The ministry in Jerai, an Outreach of TMC Sungai Petani, began when home visitations were made in the early 1950s. This area was largely made up of Rubber Plantations. In the early 1970s, a team of lay members, led by the pastors, held regular worship services in the corridor of the labourers’ quarters of the Harvard Estate, using gas lamps as there was no electricity. The people in the nearby homes listened eagerly to the Gospel being preached and the Outreach work began to take firm root.
Contribution by Bible Women
Weekly adult, youth and children’s ministries grew out of the regular worship services. The work of two Bible Women, Mrs. Annamal David and Mrs. Rosalind Rajasher, is noteworthy. They were funded by the TAC Methodist Women and the local Church. Their efforts further strengthened the ministry, particularly among the women and children, in the area of prayer and counselling.
Need for a Bigger Place of Worship
Early in 1987, TMC Sungai Petani put up a chapel with provisions to house a Church worker. This was on a piece of land along the main road to Alor Star in Sungai Toh Pawang. This land was given by a Christian family for a nominal sum of money. This chapel was officially opened by Dato Dr. Peter Vanniasingam and dedicated by the DS Rev. David Tharmakan. The Church appointed Mr. Bala as a Church worker and he served till 1991. This was done with their own funds. New souls were added to the ministry and the number grew. Once again, there was a need to find a bigger and more centrally located place of worship.
Rumah Methodist Bedong
In 1997, a piece of land, with an old house on it was purchased in the Indian Camp in Bedong. Renovation work was completed in November 1998 and the house was officially opened and dedicated as Rumah Methodist Bedong on 28 November 1998 by Mr. John Paul PCK and Rev. Peter Devadason. The Conference gave a donation of RM 5,000 and a loan of RM 15,000 for the project. The rest of the money of RM 60,000 was raised by TMC Sungai Petani and Jerai Outreach members. The church building had space to house the first Supply Pastor Easudass Joseph from 1 January 1998. A church van was donated by Madam Annamal Samuel (mother of Datuk Paul Money) and her family for the Jerai ministry. The Full Membership of the Jerai Outreach was 78 with 38 Preparatory Members.
Tupah Waterfalls Baptism
On 4 January 2000, a total of 21 people (adults and children) were baptized at the Tupah Waterfalls. This put the outreach ministry in Jerai on a strong footing. Two main areas were identified for preaching points: Gurun and Bandar Baru. In Bandar Baru, there was already a building and the prospects of a church being established there seemed very promising. As for Gurun, concentrated work would soon begin.
Ministry in Bandar Baru
Bandar Baru is a housing Estate located about 3 kilometres off Sungai Lalang, which is along the main road to Alor Star. There were five families from Jerai Outreach residing there. They had ardently prayed for a place of worship, so that ministry can be done among the local Indian population. The Lord’s answer came in a miraculous way. A corner terrace house, with a big piece of land, came at a price that was below current value. One of the Church members residing in Kuala Lumpur came forward with one third of the cost of the building as a down payment. The remaining sum came from donations. The house was purchased in 1997 and Prayer Meetings were held regularly. The building was officially opened by Dato Paul Money Samuel and dedicated by the Northern DS Rev. Victor Vethamani on Saturday 28 November 1998.
Formation of Local Conference
Jerai was constituted as a Local Conference on 11 March 2000. The Full Membership was 77. The Full Membership on 30 July was 86. Rev. AE Joseph was the Pastor in charge and was assisted by Supply Pastor Easudas Joseph. Worship service was on Fridays at 7.00 pm. An average of 50 – 60 people attended. They lacked musicians. The Church School met on Saturdays at 4.00 pm. and had about 24 children and 4 teachers. The MYF had 21 youths who met monthly and whenever the need arose. However, they had difficulty finding a common time to meet. There was a need for transport, as the members were scattered. The MW had about 12 members. The church was actively involved in evangelism in Bandar Baru, Sungai Getah Estate, Bukit Jenum and Sungai Tawar. In 2001, Rev. James Ravindaren, the pastor of Alor Star, was in charge and was assisted by Ministerial Student Mr. Timothy Krishnan. The Full Membership was 95. The Church School met on Fridays at 6 pm. and there were 21 children.
Rapid Membership Growth
From 2002 – 2013, Rev. Ezekiel Raj was the Pastor in charge for twelve years. In 2002, the Full Membership was 96. The Church School met every Monday at 7pm whereas the youths met fortnightly. In 2003, the Full Membership was 109. The church building was slightly renovated inside and air-conditioned at a cost of RM 25,000. In 2004, the Full Membership was 107. Worship service was held on Sundays at 7 pm. A church library was started. The Church School at Bandar Baru had 34 children and 4 teachers whereas the Church School at Gurun had 11 children and 2 teachers.
