By Kaleigh Ward
I hear that fall is arriving back home. It’s 90 degrees here, so do me a favor, and curl up by the fire in some flannel pajamas with a mug of hot chocolate while you settle in to read this blog. Get comfortable and get focused, because I want don’t want you to miss a single detail. I know it’s long, but I promise it will be worth your time.
This is a blog about my favorite day on the race so far. This is a blog about the most selfless man I’ve ever had the honor of meeting, and it is a blog about the God he serves.
The day began with a three hour train ride in which I read my Bible on my phone’s app and listened to Needtobreathe while watching the Malaysian countryside roll by (seriously, could my life be any more epic and hipster right now?).
When we arrived in Seremban, we had no idea what to expect. A local we had spent 15 minutes with a week ago mentioned he had an uncle who ran an orphanage in another province and gave us his phone number. That’s all we had to go on– no recommendations from a church or a past racer. We were praying, hoping, and trusting that this extremely unlikely appointment was God-ordained.
Pastor Peter, this mystery contact, greeted us at the train station with a kind smile and handshakes all around. Immediately, he invited us all to eat a “light breakfast,” his treat. He took us to an Indian restaurant and ordered us all sorts of foods to try– sweet foods, salty foods, spicy foods, and hot beverages. From the start, we were blown away by his generosity and genuine kindness.
After we were stuffed to the gills by this “light breakfast,” we piled into his van for the hour ride to the orphanage. As we curved around mountain roads and watched the city fade to village outside our windows, Pastor Peter shared with us the most incredible testimony I’ve ever heard.
I wish I could have recorded it and posted a video, because I know there is no way to do it justice here. Please forgive me. There were three main events that led to Peter’s conversion:
(1) His mother was so sick that she stayed in the country’s best hospital for over eight years. The doctors performed so many operations on her that there was not even a square inch of skin left on her abdomen that had not been cut open and stitched back together. Despite eight years and countless surgeries, the country’s best doctors never could figure out what was wrong with her, and they finally sent her home to die among family.
At this point, Peter’s father spent every bit of the family’s wealth on trying to find a remedy for his wife. They saw every Hindu healer, visited all the temples, and even sought out the country’s best witchcraft doctors. Nothing brought healing.
One day, Peter came home to discover that his parents had converted to Christianity! He was shocked and angry. He told them that they couldn’t just switch gods because they didn’t get their way and life had been hard. He was a devout Hindu who had visited all of the country’s temples, and he was upset to see his father turn his back on his religion.
Then, something really incredible happened. Jesus healed Peter’s mom! Jesus Christ did what no doctor or Hindu god could do. For six years, his mom never had another health issue, and when she did pass away, it happened quickly and peacefully with the family there to say goodbye. This caught Peter’s attention, but he still wasn’t ready to accept a new religion.
(2) In the midst of all these changes, Peter’s alcoholic father approached him holding a Bible, a bottle of alcohol, and a pack of cigarettes. He asked Peter, “Out of all the Hindu gods you’ve ever heard about, have you ever heard one called Holy?” Peter said, “No. So what?”
Peter’s dad raised his Bible and said, “The God I worship now is called holy, and He says I am supposed to be holy like He is holy. I am not ever going to drink or smoke again.” Peter replied, “I’m glad you’re giving those things up because they’re bad for your health, but don’t you think you should stop a little bit at a time instead of all at once?”
His dad declared, “You read my Bible and see if it says anywhere that we can give up sin bit by bit. God calls us to holiness!” With a dramatic flair, his father threw the bottle on the ground and crumpled up the cigarettes. He never again touched alcohol or tobacco.
Peter became even more interested in this Jesus who had healed his mom and permanently changed his dad, but he still hadn’t experienced God for himself. Until…
(3) Peter was attending church to appease his parents one night and heard a sermon about Jesus being the Light of the world. When he left the service, he hopped on his motorbike and took off into the darkness on winding roads through pitch black forests reported to be haunted.
On the way, his motorbike broke down… right in the midst of one of the creepiest areas of forest! Angry and afraid, he kicked at his bike, and it roared back to life, except for one crucial detail. The headlight didn’t turn on! Peter had no way of seeing the road and getting out of the forest safely.
At this moment, he remembered the sermon he had just heard and prayed, “Jesus, if you really are the Light of the world, I could use your help right now. It’s dark and I cannot see.” When he looked up, a straight line of light appeared in front of his bike!
He jumped on and began following the light, which led him out of the forest and then vanished when he reached town!
Finally, Peter knew he had found the one true God. God had healed his mother, delivered his father, and revealed Himself to Peter! At the age of 18, Peter decided to give His life to Jesus. He decided that no matter what life brought, through the highs and lows, he would always follow Jesus.
