by Matthew Raley
On Sunday I spoke at The Latter Rain Church, which meets in a live arts theater in suburban Kuala Lumpur.
It was a thrill to see this great city, and meet a few of its people. We had conversations with several taxi drivers, each lengthened by the terrible traffic. They told us stories of whole towns, with infrastructure and high rise condominiums, replacing the jungle in the space of ten years. All over the metroplex, buildings are torn down and replaced at an amazing pace. Many-storied cranes are everywhere.
My wife Bridget and I attended an Independence Day event hosted by the American embassy at a glittering hotel in the city center. We met the ambassadors from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Croatia, and from the last of these I learned much about the recovery of his nation from the wars of the 1990s. I met a Malaysian barrister as well, whose firm specializes in insurance law. No clients insuring Gulf Coast oil rigs. Yet.
We also talked with various American expats, like the manager of a Texas Instruments factory and the head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Malaysia.
There being no chairs — none, anywhere, not even in the ballroom lobby — we were given to understand that this party was not to go on all night. So we went out to get a taxi home and were forcefully reminded that we were in neighborhood of the Petronas Towers.
But it was the Christians in KL whom we had come to meet.
Andrew and Yuki were our hosts. Their condominium north of the city center housed 16 people the night we were there, and the couple were gracious and unflappable. Andrew is a sound engineer, Yuki a travel agent. They are very active with Latter Rain. Andrew engineered the theater in which the church meets, and his company runs sound for the theater and leads worship on Sundays. His work places him at the heart of the active arts community in Malaysia.
The dominance of Islam is much more obvious in KL than in Penang. Only blocks from Andrew’s and Yuki’s place is a huge, new mosque, the prayers from which awakened me from a dead sleep at 6 a.m. — in spite of my ear plugs.
We had lunch with a corporate accountant, Greg, and his wife Nancy, parishioners at a Presbyterian international church in KL. They were full of strategic ideas for the opening of a Christian international school here in partnership with Dalat, the Penang-based school where our guide Russell Wiesner works. Originally from Oklahoma, Greg has 17 years of business experience here with various companies, and the numerous contacts that go with it. Greg and Nancy are key supporters of the school effort.
Then there was the pastor of Latter Rain, Elijah, and his wife Sarah.
Educated at the University of Wisconsin, with a business career that has taken him to Singapore, Germany, the UK, and Chicago, Elijah is pursuing the goal of poverty eradication through market-driven means. Like others, he is down on the famous micro-lending schemes, which he says loads people who have few business skills with debt. The efforts of the United Nations at promoting education and infrastructure have made matters worse. Without investment and jobs, there is nothing for the newly educated population to do.
His answer: a new secondary equities market that would match investors with entrepreneurs from the developing world. Stay tuned.
A picture of Christianity in KL: energy, expertise, and a sense of mission that embraces Asia and even the globe.