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Seremban EFC – Exercising For Good Health, And The Good News

0 Posted by - October 16, 2013 - Jubilee Church Articles

_Z-130829-08590800It is 7am and Chan Sow Foong, 47, is preparing to go to a public football court at Taman Seremban Jaya to lead a group of 50 ladies in what is known as “Praise Exercise”.

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Praise Exercise (also called “Praise Dance”) is the latest form of exercise that is taking Seremban by storm, and the wonderful news is that those who are teaching and hosting these sessions are Christians.

In Seremban, there are six churches, including Seremban EFC (where Chan worships), that offer this form of gentle workout that is rapidly supplanting the once-popular
Line Dance.

“In fact, Line Dance is almost not seen anymore here, and the practitioners of Line Dancing are now into Praise Exercise,” said Grace Ong, pastor of Seremban EFC (SEFC).

Praise Exercise (PE) was founded in 2004 by a Taiwanese music teacher, Ng Mei Yun, who developed a sequence of gentle movements, interspersed with faster movements, performed to the accompaniment of Scripture-based Mandarin songs. A full range of movements ranging from stretching, pushing, twisting, and light jogging on the spot, can be performed by virtually anyone.

Today, PE is enjoyed in more than 200 locations in Taiwan, and certainly in many parts of Malaysia. It is believed that the Seremban Agape church was the one that brought the PE movement to Seremban when some of its members travelled to Johor to learn it.

“A few of our church members used to be quite diligent in attending the sessions at Agape, twice a week, for at least a year. At one point, I thought why not start this in SEFC, considering that the church members are already quite familiar with the moves,” said Ong, who added that PE is now offered almost daily by churches at the Seremban Lake Gardens.

“And so, I challenged them to start it in our church, telling them not to just think of exercising twice a week, but to do more than that.”

In March 2011, those few sisters took that step of faith by starting a PE group in Taman Seremban Jaya, which is roughly 2km from the church sanctuary. There was no advertising of any kind, as the ladies just limbered up, fired up the portable sound system (a mini compo in those days), and started to exercise.

The music and the movements on court attracted passers-by, and the number of participants just swelled. At one point, the number exceeded 60.

The interesting thing about SEFC’s PE is that it attracts a multiracial crowd, though the Chinese are still the majority. “There is not much of a problem even though the songs are in Mandarin as participants just need to follow the teachers’ movements,” said Ong.

Building bridges

Chan arrives at the vacant football court smack at 7.15am, and sets up the sound system together with fellow instructors. She puts on the portable mike, and adjusts the sound and connection, and gets ready to greet the participants. SEFC provides PE free-of-charge to the participants. Close to 7.25am, womenfolk from the surrounding homes and housing estates start arriving, some on foot, others by car. This scene repeats itself ever Tuesday and Thursday, except when it rains. The routine lasts for an hour, usually enough to cover the 12 songs on the PE DVD, which is now freely sold in most Christian bookstores.

The SEFC members are highly conscious that PE is more than just an exercise – it is a way of reaching out to the people with the Good News.

The SEFC PE group also commemorates occasions such as the Mid-Autumn Festival and other Chinese festivities by organising pot bless sessions. Occasionally, they organise outings and all these activities serve as bridge builders.

“Sometimes, over the course of interaction, the people open up to us with their problems. For those who are reasonably close to us, we ask whether we can pray for them,”
said Chan. There is no “in your face” preaching at PE. “Exercise remains exercise, and the pot bless sessions are for fellowship and food. We concentrate on building friendships, and this is how the seeds of the gospel are sown. With PE, you don’t need to call them. They will come to you on their own volition. From then on, you can invite them for other activities,” said Ong.

For Esther Wong Nyuk Tay, 51, PE has been life changing. “I had always wanted to visit SEFC, but every time I drive past, I see that the door is closed. (The door is closed for security purpose during service time, according to Ong.) I was a bit hesitant, and there were also fears whether it’s a cult. But my mother, who is a believer who attends another church, talked me into attending SEFC’s PE, which is just right in front of my home,” she said.

Through PE, she got to know the SEFC ladies and started attending the church, and accepted Christ soon after. “So, this is how I found the church,” said the soft-spoken owner of a herbal product shop.

