Nornie Wong

As a young child of twelve, I watched the funeral procession of my maternal grandmother.  By local standards, it was a grand affair.   40 cars, 3 bands of musicians, lorries carrying wreaths and some silk banners written in Chinese followed the family in mourning walking in the cortege down the main road crossing the bridge into the older

section of the town of Ipoh until the procession came to a halt and the mourners got into cars for the last leg of the journey to the Christian cemetery.  


I had often this fantasy of writing about the life of my remarkable grandma to the Readers Digest some day but it was just a dream until now.  Her life was dramatic and full of surprise.


Grandma Foo (Mrs. Foo Ban Seng) was born in the beautiful British Crown Colony of Penang Island, described by either Somerset Maugham or Ernest Hemingway (I forget who was the author) as the Pearl of the Orient.   Her parents named her "Chew Gek Yong".  Orphaned when young, she was brought up by her grandmother who doted on her and did not allow her to do any housework.  She married my grandfather, a man of distinction - a tall, handsome and  rich man with a degree from Rangoon University, Burma.  Obviously, he was the most desirable match for the orphaned girl.  He was a gifted violinist,  good in business and very articulate. 


His father was  established in the business of collecting tin ore from the local Chinese tin miners.  Ipoh, the capital of Perak, the silver (tin ore) state of Malaysia was one of the richest tin mining areas in the world .   The shop owned by my grandpa, his father and a cousin was called Soon Foh in Menglumbu, 3 miles from Ipoh.


For all his good looks, education and riches, Grandpa had a serious flaw in his character, and that was his love of women.  He had a wife (mistress or concubine) who could speak English and another who could play the piano.


Grandma loved her husband and so tolerated his indiscretions.  She even bought her husband a young wife who was only a year older than my mother.


This very talented man was murdered at the age of 45 years in his rubber plantation where he had installed his latest paramour.   He had taken his gun with him when he went to the plantation to pay his coolies once every month but the gun disappeared.


Grandma was widowed either in the late thirties or early forties.  She turned to religion.  She was baptized in about the mid twenties  around 1926 when the True Jesus Church was established in Ipoh.   She probably was one of the earliest members in Ipoh.  She heard about the miracles that were performed in China and was impressed with them.  The church was established in 1917 in Beijing and nine years later had spread to Malaysia.  Grandma had persuaded her children to be interested in her new religion but no one was impressed until one day when my brother Paul was a year old and contracted diphtheria, a disease of the throat.  The family doctor told my mother that it was too late for him to prescribe medication and sent them home.


Mother cried and cried but what could she do.  Grandma, a woman of faith went to church and brought back some Indian members of the church to pray for my brother Paul.  My mother vowed that if her son became well, she would become a Christian.  Miraculously, he got well and voila, my mother, sister, my brother and I became Christians.  By the grace and love of God, who chose us before the foundation of the world , we became Christians.


"For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight, in love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ,... (Eph. 1:4)."


Eventually, all the daughters of Grandma became Christians.  Grandma also preached to her servant, and the servants of her children.  In all, three servants accepted Jesus Christ!  Praise and thank God.


One of Grandma's friends had marital problems and she invited her friend, the friend's daughter and adopted daughter to stay with her.   Her friend lived with Grandma until she died.  The friend's adopted daughter contracted polio and was unable to walk.  Because of her impediment, the friend was going to return the child to her natural parents.  Grandma decided to adopt the child herself and named her "Soo Soo" which means "milk" in Malay for the child was fair skinned.   She used to pray and rub the child's feet every day with olive oil until she was able to walk with a limp.  Grandma had six children of her own and three step children.  She treated the step children as her own. 


Remember the girl Grandma bought for her husband.  Well, she had a niece visiting her.  She found life living with her aunt much to her liking and refused to return home, so Poh Chye {Little Grandma)  had her removed to a Girls' Home for the Wayward.  Grandma named her "Moong" for her small eyes.  Sister Moong as we used to call her also became a Christian and was forever grateful to Grandma for rescuing her from the Home of the Wayward.  Little Grandma also became a Christian and later was ordained a deaconess.


