A shofar sounds out in the middle of Sunday worship service. Its almost-monotonous cry reverberates throughout the spacious shoplot sanctuary of Cheras EFC. The shofar, crafted from ram’s horn, curls in Mei Mei’s hand as she blows it. Polished dark, almost black and about eight inches long, it sounds out over the drums, guitar, piano and the singing of the congregation. It is calling the year of jubilee and announcing the coming generation – a shofar generation.
“The shofar represents warfare, spiritual warfare. We got it last year after we went for a prophetic seminar in Sabah. We decided to use it since this is the year of jubilee and we are a shofar generation,” says Grace Kong. Grace and Mei Mei are among the dozen or so young adults attending Cheras EFC regularly. Although they make up the minority of an 80-strong congregation, they are heavily involved in the church’s activities. Like many other churches, Cheras EFC relies on its younger members to run the worship service, and Grace herself makes the announcements today.
Unlike other churches however, Cheras EFC has gone one step further and elected two of its young people to the board that they might one day take over the reins. Grace, who is only 26, was elected to the church board last year. Her senior by two years, Albert, has been on the board for two terms since he was 26.
“They are young,” Chairman Lim Eng Weng says and adds, “they are only in their early to mid-20s. They have been a blessing, not just because of what they do but by being there. Grace and Albert have been a bridge for the youths and young adults.”
Bringing in Albert and Grace is part of the board’s succession plan, says Lim, who wants to ensure the young people have the experience to lead one day.
About two years before Albert joined the board, Cheras EFC went through some leadership change. Today, the church has no elders and no youth pastor but it has two young people in the board.
“When I first joined, it was challenging. The rest of the board are aged about 40 years at least, many of whom come from the corporate world – MDs and directors of companies. So our board operates very much like a corporate board. Sometimes, we don’t really understand each other, but we (Grace and I) are here to bridge the gap.
After serving on the board for a year, things have become a lot better,” Albert notes.
Albert says he was quite surprised when he first found out he had been nominated to join the board and even hesitated a little. However, he took the position, knowing that he needed to be there to represent the youths at the board.
The church used to have a rather large and active youth group back when it had a youth pastor, says Albert who is currently in charge of the youths. He hopes to rebuild them as well as the young adults in the church.
“We know the importance of building up the youths, which is why we have Albert and Grace on the board. We want them to be part of the change,” says Lim.
Meanwhile, Grace says, “I was a little surprised and excited when they told me I had been nominated to the board. For now,
I am still learning so I don’t contribute much. They have assigned me to look after some administrative stuff regarding the church building and the equipment.”
“One thing I have learnt is to support one another in prayer, to pray especially for the leaders,” she adds.
Grace works full-time as a marketing executive with a distributor for Shell Lubricants, while doing a Diploma in Counselling Studies part-time at Bible College Malaysia. She will graduate at the end of the year.
“My passion is counselling and I would like to practise what I’ve learned to help people in need. I hope to start a counselling ministry at Cheras EFC,” she says.
As the sermon ends, several young people go up the stage again to take up the instruments. The congregation sings freely, the lyrics made up on the spot. It is a new song that changes and changes, but the words are familiar. Eyes closed and hands lifted up, they hear the low, moaning sound of the shofar.
SEASONS OF CHANGE
Over 32 years ago, Cheras EFC held its first service on July 19, 1981, on the first floor of a shoplot in Taman Bukit Anggerik. Ten people attended.
Back then, the church planting was undertaken by a team of 11 men and women, then guided by Rev. Loyd and Helen Childs. Rev. Allen Tunberg and Darlene were also instrumental in providing the Lay Assistant Programme (LAP) training to the team.
The original team of founders included Lim Yew Foo, Chooi Lin, Nio Swee Khiang, Chai Hong, Ching Sim Loon, Monica, Chiu Sheu Kong, Janet, Henry Ng, Jessica, and Kong Choon Min.
Nio and Chiu continued to serve in Cheras EFC until 2008.
One year later, Cheras EFC kicked off its Sunday School ministry. The following year, the church moved from its rented premises into a more permanent one at Taman Bukit Anggerik, which was funded by the EFCM revolving fund. By then, the church had doubled to 25 members.
As the congregation grew, so did the number of children in Sunday School. By 1991, the ministry had 50 children in five classes. That same year, Deacon Lim Eng Weng (now the church’s chairman) came on as the Sunday School superintendent.
Youth gatherings started a year before in 1990, headed by Lai Ying and a year later, the number of youths attending doubled. By 1993, they had enough members to organise their first youth camp at Mount Regalis, Cameron Highlands. That year, the church also organised a camp, which had 100 participants.
The Christmas celebration at the end of the year had a congregation of 200 people.
Both the children and youth ministries continued to bear fruit.
“Cheras Kids Church” was conducted during the year-end school holidays and drew over 100 children for a Christmas evangelistic gathering in 1996. Meanwhile, the youth group saw similar success with a camp in Port Dickson. Of 27 friends of the youths that attended, 18 became Christians and nine were baptised in the sea at the same camp.
By 1999, the number of registered church members reached 50 and the church began to look outwards. Low Lai Thong spearheaded a project of building houses for the Orang Asli Jakun of Pahang. Two houses were built initially over the course of three trips. By 2002, the project completed a total of five homes and helped build a training centre for them the following year.
Pastor Sam Surendran took charge of the youths in 1994 and they named themselves “Youth Aflame”. Post-SPM youths made a mission trip to Kota Bahru, Kelantan, that year under his guidance.
Following Surendran’s move, Deaconess Lum Chee Heng took over the youth and young adults’ ministries until her resignation in 2003. Youth Aflame had a great team of leaders and the youth leaders were also well nurtured during that time.
Youth activity flourished to its peak around 2005 under Pastor Noah Chia. He helped put together events like Kampung Easter which focused on evangelism as well as the LRT Race, which was co-organised with Glory Assembly and saw 100 youths from Cheras participated.
All these and more, just before the church celebrated its 25th anniversary the following year. Today, the church is facing challenging times and is in the process of rebuilding.By focusing on raising leaders from among its young people, the church hopes to reactivate the ministry among the youths as well as the ministry to the Orang Asli Jakun and other ministries. Whatever ups and downs the church has faced during the past 30 odd years, God continues to work in the midst of a people who love Him.