Sunday 4th and Monday 5th January
Just as our arrival was done in dramatic style (collapsing at the airport, passport out of date) so our departure had its own hint of drama. Our passports were locked in the room safe and we could not get it open. Neither could the cleaner, who somewhat disconcertingly was sent up to sort it out, nor the maintenance man who couldn’t speak English but was reading from an English manual. So instead of heading out on Sunday afternoon we sat in the room for a couple of hours as various efforts were tried. Thankfully it was eventually resolved.
Malaysia’s Got Talent
Whilst we were waiting I watched a wee bit of Malaysian TV. Sadly it seems that globalisation means that TV all over the world suffers from the same banality and mediocrity. The dead hand of Simon Cowell and the advertisers is everywhere. Malaysia’s Got Talent did not need translation – it was as garish and exploitative as the British version. And there were the usual dreadful acting soap dramas – the one I watched was entitled ‘The Good Doctor’ and again, although I could not understand the language, the plot seemed to be exactly the same as hospital dramas throughout the world. The thought crossed my mind that the Holy Spirit brings a renewing creative force, whereas the idols of this world are ultimately de-creative and rely on formulas and manipulation.
KL Flea Market
Then we headed with our Malaysian friends into the flea market in the centre of KL. It was good to see something of KL and the experience of bartering was something that Annabel both enjoyed and was good at. I liked ‘people watching’ but not everything that I saw was pleasant. The saddest (and most surprising thing) were the prostitutes (I refuse to use the sick euphemism ‘sex worker) touting for business outside the sleazy, cheap hotel. They looked so sad, desperate and lonely. I wanted to talk to them but realised that was not the time or place! When I was in Athens I came across a wonderful outreach to the prostitutes done by Greek Evangelicals…I wonder if there is anything similar in Malaysia?
People were obviously out to make money out of those who were out to get a bargain. And of course you had to be very careful because of pickpockets. Although it was not my cup of tea (either driving through the business district or at the lower end of the capitalist scale, in the flea market) our hosts were very generous and bought me a lovely colourful Malaysian shirt – which will have its Scottish outing at some point in the not too distant future.
On the way home we ate in one of those cheap and cheerful eateries that are everywhere. Again I loved the food. Of course McDonalds and KFC are in KL, but I kind of hope that they do not grow and end up replacing these local eating-places.
We left early on Monday morning – amazingly being driven by the bride and groom who had still not left on their honeymoon. We had a lovely time with them in the car, on the less than scenic drive to KL international airport. It was lovely to share with this young couple and again to see the potential that the Lord can work through a Godly family.
Some final thoughts on leaving Malaysia. It has been wonderful to be here. I have seen nothing of the scenery (other than KL which is not impressive) and so can make no comment about that. One day perhaps I will get to visit Penang and East Malaysia. However the people and the food have been fantastic. And it is the people that make the place. There is a warmth and community sense here that I fear we have lost much of. We need to re-learn from our Malaysian brothers and sisters.
To be honest I fear for this country and especially for the Christian church within it. Malaysia is described as a ‘moderate’ Muslim country. But that’s all relative. Islam is a political system and that means that in all Muslim countries there is not really true freedom of religion. It is illegal for any Malay to change their religion. Reading the English newspapers here I was struck at how they are seeking to promote the ‘moderates’ because they fear the Islamisation of the Malay population and the growing threat of ‘extremism’. There is a movement to have a more severe Islamic law set up. In my view all it would take is an economic recession, a few terrorist bombs and the country would be in enormous danger of heading the route of Indonesia and then Iraq. The Chinese community is apparently declining due to a lower birth rate and people leaving the country. I suspect that the big Corporations won’t care too much as to how Islamised the rest of the country becomes – as long as they can keep their buildings, resources and gated communities. It is a worrying time.
But is also a time of great opportunity. Humanly speaking it does not look good to me. But we are not just humanly speaking. The Holy Spirit often does work from the bottom up and renews and changes a society. I was impressed with what I saw of the potential of the church here. If that potential can be fulfilled then there is tremendous hope. Being here has left me with a better understanding for, and appreciation of, our Malaysian students in St Petes. And I hope it will mean more intelligent prayer for the country of Malaysia. If the Lord wills it would be good to return….its a country I would love to preach the Gospel in.
Now to Oz….doubtless some reflections will follow later…