Part 1: The heart of Peter Young

I’m sure that not many people would entitle their musing about Peter Young “The heart of Peter Young”. That would be too presumptuous. But I don’t really know the man though our paths have crossed on occasion. In a very real sense, I have just missed the man, having come just a little later. I grew up in the south while he was in the northern and central regions. When I joined FES, he was just about to leave to start Malaysian Care.

The impressions I share here are really secondhand, gleaned from reading Tan Jin Huat’s book about the man: The Revd Peter John Young – Pioneer, Pastor and Pal.

To be perfectly honest, when I tried to put my finger on the most fundamental quality of Peter Young that led to such an extraordinary life and achievement, it came down to “Peter Young: The man with the responsive heart”. Again and again, at the most crucial crossroads of his life, I saw a man whose heart was touched and who then followed that heart.

Right from the beginning, in the 50s, as a young minister in a church near Manchester, we are told:

“To understand people better, Peter would serve in a fish and chips shop to learn about how the common people lived and thought so as to be more effective in reaching out to them.”

In many ways, with people he worked with, people he served, that responsive heart of his not only shaped his ministry but gave it the power to draw people to Christ and to serve Him.

That responsiveness to people also resulted in his involvement in Malaysian Care. On a visit to India, Betty Young recounts:

“But while in India, the experience of widespread poverty there and the manner in which Christian work was done among the poor evoked within him the vision to be involved in a social ministry among those who were marginalised, under-privileged and the poor in Malaysia.”

One word that caught my attention came quite early in his ministry: unconventional.

“David Priston further noticed that Peter was the ‘perpetual unorthodox student’ and always made use of his time for better things such as preparing bible messages when meeting became boring. He was impressed with Peter’s talks describing them as ‘very good’, ‘very unorthodox in style and delivery’ and ‘were absolutely sound and clear, in logical thought and division of material.’ He said that ‘Though his delivery might be slow, his talks were always memorable’.”

That speaks to me of a man whose desire is to respond to the truth and to the need, rather than follow the script. Such a man would attract others who have the integrity to follow Christ into service and ministry.

“Many gifted individuals were drawn to work alongside Peter at St Gabriel’s. It was team ministry that contributed towards consolidating the ministries in the church.”

In fact throughout his career Peter has an extraordinary ability to draw people to work alongside him. And that is not because he is a charismatic personality and preacher. In fact he eschews being put on a pedestal in any way. It is, I believe, his integrity in living out what he preaches that causes others to likewise follow.

Finally, I saw that at the heart of Peter Young lies Betty.

Betty was the person who completed Peter. While Peter was reserved and taciturn, Betty was warm, friendly and chatty. While Peter dreamed and worked to turn those dreams into reality, Betty took care of the nitty gritty: the administrative duties, the details, the individuals, the serving, the conversation.

I met Betty on the few occasions those involved in The Micah Mandate met in her home. And I saw myself, reserved and shy, completely disarmed by her.

In one of the posts Peter put up in remembrance of Betty after her passing, he wrote the following as a postscript:

I believe that Betty, who spent much of her life caring for others, would want this memory to contain a timely reminder for us rather a well-deserved eulogy for her. I miss her so much but I rejoice that she is with the Lord, whom she loves, in his Father’s house. This is “better by far”!

I believe he struggled to say “This is better by far” as I can hear the deep longing in his heart for her to be by his side. Yet the integrity of the man was such that he was willing to rejoice that she is with her Lord.

As I read Tan Jin Huat’s book, the following paragraph from the Introduction sums up Peter Young’s lifelong ministry succinctly:

One young Englishman in 1953 felt that it was his destiny to serve in Malaya. When he had stayed for a while and liked the place very much, he decided to stay permanently, becoming a Malaysian citizen in the process. That young Englishman, the Reverend Peter John Young, arrived on the shores of British Malaya in 1954 and set foot in Perak as a young missionary with the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) at the age of twenty eight. His journey took him next to be a school teacher at St Gabriel’s Secondary School, Kuala Lumpur from 1959 to 1970. In 1970, he joined Scripture Union (SU) as its first General Secretary. In 1978, he helped to pioneer the Malaysian Christian Association for Relief (also known as Malaysian CARE or CARE) with other young Malaysian Christians and became its first Executive Director. On retirement from Malaysian CARE, he was involved in pioneering Dignity and Services, an advocacy movement for persons with learning disabilities and later became its Chairman in 2007 until 2012. Peter Young has been a pioneer at heart, charting out new ministries and leaving them behind for the locals to rise to the occasion and continue the work. His life was one well lived for sixty years in Malaysia until his passing away on 28 June 2014.

But in-between the lines is a man who was responsive to the heart of the God he serves, responsive to the needs of the people he was sent to, whose integrity meant that he followed what he preached rather than does what was expected of him, and in doing so inspired many young people to do likewise, and who was blessed by God with Betty, who multiplied his effectiveness many times over.

Not many of us will be blessed with a Betty, but those of us who wish to continue to be well used by God would do well to pay attention to the shape of the heart of Peter Young.


by Tan Jin Huat

Published by: Persaudaraan Asian Beacon Malaysia (2015)

Available at: Canaanland, Asian Beacon office, Malaysian Care or from the author himself.

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