Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Planting a Church in 1927 in Sg. Maaw

(Photo of Hook Ming Tong from the Centenary Celebration Methodist SCAC Souvenir Magazine)

This Methodist Church was built on two acres of land donated by my maternal grandfather Lau Kah Jui in 1927. Though my grandfather was not an extremely rich man by any standard he was a God fearing man who felt the need for a church to be built for the Foochows of Tiing Nang Chong or Middle South Village as his settlement area was called by Rev James Hoover. He had come with his brother Lau Kah Tii who became the second Foochow Kang Chu. My grandfather was dependent on his older brother for many years until he later went "independent" and built his own house on the opposite of Ensurai. He was a good tailor by profession and self training.

The land he donated was enough for a church building and a primary school with a hostel for teachers and some students. The first Headmaster was Lau Kiing Juo. From the first three families of Christians the number increased to 56 families after three years of hardwork carried out by the pastor and his co-workers. Several well known pastors served in this church : Rev Wong Lee Huo and Rev Lau Ngoh Kee in the very early years. The latter served the longest and was well loved and respected by the local riverine settlers.

One amazing feature of this early Foochow church was the outreach made by the pastor. He would bring along several church sisters who had already completed their rubber tapping chores in the afternoon and walked from one house to another. This church served mainly rubber tapping and farming families residing in Sg. Maaw and the primary school.

I remember once when Rev Lau came to my grandmother's house which was a good two hours' walk from the church along the old mud rubber garden road: he was hot and sweaty. But he was able to sing enthusiastically with his booming voice " This is My Father's World" in Foochow!

I will never forget that because in my mind were the English lyrics (I had been taught to sing in English at the Sunday School conducted by Mrs. Coole in Sibu) and there he was singing in Foochow! Most of the ladies were not able to sing...they were half a note behind a little toneless and tuneless. This was one of the incidents which made me want to study hard and break out of the illiterate world of my Foochow women relatives.

Today my maternal grandfather's descendants are all over - Mainland China and mainly Malaysia. There are a few in England. And there is another family in Australia. Yet another family in New Zealand!

This is the normal kind of Foochow migrant story. Every generation sees an outward migration for a better life. And I hope that the values we have adopted from Methodism and the strong foundation laid down by the Foochow pioneers will help us survive in our challenging world for always.

As we continue to sail the seven seas we must not forget that Grandfather Lau had the opportunity to help plant a church way back in 1927. And we should also remember that more than 44 churches were built in the Rejang Basin between 1901 and 1935. Such was the faith of our forefathers!

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