.item a img { margin-bottom:-5px; }

Malacca Life Church – Faith Through Trials

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

malacca-life-efc-2

The call from God to take up a leadership position in church or Christian work is often daunting.

For Rev. Ho Kek Yun of Malacca Life Church, his fears were real. But the endless possibilities with setting up the first Mandarin-speaking EFC were equally exciting.

Recalling the incident like it was just yesterday, Ho said he was both touched and dumbfounded at the same time that he did not dare share the call with anyone until he was more certain.

“At that time, I was representing Malacca at a pastors’ conference in Penang in 1982. Although the call wasn’t supernatural in nature, I felt the hand of Christ behind it,” recalled Ho, a septuagenarian.

malacca-life-efc-scan-1

He was sitting alone at the hotel lobby during the conference, contemplating the events of the day, when a pastor approached him and asked him where he was from.

“We didn’t know each other,” shared Ho at his modestly furnished office located on the second floor of the church.

“I told him I was from an Evangelical Free Church. In Mandarin, this is translated to ‘spreading the gospel’. I emphasised this to him because the wrong pronunciation means ‘don’t talk about it’. The pastor shot me a bewildered look as the Evangelical Free Church movement was a relatively new denomination in Malaysia then. I felt slightly hurt by this,” he said.

Immediately after that, Ho went to a quiet place to pray. Lifting his hands to God, he vowed to set up a Mandarin-speaking EFC within 10 years.

In the subsequent months, Ho felt unsure as nothing happened. There were no further promptings nor indications to confirm his ‘call’. Hesitant at first, it took another year before he even shared his thoughts with his wife, Pastor Tan Sin Mui, who was equally doubtful.

“We were at that time in a bilingual church, Malacca Evangelical Free Church (MEFC). She gave me one month to think about it more carefully,” said Ho.

It is a formidable challenge to start your own church when you have little other than faith, he added.

Explaining the challenges, Ho said he faced practical problems as his wife was expecting their third child.

“We also had no financial support as I had not yet shared my vision with anyone at that time.” Back then, he was only receiving a RM200 monthly allowance from MEFC. They did not have any savings either. If they were to start a new church, the family would literally be ‘income-less’.

“But I had faith nevertheless, and I surrendered everything to our Lord and just prayed for His guidance as I took my first step,” he said.
With this conviction, Ho, who was 40 years old then, shared his plans with the MEFC leadership. Up to that point, Ho had served 13 years as a full-time worker with MEFC. The home church was reluctant to see him leave.

malacca-life-efc-3

Starting afresh

Despite the difficulties, the couple stepped forward and rented the first floor of a shop lot as their first church premises in Taman Peringgit Jaya for RM280. On April 1, 1984, Malacca Life Church started with 15 members. The youngest was 10 years at the time. The church now has up to 50 regular members. Although they had a place to call their own, Ho said their troubles had just begun as funds were low.

“There was one time I had to ask the church members to pawn my watch (which was given to him by his wife) so that we could pay rent. But the members refused and somehow, we came up with just enough money to pay the rent,” said Ho as he showed the silver-coloured watch which he still wears.

“We were so poor in the beginning that we didn’t even have chairs and had to sit on the floor. Each member then contributed one plastic chair, which cost RM18 each then,” he recalled with wonder.

“But when word went out that we needed chairs, one good Samaritan came forward and donated chairs.”

And when they needed money for electrical wiring, which would have cost around RM800, another congregation member came forward, without being asked, to provide the money.

“I was truly amazed as we never begged anyone. I am not good with managing finances. I just prayed hard to Jesus whenever we were in need and being the faithful God He is, He always provided,” he enthused.

The number grew slowly and Ho said he did not receive any wages for the first 12 years. The family was supported by his wife who gave tuition and sewed.

“It’s not that the church did not want to pay me but it was unable to and it was part of my sacrifice to start a new church,” he said.

Recalling another incident, Ho said there was one time when his three-year-old son came to tell him that there was no more milk in the house.

Not only was there no more milk, there was no rice either. So I asked him to go to another room and pray to Jesus for milk.

“Three days later, I received a cheque for SGD300. To this day, I still don’t know who gave us the money,” he shared.

Permanent home

As the number of congregants slowly increased, the church moved to a ground floor premises in Taman Delima Raya four years later. Today, Malacca Life Church owns a three-and-a-half-storey shop lot facing the main road leading to Arked Air Leleh, near the Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Yok Bin.

Explaining how they bought their current premises in 2004, Ho said it was yet another blessing from God.
“At the time, we only had RM10,000 in the bank and the board was shocked that I suggested we buy this premises for RM600,000. But we needed a permanent home and this was the correct thing to do,” he asserted.

“It was not that we wanted to expand the premises but the landlord did not want to extend our lease. I felt then that we needed a more permanent place to worship and hence suggested buying our own shop house,” he added.

To raise funds, the church held a concert in 2004 and invited a famous choir from Singapore to perform in the Pay Fong
High School hall. The concert was named “Psalms of Life” and managed to raise RM126,000.

“When a Taiwan-born British businessman heard about our efforts, he gave us a loan of RM200,000. However, after two years of repayment, the businessman called us to say that we did not need to repay the loan as his father wanted to give it as a gift to the church,” Ho said.

The remaining funds were obtained via loans from a church member (RM70,000) and the Evangelical Free Church of Malaysia (RM150,000).

Future challenges

With their financial trials behind them now, and with a building of their own to call home, Malacca Life Church’s next challenge is to reach out to the Mandarin-speaking residents around them. But the prospects are difficult due to their general distrust of Christians.

Over the years, we have had many programmes such as music camps, door-to-door visits to give out pamphlets and other evangelistic events but the response has been lukewarm at best.

“The Chinese here are very traditional and many of them are afraid of Christians. Although we are able to bring the younger ones to the church, once they go home,
they face opposition from their parents who prevent them from coming again,” said Ho.

“I have personally given out 15 boxes of Christian tracts but the harvest has been poor. We must try our best and leave the rest to the Lord.”

One of the newer, and better-received programmes, is the Gospel Station. Similar to the Alpha course, it aims to introduce the Bible to non-Christians. When asked about future challenges, Ho laughed and said setting up Malacca Life Church had been a major test for them.

“I think that being a Christian itself is a challenge but with faith, anything is possible. We will take it one step at a time.”

These days, he is praying hard for someone to step up and take over the leadership from him and lead Malacca Life Church to the next stage of its journey.

Though small, the church has already sent two pastors for theological training in Singapore.

They are currently working there to fulfil part of their bond and we hope that they will return to lead this church in the future.

“I also pray for unity within the Evangelical Free Church of Malaysia (EFCM) and for it to grow stronger. When EFCM is stronger, small churches like us can grow stronger too,” Ho concluded
malacca-life-efc-1

经得起考验的信心 

当神呼召我们担当起教会或基督教事工领导的职分时,往往是令人生畏的。

对马六甲生命堂的何克云牧师来说,神的呼召确实是令他满怀恐惧的。然而,成立第一所华语播道会所带来的多重事工的机会,也同样叫他兴奋不已。

回顾往事,历历如昨。何牧师说,当他听到神的呼召时,他又感动又惊呆,在他未能更确定前,他不敢与任何人分享这呼召。

年过七旬的何牧师回忆说:“当时我代表马六甲出席在槟城举行的牧者会议,那是在1982年。虽然我领受的呼召不是一个超自然的事件,但是我却可以感受到是基督的手在推动这一切。”

大会期间,他正坐在酒店的大厅,思索当天的盛会,有一位牧师就前来与我交谈,他问我来自何处。

“我们彼此并不认识。”何牧师在他教会二楼简单的办公室与我们分享这段过去。

“我告诉他,我来自EFC,华文被翻译为“播道会”。我向他重复,因为如果发音错误的话,就会被误解为“免谈”。

他说:“那牧师听了,用莫名不解的眼神看着我,因为当时在马来西亚,播道会还是一个相当小的不为人知的宗派。我对他的回应感觉有些受到伤害。” 那之后,他马上就去一个安静的地方祷告。他举起双手,向神誓言要在十年之内成立一所讲华语的播道会教会。

接下来的几个月,何牧师觉得对这呼召不是很确定,因为什么事也没发生:没有进一步的感动,也没有进一步的提示来确认他这个“呼召”。他很犹豫,要等了一年后才和他的妻子陈新梅师母分享这个呼召,但是她对这个呼召也是同样地疑惑。

何牧师说:“当时我们夫妇俩都是在马六甲播道会,那是一所双语的教会。我的妻子说给我多一个月的时间仔细地想一想。”

何牧师继续说,要开办自己的教会,而你除了信心之外,别无所有。那可真是一个巨大的挑战。

在解释他们所面对的挑战时,何牧师说首先就是生活上的实际难题,因为他的妻子正怀着他们第三个孩子。

“当时我还没有和任何人分享我的异象,所以也没有得到任何钱财上的资助。”那时,他不过从马六甲播道会领取每月两百零吉的津贴,他们夫妇也没有什么储蓄。若他们要开始一所新教会,‘全家就真的是没有收入了。’

他说:“虽然如此,我却满有信心,我把一切都交给主,祈求主引导我,踏出我的第一步。”怀着这份信念,当年四十岁的何牧师向马六甲播道会的领导层分享了他的计划。在那个时候,何牧师已经在马六甲播道会全职服事了十三年。他的教会并不舍得让他离开。

从新开始

尽管艰辛重重,夫妇俩并肩踏出一步,以每月两百八十元零吉的租金,在伯林吉再也花园(Taman Peringgit Jaya)租下一间店屋的楼上,作为他们第一个教会会所。1984年4月1日,马六甲生命堂成立,开始只有十五位成员,最小的当时只有十岁。教会现在成长到五十名固定的会友。

