School June holidays is about 3 months away and most churches are already asking their members to register for the Church Retreats. The locations are usually in west Malaysia and the most popular state is Melaka. Besides good Peranakan food, there are antique shops, shopping malls and many heritage buildings to visit. Church members without car travel by aircon luxuary coaches with seats that can recline backwards like in the aeroplane cabins. The highway is excellent and the coaches travel without bumps and jerks. There are rest areas with food stalls and clean separate male and female toilets. At the destination, there is the comfort of sleeping in hotel aircon rooms and eating buffet meals. During free times, there is a choice of shopping in the old town, at the shopping malls or relaxing in the hotel pool with jacuzzi.
I remember my first church retreat in August 1953. Our camp site was at the Malacca High School. We went there by bus. There was no highway and the bus travelled by the old route passing through many small towns such as Ayer Itam, Batu Pahat and Muar. Our rest area was at Ayer Itam. There was only one coffee shop with attap roof and uneven earth floor. On arrival everyone rushed to the common latrine. Soon there was a long queue. Water supply was from a rubber hose connected to a tap outside the latrine. Water was stored in a container with a ladle. There was no flush system and all wastes went into a pipe which was discharged somewhere behing the coffee shop. We had unwelcome guests (flies) to share our food. They flew around our table and many more were on the floor. It was most unhygienic but we had no choice as practically all the buses stopped there for rest and food. At Muar our bus cross the river by a ferry which was like a floating platform. One long rope was tied to each side of the ferry and was pulled manually across the river by men on the opposite side of the river bank. The bus then continued on its way to Malacca. It was quite an uncomfortable ride with all the bumps when the wheels hit the pot holes or went over undulating grounds. Occasionally the bus jerked backwards when applying brakes to avoid a buffalo, a goat, or a chicken not counting the kampong folks who dashed across the narrow road. To the people in the rural area, it was their way of life. Compare to the present, our advantage then was that, we were able to see Malay kampongs and the people, animals like buffalos, goats and poultry, farmers and padi fields and many other interesting sights along both sides of the road.
Our camp site was a school and we slept on improvised wooden beds in the classrooms. There was no aircon but many mosquitoes to interrupt our sleep. Meals were provided at the school canteen. There was segregation between the sexes at meal tables. There was no shopping or sight seeing. Our free times were for fellowship with campers from other states. At night we went to the beach to evangelise and distribute tracts. There was no sedition law under the British rule. It was my most memorable church camp.
Bethesda Sunday School Class
Church Camp in Malacca 1953
Bus waiting for ferry to cross the river
Meal time at ladies' table
Meal time at guys' table
Luxury Church Camp at Frazer's Hill
Genting View Resort
Meeting room with confortable sofas and chairs