Malaysia 2014 – final days

I can’t believe how quickly this trip has gone and I am going home tonight. It has been a wonderful trip – varied and interesting – many wonderful people and beautiful places. I feel really blessed in so many ways.

Sunday was lovely. I spoke at a church in Singapore on their Mothers’ day. Pastor Alfred was recovering from surgery and chemotherapy. The church was lovely – full of young people – and full of life.

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We were staying with Pastor Ruth and her husband Anthony who runs the Bible school here and there son Joel. We had some great times with them, and Joel (who has Down’s syndrome) was a real character!

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Singapore was quite something. Utterly different to Vietnam and Malaysia – in some ways it was far more western. But it was a fusion of Western wealth and Eastern culture. The buildings were amazing!

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On Monday we flew back to Malaysia and had one last evening with Alan, Laiforng and Irene – and one final curry!

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Tonight we go to a Cell Group social as it’s a public holiday here in Malaysia and then I go to the airport to fly home at 2am tomorrow morning. I will be sad to leave, but am really looking forward to seeing my lovely family again and back to my church family.

It has been a great trip. God has taught me so much – and it has been wonderful to see the very rapid growth of His kingdom in this part of the world. They are praying for us too so I look forward to what God will do in the UK in response to their prayers!

Malaysia 2014 – Days 13-17

So, we’ve just had a wonderful 4 days in Vietnam.

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday evening – it was vibrant, hot, busy and a fantastic place to visit. What I saw of the country (which was only a little) it is a people who are upbeat, kind and hard working. One thing which overwhelms you is the number of motorbikes everywhere! Virtually everyone gets around by motorbike. There are cars and buses, but they are very few in comparison – so here’s a small selection of what you see as you drive around!

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We were teaching at a conference for Pastors and Church leaders in the Mekong region (a delta 3 hours south of Ho Chi Minh). There were about 150 of them that came from all over the region for 3 days of fellowship and teaching. The church we met in was literally a house church. The pastor owned the house, and he converted the upstairs into the church which held about 200 people (crammed in).

Until recently the church was not licensed by the government so they had to meet in secret. Most of the older pastors who came had served jail sentences for teaching the Christian faith. As one person commented ‘the qualification for being a church leader in Vietnam is not a degree from bible school but have you been to prison for your faith!’

The rules have relaxed a bit now, and the church has a license to meet, and it was wonderful to spend time with these Godly, warm, passionate people. They listened and listened and listened to as much bible teaching as we could give them. At times the electricity went off so the temperature in the room went up and up, but they didn’t fall asleep they continued to listen and take copious notes. We were told they would take the notes from the talks and use them to teach in their churches all over the region.

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Whilst we were there they had 9 baptisms.

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It was great to be able to teach them from the Bible. But if I’m honest, they taught me far more about living faith than I feel I taught them.

It was a privilege to spend time with these lovely people.

On Friday night we returned to Ho Chi Minh and spent one last night in the city before flying to Singapore today where we’ll spend the weekend and do some ministry tomorrow in some local churches.

None of the pastors spoke very much English so we relied on Joseph a young church missionary from Vietnam to interpret for us. He did more work than any of us because he had to make sense of what we were saying and translate it all for us!

He was also an ex soldier and went out for a run every morning – and dragged me with him for 2 runs!

Last night he was reunited with his lovely family and we were able to have a final meal with him before he headed home, with his family, on his motorbike!

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Malaysia 2014 – Day 11-12

Yesterday (Monday) was a quiet day – Washing to do and packing for our trip to Vietnam today (Tuesday). I got a bit of time to finish of prep for the visit here in Vietnam and in the afternoon did a bit of shopping for home whilst Ken & Alan went to the movies to see Spiderman 2! In the evening we very kindly invited to a couple’s house for dinner, the Father and Mother-in-law of Alan & Laiforng’s eldest daughter Ivie. We had a delicious curry and Dorian (google it) icecream for desert! We also had a fascinating chat about the very fast growth of the church in Malaysia and the various splits and issues that have occurred over the last few decades. Very interesting to reflect on.

Early this morning we headed for airport and caught a 2 hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. We arrived mid afternoon and spent a few hours going round the city and finding somewhere for lunch.

This is an amazing place. Different to Malaysia. More of a french influence in the buildings and culture and thousands of motorbikes – everywhere! The food was similar but different to Malasia and the people are lovely (as are the Malaysians!)

Some photos will give you an idea of the flavour and vibrancy of the city:

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Tomorrow morning we leave at the crack of dawn for a 3 hour drive to the south of the city where Ken and I are going to be very busy for the rest of the week. I’ll tell you more about what we did and saw when I get home. 🙂 I’ll probably not post again now until Saturday when we fly to Singapore.

Thank you for all your prayers.

Malaysisa 2014 – Day 10

Second (and final) Sunday in Malaysia (next Sunday will be in Singapore).

Great time going back to a lovely church in the heart of the student area in the mainly muslim section of Shah Alam.

