How Methodist Girls’ School in Malacca was started

The WFMS Quarterly Review, a publication of the Methodist women’s missionary organisation, contains some interesting stories of the work of Methodist women missionaries in the early 20th Century. This piece describes how the Malacca Methodist Girls’ School was started to provide an education for the girls in this then “sleepy hollow”.

‘IN THE year 1904 Dr and Mrs Shellabear were sent to open a Methodist mission in Malacca, under the supervision of the General Methodist Board. They found Miss Ada Pugh working for the British Bible Society, and visiting among the homes.

The story of the opening of the girls’ school in Malacca reads like a romance. One day several Chinese women came to the home of Miss Pugh to visit a lady missionary from Singapore in whose school one of them had been a pupil 20 years before. Before leaving one of the Chinese women said she had a daughter who could read and speak English, and added, “She would like very much to see you. Will you come to my house and talk to her?”

A few days later Miss Pugh went to visit this Chinese home and met Bsar (Siok Kim), the eldest daughter of the house. In spite of the old customs, her father had sent her to school and she was the first Straits-born Chinese girl in Malacca to go to school.

Her father 25 years before had been sent to America and on his way met a missionary who was kind to him and took him to church and Sunday School in New York City. When he returned to Malacca he had no more to do with the family idols, although he did not announce his belief in the God of the Christian. Bsar was eager to know what “Jesus” meant and to learn of him. She was converted and immediately wanted to teach her own people of Christ. When Mrs Shellabear learned how eager she was to teach, and knowing that young girls were not allowed to go out, she suggested that with her father’s permission, she might gather some children into the house with her sisters and teach them about Jesus and also teach them to read and write Romanised Malay and English.

This was the beginning of the Protestant Girls’ School. Its nine pupils increased in three months to 20. In 1905 Miss Pugh was appointed to this school and it had grown to 90 pupils by the end of the third year. The school soon grew too large to be held in the home of Bsar’s father and a larger house was found, the rent being paid by a fund left by earlier missionaries.

But then came the question of a missionary to take charge of the school. Miss Pugh on the spot with the knowledge of the people and their language was just the one for the place, but where could we find her support?

Our good friends (of the Minneapolis Branch of the WFMS), Mr and Mrs James Suydam, assumed this burden. Under Miss Pugh’s care the school has had a phenomenal growth and a suitable building has become an imperative necessity. There are 16,700 girls under 15 years of age whose only chance for a Christian education is in this school.

A piece of land has been secured and $3,000 of our Thank Offering will be used for this building. Because of what our good friends have done for this work it will be named Rebecca Suydam School.’ – WFMS Quarterly Review, Vol. XVIII, No.1, Jan. 1911. Slightly edited.

The MCS Archives and History Library is open from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5.30 pm except during lunchtime from 12.30 pm to 1.30 pm.

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


How churches can deal with Aids

A SEMINAR, “Churches Living with HIV/Aids”, will be held at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church (KKMC) on Oct 25 from 2 pm to 5.30 pm. Admission is free.

There will be four speakers. The Rev Dr Donald Messer of The United Methodist Church and Executive Director of the Centre for the Church and Global Aids, will address the topic “From Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence to Sharing a Spirituality of Life”; Mr Jeremy Choy, a Board member of City Harvest Community Services, will discuss “How a Church without Walls Embraces the Outcasts”; Ms Geraldine Subramaniam, Administrator, Ministry of Catholic Aids Response Effort (CARE), will talk about “Hospitality and Acceptance for the Marginalised”; and Ms Ho Lai Peng, Principal Medical Social Worker at the Communicable Disease Centre, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, will discuss “How to Care for People Living with HIV”.

The Rev Dr Messer will round off the seminar with a talk entitled “A Spiritual and Holistic Approaches to the HIV/ Aids Crisis”.

In conjunction with the seminar, organised by TRAC Board of Outreach and Social Concern and KKMC, there will be an exhibition by World Vision, Health Promotion Board, Communicable Disease Centre and CARE.

To register, call Mr Vincent Ho at tel: 6478-4750 or email by Oct 19.