I spent many afternoons during my growing up years sitting at the dining table in my home and watching these two men exchange conversations over coffee that I was “not old enough” to drink.
Most of what they said never registered in my young mind, but it was always clear to me that they were good friends who seemed to have known each other since forever. To me, they have always been Uncle Peck and Uncle Richard.
Dr. Peck Hock Cheng hails from Singapore and used to come to Malacca regularly for speaking engagements at church, while Richard Chen has been stationed in Malacca for the majority of the last thirty years.
Now that they are in their seventies, I realized how I have known them my entire life and yet barely know anything about their earlier years, how they came to know each other, and how they were led to serve the Lord so faithfully for so many years.
So during my recent trip to Malacca during which Dr. Peck also happened to be in town for a visit, I jumped at the opportunity of sitting down with them to hear of their stories and how their lives have coincided over the decades—this time my own cup of coffee!
“Can you find yourself in this picture?” Richard’s wife asked Dr. Peck, handing him an old black and white photograph of a group picture, along with a magnifying glass. “This was an SU (Scripture Union) camp!” Dr. Peck recalled, pointing at a much younger version of himself. “Yes, that was the one in Mersing. That was the year I nearly had a heart attack!” Richard chimed in.
And so it was for the next two hours. Dr. Peck and Richard related stories of their experiences in ministry—together, as well as on their own. Richard explained how he was the camp commander at that Scripture Union camp, and Dr. Peck had attended as a speaker. By that time in the 1970’s, they had already been working together for quite some time.
“We met when I was in Kluang,” Richard said. “He was a Singapore boy. He was with his short pants most of the time.” Born and raised in Kluang, Richard attended a Sunday school class that was started by the son of a British missionary.
This British missionary’s son had grown up in Singapore and moved to Kluang to work at a factory on a rubber estate. Being very mission driven, he started a Sunday school for the locals and would invite people from his Singaporean circle of influence to come to conduct evangelistic meetings.
So every few months, a team from Singapore would come to the Sunday school in Kluang that Richard attended, and Dr. Peck would be one of the “young people” who came along with the evangelist. “That was the first contact we had.”
Later on, Richard was sent to attend a camp in Singapore organized by Youth for Christ Singapore, called the Keen Teen Crusade. There, he again met with Dr. Peck and got to know him better, as Dr. Peck never missed a Keen Teen Crusade.
“It’s a nice camp,” Dr. Peck said. “In the morning, you sit down in class. You learn about Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Roman Catholicism, etc. And in the afternoon around 2pm, you’re sent out onto the streets [to share the Gospel], knocking at doors and getting chased by dogs.”
Richard explained how they were always prepared with their first sentence, and to those who would hear them out, they would give a brochure inviting them to an evangelistic event that would take place that night at the campgrounds.
However, Richard always found going out door-to-door very intimidating because they didn’t know what to expect. Some people would be very angry or acted like samsengs, while others would actually be nice, let them into the house, and offer them a drink.
“We got doors slammed in our faces,” Dr. Peck said, “but it was fun.” He then related one of his experiences: “Before we went out, we were all in prayer. And so my group—six of us—we prayed and prayed and prayed, because we didn’t want to go! Then one of the leaders said, ‘If you guys continue to pray, people will die.’ So we left, and that was the afternoon I won my first soul. I was thirteen.”
Richard also talked about the importance of modeling, and the prominent people who played major roles in both his and Dr. Peck’s lives. He spoke of a scholar who taught at the Keen Teen crusade. “He would just take his Bible, turn to Ephesians, and teach for a whole hour. So good, you know! And I thought to myself, someday I will be like him.” “Many became like him,” Dr. Peck affirmed, naming several individuals apart from himself and Richard.
“They taught us how to dig deep into the Word,” Richard said. “If you don’t dig into the Word, if you don’t grow, whatever you do, it’ll just fizzle out and that’s the end of it. Because it was real solid teaching, in the end, we loved the Word.
“When you go through such training, you see so many facets of the faith.” Richard continued. “You love the Word and you learn how the Word is interpreted. For me it was the version.”
Richard recalled the first time he was introduced to the Revised Standard Version at the camp after struggling with the King James Bible for so long. “It was so clear! I was like, ‘Wahhh, I must have that!’ That’s why until today, versions of the Bible is still my passion.”
Over the years, Richard became very active with Scripture Union. He started out as a volunteer, became a council member, joined the staff, started an office in Malacca, and is currently an associate member.
After their Keen Teen days, Richard and Dr. Peck both went about their own lives. They both started their own families and moved around a lot, serving God wherever He placed them. While Dr. Peck took the more academic route, Richard’s learning experiences were very much gained from being thrown into the mission field.
Dr. Peck’s studies brought him to Sarawak, India, and the United States, after which he continued serving the Lord as a freelance missionary. He has lived and worked with the natives in Sarawak, been on frequent mission trips to the Philippines and India, and was involved with a prison and rehab ministry in Singapore for many years while also teaching at the Singapore Bible College.
Meanwhile, Richard moved to Penang and KL for his studies, before his job with Radio Malaysia caused him to relocate to Johor Bahru, Melaka, and Kajang. Upon retirement, he started an SU office in Melaka, pastored a church in Kluang, and finally, started an English congregation in a Chinese Presbyterian church in Melaka.
Throughout that time, their faithful service to the Lord kept them in close contact. When Richard first moved to Johor Bahru after he graduated, he ended up helping out at a children’s Sunday school with none other than Dr. Peck who happened to be involved with the same ministry. Since they both had cars at that time, they were given the task of picking children up to bring them to Sunday school.
With Richard’s involvement with Scripture Union and in the local church, especially while in Melaka, he would often call Dr. Peck to come and preach or teach.
“Dr. Peck and myself… I think we have had quite similar paths,” Richard said. “Youth for Christ was one, but the other thing is that we are very involved with the church. That’s where responsibility comes in, and that’s where God will guide you. You really have to ask the Lord for wisdom.”
“That’s where we learn to assume responsibility,” Dr. Peck agreed. “That kind of training is the best kind of training. You can go to Bible school, but unless you apply what you learn…” He shrugged. “But being responsible for a church, you are growing together with the people. And that is why I always admired Richard. ‘Boleh tahan, huh? Berani, ar?’” He joked.
Richard also spoke very highly of various OMF missionaries who crossed paths with them especially in their early years of ministry, and the impact of their influence in both his and Dr. Peck’s lives. “Hock Cheng and I have been so flavored by all the good, solid teachers!”
“What the future holds, we don’t know,” Dr. Peck said. “All we know is that the Lord has led us in the past, and He is keeping us here for reason. And so the future is in His hands.”
“At the end of the day, we’re simple people,” Richard grinned. “This is not the end of the journey. As long as the Lord gives us breath, we really don’t know what is ahead of us. You may hear of another adventure next time!”
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