BY TEK & GOLDIE CHONG
The Malaysia Bible Seminary English Department started as PLKM (Pusat Latihan Kristian Melaka) 35 years ago. Recently, at a reunion, some of the alumni shared memories of student days with PLKM pioneers, Tek and Goldie Chong.
Half of the students were late on the first day of the first semester. Paul George Ponniah was pushing his punctured motorbike on the then hilly trunk road from Seremban to Melaka, praying to find a repair shop. Yes, Pusat Latihan Kristian Melaka (PLKM) started with only two students!
But we must not despise the day of small beginnings. In January 2011, 35 years on, about 50 alumni gathered at the sprawling 10-acre campus of the Malaysia Bible Seminary (MBS) in Kuang, Selangor, to share memories of student days. The reunion was a time of rejoicing. Many testified how hundreds of alumni have gone on to touch thousands of lives.
Before PLKM began, Singapore already had the Singapore Bible College and Trinity Theological College. Many in Malaysia dreamed of the day when the Malaysian church would start its own Bible training centre. Though the odds were stacked against this idea, a few people took a step of faith, trembling at the implications but excited and awed by the challenges of the venture. Finally in March 1976, PLKM opened its doors.
Two Students, Two Lecturers
Jeanette Hui, who had just returned home from London Bible College with a BD (Hons), was prepared to give up teaching in school to join the venture in Melaka. But why locate the Bible school in Melaka and not KL? Because we did not want the smaller towns to be left out in God’s work. As Melaka was midway between KL and Singapore, we could draw upon resources from both cities. Cost of living in Melaka was cheaper. It was less hectic, had a supportive network ready to welcome this new work and, being a historic town, had a good mix of the races.
“I purchased a terrace house in Bukit Baru that served as my residence as well as housed the library and the lecture room,” Hui recalls. “Next door was the rented house for student accommodation. We wanted to follow the community-oriented ethos of the Discipleship Training Centre in Singapore, where Christian character and ministry gifts were developed in a community setting. The homely environment of Bukit Baru seemed like the perfect venue.” The late Rev Peter Warner, seconded by Overseas Missionary Fellowship to be the first Dean, also warmed to this idea. He and his wife, Ronalda, and family lived in another rented house within walking distance. Donations from evangelical Christians helped in the finances.
The Warners, who had ministered for some years in Batu Pahat, were familiar with the development of small-town churches. They had a vision for the small-town folks to be trained for ministry in small-town churches. Not discouraged by the small number of students, we prayed that God would touch a few committed ones. We were prepared to welcome these “rough diamonds”. When the Warners left Malaysia after their visa had run its full term, Loh Soon Choy took over as Dean. His wife, Giok Lan, an Indonesian Chinese, was roped in to become the first Bahasa Malaysia teacher.
When Hui left for Wheaton College in the US on a scholarship, Jack Mock from Australia came to take her place. It was at this time that discussions for PLKM to join the Chinese Seminary entered the final stages. Thus PLKM became part of MBS in Kuala Lumpur.
Here are some of the stories of God’s faithfulness in the graduates’ lives:
My association with PLKM began with a bold hitchhike from my hometown Teluk Intan to Melaka in 1975 to visit Goldie Chong, whom I had never met! I got to know her from the “Dear Goldie” column of Asian Beacon, which a Christian teacher at school had given me.
I arrived in Melaka in the evening with only a few dollars in my pocket. The driver who gave me a ride dropped me in front of Dr Chong’s clinic. Amazed by my appetite for adventure, Dr Chong took me home to meet his wife Goldie. So our friendship began. They introduced me to the PLKM Waiters’ course, a theological course for Form 5 students waiting for their MCE (SPM) results. After completing the Waiters’ course, I took a full-time diploma course in MBS.
We had not much money as students so we tried using humour to diminish our hunger pangs. When we had little or nothing to eat, we called it “fasting”. When we shared the little we had, we called it the “Lord’s Supper”. I remember how two hungry students, Andrew Tan and Chin Kaw, shared “communion” over a piece of roti canai! At the recent reunion, we recalled how, by enduring hunger, we were prepared for greater affliction that lay ahead in ministry. — Goh Lay Hua
Trained & Equipped
I was the only Indian lady among a group of Chinese brothers and sisters, but I was treated with so much love and respect, which I cherish to this day. God showed me that my calling was to minister to female drug addicts, who were mostly Chinese. I’ll never forget how two of my fellow students, Moses Tan and Silas Jugdip, prayed for me as I was preparing to work among women addicts in Malaysian Care.
Once I had the joy of witnessing a girl being delivered from a spiritual problem in my dorm. Years later, I could conduct deliverance ministry for those girls who came under my care. How grateful I am for the teaching I received at MBS and for my lecturers and fellow students, who encouraged and equipped me. I had a fear of street witnessing but learnt to overcome it. By being part of team, I learnt boldness. Later, in Malaysian Care, I had the courage to lead my staff into street ministry.” — Nesam Ebenezer
From Drug Addict To Pastor
When I finished my two years of rehabilitation with Grace Home (which was run by Pastor John Khoo), I was so intent on going to Bible school that I refused to consider other options. But things did not work out. Once, after preaching from Genesis 32 about God breaking Jacob, I felt “broken” too — to the extent I told God it didn’t matter if I didn’t go to Bible school. Surprisingly, after I made that decision, the church told me to apply.
When the letter of acceptance came, I was still doubtful, so I put it off. Four months later, I received another letter from MBS. Still unsure, I brought this to the Lord. He gave me Isaiah 6:8 in my devotions, “Who shall go for us? Whom shall I send?” Though this was not directed at Isaiah, he overheard it and seized the opportunity. It struck me that the letter of offer was an opportunity I should seize. That’s how I entered MBS in 1982. One of my lecturers was my Primary 6 classmate. We used to walk to school together. He became “Sir”, and I was his student. Once in a while when he took me out for a meal, I would thank him, and without fail, he would reply, “It’s my pleasure!” I think that whenever God does something nice for me and I say “Thank you,” He would reply, “It’s my pleasure.”
I want to say “Thank you” to Him for enabling me to be trained at MBS. There I met my wife, Josephine, who is such a blessing. I can sense God’s reply: “It’s my pleasure.” — Silas Jugdip
One Benefactor, Two Benefits
I had no idea how I could sustain myself in MBS without any financial support. After several months there, I considered quitting. During her quiet time, a Christian teacher from Sarawak heard God telling her to give me a specific sum monthly. Thus she enabled me to complete my course. She even paid my return air ticket. God even fulfilled my heart’s desire to be a pastor’s wife for it was in MBS that I found my soul mate. God is so good. — Josephine Silas
Dr Tek Chong was the first chairman of the PLKM Board, and Goldie taught music.
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