虽然他们有了自己的会所,何牧师说,烦恼才刚开始,因为他们的资金不足。“有一次,我得叫我的会友为我典当我的手表(那是他的妻子送给他的),好让我们能付清屋租。但是这位会友拒绝了。不知怎的,我们就是筹足了钱付清屋租。”何牧师一面说,一面展示他还戴着的那只银色手表。

他带着惊叹回忆说:“我们开始时是那么地穷,甚至买不起椅子,要坐在地上。过后,每个会友就奉献一张塑胶椅子,当时每张价格十八零吉。”

“不过,当我们需要椅子的消息传出去后,一位好撒玛利亚人就来了,捐给我们很多椅子。”当他们需要一笔大约八百零吉的钱来装电线时,会众里另一个成员连问也没问,就前来奉献了这笔钱。

他充满热情地说:“我真的很惊讶,因为我们不曾向任何人讨过钱。我不善管理钱财,但是当我们有需要的时候,我就恳切向耶稣祷告,而神是信实的,祂一路都在供应着我们。”

教会人数慢慢增长,而何牧师说,他在头十二年并没有领任何薪水。全家人的经济需要都靠他的妻子替人补习、替人做裁缝来支撑的。

他说:“不是教会不付薪水给我,而是没有能力付给我。我既然成立一所新的教会,就要付出一些牺牲。”

何牧师追忆另一起事件,提到有一次他三岁的儿子跑来告诉他,家里没有牛奶了。

“不但没牛奶,也没有米了。我就叫他去另外一间房间,向耶稣求奶喝。”

他分享说:“三天后,我收到一张新币三百元的支票。到今天为止,我仍然不晓得是谁给了我们这笔钱。”

永久的家

随着会众人数慢慢地增加,四年后,教会就搬到位于德利马拉惹花园(Taman Delima Raya)的一座建筑的底层。今天,马六甲生命堂拥有一座面向通往阿克亚乐叻(Arked Air Leleh)的大路,就是靠近育民中学的三层半店屋。

何牧师接着告诉我们2004年他们如何买到目前的会所,他说这是神的另一个祝福。

“当时,我们银行里只有一万零吉,当我提出要买这栋价值六十万零吉的店屋为会所时,教会的理事会都感到震惊。但是我们的确需要一个永久的家,我认为这是我们当做的,正确的事。”何牧师这样强调。

他附加说:“当时不是我们想要扩充聚会所,而是屋主不愿意延长我们的租约。我当时觉得,我们需要一个更有长久性的地方来聚会,因此就提议购买我们自己的店屋。

为了筹款,教会就在2004年举办一场演出,邀请新加坡神学院(SBC)的圣乐系学生在培风中学的礼堂演出。该场演出取名为“生之颂”,总共筹到十二万六千零吉。

何牧师说:“一位在台湾出生的英国商人听到我们的努力筹款后,就给了我们一笔廿万零吉的贷款。然而,在还了两年债务后,该位商人致电通知我们,叫我们无须再偿还贷款,因为他的父亲想要把该笔款项当礼物奉献给教会。”

剩下所缺欠的款项,就通过向一位会友(为数七万零吉)和马来西亚播道会(为数十五万零吉)借贷来补足。

未来的挑战

如今,马六甲生命堂已经跨过经济的难关,而他们也有了一所可以称为“家”的会所,他们的下一个挑战就是向附近讲华语的居民传福音。然而,这可不是容易的事,因为当地居民普遍上对基督徒不信任。

“过去多年来,我们安排过很多节目,比如音乐营、逐家拜访发派我们的小册子,以及其它传福音的活动,但是一般人的反应都是相当冷淡。”

何牧师说:“这里的华人非常传统,很多人都对基督徒有恐惧感。虽然我们能够把较年轻的人带入教会,一旦他们回家,就得面对从他们的父母而来的逼迫,禁止他们再来教会。”“我曾发派了十五箱的基督徒单张,然而收成却不好。但是我们必须要尽力而为,其余的就交给主。”

其中一个比较新的、更容易为人接受的传福音课程,就是“福音站”。这课程与“启发课程”相似,它旨在将《圣经》引荐给非基督徒。

被问及未来的挑战时,何牧师笑着说,成立马六甲生命教会本身就是他们一场重大的考验。

“我认为成为基督徒本身就是很挑战性的,不过凭着信心,凡事都能。我们会慢慢来,一次踏出一个脚步。”这些日子以来,他一直祈求神兴起人来接任他的领导职务,带领马六甲生命堂进入下一个阶段的旅程。

教会虽小,却已经差遣两位传道人往新加坡接受神学训练。

“他们目前在那里工作,完成部分的契约义务,而我们盼望他们将来会回来领导这所教会。”

他总结说:“我也为马来西亚播道会之间的团结祷告,祈愿这个组织更强大。一个强大的马来西亚播道会也能帮我们这些小型教会成长得更为刚强有力。”