We’ve arrived back from two weeks away in William’s birth town of Kuching, Malaysia. It was an excellent time to really take a breath, get to know the extended family on the Chong side of the tree, and have our spiritual batteries recharged, so to speak.
Several observations about Kuching, and Malaysia:
- It’s hot! Temperatures ranged from 25 to 35 degrees, but humidity typically hovers between 80 and 100%. Cheryl in particular found it difficult to withstand much of the humid weather, which made her start sweating within a minute of standing in the sun (or even just walking outside). But God was graceful and we both survived the searing, sticky heat – and it made us appreciate the cool weather in Auckland even more!
- Kuching keeps on surprising with its pace of change. The old places in Kuching (e.g. Chinatown, Carpenter Street, Tabuan Jaya) have remained pretty much the same, but there are modern and impressive buildings and developments arising across the city. Such developments include The Spring (a shopping complex larger than Sylvia Park), new hotels such as the Pullman and the Sheraton, franchised hawker food stores, Western-style coffee and cafe outlets such as Starbucks and Coffee Bean.
- We took the opportunity to enjoy the expertise of Malaysian optometry and dentistry – that is, Cheryl got a new prescription and contacts/glasses, and both of us got our wisdom teeth extracted.
- We enjoyed a huge variety of delicious foods over the two weeks. As an historically important trade location, the country of Malaysia typically offers a wide range of cuisines influenced by the immigration trends over the past 500-plus years. So we enjoyed an assortment of food types including: Hokkien (Kuching kolo mee, fried kway teow, tomato mee, cha kueh, kueh chap, Bak kut teh), Hakka (Lui cha), Malay (beef rendang, kek lapis [layer cake]), Indian (roti canai/telur/tisu/bom/pisang/milo, thosai, dhal, briyani rice), and too many others to list here. We tried most of these and really enjoyed it.
- We tried to inject a bit of who we were into the wedding banquet William’s dad hosted (which was all in Mandarin, with half the guests strangers to us) by playing Dennis’s superbly-crafted wedding video. It was awesome that they could hear our vows and the promises we made to the Lord and to each other regarding our marriage – that meant a lot to us, and helped make the trip worthwhile!
Thoughts about the state of the Body of Christ in Kuching:
- Just like any other city in the Asian region, there’s a real need for Gospel ministry, biblical teaching and preaching, and a real concern for salvation and sanctification of souls in Kuching. Even though Christian ministry is essentially closed towards the ethnic Malay population (who are Muslim by law), much of the Chinese minority (of which I’m a part) practise either ancestor worship/Taoism or Buddhism, and need instead the exclusive, saving work of Christ.
- Of the churches that do exist in Kuching, there’s a strong Pentecostal/charismatic influence on some of them (overt speaking in tongues, flag and tambourine-waving, emotionalism-based worship music). Ministry challenges include a proclivity for people to “add-on” Christianity to their existing beliefs, religions and traditions, the need to translate between multiple languages and Chinese dialects, and the shortage of bible-based Christian resources.
- That being said, we enjoyed fellowshipping with fellow believers in Christ, particularly during the second Sunday we were there when we visited Agape Baptist Church, where the worship was truth-filled, passionate and sincere.
With all this behind us, we’re looking forward to being back in New Zealand, as both of us are starting new roles in the near future. On Monday Cheryl begins a one-year web development course at Natcoll. In about two weeks, William will be (Lord willing) at a new role, still within the medical writing field. The LORD has been immensely gracious towards us!
-William and Cheryl