Mummy Chia fulfils the good works prepared for her
By Goh Bee Lee
The group of ladies chatted happily around the table, sewing soft toys. Hovering over them is their mentor, a serene and motherly figure – Mummy Chia.
Mrs. Chia – Ng Sze Nai, affectionately known by various names – Mummy Chia, Aunty Chia, Godma, Sister Ng or Matron in work places – recently celebrated her 85th birthday surrounded by all who love her. The robust mother of four and grandma of five has just had an open-heart surgery to repair a poor valve.
I first heard of her in the early 1970’s when she was a nursing sister newly-transferred to the Batu Pahat district hospital. It was not part of her call of duty but she had volunteered to ride in the ambulance to Muar with a critically ill family friend. Such dedication to her job and going the extra mile is a well-known trait.
More than 20 years later, I had the occasion to see her in action. This time, she was volunteering her nursing services for a cancer patient we were visiting – dressing a horrible wound no one would willingly go near.
I have only come to know her well in recent years. This, of course, was to my personal loss. Because Mummy Chia is someone you would learn much from.
Mummy Chia came to Malaya as a child from China when her school teacher father brought the family over. Mercifully, the young ‘gu niang’ (girl) survived the Japanese Occupation.
“I even went to work, rolling cigars in a factory,” she remembers. She was also fortunate to receive a few years of belated education in high school. As the responsible eldest sister to eight siblings, she decided against her father’s wishes, to enroll in a colonial-day nursing course, much frowned upon by traditional parents as a ‘dirty job’. So it was that her training and work began in Johor Baru in the 1950’s.
“I earned 60 dollars. I gave 50 to the family. I could still do a lot of things with the ten dollars I had!” This was a turbulent time for a young adult, leaving home and studying in a foreign language she found difficult. She had suffered a broken relationship with someone dear to her heart. She sought purpose and direction. Peace eluded her.
Peace through a song
“One day I was passing a church. I heard people singing a hymn. I stood listening till the end and a strange peace filled my heart,” shares Mummy Chia. This was the beginnings of her search for God. A Christian friend gave her a Bible. She didn’t understand much of what she read but somehow, in her heart, she knew that God loved her. It was also the start of a curious relationship she had with the Bible and God.
“For many years, I did not go to church or want to take the step of baptism. I felt I was not good enough to make the commitment.” She wanted to marry a Christian husband and she did a few years later.
However, married life was no walk in the park as she struggled to reconcile her strict upbringing in a traditional Teochew family – where love, respect and filial piety were emphasized – with her new family-in-law who, unlike what she had expected, were only nominally Christian.
“I did my very best to be a good daughter-in-law, but mostly went unappreciated. Finally, when my mother-in-law was at the end of her days, she told people, I was her most obedient and submissive daughter-in-law!”
After three children and a marriage that did not offer much for her self-esteem and emotional security, she was ready to give up. Only God could help. It took ten long years of crying out to Him before He answered her prayers. “I do not know what I would be now if not for God in my life,” she confesses.
When things took a turn for the better on the home front, Mummy Chia shifted gear in her Christian journey. She was finally baptized at the age of 46. She sent the children to Sunday School, prayed and read her Bible diligently. Precious to her to this day are Psalm 23 and Psalm 112, by which she determined to live. “I only began to serve the Lord when I was old,” she shares with a tinge of regret. With an empty nest now, she became more active in the church and continues to go on mission trips.
To Sarawak, Cambodia with love
Matron Chia has rendered her skills on various trips when the Church sent medical mission teams to Sarawak and Cambodia. She has a special soft spot for Cambodia, having visited and ministered at His Child International nine times, a record for anyone in the church. She is the unofficial leader of teams there. Even when her knees were weak, she continued to visit each year, bringing loads of precious cargo for the children at the homes. She also goes with her grandchildren, who have invariably caught her vision and mission. What a heritage! Even a spinal operation on a pinched nerve did not stop her for long for she was soon up and about again.
I had the privilege to be on one of these trips with her. We would ride a van or bus to wherever it took us to render help to the poor or visit or encourage. Each time we stopped, someone would quickly place a small stool at the door of the vehicle to break the big step to the ground. It was a touching act and spoke of how much they loved and cared for her.
Gifted with a passion for sewing from a young age, Mummy’s quilts are a sight to behold. Months before each mission outing, she would garner support in cash and kind, books, clothes, sandals and whatever could be donated for poor children.
