10th Oct 2012, by Hoo Ban Khee –
There is no shortage of miracles and blessings in the growth of Metro Tabernacle Assembly of God from the humble beginning of a five-man service in 1982 to a 1,800-strong congregation today.
There was no “big bang!”. Metro Tabernacle was built brick-by-brick, member-by-member, over the last 30 years. It was truly a journey of many trials and tribulations and every time there appeared to be a blind alley, God showed the way.
As the church celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, we are immensely grateful to the unwavering support of the members, the divine guidance and blessings from God and the wisdom of our founder pastor Rev Ong Sek Leang.
Metro’s first service was conducted in August 1982 by Pastor Ong who was then a second-year student of BIM and was attending Siloam Assembly of God (now Tabernacle of David) in Jalan Pahang, Kuala Lumpur.
He was given 12 members to pioneer the church initially called Tabernacle Assembly in Taman Melawati, a Malay-dominated new housing estate way out of the city.
The church was a rented half shop atop a tailor shop in Jalan Bandar 2, Taman Melawati. It was an exciting time despite the small congregation and limited financial resources.
Pastor Ong was a common sight riding his Kapchai zooming around the winding streets of Taman Melawati doing God’s work. His favourite pastime was having tea fellowship with his young church members at one of those Mamak stalls!
In the 80’s, Taman Melawati was a small housing estate next Zoo Negara, with the majestic Titiwangsa range serving as its backdrop. It was secluded as it was only accessible by an estate road. There was no MRR2 then!
It was in this unlikely place that God had His pan and Tabernacle Assembly began its exciting life. In the initial years, the congregation consisted of only several families. Others were mainly students from the nearby Tunku Abdul Rahman College and later the Malaysian Institute of Arts. These students came after hearing about miracles that happened at the little church whose pastor preached from a hand-made wooden box!
Many pioneers have fond memories of the early days. Among them is our Assistant Pastor Rev K.L. Chin who was then a TARC student.
He recalled: “I remember in the early days there were only several young couples while others were students. We stayed in the half shoplot for about five years when our congregation grew to 250. There was hardly space to accommodate our growing membership.
“Then we moved to a bigger place in 1987 in Jalan Negara 1 and that was the most exciting time. Imagine, we did everything DIY style and we were full of enthusiasm as everybody came in to help!”
Three years down the road, the church moved again to a bigger place along the same road to accommodate a growing membership.
In 1996, the church changed its name to Metro Tabernacle to reflect its prophetic vision. It was during this time, the vision of purchasing its own premises started so that the church need not shift so often to keep up with its growth.
So when a three-storey shoplot at Desa Melawati became available, a fund-raising campaign was held. Members responded well to the call and the shoplots were bought.
Metro Tabernacle moved into its permanent home with all the modern equipment in December 1997. It was among the first miracles in the growth of the church, considering its humble beginning just about 15 years ago!
The new place was cozy as a community church with enough space for the administrative office, a Chinese church, the sanctuary, various rooms for different ministries.
But this was not the end of the story. No sooner had we settled down comfortably, God was already working in the mind of our Rev. Ong. In his words, God has far more greater thing than this in His mind.
As the congregation kept growing, multiple services had to be held over the weekends. Once a month, we even needed to rent a hotel ballroom for our combined service with the Chinese church.
As we moved into the new millennium, we began a search for land but it had been a frustrating experience. Then in 2006, a miracle happened when the church was offered 3.3 acres of land in Batu Caves area.
The land was bought at RM12 million. Several fund-raising campaigns were held. A building pledge was launched, food fairs, pre-Christmas sales were organised. Old newspapers and magazines were collected to be sold while well-wishers and supporters chipped in.
We managed to raise RM10 million, still short of RM2 million even on the eve of signing the sales and purchase agreement! Then God gave us a miracle as a generous donor gave us RM2 million and we inked the deal!
God granted us another favour when a bank offered us a loan and we started construction in 2007, just when building material costs were spiraling. We managed to complete the building in a record 18 months’ time when the struggle to get approvals with the local authorities began.
Then on the night of January 8, 2010, the nation was shocked to learn that our church building in Desa Melawati was torched. News of the unpleasant incident went international. Calls of sympathy and support poured in even from overseas.
It was due to God’s guidance and the wisdom of Pastor Ong that he managed the incident well. There were support all round and even government leaders visited the scene to lend their support.
It was a touching scene on that morning after the fire when Pastor Ong uttered the words of forgiveness and his desire to move on. The Government gave a contribution of RM500,000 towards the building funds.
The construction of the 3 ½ level complex with a build-up area of 161,500 sq ft was completed in November 2009. The main auditorium has a seating capacity of 1,780. It has 550 parking bays with enough space for various types of sports and games.
The new complex was named Wisma Philomath, standing at the gateway to the East Coast. We held our first service in the brand new premises on January 24, 2010. Praise the Lord!
(This article was originally published in latest issue Connect, the official publication of Metro Tabernacle. It was condensed by the writer for this portal.)