In 2005, about 70 attended the Sunday worship service. Full Membership was 104 after 12 members were transferred out. Outreach ministry continued at Gurun. A shop lot was rented for RM 350.00. About 30 members attended the weekly service. The church bought the adjacent land to the present building for RM 24,000. TMC PJ gave a gift of RM 15,000. In 2006, the Full Membership was 123 and 19 adults were baptized. In 2007, the Full Membership was 135. Weekly Prayer Meetings were held at three places.
In 2008, the Full Membership was 140. There were six adult baptisms. Weekly attendance at the Sunday worship service at TMC Jerai was about 100 – 120. The Gurun Friday service was at 7.30 pm. with an attendance 15 – 17. There were three outreach areas – Bandar Baru, Gurun with Padang Lembu added on in 2008. In the month of August the church was renovated at the cost of RM 25,000. The whole area was fenced up. On 17 August a rededication service was held which was officiated by Rev. P. Tevaraji, the Conference President. The church could now accommodate about 250 people.
In 2009, the Full Membership rose to 157. Tuition classes were conducted in Padang Lembu among the new contacts. Easter carolling was conducted by the youths. The government gave RM 30,000 for renovation work on the Bandar Baru House. The total cost for renovation was RM 80,000. A dinner was organised to raise funds for this at district-level. In 2010, the Full Membership was 162. There were 5 adult baptisms. About 140 – 145 people attended the Sunday services. On 3 July 2010, a Van Project Dinner was held and RM 10,000 was raised from this dinner
Church Grows but with Concerns
In 2011, the Full Membership was 160. There were 5 adult baptisms. 8 members were transferred in and 9 transferred out. There were 6 deaths. There were 45 children and 4 teachers in the Church School. There were Cell Group ministries in 4 different areas. Through the MIC, the church received RM27,000 for the renovation work in the Bandar Baru Outreach. The total cost of the renovation was estimated to be RM 100,000. There was a concern that young people were leaving for other places because of employment and education. There was also a lack of male leadership in the church.
In 2012, the Full Membership was 158. Cell Groups were held in 6 places. Some families in Gurun who left the church now returned. The owner of the empty land at the back of the church gave permission for the church to use it for parking purposes. In 2013, the Full Membership was 144. The Bandar Baru Outreach building became a reality after many months of waiting. There were Cell Groups in six different areas
Equipping for the Ministry
From 2014 onwards, Rev. E. Kunabalan was the Pastor. In 2014, the Full Membership was 149. In 2015, more young adults took on leadership roles. The Full Membership was 148 and in 2016, it was 147. It is noteworthy that the whole church prayed kneeling during the Sunday services. This practice continues till today. Cell Groups met at six different areas on Thursdays. Special leadership training was held for the LCEC members. Evangelism was done in teams and there were three teams. They met 30 families regularly. Evangelistic rallies by Pastor Peter Murugesh, Pastor Vijulal and Rev. John Ganapathy were held. The church organised a Blood Donation Campaign on 13 August. The Bandar Baru Outreach ministry was given the needed focus and as a result, saw growth.
The MYAF, in observing their special Sunday, distributed tracts and Christian literature to non-believers. In 2017, the Full Membership was 142 and in 2018, it was 128. Evangelism was done through cell groups and visitations. They contacted 22 new families. Evangelistic and Miracle Rallies were held in the month of February 2017.
In 2019, Rev. Kunabalan is the Pastor for the sixth year. Mr. Matthew Mathi is the Lay Leader and Mr. Daniel Anthoni, the LCEC Chairperson. The Full Membership is 128. The number of members in the Agencies is as follows: MYF (13), MW (15), MYAF (7) and MSF (20). There are 30 children with 6 teachers in the Church School. They have one Outreach in Bandar Baru. There are seven Cell Groups in the following places: 1. Padang Lembu, 2. Gurun 3. Harvard Estate 4. Bedong 5. Semeling 6. Sungai Lalang and 7. Bandar Baru.
Conclusion: TMC Jerai began as an Outreach of TMC Sungai Petani about twenty years ago. Their Full Membership at the time of formation as a Local Conference was 77. Their current Full Membership is 128. This is commendable, knowing that many youths are being drawn away to other places because of better employment and education opportunities. The church has still grown. They have an Outreach ministry in Bandar Baru and conduct seven Cell Groups. This shows that the church is purposeful and focused in their ministry. With God being their Helper, TMC Jerai can look forward to their church growing and bringing glory to God.
1. Souvenir Program of the Dedication of the newly renovated church 3 August 2013
2. TAC Journals