Elder Ee Chong Kang
Our General Council celebrated their 50th anniversary two years ago. Last year, Calvary Church, the largest Assemblies of God Church in Malaysia celebrated their 40th anniversary when they shifted to Damansara. In fact, the Assemblies of God movement did not start 50 years ago in Malaysia but was 30 years earlier and their early history was closely related to our church.
A key event in China brought Rev Cecil M Jackson and other missionaries including sister Carrie Anderson, sister Esther Johnson, sister Katherine Clause from China to Singapore in 1928. It was the communist terror in Canton or Communist uprising or Canton Commune (广州暴动又称广州起义）in Guangzhou in 1927.
In 1929, Rev Jackson made his first missionary trip to Perak, and visited the Orang Asli in Pahang and later to Penang. While visiting Kuala Lumpur in 1932, sister Anderson felt the call to work among the Chinese. In 1933, sister Clause started the first Assemblies of God’s work among the Chinese in Ipoh as it could be used as a base to reach and support the Orang Asli ministry in Pahang. However, the work in Ipoh did not continue.
With her vision in 1932, Sister Anderson rented a bungalow at Jalan Ampang to start the work among the Chinese in 1934. The following year, she rented 381, Jalan Brunei in Pudu to start Assembly of God Chapel, former name of our church. By 1940, our church was set in order by Brother Lawrence McKinney and became a member of the Assemblies of God, United States. It took 11 years after the first mission trip to Malaya, and 26 years after our movement started in U.S. to establish the first sovereign Assembly of God church in Kuala Lumpur to take root. In that year, our church bought its first car, a baby Austin for our Missionary sister Ashmore (later Dr Lula Baird) with the initiative of brother Wong Leong Sow (later our church elder) who joined our church in 1935.
Despite the Japanese occupation from 1942 - 1945, our church withstood its first major trial. Under the leadership of brother Wong Leong Sow, brother Pok Kee Chong and others, our church was kept together and worship at various borrowed church premises like St Mary’s Church, Presbyterian Church and also the home of the leaders.
Immediately after the war in 1945, the leadership decided to set-up a building fund and look for a long term solution for our church premise. Our church building fund grew to $12,000.00 by December, 1949. Between 1949 and 1952, Rev Arthur Sandahl (husband of sister Esther Johnson) and Rev David Nyien not only worked hard for reaching the Chinese but also to raise the building fund. Finally, the first building was bought in 1951 at Jalan Imbi. The building was later sold off in order to build the new church at our current site, Jalan Sayor in 1955. The land was approved by the government in 1951 the same year, we bought our first building. In 1953, our church was registered under the Society Act in order to register the title-deed. Though Rev David Nyien has contributed much to the church and the building of our new church, the independent spirit of leadership and congregation had resulted him leaving for U.S. in 1956. Sister Lee Shuit Chan, our first member answered God’s call to go into full time ministry in Hong Kong’s Ecclesia Bible College at Shatin in 1956.
When Rev Arthur returned from U.S. in 1947, he became our first pastor. However, in 1949 due to the Emergency caused by the communist threats, his wife, Esther Sandahl has to leave the country with her daughter, Eva. Though he worked faithfully for the ministry, he has to leave in 1953 when he was found unfaithful to his wife. Rev Martin Lee Chee Leong and our church made a consolidated effort to bring him back to repentance and reunion with his wife in 1967. He was called home by the Lord on 3rd April in the following year.
As the first surviving Assembly of God church in Malaysia, the church formed part of the General Council of Malaya and Singapore in 1957. The church by then was recognized by the Foreign Missions department of US General Council as a leader in the matter of self-support, indigenous principles and self-propagating national church. In 1957, our church, brother Pok Kee Chong (church secretary) and brother Guynes, raised the initial sum of money to purchase the current Bible College of Malaysia site. With the need to address the English speaking youth of our church, brother Guynes established the English speaking Calvary Church in 1961. Calvary has grown in size and by 1968 had to move to their own building in Damansara with our assistance.
Our church had witnessed and was involved during the height of the coming charismatic movement waves in the 60’s. We invited former Hong Kong film star Mui Yee to lead an evangelistic rally in August 1963. One taoist priest accepted Christ in those meetings and became a major issue to the local Chinese. Our church building was spared because God’s Hand was in it even though a few Chinese planned to burn it down. Under the leadership of Rev Szeto who joined us in 1963, our church grew to more than 500 members. However in 1965, he prophesied on Mui Yee that she would start her own church in one of the meetings in Ipoh. This resulted in the first split of the church when a new charismatic church - New Testament church was established in Kuala Lumpur in 1966. Rev Szeto left our church for US in 1965. Rev Martin Lee responded to God’s call and became our first membership to be our pastor, in 1968.
Riots in 1969 did not destroy or harm the church nor its members. God had protected our church and many members including Rev Martin Lee who experienced the miracles of God. Deacon Woon Thiam Choy initiated the Bible Story Hour on 21st April, 1972 and they met every Friday at 7.30 pm to meet the needs of the English speaking teens.
Another challenge we encountered in 1977 was when the church was de-registered with the Registrar of Societies. This was due to the negligence of the church secretary who did not submit our Annual Return to the Registrar even though it was prepared. Our church sorted out the issue with the assistance of The General Council to protect the assets but was in vain. All assets were frozen by the Official Assignee in 1978. Our then president, Brother Choo Kah Lee attempted to re-register the church and managed our church finance from ground zero.
By the grace of God, all the assets were returned to the church in 1984. Rev John Lim who is our own member, joined our church as our pastor, in 1987. We immediately started our rebuilding program and the new church was rebuilt in 1990. With the new building, a “One-stop church” concept was introduced to address the needs of a multi-racial and lingual society with the introduction of an English service on 5th January, 1992 and the Mandarin service on 12th January 1992.
Unfortunately in 1996, Rev Johnny Yeoh did not honor his earlier commitment of not creating a second ‘Calvary’ which was the major concern of the older members. We have to take the necessary disciplinary action against him. Our then president, Elder Ee Chong Kang took the responsibility for the episode to step down in 1997.
In 1997, Rev Jason Quah introduced the Purposed Driven Church Model and was adopted later. In 2004, there was another major break-through with the establishment of the Act of Love (AOL), a social concern program under the leadership of our then president sister Ee Joo Lian. Through AOL, a concert was organized in conjunction with the celebration of the 70th Anniversary at Bukit Jalil Putra Stadium. This project took us to another level of experiencing God in our faith journey. We faced many challenges but we stayed together, grew in maturity and moving forward.
As we reflected over these major events in the past 75 years, we can only conclude that God is faithful, gracious and merciful towards His church. Through His infinite wisdom, He raised and provided different dedicated leadership to steer through the different and difficult challenging times. Despite our ignorance, stubbornness, faithlessness and foolishness, God has turn everything for the good of our church (Romans 8:28). It is this common heritage that we have, to call this church our inherited spiritual home. This rich heritage has given us many lessons that we could learn from.
However, are we willing to study and learn not to repeat the same mistakes or are we being ignorant of them and allow history to repeat themselves?
Our journey was always surrounded by the never ending love of God. Let us encourage one another to continue the course of our God-given missions to bring life to all who crossed our paths. As we continue our journey as living witnesses of the grace, faithfulness and mercies of our eternal God, let us bring greater glory to Him by being the salt of this earth and light of this world.