Banglas for Christ

By Nelson Leong

70 years of the Lutheran church in Malaysia is worth celebrating. Organizing the celebration, together with the Biannual General Meeting (BGA), was a massive feat of logistics, with hundreds of tasks.

Physical and virtual facilities had to be prepared to serve two thousand people; bottles of water had to be supplied to the right places at the right times; the liturgy had to be prepared and printed; t-shirts had to be designed, produced, and distributed. So many people worked on the tasks.

One of the tasks which fell to me was the documentary “SEVENTY”. I’d never made a documentary before. But I felt I couldn’t refuse the call to make it. So, I did it. I did it by co-opting about 70 people! There were three people at the core – they’re in the photo.

One of my church members, looking at the photo, with a tone of surprise, said “I see you so often. You guys always dress so well. This is different!” A delegate at the BGA put it more bluntly. He said the t-shirts were of a type “only a Bangla worker would wear.”

My church member was right. We were dressed differently from our “normal.” But the comment at the BGA regarding the T-shirts stunned me. The “Bangla” association immediately made the photo appreciate in value.

Why? Because many of the 70 people who worked on the video and who appear in it, did much demanding, difficult work in order to honour and serve others. Though, in truth, “Bangla” is too high an honour for them, because they didn’t do 3D (dirty, difficult, and dangerous) work like we expect “Bangla” to do.

Back to the t-shirts, the clothes.

Would we have preferred to wear more canggih clothes? Yes, we would.

But we know God wants us to be respecters not of appearance, but of the fact that Jesus emptied himself and did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. And instead became one of the oppressed.[1]

“Bangla” should be a word of honour, not a word of shame. The brother who made the comment about the difference he noted in our dressing reminded me of something else. He reminded me that Chinese in Malaysia used to be called “coolies,” because, well, they were the “Bangla” then.

And that’s what we saw when we made the documentary. Many of our forefathers and mothers in the Lutheran church in Malaysia were “coolies” locked up behind barbed wire, movement-controlled and regularly body-searched, in “New Villages” which were actually detention centres.

They would have thought the t-shirts such a blessing. We should too.

Peace be with you.

In the photo: Wong Chin Hor, Nelson Leong, Sia Choon Long

[1] Philippians 2:5-8 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

1 thought on “Banglas for Christ”

  1. Dear Nelson, Chin Hor and Sia, all of you look so good!
    Thank you for the documentary. It was concise, clear, heart-warming and certainly enjoyable. Well done! Just like Gideon’s 300 men, you had 70 people. 70 years, 70 people – the number 70 seems to be of significance?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *