practiced in his home!
The Boys Brigade remembers Rev. Chris Tomlinson best, I think. He was the first captain of Boys’ Brigade, 1st Sibu Company. He remembered forming the company on 30h May 1967. It started with 20 to 30 boys, and now, it’s 600!
Rev Tomlinson shared, “It was a big day for BB on 15 November 1967. The uniform arrived. And the boys wore the uniform for the first time.”
It was even covered by the newspapers then!
Rev Tomlinson ended, “We plant the seed. We never know what it will become. We tend it. We nurture it.” Indeed, God will do the increase!
Rev. James M Brinks started his sharing at the Forum with a “High” –
When I arrived Sibu with my wife and four daughters, we thought we are in heaven!
He also ended with a “High” –
I thank God for all that we have gained by being here. It is a joy to see many in the leadership position.”
“I put up a fence around Liling Residence when I become pastor. I had to because the durians were missing.” Said Rev Lionel PA Muthiah.
During this homecoming, and 35 years later, someone confessed to Rev Muthiah that he was among one of those who stole his durians!
“We are all co-workers of God. We are all a people in missions.” Rev Muthiah said and shared this story.
He said that people are searching for meaning in life and hoped Wesley would be a place where they can find meaning of life.
“It’s an humbling experience to be recognized. It’s God’s grace. To God be the glory.” Rev Muthiah, the last missionary pastor of Wesley, concluded.
Rev Dr Peter Chio succeeded Rev Muthiah. He opened his sharing that if he had a choice, he would not choose to come to Wesley for three reasons. He said everybody knew that when missionary came, money came, when missionary left, money also left. The second reason was when a local person took over, he had to do it locally according to our ways whereas the missionary did it in their own way. The third difficulty he faced then was that many young people went overseas to have their higher education, thus the number of members greatly reduced.
He would have closed down Wesley then, but Rev Dr Chio did not.
He shared, “We have to aim high, achieve a great task for God. God’s grace is sufficient for you.”
Dear Wesleyans, I shall continue with Reflecting the Present and Reckoning the Future soon….
Or if you were at the celebrations, if you wish to share, just drop an email or leave a comment here!
More photos …. akan datang!