Grandma had a cousin who gave birth to many boys and then she had a baby girl.  She did not want the baby and as usual Grandma adopted her and named her "Itam" which means "black" as her skin was dark.  She was the fourth adopted child.  She is now a grandmother herself and is a deaconess in the Chinese Methodist Church.


"Maneh" which in Malay means "sweet and cute" was the daughter of a cousin.  She was not adopted but "milk" money was provided for her subsistence.  The mother was a member of the church.


Dn. Ng, his wife Kit Cheng and children fled to Malaysia from China during the Second World War before the Japanese took over Malaysia and came to live in Ipoh.  Grandma, as usual wanted to help the family and decided that Dn. Ng could teach her grandchildren Chinese for they all went to English schools.  So we started learning Chinese but because learning Chinese meant having to memorize a lot, the Chinese we learnt did not sink into our heads though we are supposed to have finished 6 books.


Because she was so kind to the Indian members, one of them wanted Grandma to adopt her daughter but her children stopped her from doing that.


I had never heard a harsh word from Grandma.  When her third son married, she left her ancestral home to live with my mother, her eldest daughter.  She knew that most mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law do not really get on well and she decided before it got to this stage, she vacated her home in favour of her daughter-in-law.  The home she vacated was on a 2 3/4 acres with 2 tennis courts in front.   It was on the same street where the Mentri Besar (equivalent to that of Prime Minister) of Perak lives. Later, the tennis courts were sold to a petrol kiosk.  She had suffered a lot from her own mother-in-law.


Grandma was very dear to us and we loved her living with us.  Every Sunday, she would take all ten grandchildren (children from three daughters) and marched them to the cinema all in a row.  It did not matter what was shown in the cinema.  It could be English, Indian or Chinese films,  we went.  Other times we would go to see the Chinese opera.  We just could not understand what was said.  We just went for the sake of going out. 


Grandma was so loved by so many people.   She was the first member of the family to join the True Jesus Church.  Since then, now we have the 5th generation of worshippers of Jesus Christ.  All the daughters' families are in the church, but unfortunately not so with the sons' families.  Her first son-in-law, (my father) Dn. Zaccheus Wong was the first True Jesus Church minister in Canada.  He started a Prayer House with his family of 7 members in Toronto in 1973.  We had Bible Study every night.  The second son-in-law , Chang Min Sen was the uncle of the Sultanah (wife of the Sultan) in Perak (state of Malaysia) and his two grandsons, Tony Yeoh and Vincent Yeoh are Board Members of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore churches.  He was also a member of the church and lived past the age of 90.   The third son-in-law was the only son-in-law who was not a member of the church.  He became rich.   His son is in Perth, Australia and I believe he is also active in the church.  The fourth son-in-law, Dn. Stephen Chin was also a deacon in the Church.  He was Malaysian tennis champion for 3 years, published 2 books, was Information Officer under Sir Gerald Templar, British High Commissioner after the Second World War and later served as First/Second/Third  ???Secretary under Malaysia High Commissioner to Australia.  He also lived over the age of 90 just as the second son-in-law.  His mind was still clear when I visited him in 1997.  Two of Grandma's sons are millionaires and are still living.  One of them still drove a car when he was 87 years old.   Only one son returned to the church before he died.  He was sick but he remembered God's saving grace.  So he took a glass of water, prayed to God and drank the water.  God healed him then and there and he returned to church.


Of Grandma's 28 grand children, many are successful in their careers.  3 doctors including in-laws, 1 lawyer, 6  teachers, 2 architects, 4 accountants, 2 ministers, 3 millionairess.  2 had scholarships to study in the United Kingdom.


Grandma's 4th generation:  5 doctors including grandsons-in-law, a financial analyst, a bank officer, and 2 lawyers.


The descendants now live in Malaysia, Australia, New  Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.


God had indeed blessed Grandma for being the first seed of Christianity in her life and continued to bless her descendants to the 4th generation.


"Praise the Lord.


“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands.  His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed." (Psalm 112:1-2)

"His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation."  (Luke 1:50)

"Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and his commands." (Deut.7:9)


May God continue to bless all of us who continue in obeying the will of God.




Dns. Nornie


Make a Free Website with Yola.