Pontian Chinese Seventh-day Adventist Church
John Lee Kam Hong (李錦洪) and Wu Chook Ying (吳竹影)
Basic Demographic Information
Official Name: ??? Chinese Seventh-day Adventist Church
Church Administrative Unit: ???
Date Officially Formed: ???
Founding Minister: ???
Church Website: ???
Current Address: ???
Date on which Current Sanctuary was Established: ???
Current Membership: ???
The Pontian church (笨珍華文教會) is now composed of a group of young people. Though opposed, scolded, and even persecuted by their parents, they persisted. Hence they treasure the faith they received in Christ, and they enthusiastically serve the Lord, and actively participate in all kinds of activities such as Pathfinder Club, youth fellowship, home visitation, new work at Pekan Nana (北干那那), and the kindergarten. By the blessing of God, and the cooperation of the members, the Pontian church continues to grow from its heritage.
[Editor’s note: In Malay language, Pekan means a town and Nana means pineapple. Hence Pekan Nana means Pineapple Town, where the Pineapple Museum is located. With a pineapple canning facility, it used to be Malaysia’s largest base for pineapple planting area. Pekan Nana used to be the only way to Pontian from Johore Bahru (新山).] .
Pontian Kechil (小笨珍), where the church is located, is a small town on the west coast of the southern part of the Peninsular Malaysia, about 40 miles from Singapore. The town is to the south of Pontian Besar (大笨珍) In general, Pontian refers to Pontian Kechil, which is the administrative center for Pontian District. Both towns are named after the rivers that flow through them. [Editor’s note: In Malay, besar means big and kechil means small.]
The church is on a plot of land of over 60,000 square feet. Was this plot of land a gift from the government? No, it was the achievement of two energetic, hard-working church elders, Lee Kiang Chor (李強初) and Choo Keok Seng (朱克生), Lee’s brother-in-law. In fact the work in Pontian Kechil dated back to prewar days.
Lee Kiang Chor migrated from China to Siam, now known as Thailand. There he married the second older sister of Choo Keok Seng. Then Lee Kiang Chor, his wife, Mr. Choo, his brother-in-law, and a sister-in-law, who later married Loh Eng Kai (羅英介), migrated to Singapore, where they came to know the Adventist message. From Singapore Brother Lee, a registered dentist, and his relatives moved to Pulai (埔來), Johore (柔佛), where he set up his dental practice.
In Pulai Mr. Lee Kiang Chor used his home for Sabbath services. Pastor Tan Kia Ou (陳鏡湖), then a departmental secretary of the Malayan Union (南洋聯合會), would go to Pulai to preach whenever possible. Besides Lee’s family members and relatives, his neighbors and friends would also attend the services. At times, more than twenty persons were in attendance.
When the Japanese overran Malaya in December 1941, Pulai suffered greatly. Mrs. Loh Eng Kai and her mother were killed by Japanese soldiers. After that tragedy, Lee Kiang Chor then moved to Pontian Kechil. Pastor Tan Kia Ou (陳鏡湖), war-time president of the Malayan Union, used to visit Lee quite often and conducted Sabbath services. In the course of time, Lee Kiang Chor’s first wife died of childbirth complications in the government hospital at Johore Bahru (新山).
In 1950 Lee Kiang Chor had regular Sabbath school class every Friday evening in his dental clinic. Besides his family members, there were family members of Tan Teck Seng (陳德成), another Adventist.
In early 1951 Lee Kiang Chor built a house near the wet market of Pontian Kechil. By now, the market has been demolished. Upon the completion of the new house, he invited his relatives, friends, and community leaders as well as some members of the Singapore Chinese Church to attend a thanksgiving meeting in his new house on the morning of September 8, 1951.
Those members from Singapore were as follows: Daniel Liem (林天恩), pastor of the Chinese church, Pastor Tan Kia Ou, Elder Tan Ah King (鄧澤權), Elder and Mrs. T. O. Wong (黃道安夫婦), and Miss Helen Chew (趙文謙), director of the Chinese section of the Bible Correspondence School. After a brief introduction by Lee Kiang Chor and the opening prayer by Tan Kia Ou, Pastor Liem presented a sermon, which was followed by short talks by Miss Chew and Tan Ah King. Before the benediction by Pastor Liem, Lee Kiang Chor gave a testimony, inviting all those who were not yet Christians to seek the truth so as to receive eternal life. A picture was taken after the service. (The Messenger, Chinese edition, September, 1951, p. 1.)
This was the very first religious service held in that house, and many more to be held in several years. It was also in 1951 that Tan Ah King was transferred from Cameron Highlands (金馬崙高原) to work in Johore Bahru. He and his family lived in Singapore and they joined the Singapore Chinese church. In that year William Kang Siau Ang (康紹安), the second son of Pastor K. T. Khng (康克典), was the Sabbath school superintendent of the Singapore Chinese Church. On Sabbath afternoons Tan Ah King used to travel on his motorcycle with William Kang as a pillion rider to do home visitation or tract distribution.
