Sometimes life has a way of bringing us around in full circle. Take K.S. Loo, for example. He came to faith in Jesus after years of dutifully sending his children to Sunday School although he wasn’t a Christian. Today, he is using his business premises to house Bukit Jelutong EFC (BJEFC). “Back then, whenever I attended church because of my children, the church members liked to ask me a lot of questions. Today I am just like them – asking visitors to our church many questions,” Loo jokes.
The owner of a logistics company, Loo is an unassuming and friendly man who professes to be just an “ordinary member” of the church. However, he and his wife, Yap Swee Kim, are certainly no pew warmers. After purchasing the land for his company in 1998, he felt led to dedicate the building for His kingdom purposes. This was in response to a desire He had laid upon their hearts to reach out to the community around his office.
For years, the couple prayed and waited for God’s direction. Pastor Sri Ram and wife Akur Vanaja, having just returned from years of working in India, later joined Loo and Yap in prayer. To start off, God led them to run a Vacation Bible School (VBS) programme in November 2008. Following from that, they ran Discovery Club and Sunday School classes on Saturday and Sunday respectively for the children in the neighbourhood.
The Discovery Club programme was so well-received that the children’s parents prodded them to go full swing as a church. With this, and the blessing of its mentor church (EFC Gospel Centre), the Loos and Sri Rams together with eight core members stepped out in faith and on July 19, 2009, held its first church service. To date, BJEFC is the only English-speaking Protestant church in the growing and affluent Bukit Jelutong.
Loo, who lives in Bukit Jelutong, jokes that throughout his adult life, he has never been physically far from a church. “All my homes have always been a stone’s throw away from a church. I can’t run away,” he jests. Why did he send his kids to the Sunday School when he wasn’t a believer? “My wife went to a convent school, and she wanted
them to attend Sunday School,” he replies. After years of chauffeuring his children to church, Loo was moved by the kindness and genuine care of church members when his son was stricken with arthritis. “During that time, only the church members cared for us and prayed for our son’s healing,” he recalls. Eventually, he accepted Jesus into his life.
It is no wonder then that today, the 30-member congregation is known as a caring family church. Tan May Lene, one of the eight founder members, says that the small BJEFC community means that members are able to form deep relationships.
“We meet together for prayer on Wednesday nights to pray for not just church matters but personal issues as well. There is a genuine concern for one another,” she shares.
Alice Chin concurs. “We are a close-knit family here.” Adds Ps Sri Ram, “If anyone has a need, we’ll take care of it. That’s how close bonds are forged.”
Their close ties are clearly seen after the church service, when members have lunch together over a simple meal they’ve prepared. Nobody seems in a hurry to leave.
“Ours is a mini-church,” quips Derek Wong, “not a mega church.” Derek is a father of three but looks like and has the enthusiasm of a 20-something. He helps Sri Ram with the youth ministry after moving to BJEFC from EFC Gospel Centre, where his family presently still worships. After serving in the youth ministry at his former church for more than 10 years, Derek responded to BJEFC’S call for more helpers.
“I was looking for a new challenge,” he says. “In a mini-church, everyone has to chip in and be actively involved in church life. Everyone has to jump in to tackle the issues of the church. We all have to be part of the solution.” Encouraged by the pastor to disciple young and new members in the church, Derek is spiritually mentoring two youths with the goal that they will eventually become mentors themselves.
Jumping into service
Though the youth ministry is currently small with just a handful of youth, Derek is seeking to expand the ministry with its tuition classes to teens living nearby, using the gifts of its existing members. One such person is Daniel Chow, a credit controller who graduated as a Mathematic major. Daniel came to BJEFC through May Lene who invited him to serve as a musician when the church was first planted.
In fact, most of the core members began serving to meet the church’s felt needs. As a regular churchgoer at a mega church in the Klang Valley for many years, Daniel – a talented pianist – never felt the need to serve. Though he was clueless about playing church music, he stepped out of his comfort zone to serve “because there was a need”.
May Lene too began serving in Sunday School when she was asked to help in Discovery Club. Currently, as a Sunday School teacher to just three to four children, it is easy to be discouraged. However, May Lene shares that it would still be a worthwhile endeavour even if there were just one child because the class means a lot to the child. And to God.
She used to helm the ministry for nearly three years but had to step back because of her work commitments. However, she was surprised and encouraged to see God blessing and providing the necessary committed teachers for the ministry. “It shows how God works. Just when you feel you want to give up, God provides. In the end, it’s God’s work and He never fails to take care of His church,” she enthuses.
However, a year later, the number of children attending the Sunday School dwindled to its present handful due to language preference. The church still invites these parents to special events such as Easter, Christmas and the year-end VBS for children.
“The first year we ran the VBS, more than 50 children attended the three day programme,” May Lene reveals. Most of them were from non-Christian families and the church did its best to follow up on the parents. Though the VBS was a success, manpower shortage caused the church to scale down to just a one-day programme the following year. “We really need helpers,” says May Lene.
Growing the church
With the help of his wife, Sri Ram is seeking to grow the church through regular Bible studies with the members and reaching out to people in the surrounding areas. As most of the Bukit Jelutong residents are affluent, sharing the gospel is a rather challenging task that calls for passion and persistence, according to Sri Ram. To build friendships, every Thursday, Sri Ram pays “friendship calls” to church members and non-members in their homes, accompanied by Ps Chan Ah Kee of EFC Gospel Centre. “Sometimes it seems they don’t have any needs. In fact, they have more than most of us, but even the rich (people) need God,” Sri Ram says, adding, “Most of the issues faced by those we visit are family or children related. There is also lack of desire for the things of God.”
The vision of the church is to worship God and make disciples of Christ. The church’s prayer is to plant another church once the congregation grows to 100-strong. Though the church is now using the business premises of Loo free of charge, the leaders hope to soon purchase a building of their own. As the church members continue to act out in obedience to the call of God and seek His will in serving the church, the church leaders are hopeful of growth.
The challenge for the church is mobilising its members to reach out to the neighbourhood, in spite of their busy everyday life. “But God is opening our eyes to see the great potential of this surrounding area. When we first started the church, there was just one taman (neighbourhood),” Sri Ram muses. “Now there are about 20 tamans and we are the only church here. There are lots of opportunities.”