The Road to Kuala Lumpur
by Ian Robinson, Captain –
THE PETRONAS TOWERS of Kuala Lumpur are the tallest buildings in Asia.
As far as I know, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby never made this movie. They went on The Road to Singapore, but Malaysia was out as a destination. So it was that I undertook to correct this Hollywood anomaly, leaving Singapore to drive on the road to Kuala Lumpur.
Command Headquarters (CHQ) had decided to send me to a conference in Kuala Lumpur (KL for short) and since the distance is only 350 kilometers (216 miles), I had to drive, using a CHQ car (for some unknown reason my minibus is not allowed in Malaysia). Although Singapore is an island, two bridge links across the Johor Straits connect us to our neighbors. The entire journey, including customs clearance, took five hours, and apart from monsoon-like rain and lightning striking the ground barely 10 meters (30 feet) from the car, the trip was uneventful. Bob and Bing would have made it much more exciting. KL turned out to be just another big city, except for the magnificent twin Petronas Towers, the tallest buildings in Asia.
Driving through the lush green hills, tropical rainforests and wide-open spaces of Malaysia led me to think about what The Salvation Army is doing there. Twenty-three million people dwell in three distinct areas, Peninsular or West Malaysia (the part I was in), and Sabah and Sarawak (East Malaysia), which are both on the island of Borneo. Muslims make up 60% of the population and it is strictly against the law to witness to them. This makes the evangelistic mission of the Army difficult, but some corps have found a thriving ministry to Tamil-speaking people, of Indian origin. Other ministries reach out to Chinese and other non-Muslim groups, and Christians make up about 9% of the total population. Altogether, the Army runs 10 corps, six thrift stores, six daycare centers and eight residential homes with an annual expenditure of US$1.2 million, about the same as the budget at our last corps appointment in California!
One of the children’s homes in Ipoh, two hours north of KL, is run by a Salvationist, Elena Wong, who says that most of their children come from traumatic family situations. She is challenged not only to provide their basic needs of food, shelter and schooling, but also to nurture the children with love, care and quality time. A total of 322 young people called The Salvation Army their “home” last year in Malaysia.
The Joyhaven Home for the Elderly in KL meets the needs of people at the other end of the age spectrum. Madam Marion is Malaysian and although she was married to a Singaporean for many years, when her husband died she was not allowed to remain there (they had no children). She arrived at Joyhaven with two suitcases and a referral from the Little Sisters of the Poor. In her own words, “I have a faithful God and I trusted him to find a home for me.”
Miracles of God’s grace abound. The superintendent of one of our children’s homes is himself a former resident. For several officers in the command, The Salvation Army is the only family they have ever known. And the work continues, all the way along the road to Kuala Lumpur and beyond.
Please pray for the Salvationists of Malaysia.
Captains Ian and Isobel Robinson are administrators at Singapore’s Peacehaven Home.