The following is a historical report given at the 40th Anniversary of Butterworth Gospel Hall in August 1998 by the author.
Butterworth Gospel Hall (BGH) - In Perspective
1. Butterworth Gospel Hall (BGH) is part of Burmah Road Gospel Hall (BRGH), probably the oldest "brethen" assembly in S. E. Asia.
As such it has inherited a Rich Heritage which goes back to 1855 when Mr. Bausum of Swiss assemblies commenced assembly work at 35 Farquhar Street in Penang. (This building is still standing.) He was joined in 1859 by Mr. & Mrs. John Chapman who had been commended from Bristol, UK. For many years up to the eighties, it was believed that assembly work commenced with the Chapmans. However, this is not correct, as there is evidence in the Echoes of Service Office in Bath, that Mr. Bausum was here much earlier. Later other missionaries joined them and branched out to the other states in the then known Malaya.
On May 25, 1938, the assembly at Farquhar Street Mission Chapel shifted to the present BRGH which celebrated her 60th Anniversary on May 24, 1998. BRGH, together with other Penang assemblies will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of assembly testimony in Penang in 2005. (DV).
2. BGH is also part of a greater movement that began in the early eighteen twenties England, Scotland and Ireland and which later spread to Europe commonly referred to as the "brethren" Movement..
Hence, BGH is part of a Rich Heritage that has continued down to the present. She must safeguard and uphold this simple love for the Lord, His Word, the Gathering of His people and the Reaching out into Regions beyond to spread the Light of the Gospel, and at the same time it must continue to have Fellowship with BRGH, its sister assemblies in Penang, and all brethren in Christ in Malaysia and in the World-wide Church.
BGH was the first extension work undertaken by Burmah Road Gospel Hall in the early fifties. However the original initial work reached back to the beginning of the 20th Century.
Butterworth Gospel Hall - Its Pioneers
1. Mr. Walter S. Blick, a commended worker from New Zealand in 1898 came to Penang for language study and was involved in the work here for several years. Later he spent a year in Amoy in China in order to perfect his knowledge of Chinese. In 1908 he married Miss Fanny R. Lloyd, who had been in the Malay States for three years with the British Foreign Bible Society and had returned to England. She then came out as an independent missionary and served the Lord in Penang and Butterworth. She and Walter were active in the distribution and sale of the Scriptures. Because of ill-health, Fanny spent eight years in New Zealand with their children. Walter moved to Taiping for some years. In 1923 he and Fanny moved to Singapore, but in 1932 returned to Sungei Bakap and helped out in the work in Penang, Butterworth, Taiping, Sitiawan and Selama. They evacuated to New Zealand in 1942 and Walter died in 1943.
2. Mrs. Fanny Blick. Mrs. Blick (as she was most fondly called at that time) returned to Penang in 1946 and recommenced visiting and Sunday School work. Her love for the work in Butterworth took her back there to look up individual Christians and their families. It was at about this time (in the early fifties) that she enlisted the help of Mr. Chang Hon Liong to bring the Christians together to meet regularly.
3. Mr. Chang Hon Liong. Mr. Chang, a Normal Class trainee-teacher in 1954, enlisted the help of some of his peers at the Bible Class at 51 Service Road, among whom were Fong Thin Cheong, Yun Wei Chin and Ung Kim Cheng., together with the local Christian families of Mr. & Mrs. Ung Tiang Hock, Mr. & Mrs Ung Tiang Choon, and others to start an English-speaking Sunday School at Kampung Musang in Mr. Ung Tiang Choon's house or to be more correct, outside his house, on the kampong paths. During this time, the work was not recognised by Burmah Road Gospel Hall. It was regarded just as a private outreach work by private individuals. Those involved had to pay for all their expenses incurred.
a. The Sunday School soon grew too big and moved to Chung Hwa Chinese School near the market. Here more teachers joined them. Among them were Florence Wong, Maggie Ho, Lillian Oh, and others. It was then that the BRGH Oversight gave them their blessings and paid for their fares to and from Butterworth as well as the Sunday School needs.
b. Later, Gnoh Chong Onn, whose brother (Chong Hock) and sister (Mei Leng) were in the Sunday School, rented out their house at 4 Club Road for a nominal fee for it to be used as the Butterworth Sunday School .
