This is a true story about a real girl suffering tribulation in heathen surroundings in the country of Malaysia. I can write about this without embarrassment to this young Christian because she will not even be able to read what I write. At present we are unable to reach her by the Standard Bearer or even by letter. Besides, I feel certain she would want you to know her circumstances, so that you may remember her in your prayers. We often pray for God’s people who must endure tribulation and suffering for Christ’s sake; but we do not often come into direct contact with those who must thus suffer—at least, not with those who must endure this particular kind of suffering, in heathensurroundings.
For you to understand this story and how we came to be acquainted with this young lady, I must tell you some of her personal history.
Her name is Cecelia Lun Yong. She is of Malaysian nationality. We met her last year in Christchurch, New Zealand, when we had fellowship with the little Orthodox Presbyterian congregation in that city. At that time we learned to know her and to love her as a sweet, somewhat reticent, but very serious-minded young Christian.
Her background is heathen.
We who live in nominally Christian countries do not know by experience, and for that reason do not realize, what the reality of heathendom and of idol worship is. But in the Far East in our travels we came to a very abrupt and graphic realization of the truth of which we sing in Psalm 115:
The idol gods of heathen lands
Are but the work of human hands;
They cannot see, they cannot speak,
Their ears are deaf, their hands are weak;
Like them shall be all those who hold 3
To gods of silver and of gold.
This was true in Singapore, when we visited a Chinese temple in that city. At that time we were accompanied by young Ong Keng Ho, whose family was still in the depth of heathendom and who felt badly when he was reminded of this fact when he accompanied us on a sightseeing tour to that temple. Again in Bangkok, when we went on a sightseeing tour to several Buddhist temples, we were reminded of the reality of heathendom: to the Buddhist monks, to those who burned incense, and to our guide who worshipped when he entered and left the temples to which he took us—to all these, the temples were not objects of sightseeing but real places of worship! Even a country like Indonesia—in spite of the many years of Dutch and Reformed influence—is largely heathen.
From such a background Cecelia came. Her parents and her relatives and neighbors are still heathen. She was converted and became a Reformed Christian in New Zealand; in our brief contact with her .we learned to know her as one who took her Christian calling very seriously. And while we were there, we also learned to know what the future held for her. You see, she was in New-Zealand only temporarily to obtain an education. Her education expenses were paid for by the Malaysian government. And this meant that when her education was completed, she was under obligation (bond) to return home and work for 5 years. Thereafter she would be “debonded” and be free to go elsewhere. Already when we talked with her in Christchurch, she was concerned about the future: she would be alone as a Christian in altogether heathen surroundings. When she returned, they would attempt to consecrate her to their idols; her parents would attempt to marry her off to some heathen young man; there would be no fellow Christians; there would be no sabbath, etc.
And now all this has become reality. Her education was completed in December. She has returned home. And recently we received a poignant letter from her, but without a return address: for she is not permitted to receive mail. I want to share this letter with you. I have omitted some brief personal references. Here is the edited version:
“Dear Prof. and Mrs. Hoeksema,
“Warmest greetings in the name of our Saviour. Oh, how I yearn and long for the earthly fellowship of the saints. It is so spiritually lonely here while I am at home. I am sure that the bond between saints in Jesus Christ is much more close and warm than even familial bonds. At least this is what I am experiencing now.
“At the moment I am at home (my true home) awaiting my employment. At the moment the period of interval before employment is indefinite, but I trust there’s a purpose (now yet unseen) in all things, even this one. Apparently there is very little hope of employment in the country, even for scholarship students. Yet because of the new law there is no limit to the time of unemployment before I become debonded. So that’s how I stand now. While I am at home, I am truly suppressed in many ways. I do appreciate and thank God for the freedom of worship and all things while I was in New Zealand.
“When I first arrived here, I was going to be offered to their gods; and so I explained why I didn’t want to. My mother assured me that the offerings did not include me, but just them alone. But as she made the offerings, I had a suspicion that she was cheating me. So I reminded her again of my stand, and again I was assured. But again I was grieved in the spirit and could not rest. In the midst of confusion I managed to slip away with my Bible. I remember reading a passage—I cannot remember where now—and I remember how I was truly strengthened. It was a good passage in that it reminded me of the jealousy of God to those that worship other gods. I well remember myself in tears pleading for strength to stand humbly. I was not keen to oppose, lest I put my father in shame. A little while later, when the ceremony took place, sure enough they wanted to offer me to idols. I was called to stand in public to be consecrated to their gods, and I refused. And to avoid causing any shame to my parents, I called my father into the room and told him again of my stand. He was not happy, but there wasn’t anything he could do to force me to sit down before every other witness. Prior to this I had already had a disagreement—the celebration was held on Sunday; and I was told that I could not hold up everyone else in the longhouse. So I could not do anything else. In the evening I managed to have a little time by myself, but I was called out to join in with the “fun,” drinking. My heart was truly lonely spiritually. Now I don’t even have any quiet place or opportunity to have a quiet time. I long to have one, but I don’t have any privacy.
“As to my relationship with N. (her fiance, HCH), I haven’t yet had enough courage to tell my parents—no privacy and no opportunity. There’s amazingly little communication between parents and children, and my father is a very hard man. Consequently, I cannot receive nor send any news to him. Anyway by the grace of God we will be patient with the situation. Again my trust is in Him Who is able to work all things after the counsel of His will . . .
“People here are very cold spiritually. However I am truly thankful to be able to write this letter to you, especially when considering all my other suppressions. I cannot receive any news from anyone else, for I cannot guarantee that I’ll get it. My father throws away my letters for fear that I correspond with boys. Thus I don’t include my address here. I must close now and trust that I may have another opportunity to communicate with the rest of the saints in Christ Jesus. Till then, my greetings extend to the rest of the family and also Rev. Hanko.
“Yours in Christ, Cecelia”
When you remember God’s people in tribulation, think of a girl like Cecelia, won’t you?