In our ever changing world, it is not often easy to come face to face with a person who truly serves her God and loves a people which is not of her own race. When I was a young teacher, a new mother, and perhaps a new person, I had the honour of meeting up with Mrs. Pilley when she came "back" to Sibu for a visit to her beloved school, which happens to be my own beloved school, the Methodist Secondary School. It was an "aha" moment, a "wow" moment in my children's language. So much of life, so much of service, so much love, all unccountable nouns were embodied in her frail, gaunt body. There was not an inch in her body that spelt "pride" or smelled "money" or proclaimed "high position". And best of all, she spoke in perfect Foochow. Amazing? It was amazing grace.
As an English teacher in charge of the Journalist Club, I arranged for the school magazine committee to interview her and she was such a fountain of information and love. My students , from different racial backgrounds, were very impressed by her. One commented, " How can any one have so much love, and at such an age?" I answered, "Only through God's grace and her love of God. She walked the talk."
Mr and Mrs. John Pilley were both born and educated in China and served as missionaries in Fuzhou, China. In 1949, they were forced to leave their beloved China by the policies of new Communist government which were not favourable to foreigners.
Sarawak and Sibu in particular was blessed by their arrival as they were " strong advocates of "Education for all", especially for girls, and for the poor".(Source: Methodist Pilley Insitute Website)
They continued to work selflessly in establishing schools and churches. They served in Sarikei and helped developed the churches and schools there. Later Mr. John Pilley came to serve as Principal of the Methodist Secondary School, where he worked so hard, until his heart failed him. Mrs. Pilley worked as a missionary helping in the various Methodist activities like Women's education, children's home, and general education.
In 1960, Mr. Pilley passed away as a result of a massive heart attack. He was mourned by not only his own family but by the big Methodist Church congregation. He was buried in Sibu.
Mrs. Pilley left Sibu and resided in Nashville, Tenn. U.S.A. until 11 July, 2002 when she passed away at the age of 93.
Although Mr. & Mrs. Pilley served as missionaries in the Methodist Mission in Sarawak for only 11 years (1949 - 1960), the impact of their love, service and sacrifice for the people of Sarawak, especially Sibu and Sarikei will be for time immemorial.
In order to repay Mr. and Mrs. Pilley's love and service in the mid 1960's the Board of Education of the Methodist Church in Sarawak (SCAC) met to set up a private Methodist Secondary School in Sibu to cater for the needs of Form 3 to Form 5 students who did not do well in public exams. The school was unanimously named "Pilley Memorial Secondary School".
In 1991, as response to the changes in the educational policies,the Methodist Pilley Institute was set up to offer tertiary education namely, Diploma in Accounting, Diploma in Business Management and Diploma in Computer Science, and thus becoming one of the pioneer higher learning Institutions (IPTS) in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia.
Recently there has been plans to establish a Methodist University. and perhaps it will become a reality with the help of grateful Church members and Methodist Church leaders at the national level.
In other private ways Mrs. Pilley had in her lifetime influenced and helped so many Sarawakians to pursue further education in the United States. Many have come back to serve Sarawak in various capacities. These in particular have shown great appreciation to her and her children. And the people of Sibu in general also acknowledges the fact that they have shared their surrogate's love and care with her very own children. Mrs. Pilley's children have also been visitors to Sibu lately.
Thus these advocates of "education for all" have walked a wonderful journey on earth and helped so many to achieve their dreams. Today their legacy will continue to enable more to become truly educated, through the Methodist Pilley Institute, which I hope will soon become the Methodist Pilley University.
The youngest orphan who was carried in the arms of Mrs. Pilley would be about 50 years old now!! Half a century! A lot has been done. The ripple effect has indeed taken place.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Memoir by I Am Sarawakiana at 4:40 AM