Theology in Malaysia

A Convincing Experiment – The Rawang Christian Training Centre
by Keith Ranger

After the reluctant exodus from China, the newly named OMF experienced many opportunities. In the early 1960s in Malaysia OMF took up the task of training more young men and women for the tasks of pastoring and discipling. One of the most innovative forms this training took was at the Rawang Christian Training Centre (CTC). Keith Ranger was part of that project and recalls this short story:

‘Its ingredients and circumstances were many and varied – a former rubber planter’s bungalow in five acres of land north of Kuala Lumpur, just outside the rural town of Rawang. A student body drawn from Malaya’s villages, including a rubber tapper, tin mine worker, pig farmer and vegetable grower. Its six hundred chickens, eighty pigs, sweet potatoes and limes helped produce ninety per cent of the income needed to support the students. Bible teachers provided a two-year course for village Christians who would return to help their churches but continue in their daily jobs, with an optional extra year for those contemplating full-time service as pastors or evangelists.

Life was never dull in CTC. The dynamic Principal David Day, was a gifted Christian communicator with a vast vocabulary in Mandarin, and he could have had as much success as a vet or a racing driver as he had as a missionary! Farm manager Harold Wik, who was married to the effervescent Lucinda, had a degree in animal husbandry and was an excellent teacher of literature evangelism; in Edith Cork we had an outstanding Bible teacher and trainer in youth work; and it fell to me to train the students in both indoor and open-air evangelism, also providing teaching for any student who wanted to learn the piano accordion.

One very lasting result of our accordion use was when a little Chinese girl was attracted to an open-air meeting we held under a palm tree. She decided she wanted to be a Christian there and then and in 2000 she became a missionary in Thailand alongside her husband.

So, did the experiment work? The ministry of returning graduates certainly blessed many rural churches. Some went on to further training and ordination, serving as pastors of village churches, one went into radio evangelism and was appreciated
by many as “The Radio Pastor of Singapore”. OMF will perhaps never see quite the like of Rawang Christian Training Centre again, but how very wonderfully God blessed and used it while it was there!’

From Rawang to today
by Allen McClymont

Today OMF International continues this legacy of training through its involvement in theological education in Malaysia. It works in partnership with churches by providing lecturers for seminaries.

In West Malaysia it is involved with Malaysia Bible Seminary (MBS) and Seminari Theoloji Malaysia (STM). Both seminaries were started in the late 1970s and are interdenominational. OMF members are involved in teaching full-time and part-time students in both seminaries.

In East Malaysia, OMF has two couples based in Sabah Theological Seminary (STS) and links with the Borneo Evangelical Church or SIB church in Sarawak. The SIB is the largest Protestant church in Malaysia. It was started by missionaries from the Borneo Evangelical Mission (BEM), which later amalgamated into OMF, and the main language used for worship is Malay. The church now has branches in Sabah and also in West Malaysia. STS is strategically placed to work with the church there. There is a big need to combat nominalism and train godly leaders in this church, which is surrounded by the teachings of Islam. Ministering in remote villages involves long exhausting journeys and difficult conditions. One UK OMF member describes being taken by one of his students to preach in his village.

‘Up and away at 6 am, noodle stop along the way, the last hour across unmade road. The church service kicked off about 10 am. This is the last village along the road, a collection of wooden houses nestled into the hills, all around a football pitch! … A simple life – almost everyone in church – and the youth went on singing long after the service, as did the dance group. Solid Christian place. A nice clean church and a great pastor’s house, but no pastor.’

He concludes, conditions are hard but the work is exhilarating. He then goes on to ask for prayer for his student who does this trip every week because the village doesn’t have a permanent pastor.   

All the students face the challenges of living in a majority Muslim country, the seduction of materialism and a significant shortage of pastors. It is a privilege for OMF to work alongside local lecturers to prepare them for these challenges.