One day they went to Pontian Kechil, William came to know Lee Kiang Chor and Mrs Tan, an old lady—–Tan Teck Seng’s mother, were church members. He then suggested that they start a branch Sabbath school at Lee Kiang Chor’s new house in Pontian Kechil. This then led eventually to the establishment of a church in that little seaside town. [Editor’s note: K. T. Khng was a former worker in South China. In early 1950s he and his family came back to Singapore.]
In 1952, once a fortnight, the members of the Singapore Chinese church took turns to visit Pontian Kechil. Lee Kiang Chor took charge of the services on alternate weeks. Thus the little flock, composed of families of Lee and Choo Keok Seng (朱克生), his in-laws, and few others, was kept within the fold. Choo Keok Seng, who lived in Pekan Nana, used to bring in his car several other people to attend that services. Thanks God, Mrs. Lee Kiang Chor (彭恩加), was baptized and became an active Adventist member. (The Messenger, November-December, 1954, p. 3.)
Subsequently, Wu Chook Ying (吳竹影), then a leader of the Sabbath school in the Singapore Chinese Church, was in charge of the branch “church” in Pontian Kechil. For more than a year he would invite people to preach there. Every two weeks he would go there with the “preacher” on early Sabbath morning to Pontian Kechil. He himself would teach Sabbath school lessons and be the interpreter for the divine service. After the service the Lees would entertain the guests from Singapore for lunch.
In early 1953 Tan Ah King was provided a new bungalow at his work site near Pontian Kechil. He and his family moved to the new quarters. Once again Tan had the opportunity to worship with the believers there. The church continued to grow.
On the Sabbath morning of December 19, 1953, about 40 people gathered in the house of the Lees. There was a note of expectancy from the smiling faces. Phang Yin Hee (彭應熙) and Chu Sing Fatt (朱新發), president and secretary-treasurer, respectively, of the Malaya Mission, arrived with Gil De Guzman (古曼), president of the South Philippine Union Mission, to take part in an important event.
After Sabbath school was over, Gil de Guzman preached a rousing sermon on the unity of the house of God. Then followed the organization of the 14 baptized members into a church company. Tan Ah King was unanimously appointed leader and Lee Kiang Chor, treasurer. The mission had written to the government requesting a piece of land on which to build a modest church. (The Messenger, March-April, 1954, pp. 2, 3.)
A few months later, Tan Ah King gave a brief report of the Pontian company for the first three quarters in 1954 as follows: [All the money was in local currency—–the Straits currency note. It was then used not only in Singapore and Malaya, but also in Sarawak and British North Borneo.]
Average Average S.S. Average Number
attendance offering tithe inquirers
Quarter Members Per week Per week Per month
First 14 33 $13.06 over $250 ──
Second 16 47 $14.34 over $275 2
Third 16 55 $16.10 over $300 4
Tan Ah King continued his report, “We plan to organize our company into a church. But before doing so, we must find a proper place to meet. With the present attendance, Brother Lee’s house is too small. There is hardly room to move during meeting hours. Many friends would like to attend our meetings, but there just isn’t room to accommodate them. Several proposals for a chapel have been made, but unfortunately none have been suitable. May be it is not in God’s plan. We are not discouraged, for we believe that the Lord has better things in store for us. We are hoping that before long we may be able to worship God in better surroundings.” (The Messenger, November-December, 1954, p.3.)
In 1955 the 11 students of the Chinese Ministerial Course of Malayan Seminary/Southeast Asia Union College took over the Sabbath services in Pontian Kechil. Around 1957 a piece of land on the outskirts was for sale, but the price was too stiff. Choo Keok Seng (朱克生) recalled on June 25, 1990, in Los Angeles, “The owner wanted $15,000, but the company of believers had only $5,000 on hand. While funds were being raised, the three elders agreed to advance the remaining amount of the $10,000 in four shares. Lee Kiang Chor and Choo Keok Seng were each responsible for one share, and Tan Ah King was responsible for two shares. The Union Mission promised us that the appropriation for church construction would match the amount we have collected. When we went out to the community to solicit funds we told the people we would build a church and a kindergarten. For that reason the community leaders were willing to make their donations.”
With appropriations and contributions from members in Pontian Kechil and Singapore, as well as public donations, construction began. Everyday after his working hours in the dental clinic, Lee Kiang Chor would walk to the building site to inspect the progress of the construction. At last on November 4, 1961, “the church in Lee Kiang Chor’s house” had a new home. The pews were donated by the Singapore Chinese Church. K. T. Khng (康克典), a retired minister, became the first resident pastor of the church. [Editor’s note: On August 13, 1961, Lee Kiang Chor’s eldest son Ko Li (科立), an architect, and Helen Tan, a nurse and the elder daughter of Tan Ah King, were united in marriage in Sydney Adventist church in Australia. Both were former students of the Malayan Seminary in Singapore. (The Messenger, November-December, 1961, p. 7.)]