4. Mr. Ung Kim Cheng
a. In May 1957, Mr. Chang Hon Liong, passed out from the Normal Class as a qualified teacher and went to England to study Art. Mr. K. C. Ung, his contemporary, having qualified together with him was posted to teach English in two schools at Bagan Jermal and Bagan Ajam. He had to teach on Sunday being in a Malay school. He was appointed to take over from Hon Liong, having been in the work all this time, as the second Sunday School Superintendent. By that time there were about 120 children in the Sunday School. This suited him fine as in the morning he would teach in school; then he would proceed to Mr. & Mrs. Ung Tiang Hock's house (Penang Port Commission quarters) at Chain Ferry Road to rest before going to the Sunday School which commenced at 3.00p.m.
b. The Chinese-speaking Work
At about this time, the husband of a devoted Chinese-speaking Christian sister came to know the Lord. Mr. Ng Swee Sin, a Penang Port Commission employee, had the advantage of knowing English and Chinese. Together with his wife and family, and with some help from the BRGH Chinese-speaking Assembly they started a Chinese Sunday School in their home at No. 1 Kampung Java, and also allowed the English-speaking section to hold a Friday Bible Class there as well. Swee Sin and his wife, Lee Wai Yin, were the pillars of the early English- and Chinese- speaking assemblies. Mrs. Ng was tireless in her visitation trips - walking endless miles in the hot sun to invite friends to the meetings, and visiting the needy. Mrs. Ng was called home on 8th Feb, 1995 at the ripe old age of 88 years old. Her husband, the first elder of Butterworth Gospel Hall, was called home earlier on 26 Jan. 1982 at the age of 75.
Meng Yoke, their eldest daughter, was also a tower of strength in the Chinese-speaking work. She later married Wong Koon Ming, who became the first missionary of Butterworth Gospel Hall (Chinese section). Owing to his Chinese nationality and his "occupation" as a missionary, our Malaysian Immigration refused to extend his stay. In 1969, he, Meng Yoke and their two daughters migrated to Taiwan. From there, they later moved to Hong Kong where Meng Yoke was called home to be with the Lord on July, 10 1995 at the age of 63. It can safely be said that the Chinese-work in Butterworth was built up through the Lord’s ministry in the hearts of these two committed and tireless couples – the Ng’s and the Wong’s
Their other daughters, Leong Yoke and Phaik Yoke helped out in the English-speaking work. Both of them have left Butterworth a number of years already.
c. It was at about this time also that the work in the Chinese section grew and soon the need to break bread among the adult believers was felt. They agreed to meet together with the English-speaking believers at 4 Club Road at 5.00p.m. after the Sunday School was over. It was a bi-lingual meeting. Mr. Ng Swee Sin later became an elder of the two groups. Mrs. Blick was still with them and she was the one who encouraged K. C. Ung to pursue on with the work relentlessly. She later returned to New Zealand when health failed her. At this time more help came from Penang. Tan Tiong Leng, Ng Soon Gan and his sister, Soon Eng, also came to assist. The latter brought along their father's van to transport the children to and from Sunday School. By this time about ten young people from Penang were involved in the work.
d. As the Sunday School at Club Road grew, K. C. Ung formed a Teachers' Preparatory Class in the Sunday School itself and a weekly Friday Bible Class at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Ng Swee Sin. From the Preparatory Class, there was a constant supply of relief and permanent Sunday School teachers. From the Friday Bible Class, there came forth young people well-grounded in the study of the Scriptures. This group became the core group of the Butterworth Assembly for many years. Among those early students in the Friday Bible Class only Ung Gaik See, Ang Swee Lee and Tan Kim Seng are with the present assembly.