Mummy Chia has raised a class of ladies, teaching them to knit, sew and craft. Friday afternoons see these ladies at her home happily learning new sewing skills. What a wonderful way to pass on a beautiful heritage to the next generation! Together with the class, she would spend time sewing handicrafts for sale to raise support. Her finely crafted bags and dolls would be snapped up very quickly. Asked what inspires her to visit again and again, Mummy replies, “Seeing these poor children in Cambodia reminds me of the times in health service when I had to visit local kampongs to render aid. It gives me great joy.”
Nursing the aged
After her retirement from nursing, her husband, William fell ill and passed on several years later. It was during this time, nursing her sick husband and also during her stint of working in the geriatric ward in a private hospital that she saw her mission field in nursing the aged. This has become a staple ministry since. She has volunteered for many years now at nursing homes, where her skills and caring service are well-received.
It is this burning compassion for the weak and helpless that still sends her zipping across the town in her little car, even at 85, to volunteer twice a week at the geriatric home. “It gives me joy to help the patients some of whom lack family love even in their twilight years,” says Mummy Chia. “I even have to persuade them to eat their meals.”
She arranges for some of the more mobile ones to be taken to the Senior Elderly Fellowship once a month in church. Very often she also whips up a good lunch for the group. Lately, she finds happiness also in being able to share testimonies and stories in Mandarin, a language she learned so long ago.
She remembers a special moment when she was called to the bedside of a dying elder.
“I was proud and privileged that I could pray a simple prayer to calm his restlessness just two hours before he passed on. He was the elder who interviewed me before my baptism,” she muses.
Open Heart, Open House
Mummy has such a big heart she even opens her house to people recuperating from operations or anything that invalidates them. Be it a major operation, or a broken arm, she lovingly nurses friends back to health.
Mummy’s house is regularly a hive of activities as she warmly hosts outstation speakers or missionaries. It is often the venue for meetings for the senior fellowship. A regular bunch of younger friends gather readily for meals at her home on the slightest excuse – a birthday, a festival, anything at all! She is the ‘hostess with the mostest’ to many.
I remember the days before our mission trip. The floor of her living room and kitchen was strewn with boxes and boxes of books, clothing and whatever we were bringing to Cambodia. It was messy. But it did not seem to trouble her. Her active and hardworking lifestyle, even when not in the best of health, puts many of us to shame. She even has time to grow (and give away) her own vegetables and raise a bright and beautiful garden.
Sng Puay Lan, who lives across the street from her, is very blessed – always at the receiving end of Mummy’s special dish or abundant harvest from the garden. “She is just like my mother. When I need a shoulder to cry on, she is the one I’ll go to,” she shares. The ‘daughter’ on the other hand never fails to keep a watchful eye on Mummy to check that she is well and rested.
What keeps her going?
“The joy of spreading God’s love and seeing people happy,” was the simple answer of this grand old lady – a mummy indeed to many. Mummy’s full life is a shining example of simple faith with good works, an epitome of Christian womanhood. She is a blessing to all and sundry – someone to emulate.
A week after my hysterectomy operation in July 2009, I went to Batu Pahat to recuperate. A church sister, Susan Lau introduced my husband, Aaron and me to Aunty Chia. Though I was a stranger to her, she welcomed me with open arms and showered me with tender loving care. Together with Susan, she nursed me back to health. She personally went to the market and cooked nourishing ‘confinement’ food for me.
During my month-long stay, I found that she was indeed a very gifted lady. With sharp eyesight and nimble fingers at 79, she was still doing all kinds of sewing and handicrafts. Some days she would just sit and chat, sharing all her life experiences. Indeed, her life story was more interesting than a Korean drama! I felt really blessed and privileged to have come into fellowship with Aunty Chia. She is gentle, kind and very generous. She truly reflects the love of Jesus Christ, and genuinely loves and cares for the welfare of those in need.
In Nov 2013, when I fractured my left clavicle, I again came “home” to recuperate. Aaron and I call her home the “TLC Home” – “Tender Loving Care Home”. I want to thank and praise God for this beautiful and wonderful lady, a true reflection of God’s love.
Alice and Aaron worship and serve in a Presbyterian church in Melaka
Goh Bee Lee finds joy in good books, true friends and the great outdoors. Much blessed by God with three children and six grandchildren ( and counting) she glories in being a beloved of the Lord’s.
They shall still bear fruit in old age Ps.92:14
• Verdi wrote his famous “Ave Maria” at 85.
• Alfred Lord Tennyson penned his “Crossing the Bar” at 80.
• Michelangelo completed the “Pieta” at 87.
• Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes set down some of his most brilliant opinions at 90.
• Titian painted his “Allegory of the Battle of Lepanto” at 98.
• President Ronald Reagan was one of the most powerful men in the world at 75.