Happenings

DYING TO SAVE

Apr 2007    

Methodist work in Poerbolinggo, an East Java town, had started in 1916 in response to a request from the Chinese community for a teacher whose salary was met by the local school organisation. To this school was appointed the Rev Leroy Akerson, a young missionary who had begun his ministry in Banka for a year and a half prior to relocation. His District Superintendent, the Rev H. B. Mansell, recounts the story of his tragic, but symbolic, act of mercy on Friday, June 17, 1921.

‘WITH the older boys and girls of his little school …he had gone on an early morning hike.

They crossed the river Klewing and while brother Akerson was eating his breakfast some of the children tried to launch two bamboo rafts. In some way a lad of thirteen, Gan Koen Djin, accidentally fell into the water. As the lad could not swim, Mr Akerson went to the rescue, but owing to the presence of treacherous and deep whirlpools at that point, both were drawn under and drowned.

The body of Koen Djin was soon recovered by a Javanese man with a long bamboo, but that of Mr Akerson did not rise until two days later.

… Early on Sunday morning the body was recovered and carried to the nearby Dutch Mission hospital where Dr Vogelsang and his assistants prepared it for burial. The funeral service was held at noon in the chapel of the hospital. The school children sang two appropriate hymns in Malay in which language the whole service was conducted.

In addition to the ritual service there was a brief address based on our Lord’s statement, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he gave his life for his friends.”

Those in attendance included quite a number of Chinese, the hospital attendants and the Regent, who is the highest native official of Poerbolinggo. In accord with the wish once expressed by Brother Akerson, interment was in the Chinese Cemetery.

Following the desires of the lad’s family, Gan Koen Djin’s body was disinterred and reburied in one large grave with that of his teacher, whose body the Chinese placed in the position of honour.

At the grave a second service was held and the two left to sleep together there on the beautiful hillside until that last Great Day when all shall be summoned before their Maker. … Brother Akerson was very successful in winning the hearts and confidence of his pupils, both boys and girls. His Sunday School was among the most successful in the intensive work which he did. The ideals which he instilled into the minds of his boys and girls will be of utmost value to them throughout life.

His tragic death emphasised, as nothing else ever could, the unselfish character of his devotion to those in his charge.

At the time of his death he was within less than a month of the day when he expected to sail for America. His plans had long been laid to work his way through the three years of Theological Seminary, with an eye single to the needs of the work he had hoped and planned to do.

His parents, Mr and Mrs Peter Akerson, were back in the old home town of Keokuk, Iowa, looking forward with eager anticipation to the return of their missionary son. Instead there was a sad cablegram telling of his journey to an eternal home …’ – MM, August 1921, p.84-85, slightly edited.

Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.

Kim Seah elected FAC Chairman

MR KIM T. K. SEAH, The Secretary of the Trustees of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS), has been elected Chairman of the Finance and Administration Council (FAC) of the MCS.

He was elected at the last meeting of the General Conference Executive Council (GCEC) on Jan 29, 2007.

Mr Seah, 52, a lawyer, is a leader at the local church level, Annual Conference level as well as the General Conference level.

He is a member of Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church and currently serves as its Associate Lay Leader.

He is the Lay Leader of Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) of the MCS.

He is also the Chairman of The Discipline Revision Commission.

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