Chinese Seventh-day Adventist Churches in East Malaysia
Wong Yew Seng (黃有誠)
Basic Demographic Information
Church Locatons: Sandakan, Jesselton, Kudat. Kuching
Church Administrative Unit: East Malaysia Mission, Southern Asia-pacific Division
Date Officially Formed:
Founding Ministers: Ho Wai Yue, Leung Hing Sun
Current Membership: .
From 1881 the British North Borneo Company administered British North Borneo until 1942 when Japanese invaded it. After WWII, the British came back to British North Borneo and it became a crown colony. Later, British Malaya became independent and a few years later Malaya and British North Borneo became parts of the Federation of Malaysia.
In the 1910s there was a literature evangelist by the name of Chi Ki Tet (徐啓德). When the writer was in Sandakan (山打根) from 1959 to 1961, Brother Chi, then already over 80 years old, still came to church. He passed away in 1962, about a year after I left North Borneo for Phnom Penh (金邊). In the summer of 2008, while visiting Sandakan, the writer took part in a service to ordain John Chee (徐福才), his great grandson, as church elder.
In the early years, one of the pastors in Sandakan was Ku Hyuk Min (古旭明). One of Pastor Ku’s son was Ku Thau Sin (古道新), a worker in South China and Singapore.
In the latter part of 1930s, Han Li Djung (韓立中) was called from the island of Hainan (海南島) to pastor the Sandakan church. In 1938 Han spent his vacation in Ipoh (怡保), Perak (霹靂), Malaya (馬來亞), where he met Wong Kiat Sam (黃達三), an Adventist colporteur. Through Han’s introduction K. S. Wong became a teacher in our school in Sandakan. Later on, Wong went to Jesselton (亞庇), now Kota Kinabalu, to develop the Chinese work. When the Japanese occupied British North Borneo, The Japanese suspected the Adventist church was harboring reactionaries. As the church pastor, Wong was arrested by the Japanese who tortured him severely to extract a confession.
Unfortunately, Han Lip Chong passed away in 1947. By that time there were over forty members in the Sandakan church. [Han Li Djung’s son Chung Kong (仲光), after completing his education in the Malayan Seminary in the 1950s, became a mission worker in Malaya and Singapore.]
In 1948 Wong Kiet Sam was transferred back from Jesselton to shepherd the Sandakan church. In 1954, Wong Kiet Sam and Ho Wai Yue (何韋如), pastor of the church in Cholon (堤岸), Saigon, Vietnam, swapped their positions with each other. As soon as Pastor Ho arrived in Sandakan, he started a series of evangelistic meetings. As he had studied the Chinese classics and was very well versed in the writings of Confucius, as well as his in-depth study of the Bible, his preaching was able to convince many people of the truth. The work in Sandakan was further strengthened.
In the previous year, Leung Hing Sun (梁慶燊), a fellow colleague of Ho Wai Yue for many years in the South China Union Training Institute, accepted a call to pastor the Jesselton church. A scholar too, Pastor Leung used to quote copiously from many sources in his preaching. With skill and patience, he led the enquirers to Christ as their Savior in a style different from that of Pastor Ho. The newly constructed church on a hill became a landmark in Jesselton. Both Pastor Ho and Pastor Leung, were not only eloquent in their preaching, but were also deeply respected by their flocks.
In early months of 1958 Pastor Ho, while strengthening the church in Kudat (古達) in preparation for an effort in that town, it was discovered that he suffered from liver cancer. Before Pastor Ho passed away, it so happened that the writer and Chin Kong Loi (陳光來), who was a convert of Pastor Ho, went to Sandakan during school break as student colporteurs. We paid a special visit to Pastor Ho. We were at his bedside holding his hands to pray for him, while he was biting dried vegetable roots to endure his severe pain. Though this is the first time I met him, I felt as if I was meeting an old friend. It seemed we have a tacit understanding. From the bottom of my heart, I respected this honorable teacher of our denomination and a veteran gospel soldier. As we had to go back Singapore to continue our studies, we left Pastor and Mrs. Ho to the care of our Lord Jesus. A few days after we were back to school, we heard the news that he had rested in the Lord. I never dreamed that several months after my graduation I would be asked to serve the church so dearly nurtured and developed by Pastor Ho.
The writer worked in the British North Borneo for three years. Following the footsteps of his predecessor, besides taking care of Sandakan church and Kudat church, I went about to hold public efforts in various places. At that time Mrs. Ho Wai Yue remained in Kudat to help visitation, conducting services and giving Bible studies. Every year I spent a month in assisting the secretary of the home missionary department of the Southeast Asia Union to take part in Ingathering campaign. We visited many towns in British North Borneo, Brunei, and Sarawak. Through this ministry, I was able to meet the leaders of the Chinese communities. It was a valuable lesson for me.
When the writer arrived in Sandakan, Pastor Leung Hing Sun was already transferred to Sarawak to be in charge of the Kuching (古晋) church. The vacancy in Jesselton church was filled by Pastor Chu Yun Fatt (朱運發). Whenever during the time of Ingathering campaign or mission annual meeting. The three of us were able to meet each other. The writer would take the opportunity to request Pastor Leung for instruction, thus learning many things.
During the last year of service in Sandakan, the writer actively led a group of church members to make plans for erecting a new church. A vacant lot below the old church was leveled. Architectural plans were drawn, and funds were being raised. Just as the construction was going to begin, the heavenly Father had a plan for the writer to go to a new place far away. With weeping eyes, I had to say goodbye to this place where I began my pastoral ministry.
Below is the list of ministers who had served in the following three churches:
Sandakan Church: Ku Hyuk Min (古旭明), Han Li Djung (韓立中), Ho Wai Yue, Wong Yew Seng, Chin Kong Loi, Philip Tan Peng Hong (陳炳煌), Daniel Lim (林天恩), Mah Chee Ping (馬志平).
Jesselton Church: Wong Kiet Sam, Leung Hing Sun, Chu Yun Fatt, Wong Yew Seng, Samuel Tsai (蔡書紳), Chin Kong Loi, Wung Wei Kong (翁維綱), James Wah (華開國), Chai Sui Kong (蔡瑞光), George Lee (李欣章), and others. [George Lee’s Chinese name originally was李勳章. In 1993 he invited Wong Yew Seng to conduct an evangelistic effort in Kota Kinabalu, formerly Jesselton. As the traditional Chinese character “勳” has too many strokes, Pastor Wong suggested that “勳” be changed to “欣”.]
Kudat Church: Wong Kiet Sam, Ho WaiYue, Wong Yew Seng, Chin Kong Loi, and others.
As time flies, new generations of workers emerge. The Borneo-Brunei-Sarawak Mission eventually separated into the Sarawak Mission and the Sabah Mission. In Sabah, besides those towns mentioned above, we have Chinese church at Tawau (斗湖); and in Sarawak, besides Kuching, there are Chinese churches in Miri (美里), Marudi (馬魯地). In addition we have work in many other places.