The music was great. So loud it nearly knocked you over. The young guy on the drums was the 10yr old son of the pastor! He was amazing. Great time together – really lively young congregation and great to reconnect with Pastor Justin and his wife, Chan Lai Keng. After the service we went for lunch in a Thai restaurant which had an interesting ceiling (can you work out what it’s made of?) and we took a few students who were new to the church with us.

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Malaysia 2014 – Day 9

Quiet Day for us today. But more significantly it was my Charlotte’s 15th Birthday, and because it was quiet I was able to Skype with her – which was wonderful!

Here’s a great picture my Sister-in-Law, Megan, posted on facebook from our time together at Disney last summer:

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For us today, we spent a bit of time catching up with old friends who we got to know last time I was here 3 years ago. We went out to lunch with a bunch of men, all of whom are strong members of Alan’s church, and all of whom are very successful business men in Malaysia.

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The food was first class, again, though these guys know where’s good to eat. We passed a few interesting sounding places on the way, which I’m glad we didn’t try out:

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It’s been a good rest today and a chance to do some preparation for tomorrow’s services. It was also great to drop in and see Harvest’s free Saturday school for children who can’t afford school they offer free teaching.

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All in all it’s been a lovely day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

Malaysia 2014 – Day 8

A quieter day today. This morning Laiforng treated us to a Malay breakfast with everything from bean curds to spicy shrimp filled parcels of fragrant rice.

At lunch time I was speaking at the Full Gospel Business Man’s meeting at Mark Tan’s office. Ten local Christian men come every week to praise God together and study the scriptures and pray. It was a good time together, and they are very committed to The Lord and seeking to share the gospel with their business colleagues any way they can.

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After the meeting we all went out for an Indian lunch in the midst of a spectacular tropical thunder storm.

Tonight I was speaking at a families cell group. It was a really lovely group. 6 couples and lots of children (only half of the group as many were away on holiday). The children played in one section of the downstairs whilst we had a time of sharing and study together. It was really relaxed and a good time of discussion and sharing with such friendly and happy people. The meeting didn’t start till 9.30pm and finished with even more food and we finally headed for home at midnight. A great day.

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Malaysia 2014 – Day 7

Today has been a public Holiday in Malaysia – MayDay. So, there was no ‘work’ to do. Instead, I spent the day with one of the cell groups from Harvest Church who went out together for the day. And what a treat.

One of the cell group is Dr Saw, who is the head of the botanical gardens (equivalent of Kew gardens) in Malaysia. Dr Saw is a very accomplished botanist and has written hundreds of articles and books about the plant life of Malaysia, and he took us to a forest (500acres) on the outskirts of KL.

As well as a guided tour through the forest with insights into many of the plants, he booked for us to go on a ‘Canopy Walk’ through the tree tops. Quite amazing as the photo’s below will show:

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As long as you didn’t look down for too long it was fine!

After this Dr Saw treated us to a tour of his research facilities where he showed us how the 3million specimens are catalogued and researched.

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We then went for a good lunch in a local ‘Fish Ball’ restaurant known well to another member of the cell group. It was a very lively place, and reputedly one of the best fish ball restaurants in Malaysia. The owner was a real character and came over to talk to us. For those of you who know Hellas Greek Restaurant in Handforth, this guy was very definitely the ‘Nikos’ of his restaurant!

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Then we returned home. The plan for the evening was to go to a quiet Indian restaurant near Alan & Lai Forng’s home. However, the plans changed! Alan received a call from a member of his church to say that he was sat in a restaurant expecting a crowd of people to come, but they never turned up and they’d got the wrong date and would we be willing to step in and come for dinner. It only took Alan about 1 second to decide and we were off to PJ (a suburb of KL). It turned out to be quite an evening.

A Christian businessman was there with his biographer, and the meal had been arranged for people to meet him. He was a fascinating man with a fascinating story. Rags to Riches. Brought up in a very poor neighbourhood he started working for a Palm Oil company for a few pence a week. And although he had no education to speak of, he knew that the process of production could be more efficient. Over the years, and after many tries and failures, he teamed up with an engineer and between them put a factory together that processed Palm Oil in a unique way. It went on to become the biggest producer of Palm Oil in the world and he had just won the ‘Forbes’ business award for the 3rd year running for the best run company in Malaysia. (He’s the one in the Blue Shirt below)

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It was a real privilege to hear some of his story and to hear about God’s hand in his life over the years. I look forward to reading the biography when it comes out later this year!

Malaysia 2014 – days 4-6

We’ve had a lovely couple of days in the Cameron Highlands. This is a region in the centre of Malaysia about 4 hours drive from KL. It is high up at about 6000ft above sea level and is named after a British Surveyor who mapped the region in the latter part of the 20thC. However, it was really developed in the 1920s by George Maxwell the general secretary. Because of the climate at that height it is ideal for tea plantations and has become the home of the BOH tea corporation – one of the biggest in Malaysia.

It is stunningly beautiful and on Tuesday we visited the Boh plantation visitors centre and had a lovely cup of tea with scones, jam and cream on the veranda looking out over a small part of the plantation (pictures below).

