By Judy Wong
Dear Pastors and Wesleyans,
It has been a week since we celebrated our Golden Jubilee, especially with the Thanksgiving Dinner on 3 May and the Thanksgiving Services on 4 May,2008, culminating in the opening of our Archives Center after the 5 pm service.
Many of you have been so encouraging in giving very kind remarks regarding the efforts put in by the organizing committee.
Quite a few have said, “You must be exhausted!” Remember my reply?
“Yes. This time it’s really Heck-kao-bear-leng-kao ( in Foochow)!”
What does that mean? What I meant was that I was truly exhausted and overwhelmed. There were indeed so many aspects to look into. But it’s been worth every ounce of my effort and the efforts of many others who had worked so hard to ensure the smooth preparation and running of all the events and programs. This includes those who worked tirelessly and quietly in arranging and providing transportation for our guests throughout the whole week.
Thank you and thank you ALL again.
Well, how do I feel now? —–Still getting over how amazing and wonderful it has been! God has been so good and gracious to us during the whole week, including the fine weather we had. The special feeling began when I first got to meet some of our former pastors and missionaries at the staircase of New Capitol restaurant on 29 April at 7 pm. One of the unforgettable remarks was when Sandy Davis gave me a hug and said “Do I know you before? I used to be Sandy McCaig.” Well, what can I say? The Sandy that I saw and remembered was 48 years ago. At the first instance some of them really looked like strangers to me.
After all were seated, I continued to steal many looks at all of them as I tried to recapture/recall what my mind was used to and unconsciously hoped to see. It took a while for my mind to compute before I knew for sure who was who. While eating, I began to enjoy and reap the harvest of all the hard work. I kept marveling at their excitement and exclamations such as “You were there too in 1961?” “Remember that time when — “, “Was it ’62 or ‘63? “. “Oh, yes I helped play the piano together with David Johnson in the production of the musical Carousel or was it the Gypsy Byron?’ “Who was the main character?” “Where is Maimunah now?”
Dear pastors and friends, in my welcoming remark I had hoped that your “Homecoming” would be a memorable one. Indeed it has been. We could all see and feel how much you all enjoyed the various places you visited, and the food you tasted, including durians (hopefully the taste and smell would last a would last a long time). Our apologies though for packing in such tight schedules, sometimes giving you enough time only to take a bath before the next event. Our excuse is, it’s Sibu hospitality!
Much as you had been thrilled and blessed to see the progress of our church and SCAC as a whole, we have been the beneficiaries again. Your sharing especially during the Forum will long be remembered. Many Wesleyans who never knew you before shared how much they enjoyed and learned from the Forum and they understood the bonding. Even though the “boy with the missing shoe” stole the show, your group rendition of “And Are We Yet Still Alive!” was most touching.
As for former Wesleyans who came from far and near, we treasure your presence. Thanks for taking time and making efforts to come. It was such a surprise to see Mrs. Teo. Besides those who came back from US, Australia and different parts of Sarawak, I also found out after dinner that Roselyn (Toh) came all the way from Dubai.
Well, all good things must come to an end. To all Wesleyans at home, thank you one and all for your support and participation. Let us continue to be committed in our service to God through WMC. If and when we do go down the valley, let us be united and uphold one another so that we can climb the next mountain top together!
words, photos, videoclips: phylliswong
Chang Yi writes –
A resounding well done to all of you who worked until 5 a.m. (I heard!!)
And the little boy stole my heart. Did you see his final kick in the encore? A real trouper!!
We will remember this and more and hopefully for many years to come.
Thank you again to all from the OC to the little boy!!
Chang Yi, the evergreen Wesleyan, is now worshipping at Grace Methodist Church. She was one of the many homecoming Wesleyans. She and his other friends (Oop…I forgot to take their names, Chang Yi, probably, you can identify and post it here?) were at the Thanksgiving Dinner on 3rd May.
For those of you who missed the “Missing Shoe” dance, please enjoy this very very nice video of children from our Children’s Home that thrilled our some 1200 guests. The youngest of the children missed one shoe while dancing. Note he picked up his shoe at the end of the dance. By popular request, the children performed the dance again at the end of the dinner. The little boy took off his shoes this time,
by the end of the dance, he even had his socks missing!
You can view the video clip here.
Beyond the celebration, there was this little story of “The Missing Coma” that probably only a handful of Wesleyans heard of it. Not even the Organizing Chairperson, Judy Wong, heard of it!
The thanksgiving dinner was reported in the press. In The Borneo Post, it was reported of the guests attending the celebrations. It was reported – Mr John Vas and wife Sandy Davis….
The “coma” that was inadvertently omitted by the newspaper between Mr John Vas and wife and Sandy Davis probably had caused some embarrassment. But, Wesleyans, pastors whether former or present and our missionaries are a bunch of happy and forgiving people, right? They would have laughed over the “missing coma” as much as they were thrilled by the “missing shoe”. Right?
Now, here is Mr & Mrs John Vas (from right to left) to put it right!
And are we yet alive,
And see each other’s face?
Glory and praise to Jesus give
For His redeeming grace!
See and feel the joy of homecoming of past pastors, early missionaries, guests and Wesleyans at the Welcoming Dinner on 30th April in pictures here! (Photos Credit: PhyllisWong)
From left – Shirley Ling, Gail Pilley Harris, Mrs Ling Chee Huah, Mr & Mrs Peter Lau
Rev & Mrs Philip Williams and Peter Lau
Rev Dr & Mrs Tiong Chung Tiing, Rev Dr Peter Chio, Rev & Mrs David MacDonald, Mr & Mrs Peter Lau
Rev & Mrs Lionel Muthiah
George Lau, Jackie Fries, Sandy Berg
Dolly Chong, Rev & Mrs Jim Brinks
Rev & Mrs Philip Williams, Shirley Ling
Oliver Wong, Tony Wong
Chiew Pick King, Mr & Mrs John Vas
Mrs MacDonald, Mrs Geoffery Senior
Rev & Mrs Jim Hipkins
Judy Wong, Rev David MacDonald
Sheila Chiew, Rev Chris Tomlinson
Jennifer Yeo, Mr & Mrs Joseph Yao
Rev Jim Hipkins, Mr & Mrs Stephen Yeo
Rev David MacDonald
Michael Tiang, Cheng Hwa Kong
Francis Hii, Jason Chua
Mrs Philip Williams, Mr & Mrs Geoffrey Senior, Tony Wong, Oliver Wong
Rev & Mrs MacDonald
Rev Dr & Mrs Tiong Chung Tiing
Rev Lisa Ting Lu Ling
Rev David MacDonald, Judy Wong
Rev David MacDonald
Rev Lisa Ting, Mr & Mrs John Vas
(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.”
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