Joyful gains

PE has been so attractive that some non-believers even think it’s a good income-generating channel. There was an instance when one participant decided to break away and start her own group with the intention of collecting fees. PE, after all, is non-proprietary, and the founder has decided to share it by making available for sale all the instructional DVDs so that participants can perform them at their own convenience, especially at home.

“The participant who wanted to start her own group failed to take off as no one regarded her as a qualified instructor. That person is now back with us,” said Ong.

The organisers do not hide the fact that they are Christians. Other than the overtly Christian songs, the PE session starts and ends with public prayer led by one of the instructors. Even some taichi practitioners from a nearby housing estate used to join the session, but they left when their taichi schedule changed and clashed with the PE sessions.

Besides being a seed-sowing event, PE does bring about tangible health benefits. At the end of the one-hour non-stop session, everyone is perspiring under the gentle morning sun.

“I used to have aches here and there before this as I hardly ever exercised, but since joining PE, there are no more aches or soreness. My heart is light, and the day kicks off with a joyful start,” said Chan – a homemaker as well as administrator for her husband’s business – who first took up PE four years ago.

Fellow church member, Charoensuk Lee, 49, remarked that she feels healthy and cheerful whenever she gets to perform PE regularly. “Whenever I don’t get to do it for extended periods, like as when I go back to Thailand, I start to feel stiff and uneasy.”

There are some days when even the instructors are overcome with fatigue. After all, there are lots of chores at home for those who are fulltime homemakers and added responsibilities for those with school going children.

“On some days, when we are all tired, we would utter a silent prayer in our heart that the Lord will provide rest. And perhaps the Lord understands the desire of our hearts, so on those days, He would then send rain on those mornings,” Chan mused.

Barring those rare occasions, these faithful PE instructors turn up like clockwork every week to bless the community, both physically and spiritually. Asked what would enhance the ministry, all replied without hesitation that the menfolk should pluck up the courage to join them!

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为美好健康和传好消息而运动

清晨七点,四十七岁的覃秀凤老师就预备要去一座位于芙蓉龙城花园的公共足球场,要带领一群为数五十人的妇女们跳所谓的“赞美操”。

赞美操(也称“赞美舞”)是一最新进如狂风般席卷芙蓉的运动,而奇妙的消息就是,教导和带领这赞美操都是基督徒。

在芙蓉,大约有六所教会,包括了芙蓉自由播道会(就是秀凤姐妹出席崇拜的教会),都有提供这类温和的赞美操,并且快速地取代了曾经流行一时的社交排舞。

“实际上,这里几乎没有看见社交排舞了,而社交排舞的参与者现在都加入了赞美操。”芙蓉自由播道会的牧师王月昭这么说。

2004年,赞美操是由一位来自台湾的音乐老师吴美云所创办。每首诗歌都以经文为主,动作都是温和与轻快。整套动作包括伸展,推动、扭动、跳动、甚至到慢跑,基本上任何人都能够掌握。

今天,在台湾大约有两百多个地点,都有人乐在其中大跳赞美操,马来西亚有许多地方也肯定是如此。有人相信是芙蓉爱恩堂的一些成员到柔佛州,学了赞美操,就把该运动带入了芙蓉。

“我们教会有好几个会友曾相当勤快地出席在爱恩堂举行一星期两次的赞美操,她们出席了至少一年之久。后来,我想,既然教会会友已能掌握赞美操,何不就在芙蓉自由播道会开始赞美操呢?”王牧师附加说,目前,在芙蓉湖滨公园,几乎每一天都有教会进行赞美操。

“所以,我就挑战她们在自己的教会开办,告诉她们不要只限制一星期两次而已。”

在2011年三月,教会的几个姐妹就踏出信心的第一步,在距离教会圣所大约两公里远的芙蓉龙城花园开始了赞美操。她们完全没有刊登广告,只是拖了那架流动的音响系统(那时是迷你型混声器),启动它,就开始了赞美操。

球场上的音乐和赞美操就吸引了过路的人,参加的人数暴增。曾有一个时期,人数超过六十人。

芙蓉自由播道会的赞美操有一个有趣的现象,就是它吸引了多元种族的人参与,虽然华人还是占绝大多数。王牧师说:“虽然播放的是华语诗歌,对她们却不是什么大问题,因为参加者只要跟着导师的动作就可以了。”

