Methodist Church

Chinese Bible class in attap huts

A Methodist missionary, the Rev W. E. Horley, reminds us that, be it ever so humble, an attap hut too, can be a holy place “where two or three are gathered in His name”.

‘A FEW miles from Ipoh, a unique Chinese Bible Class is held. Once a week the Chinese pastor, sometimes accompanied by the writer, goes on his bicycle, and after riding for about a mile on the white marble road, we quit it for a narrow foot-path.

It requires some ingenuity to keep on one’s bicycle, for the path is so narrow and here and there are apologies for bridges in the shape of two or three cocoa-nut branches laid over a drain, and on either side are the sharp-pointed pineapple leaves waiting, as it were, to receive very pointedly anyone who should chance to fall. Around on every side are the houses of Chinese gardeners whose chief industry is the planting of pineapples and fruit trees.

The Bible Class is held in a different house each week, one of the members being responsible for the books being taken to the designated place of meeting. Another member goes out when the preacher has come and blows a cow’s horn with all his might, making a weird sound, so that the dwellers in distant houses may know.

It is their church bell, ancient as the tabernacle of old. In reading up old Methodist history, it is interesting to know that in Ballingrave in Ireland, a similar cow’s horn was blown to summon those Irish Methodists to service whenever John Wesley or his preachers had arrived. Our horn is therefore quite Methodistic.

It is delightfully cool in these attap houses after the hot journey, and before many minutes several delicious pineapples have been cut into slices and placed before us, and thus our thirst is assuaged.

The horn has not been sounded very long before the congregation begins to assemble one by one, until at last there are from ten to twenty Chinese householders present. With greetings of “phin-on” (“peace to you” in the Hakka dialect) we salute one another.

The Bibles are opened, and each one reads a verse. Some read well, others stumble at the characters and are helped by the preacher. His comments on each verse are instructive, helpful, practical and devotional. The missionary briefly sums up and then leads them to the throne of grace when several of them pray. Five or six are soon to be baptised and the preacher must specially instruct them. These stay behind.

We have felt God’s presence in this simple service. Have we not the promise – “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name there am I in the midst”?

His presence makes the humblest attap building a holy place. The finest church building is only a glorified brick-yard or stone-quarry if Christ’s presence be not therein.

There is a great and glorious opportunity for us amongst the garden population around the towns of the Federated Malay States. They are settled here with their wives and children, whereas the tin-mining coolly is only like a “bird of passage”. Let us tell them of God’s great love.’ – MM, July 1911.

Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.