I first met Rev Wong Kiu Nguok in my second year at the Trinity Theological College in Singapore. She was there for a one-year Master of Ministry Course and by then, she was a very senior pastor. My seniors who knew her held her in great esteem and respect.
However, I was terrified of her; my mandarin and Foochow was to say the least elementary and I was a green horn in pastoral and ecclesiological matters. Although I attended Sunday school in my younger days in Sibu, I was quite disconnected with the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference at that point in time.
But what I heard about her further added to my distance from her. She was a very caring but strict pastor in the Xin Fu Yuan Church and she would reprimand the youths who dared stepped out of line.
And hence my conversation with her was limited to a smattering of Mandarin and Foochow of only “Good morning, How are you?”.
But once when it was known that I needed a medical procedure done, she sought me out to talk with me. She asked about my health condition and I shared with her in my “bestest” Foochow. Obviously, I used some wrong words but she kept very calm. After that, she prayed for me and we parted ways.
A few days later, she sought me out again and in the most gentle way, shared with me that I had used uncouth Foochow words and she gently corrected me, sharing with me the more refined words. For the life of me, I have never heard such refined Foochow words but that day, not only did I learn some new words, I experienced the gentle correcting of a senior pastor. She was definitely what Paul told the Thessalonians to do and she did it.
Paul says “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thess 5:14 – NASV) and I was definitely the “unruly” one.
I never forgot that incident and since then, I would intentionally seek her out at Conferences and meetings to show some kindness to a senior pastor who took time and grace to correct a greenhorn.
My prayer is that more senior pastors would emulate her grace and her love. Rest in Peace, dear Rev Wong. Till we meet again in our Father’s Home.
Rev Lenita Tiong (Miri)