搭建桥梁

秀凤姐妹准时在早上七点十五分抵达空旷的足球场,就与其他赞美操老师設好音响系统。她放上了流动的麦克风,调整音量和连线,预备好迎接参加者。芙蓉自由播道会是免费提供赞美操给参加者。

将近早上七时廿五分,附近住家和住宅区的妇女开始抵达,有些走路,有些驾车。这样的情景每个星期二和星期四都重复发生,除非是下雨天。例常的动作过程维持一个小时之久,一般足以播放赞美操数字视碟上的十二首歌,而这些光碟都能自由地在绝大多数基督徒书局内买到。

芙蓉自由播道会的会友高度意识到赞美操远超过只是体操,也是带着传好消息和接触人群的管道。

芙蓉自由播道会的赞美操团队也庆祝一些节日,如中秋节和其它华人佳节,通过号召每个人带食物来举办活动。偶尔,她们也组织户外活动,而这些活动都是在搭建桥梁。

秀凤姐妹说:“有时,在接触参与者的过程中,她们会向我们分享她们的问题。”那么我们就会趁着这个机会为她们祷告。”

王牧师说,赞美操不可直接向参与者传道。 “体操就是体操,带食物来的时侯只为了团契和交流。我们专注在建立友情,而福音的种子就是这么撒下的。有了赞美操,你不需要打电话给他们,他们会自动自发来找你。那时,你就可以邀请他们出席教会的聚会或其它的活动了。”

对五十一岁的以斯帖王玉娣来说,赞美操简直改变了她的人生。以斯帖王玉娣说:“我一直想拜访芙蓉自由播道会,但是每次我驾车经过,我看见那扇门都是关着的。”(教会因着安全
起见,当敬拜在进行中,门是关着)我有一点迟疑,也害怕会是一间邪教的会所。但是,我的母亲,是出席另一所教会的信徒,就叫我参与芙蓉自由播道会的赞美操,地点刚好就在我住家前面。”

藉着赞美操,她认识了芙蓉自由播道会的赞美操老师,开始出席教会,过后很快就接受了基督。她说:“因此,我就是这样找到教会。”这位声音轻柔的中药产品老板娘这么说。

喜乐的收获

赞美操是那么吸引人,以致有些非信徒以为是赚钱的大好管道。有一起事件,就是某个参加者决定脱离,并且要开始自己的组,她的目的就是要收费。

毕竟,赞美操不是专属的运动,而创办人决定分享,就通过出售指导式的数字视碟,让参加者可以按自己方便的时间和地点,特别是在住家进行赞美操。

王牧师说:“但是她这件冒险的事办不成,因为没有人把她当为合格的老师。那人现在又回到我们当中。

主办当局没有隐藏她们是基督徒的身份。除了公然播放基督徒诗歌,赞美操开始和结束的时段都由一位主领老师带领公开的祷告。甚至附近住宅区的一些太极拳的成员也参加赞美操,但是因为练太极拳的时间表更改了,和赞美操时间起了冲突,她们就停止参与。

除了是一个撒种的活动,赞美操也带来了实际可见的健康好处。在一个小时不间歇的时段结束后,每个人在温和的清晨日光下,都流着满头大汗。

秀凤姐妹说:“之前,我曾经这里痛那里痛的,而我根本不怎么运动。但是自从参加了赞美操,就没有这问题了。我的心轻省了,一天就在欢乐中开始。”她是个家庭主妇,也是丈夫生意的行政人员。她在四年前率先参加了赞美操。

教会四十九岁的会友林淑珍姐妹说,只要她经常跳赞美操,她感觉到身体健康,心情也愉快。“如果一段时期我没有做赞美操,比如当我回去泰国的那段日子,我就开始觉得全身僵硬,浑身不自在。”

有时候连老师也会疲惫不堪。毕竟,她们是全职的家庭主妇家里有着大堆的家务,更何况有小孩要上学的,责任更多呢!

秀凤姐妹沉思一会,说:“有些时候,我们都很疲倦时,就会在我们的内心做个默祷,求主给我们休息。也许主明白我们内心的渴望,那些天,祂就会在清晨降下大雨。”

除了那些特别的节日,这些忠心的赞美操老师每星期都会准时出席,以身体与灵里祝福社区。当被问到什么能促进事工,她们都毫不迟疑且异口同声说,男人应当鼓起勇气,一起来参与
她们!