At Vineyard City Church with our Perth family. Ps Jeremiah & Phebe on right
When we were in Melaka Pastor Moses Tay introduced us to the pastors of the Vineyard City Church Jeremiah and Phebe. They were using our former clinic as their church premises. We were privileged to hear Phebe’s testimony of how God prepared her to serve a Tamil congregation
Called back to my own People
By Phebe Santhy
MY FAMILYMy father, originally from India migrated to Malaysia before World War II. He became a well-respected businessman and was seen as an elder among our Tamil community. He was a pious Hindu. Each evening at a given time he never failed to do his “pooja” or his worship at his altar, ringing his hand-held brass bell during this ritual. My family home is in the heart of Melaka town, an area now called “Little India”. Many of the Indians staying here are related or strongly acquainted with my parents and my four older brothers and two older sisters.
One day my eldest sister Esther was invited to an evangelistic meeting. She responded and became a believer of Christ. As a result, she was stigmatized by the Hindu astrology that branded her as a bad omen. Father who loved her very much would frequently bring her to India for tedious “cleansing” rituals.
The news spread like fire in our town and neighbours and relatives started to talk.
To leave Hinduism, the religion you were born into, was seen as an embarrassment to the family.
Despite all the opposition, she remained steadfast. She found solace in her new faith.
I was rather perplexed she had converted as she was the one who used to bring me to the temples. I remember seeing her speaking in tongues in our room and I began to question if this might be evidence that Jesus is the true God. I didn’t realize that the Holy Spirit had started to work in me too.
There was a lot of persecution against her. Even walking out of the house, she faced taunts and unfriendly gestures. In humiliation, under unbearable circumstances, she finally chose to leave home to go to Kuala Lumpur.
After many months, as I was very close to her, I was given permission to go to KL to visit her. I was 12 – 13 years old then. For the first time, she took me to a church. In this church service, I was instantly baptized with tongues.
Of course, none of my other family members knew about this as my sister was forbidden to preach to me let alone take me to church. It was supposed to be our secret. I found my Savior and was really excited about the encounter. When I returned home to Melaka, I wrote all my experience in my diary as I couldn’t express it to anyone.
As my movements were always being watched, soon one of my brothers got hold of my diary.
That very morning my father and brothers got together and harassed me to come out of my room.
When I hesitated, they broke open my windows and door and dragged me downstairs. They tied both of my hands against the wall. They made me remain standing in that position till evening. I was not given even a drink.
Each of them hit me with a bamboo pole and chilli powder was brought out.
They threatened to rub it on my eyes if I didn’t deny Jesus.
They even brought burning camphor from their altar and the heat burned my forehead hair.
During this time, I received a mental picture of Jesus carrying his cross on the way to Golgotha.
Towards the end of the day, I was untied and sent to a relative’s house to stay for a few days presumably to brainwash me. This was the first time in my life I left home, and I felt so lonely. But I found comfort when I remembered Jesus.
My family saw me grow stronger in my faith. Even though I was never allowed to attend church, I would find time whenever I could in between school days to drop by a church to learn God’s word and to know Jesus more.
I remember once I got ready to slip away to a church meeting on a Sunday morning.
The house key was hidden away so I could not get out. I prayed and the Holy Spirit led me to exactly the place where it was hidden. My father and brother went to the church and threatened to report the church to the police. When I returned, I faced a beating.
Whenever visitors, relatives and neighbours came to our house I was constantly shamed in front of them, purposely pressuring me to disown my faith. For this reason, I gradually began to shut myself away from them especially the Hindus. I was even denied to further my studies in KL, for fear that I’ll end up like my elder sister.
When I was eighteen, my father who was eighty-eight passed away. Before he died, church friends advised me to keep sharing the salvation prayer even though he was motionless. I knew hearing is the last sense to leave so I stayed overnight at his bedside in the hospital and kept crying to the Lord to save him. I kept repeating the salvation prayer for him to hear and repeat.
Five days after he passed away, I had a vivid dream. My father was standing, looking very calm. He was dressed in white. When he was alive, he often dressed in his dothi and shirt which are fully white. I asked him, ‘’Where are you? What are you doing?’’ He replied peacefully and calmly, “All that you asked me to say, I have said…and I am waiting”.
A pastor told me that he is in paradise! I rejoiced and believed his soul is saved. Getting my family saved has been my utmost mission from the time I received Jesus.
Years later, my eldest brother fell very ill. He is the one who once warned me when he saw me with a bible that he wants to be the first and last time to see me with a bible. Now he asked me to pray for him. He received Jesus and on his hospital bed. He was given sprinkling baptism to declare his faith before he passed away.
In 2015, my 86-year-old mother passed away after having relapse cancer. Two years prior to her death she was admitted to the hospital many times. The Lord impressed me that I should prepare her for heaven. My mother is not conversant in English, she speaks Tamil, Malay and Hokkien.
It was difficult for me to share the words of the gospel in those languages, so I prayed for a way.
Before she fell ill, one day as I visited her in the morning she did not come downstairs as usual. I was wondering why she was still in her room. Then I saw her deep in thought.
When I asked her what happened, she said, ‘’I had a dream – I saw a place that is bright and clean. Smart-looking people are walking hurriedly to the right and to left. Then I saw beautiful greenery around.’’
I told her, ’You saw heaven! If you want to go, there you have to believe in Jesus’’.
Several times before, I have tried to explain heaven and hell to her, but Hindus believe there are gods in hell too, so she wasn’t convinced heaven was a better place.
The Holy Spirit prompted me to tell her, ‘’father is in heaven. If you want to go where he is, you have to believe in Jesus.’’ Immediately her face lit up.
She and father were very close. I knew she was connected to heaven for she never again said all gods were the same anymore…
Subsequently, I diligently led her to say the salvation prayer again and again just to make sure.
My brother became hostile and got more aggressive in imposing the Hindu beliefs into her. I would try as much to keep watch and each time after his visit. I would get her to acknowledge her faith in Jesus. War was taking place in the heavenlies – a tug of war with the enemy for her soul. I felt the strain.
One day, in the hospital when her health was deteriorating, my elder sister Esther and I were at her bedside praying for her.
I heard a voice in my heart,’’ blow into her ears.’’ I hesitated as it was something strange for me. Then I heard it again and again, so I did just that. After this, I had to leave the room as only two people were allowed at a time.
My brother went in. I waited outside and when my sister came out, she said my brother went to my mother’s ears and chanted some Hindu words.
Now I know why the Holy Spirit told me to blow into her ears – her ears were protected from hearing his words!
My mother was denied morphine by the family members.
During her stage four cancer, two doctors, a pain specialist and a physician told me that they were amazed how she could sit quietly in her wheelchair whereas anyone in her condition would be rolling on the floor with unbearable pain.
I really praise God for the grace he’s given her. The last words my mother spoke was ‘’Yehsu, Yehsu.’’
Before her funeral, I woke up at 3 am to pray about a huge problem in the family. My brothers were at loggerheads and suing each other and had not met face to face. The whole community in town knew about it. Now that if they had to come for my mother’s funeral, it would surely cause friction and even a fight. I cried to the Lord for intervention.
Then just before the funeral, a family friend advised them to be united for mother’s sake. He got them to put their hands one over the other, held them together and said encouraging words.
The funeral went on well. After the funeral, a relative said that the whole event went on so peacefully because God answered my prayer and intervened.
The day after her funeral, people came in for a ritual chanting which was held with a religious leader leading the mantra in Sanskrit.
The rest of the people followed, many not really knowing the meaning.
Some of us were sitting far aside where we were not noticed.
Suddenly I heard clearly in my heart a strong voice asking, “Do you hear them, do you hear them…they are trying to reach God, but they can’t”.
My heart kept beating within me. When I went home, I felt restless. I woke early in the morning to pray and seek the Lord.
Things began to unfold. I began to see that the whole community which I have ignored or avoided thus far. They were going to perish because they have not heard the gospel.
My mother escaped because she had someone to persistently preach to her. I then asked the Lord to send people to them. The stirring was going on and I began to keep praying and the Lord began to show more things about the Indian community.
Jeremiah, Phebe with son Jaden (born 13 years after marriage)
I received news that my brothers were going to court. I was grieved and woke up 3 am again to cry out to the Lord to intervene. Then I heard the Lord impress upon me to fast for three days. I fasted and prayed three days continuously without any food. I was amazed I was able to go through it without any hunger. Truly it was the Lord’s grace.
Two weeks later, I received an invitation to a church within walking distance to my family home.
I was surprised as I never heard of any church in the midst of “Little India”.
I attended its services and before long we were involved and were made leaders.
I had many challenges as it was a culture shock for me to be in an Indian ethnic church.
The Lord gave me the grace to focus on reaching the lost Indians. He had to take me out of the community to build me up and now he is sending me back into that very community to bring Jesus to them.
When we were appointed to oversee the church, we prayed for a better more spacious premise with better toilet facilities. It was amazing how the Lord led us to Dr Chong’s clinic. Although we had an idea that the place was available some time ago we did not confirm with Ps Moses to take it. Then suddenly we had to move out within two months! And this building was still waiting for us! It was a blessing as we had minimum cash and also had to set up from scratch. Even though we were busy in the midst of completing a theology class, the Lord really helped us see it through on time! People came in to help us and also to encourage us. When we looked back we had a feeling that the Lord really led us to this premise. Other people also confirmed they really sense peacefulness and the presence of God here. We are glad. End