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Much of the architecture is old colonial. However, it is rapidly becoming very popular with people not only from Malaysia, but Singapore & Thailand as an escape from the heat (average day temperature was a cool 20oC) and a visit to some beautiful scenery. Consequently, there is a huge amount of development going on, hotels, apartments and shops going up everywhere. I don’t think it will be the same for very long. It was relatively quiet when we were there, but Alan says it is chaos on the weekends and at holiday times.

After a visit to the tea plantation Alan asked if I’d like to visit a famous waterfall called the Robinson falls. It was a good hike into the jungle but was a beautiful place to visit. I said, I’d love to. As I was the only one with suitable footwear they dropped me at the start of the walk and said they’d meet me back in 2 hours time.

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It was a really stunning walk. Brightly coloured birds (none of which I managed to photo), and some interesting wildlife.

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I don’t think I’d make a very good jungle explorer. I was told it was a 45 minute walk to the falls. After about 15 minutes following the trail I came to a wire gate which was closed and had a very steep path downwards, so I assumed it was closed because the path was too dangerous so carried on along the trail to the left. The path wound and continued on for a long time. I didn’t met a soul. I had to climb over a few trees and under a few, but the path was still clear. After about an additional 45 minutes of walking I thought this doesn’t seem right. Then when the path reached a narrow ledge with a steep drop off to one side and no sign (or sound) of a waterfall, I decided it was just too far to go, so reluctantly turned back. I had pictures of news headlines saying English vicar lost in Malaysian jungle.

Alan had said lots of people go there, so I figured I’d gone the wrong way, but I hadn’t missed a second path, I was sure of that. I trekked back the way I’d come enjoying the scenery and beauty of God’s creation.

I came back to the sound of the river and the noise of water and the gate I’d passed an hour earlier. Surely it wasn’t down that path! Reluctantly I concluded it was and that’d I’d gone an hour in the wrong direction! Pushing the gate open I followed the very steep path down about 600ft. The noise of the water became louder and I realised this was it. Still not a soul around. Eventually I appeared at a little clearing and saw it. I was so relieved, and felt a bit stupid having gone an hour out of my way. It was stunning.

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The climb out was a good workout and I did meet one other couple making their way down the trail towards the gate. I’m still not convinced I found the proper trail down to the waterfall as it was really quite precarious in places, but I got there in the end!

After some fantastic Malay seafood soup. Tom Yum (below), we headed back and I slept well that night.

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Today, Wednesday, we drove back to KL, and this evening Ken and I are speaking at their midweek Bible study. It’s been a great couple of days and tomorrow is a bank holiday (Mayday) so we’ll be off out for the day with a couple of the Cell groups from church.

Malaysia 2014 – day 3

Our first Sunday in Malasia. It’s been a wonderful, packed, day. I was at 3 services today. I started at 9am at a church called the City of Light church which had 2 services. An english speaking service which lasted about 2 hours, then a Chinese speaking service (pictures below) which lasted 2 hours as well. They were really lively services with many young families. A bit of friendly rivalry between Pastor John (a Liverpool supporter) and myself (City) as to who was going to win – and lots of fellowship together.

They finished their services with a meal altogether for the whole church as they sat around in cell-groups discussing and applying the sermon. I left at about 2.30.

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Then in the afternoon we drove north 80Km to dedicate a new church plant from Harvest church. This was a wonderful experience. A church just 1 year old planted in an area of Tamil speaking Indians on the coast north of Kuala Lumpar. A young couple had started the church a year ago with just a handful of people. Tonight we were there with Pastor Alan to dedicate it.

We started with a number of testimonies from people who’d recently become Christians, including one from a man who’d been a part of a group that had tried to cause trouble for the church and opposed them. All of the group were in church that evening having become Christians.

It was a real privilege to be a part of it. Got home at about 11pm to watch the football on TV. They’re as crazy about English football as the English are!

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We are off for a couple of days now and Alan and Laiforng are taking us to a beautiful region in the central part of Malaysia called the Cameron Heights for a couple of days. It’s a tea plantation started by the British high up in the hills so is a bit cooler and stunning scenary. I doubt we’ll have wifi access – so I’ll add a blog when we’re back on Wednesday.

Malaysia 2014 – day 2

It’s been another great day in Malaysia. We had a slow start this morning, getting over the jet lag and a lovely Dim Sum brunch.

After brunch we went to Alan’s church which were holding a jumble sale today to raise money for church funds. Many bargains to be had, lots of clothes, mainly baby clothes. When someone asked me if I’d like to buy some baby clothes I replied that I’d have to check with Jo, but I thought the answer was probably ‘no’. 🙂

This afternoon was a chance to relax and do a bit of prep for a busy evening and day tomorrow.

This evening I had a lot of fun with the Harvest youth group (ages 14-24). The out-of-focus photo below is of their band leading worship – this was their own church service on a Saturday evening, including a half hour of worship, a 45 minute message and a call to give financially (which they did).

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I obviously looked so famished when I came out of youth service that Alan thought we should go to one of his favourite restaurants – The Burnt Porridge! And yes they did serve us fried, slightly burnt porridge (evidence below), amongst many other wonderful things. All in all a great day!

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