e. At this stage, the Burmah Road Gospel Hall Oversight took over completely and the work became an extension work of BRGH. Soon a need was felt to have a permanent building. Mr. Tan Wah Kim came over and discussed plans for extension. A building fund was started by BRGH with Mr. Wah Kim heading it. The building was mainly financed by members of Burmah Road Gospel Hall with the local Christians doing their part as well.
f. In 1959, the building was ready and the Butterworth assembly at 4 Club Road moved to the present building at Heng Choon Thian Road (its former name). The Butterworth Gospel Hall was officially opened in August, 1959 to coincide with the Centennial Celebrations of Assembly Work in Penang in May the same year. (Up to that time it was still thought that the work in Penang began in 1859!) Mr. Ng Swee Sin was recognised as the elder with Mr. Lee Soon Hin to assist him, as treasurer. Butterworth Gospel Hall still came under the Oversight of Burmah Road Gospel Hall, though it gained control of its own finances then. The Chinese-speaking work was under the Chinese section of BRGH. Mr. KC Ung remained in Butterworth to help out in the work and to advise the leaders there. Both English and Chinese-speaking assemblies met at the same place at different times.
5. Mr. S. S. Adams.
a. In 1963, Mr. Sidney S. Adams moved to Butterworth to stay at Jalan Gajah to assist in the work. It was then decided to form an informal Church-Care Committee (initiated by Mr. Adams, and called such because it would consist of believers who had the Care of the Church at heart). This first committee was made up of Mr. Wong Kim Bee, Mr. Ng Swee Sin, Mr. Tan Peng Cheng, and Mr. Lee Soon Hin, with K.C. Ung as the representative from BRGH and Mr. SS. Adams as the missionary there to advise them. The Oversight in Penang was still responsible for the work in Butterworth.
b. In 1967, Mr. K. C. Ung left Butterworth for Kuala Lumpur to pursue further studies in there. Mr. Eddie Lim came over from Penang to take over his place. He was there only for a year or so.
c. In August 1976 a Butterworth Working Committee was formed (to take over from the Church Care Committee and to give it official recognition) in lieu of the absence of an Oversight. The Penang elders consisting of Mr. Tan Wah Kim, Mr. Daniel Jevaraj and Mr. K.C. Ung came over to help, advise and meet regularly with them. Among those in the Working Committee then were Mr. Lee Soon Hin, Dr. Ang Eng Hai and a couple more.
d. On 30th October, 1976 the Butterworth Mission House was ready. The need for a Mission House was felt because of the presence of Mr. Adams and for future workers as well. (Before this, Mr. Adams was renting a house to stay in.) It was built at a total cost of $70,056.92. Part of the cost (about RM29,000.00) was defrayed by the sale of the Mission House at Farquhar Street, after the bulk of it was used for the building of the Mission House at BRGH in 1961. The money from the sale of the Mission House by right belonged to the missionaries associated with the Stewards’ Trust at Bath, England, but Mr. SS Adams, being the senior missionary then, very generously used it for the local needs with the proviso that the Mission Houses would revert to local possession when there were no more missionaries to stay in these Houses.
e. In 1983 Mr. Adams returned to Australia and retired there, though it was his intention to launch for his Heavenly Home from Penang, ill-health and the problem of no one to actually see to his personal needs compelled him to return to his family there.
6. The Local Pioneers
Without the sacrificial assistance of the local Butterworth Christians at that time, the above pioneers would find the work hard-going and to some extent impossible too. Families stood out in playing this effective role.
a. Mr. & Mrs. Ung Tiang Choon initially allowed their home at Kampong Musang to be used as a Sunday School. It was only a small atap house and the Sunday School had to make do by holding their activities on the cycle-paths outside the house. Each time a cyclist came by, the School had to interrupt their singing, stand up and make way for him/her. June and Poh Cheng, their daughters, were active helpers in the work and joined them in the Sunday School and Friday Bible Class.
b. Mr. & Mrs. Ung Tiang Hock were examples in faithfulness as they came to help out in the meetings and were a source of encouragement to all. Mrs. Ung was a quiet sister, well-noted for her visitation work. She was hardly absent from assembly meetings until she had a fall and fractured her hip bone from which she never recovered fully. She was 82 when she went home to be with the Lord. Tiang Hock, known for his joviality, one evening was found in an isolated place in a drain in Siram Road with a fracture of the brain stem and went home to be with the Lord a few hours later in hospital. Up to today, nobody knows what happened. He was 66 years of age.