Two years later Pastor Khng migrated to America. Fortunately, before a new pastor was appointed, Daniel Lee (李斌祥), who had just become editor of the Malaysian Signs Press, came from Singapore every week to Pontian Kechil to conduct meetings. In the months of April and May 1962, Milton Lee (李嗣貴), held a series of evangelistic meetings in the newly built church. Because of unpaid financial obligations, it was not till August 1, 1964, that the dedicated service for the church was held.
In 1968 Jonathan Foo (符運明), a graduate of Hong Kong Adventist College and a ministerial intern in the Singapore Chinese church, was called to serve the Pontian church. During his pastorate, the church made much progress. There was a youth choir, consisting of over twenty members. There were some adult attendees on Sabbath services. But the good prospect did not last long. In 1970, Jonathan Foo was transferred to Cholon (堤岸),Vietnam, without regard to the feelings of the members of Pontian church. As a result, the Pontian church retained its tithes and offerings in the local church and would have nothing to do with the Malaya Mission. The confrontation lasted more than seven years.
After the departure of Jonathan Foo, Peter Khoo (邱榮西) was pastor of the church for a brief period. He was succeeded by Joseph Tham (譚永青), who tried, in vain, his best to make reconciliation between the church and the mission. Anyhow, he made great effort to promote ministry relating to youth fellowship and pathfinder club. Later the government would not permit him, a Singapore citizen, to work in Pontian.
In 1977 Lian Hoon Ping (連煥平), later known as 連冠統, became pastor of the Pontian Church. He had two important tasks to do: the reconciliation between the church and the mission, and the erection of a kindergarten. When the church was constructed in the 1960s the members told the community leaders that a kindergarten would also be erected. Recognizing that this had been a failure of the church, Lee Kiang Chor strongly urged Lian Hoon Ping to fulfill the promise to the community. By the grace of the Lord and the leading of the Holy Spirit, Lian Hoo Ping was able to achieve his mission. He solicited enough funds from the physicians of the Penang Adventist Hospital and the well-to-do members of the Ipoh church to construct a kindergarten. Meanwhile he also worked hard to clear the several years of accounts with the mission. As a result normal relation was restored between the church and the mission.
The Pontian San Yu Kindergarten was opened officially in April 1980. At the beginning there were only eight pupils. As his missions accomplished, Lian Hoon Ping and his family migrated to America in June 1980. As an emergency measure, the mission transferred John Lee Kam Hong (李錦洪) from Penang to Pontian Kechil. Besides maintaining the pathfinder club, John Lee revived the youth fellowship and family worship. In addition, he opened new work in Pekan Nana, a town 12 miles away. A house was rented as a meeting place.
Elder Lee Kiang Chor passed away in 1978. Not long after Elder Choo Keok Seng and his family migrated to America. Lam Kay Hong (藍啓鴻), a deacon and treasurer, and his family moved to Batu Pahat (峇都巴轄). Except Mrs. Lee Kiang Chor, who was 75 years old in 1983, most of the older members did not attend church regularly. Hence the Pontian church is predominately a young people’s church. A commendable fact is that these young people are not only capable and talented but also actively involved in the Lord’s work. Among the Pontian church’s former members who later became denominational workers are John Lee Ke Shan (李科山), Elder and Mrs. Lee Kiang Chor’s son and later served in the Far Eastern Division Health Department, Elmo See (薛堅茂), Terrance Sim Tian Sang (沈天送), Chan Chong Kee (陳中樞), New Keng Seng (梁建成), David Lee (李健華).
In October 1983, John Lee and his family went to the Philippines, he was to further his education in the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Study (復臨信徒國際研究所). After completion his Master of Theology degree, John Lee and his family came back to lead the work in Pontian. In the interim period, Lee Choke Woh (李祝和) was in charge of the work. Since coming to Pontian, John Lee initiated a “Job Week” during the yearend school vacation. Every one came to beautify the church and its surroundings, such as painting and whitewashing the buildings, and clearing the compound. In 1984 the electrical wires were replaced, and mosquito screens were installed.
By the blessings of the Lord and through the cooperation between Mrs. John Lee, nee See Gui Lan (薛桂蘭), and other three teachers, the kindergarten made steady progress each year. By 1983 there are now 45 pupils, and the monthly school fees had been increased from $11.00 to $22.00. By 1987, there were 132 pupils. During the Christmas of 1986, the first jumble sale was held. They raised over $7,000. The net gain was over $5,000, which was given to the old folk homes in Pekan Nana, Kulai (古來) [Johore], and Ipoh (怡保) [Perak] as a service to the society.
At the end of 1987, John Lee was transferred to Kuala Lumpur as pastor of the Chinese church. His successor, Chan Chong Kee (陳中樞), moved to Pontian on January 16, 1988. It is Chan’s home town and it is the church with which he grew up.