Fast forward a few years…
Peter is one of the country’s most successful engineers. He has prestige and all the money he could ever want when God asks him to leave it all behind and move to a rural village to serve as a pastor and open a children’s home.
Peter and his wife pick up and move to a village so rural that there is no way he can still work as an engineer. He went from having all the money he could ever want to being so poor that he and his wife would sometimes just share a little bit of bread for their dinner.
As a pastor of a very small and very poor church, the weekly offering was often only 25 cents (8 cents in US currency!). Even then, if a poor woman came up to him saying she could not afford to buy milk for her baby, he would dig that offering back out of his pocket and give it away on the spot.
After two years in this village, God had still not opened any doors for Peter and his wife to start a children’s home, so they came together to pray over the dream God had put on their hearts. One week later, a single mom showed up at his door and asked him to take in her three children. A week after that, another mom showed up and did the same thing with her two children.
Despite the fact that he had little money and his home was very small, he and his wife took in five children (in addition to their own!). See the picture on the left to see the home they lived in at the time.
Over time, God provided a bigger home (as well as more children). The home was in a good location, but was unsafe and infested with termites and scorpions. In 2010, however, God provided a beautiful new campus for Pastor Peter and his growing children’s home.
As we pulled into the home, I immediately whispered, “Wow.” The home was so peaceful and beautiful. Pastor Peter used his engineering skills to oversee every detail of construction, and he did a phenomenal job.
The home is a miracle and a testament to the power, riches, and faithfulness of God. There is no website for donations, no child sponsorship program, no steady stream of volunteers. In fact, we were the first white people to ever visit the home!
The home is run by Pastor Peter and his wife as well as three other Malaysians. They have received some donations, but Peter also worked hard (and far below his education level and pay grade) for over five years tapping rubber in mosquito- and leech-infested forests to feed the many mouths– now 50 boys and girls!
Pastor Peter told us something about his life that I’ll never forget. He said, “I used to have money. Now I have peace!” How often do we equate money with peace in the United States? Wow.
Another thing that really amazed me was that Pastor Peter and his wife do not live according to the physical reality that they operate on a third of their budget, but act instead according to the spiritual reality that their God is a God of riches who always provides.
They spared no expense during our visit. They brewed their very best tea and fed us their very best meal. During our day there, they never stopped offering us more– more juice, more food, more time. They gave and gave and gave. They displayed the generosity and faith that the Bible talks about at a level I have never personally witnessed before this day.
Because of their obedience and God’s incredible power and faithfulness, 50 boys and girls have been rescued from extreme poverty, abandonment, and abuse and are in a home where they are shown the love of an earthly father and their Father in Heaven. They are educated, well fed, and deeply loved.
Pastor Peter has great dreams for their educations and futures– from English lessons to specialized career training. He proudly displays their sports trophies in his living room and talks with a father’s joy of the children who have already successfully transitioned to adulthood.
As I soaked in every moment of this beautiful day, I whispered a short prayer, “God, I’m loving this.” And in my heart, I heard Him respond with a smile, “I knew you would.”
God wrote this day out before I even knew the world race existed. He put Malaysia on my heart when I was picking a route. (Really. This was the country that God laid on my heart as I prayed over the routes even though I knew nothing at all about it.) He arranged that very short and seemingly random encounter with a local who referred us to this pastor. He has provided for Pastor Peter every single step of the way, and our meeting him was just one story in a long book of God’s faithfulness.
As a result of our meeting with him, future World Race teams will be able to come and live at the home for a month at a time to partner with Pastor Peter and serve in whatever ways he needs help– teaching English, loving on the children, and maybe even setting up online donations and a sponsorship program!
I am a bit jealous of the future teams who will get to spend 30 days with Pastor Peter instead of just one, but I am so deeply honored to be a part of the very first team to visit the home. I am thrilled to play a small role in establishing this new partnership, and I can’t wait to see what God does through the World Race and Shemariah Children’s Home as they partner together in the future!
Please join me in praying for Pastor Peter, his wife, his staff, and the 50 children who live in Shemariah Children’s Home. Please pray that God will continue to pour out blessings and provision, meeting every need of the home just as He has done so far. Pray for future teams that will serve at the home– that God will equip and prepare them to do a good work in their time there.
And please continue to pray for my team as we move from Subang Jaya to Penang to continue seeking out more unsung heroes and potential world race ministry partners here in Malaysia. In less than two weeks, God has already led us to six Malaysian ministries that racers may be able to come and partner with in the future! I am so excited about all the ways in which He has provided for my team so far, from housing to meals to ministry contacts. I am so honored to have met so many men and women laying down their lives for the sake of the gospel, and I can’t wait to see what He has in store for the rest of the month!