c. Gaik See, their eldest daughter, was a tremendous help and was the "communication-line" between the Butterworth and Penang workers. She was their strong and devoted point of contact for anything that needed to be done in Butterworth. She was the spiritual mother to many of the Butterworth young people at that time. Her brother Teik Hoe was also in the Sunday School and Bible Class.
d. Mr. & Mrs. Ang Eng Cheang were faithful to the work in Butterworth and supported it all the way. They also allowed the use of their sea-side house for picnics and their children always added to the Sunday School number. They helped out in the Chinese-work too.
e. Some of Dr. Ang Eng Hai’s brothers and sisters were also with the work from the beginning. His sister Swee Lee is still present and is as faithful in her attendance now as she ever was before. Swee Looi was always in her arms while Swee Lean was by her side, and together they hardly failed to attend any of the assembly activities and meetings. Eng Lim has married into the assembly and has helped swelled the present number. Eng Seong was also there then.
f. Apart from these families, individuals who contributed their share to develop the assembly work in Butterworth in those early days either by holding some responsibilities in the Sunday School, Young People’s Group or in the Friday Bible Class or by their very regular presence in these meetings were Tan Kim Seng, Lee See Yam (he was the assembly pianist), Wong Khai Khoon, Tan Soo Yong, Lim Ah Lek, Ooi Chin Kee, Lai Han Meng, Lee Beng Choo, the Khor sisters of Rosie, Lucy and Susie, Ung Beng Poh, Lim Ah Nya, Ooi Hum Choo and others whose names the author finds it difficult to recall because of increasing frailty. [For this report the author is grateful to Ung Gaik See for some of the names and events mentioned]. However, one thing is assured: the Lord knows them who are His (II Tim. 2:19) and He has written their names in the Book of Remembrance (Mal. 3:16). Some of these are no more present because they have left BGH for other places while others have gone cold in the faith, but they are specially mentioned so that those who still have contact with them may seek to bring them back to BGH or to the Lord.
BGH - The Present Assembly
On 1st January, 1983 an Oversight for the Butterworth Assembly was formed and Butterworth Gospel Hall became a fully independent assembly. The elders then were Dr. Ang Eng Hai and Mr. Lee Soon Hin. Mr. Tan Wah Kim, Mr. Daniel Jevaraj and Mr. Ung Kim Cheng from Burmah Road Gospel Hall also sat in.
With Butterworth Gospel Hall becoming fully self-supporting, self-financing and self-propagating workers from BRGH (including the author) also stopped going over later. For the post-independence history of Butterworth Gospel Hall, a local brother must take up the challenge to continue from here.
The Present Butterworth Gospel Hall Assembly Members are part and parcel of the Rich Heritage inherited from the pioneering spirit of faithful, committed, vision- and mission-minded men and women of God. Be proud of this Rich Heritage and continue in its pioneering spirit to pass on an inheritance, perhaps even bigger and better than the one inherited, to the future generations of young people who will become the future leaders of the assembly in time to come in the Will of the Lord.
Post-script: In writing this history, the possibility of errors is there, and the author stands to be corrected. Regarding the inevitable omission of names of important people who had contributed significantly to the early development of the Butterworth work, the author can only ask for their forgiveness and hope that they will contact him to make the necessary corrections. This is not intended to be a final copy, but just a draft to get feedback from present members of Butterworth Gospel Hall who can still remember those early days to contact the author and further contribute to its rich history. Such contributions will be heartily appreciated, and it is hoped that when Butterworth Gospel Hall celebrates its 40th Anniversary in August 1999, some final form of history will be ready. To enhance the value of such a history, documents, photographs and other historical evidence will be appreciated if members can contribute them.
12th July, 1998
Note: No part of this script is allowed to be copied, published in any form or used in any way without the author’s knowledge or permission.