Rev. Benjamin Peng Kong (Bing Kong) Chiu was born in Jiangmen, China in 1928. When he was three years old, his mother died. The following year, his father left to work in Australia (the New Golden Mountain) and never returned to China again. In the early days, the father did send money home to support the family of four children, two boys and two girls; Rev. Chiu was the youngest. Their father passed away sometime between 1942-45, during the Second World War, and whatever earthly possession he might have acquired had vanished. Thus, from early childhood, Rev. Chiu was without parental support and guidance, with very little financial resources. He became self-reliant, learned to take care of himself, and was quite a stubborn young man, naughty and tough, but curious and always eager to learn from everyone and from his environment. He farmed and attended traditional Chinese school and laid for himself a solid foundation for learning Chinese classics and poems. He toughened himself through physical work. When the Japanese air-raided Jiangmen in the early 1940s, Rev. Chiu was a teenager and his older brother had already migrated to Singapore to make a living. Led by his sister-in-law and his sisters, they smuggled themselves in a boat under night cover to Macau for safe haven. Rev. Chiu continued his schooling in Macau and learned the ways of city life. From Macau, he moved to Singapore and then to Malaya to make a living. His exposure to the Christian faith was from an early age at Jiangmen where western missionaries went to spread the gospel.
As an inquisitive young man, he asked and thought about the Christian faith, but he did not embrace it. When he was in Malaya, he became more involved in church activities, but he was still not baptized. His early conviction was that as a Christian, you are to go into the world to preach the gospel and he was not ready to make that commitment. He was a radical Christian. He wanted to practice what he believed. After working a few years in a bank in Kuala Lumpur, Rev. Chiu moved to Singapore to search for new opportunity. He began to work as a schoolteacher. While he was teaching, a Christian friend approached him about studying theology. He liked the idea and enrolled in the Trinity Theological College in 1954. A couple of years before that, he was baptized in Wesley Church, Singapore. It was at Trinity College where he met his life partner, Tin Yuk Pik. They married in 1959 and brought into the world four sons and four daughters. Rev. Chiu looked upon his family as a miracle and often said they are a living witness of the wonderful grace and providence of God. Those of us touched by their children can readily say, Amen. After he graduated from Trinity College in 1957, Rev. Chiu began an active Christian ministry that spanned 35 years of time. He was ordained an elder of the Methodist Church in Malaya in 1963 and he retired from the New York Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1993. He had served in Singapore (twice), Kampar, Kuala Lumpur, Kuantan, Sacramento, and New York City. His footprints could be found across the Malay Peninsula and North America. He was well known in the circles of Chinese clergy in Singapore and Malaysia, in California and New York City.
The trademark of Rev. Chiu’s ministry is his pastoral visitation. While he excelled in organization and was able to hold his own against any adversary in the Chinese Methodist Church, he considered visiting church members as the hallmark of his ministry. He deprecates this unique gift by saying he enjoyed spending time drinking tea (what he called “touching the bottom of a tea cup,”) and breaking peanuts with friends. That’s why he visited church members. In fact, he was putting into practice the essence of pastoral care. His unspoken mantra was “Contact, contact, contact.” He learned early that isolation leads to misunderstanding, and he wanted to sit down even with those who shun him. He told me of an incident when a church member would deliberately not offer him a cup of tea while extending that courtesy to Mrs. Chiu in their visitation to that family. You can imagine the awkward situation. However, he continued to cultivate friendship with that member. It could truly be said, he knew his sheep and his sheep knew him. He was a good shepherd, a good pastor. In his visitation, he was not a one-dimension man. He brought to the encounter his varied interests in classical Chinese, music, medicine, health and fitness, and photography. He was the quintessential Renaissance man. While the conversations tended to move in all directions, Rev. Chiu was always able to close each visit with a Christ message, often with a timely scriptural text.
Next to pastoral care, Rev. Chiu is an untiring teacher. He loves to teach, to share what he knows. One of his favorite expressions is “Having a hundred skills is good for your well-being.” When you are in his company, you would soon realize his broad range of interest, from lofty to earthy subjects. Being trained in classical Chinese, he loves to put extended discourses in two or three words or some short phrases. According to him, being diligent and frugal are the keys to a successful life. Being willing to suffer is essential for all pastors. The Chinese version of each of the names of his children is a succinct teaching!
While he was fond of saying “All things work together for the benefits of those who love God,” he told me his favorite scriptural passage is John 3: 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” He considered this text as the epitome of the Christian faith. It was this faith that directed his life and made him an extraordinary man. He summed up his faith with a passage from the Book of Habakkuk, 3: 17-19: “Though the fig tree do not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like hinds’ feet, he makes me tread upon my high places.” “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord” is the message he wants his children and all of us to remember. We praise God for the life and ministry of Rev. Chiu Peng Kong.
Written by Dr. Samuel Wong (2015-01-09). Published in “Intimate Witnesses: Coping with Challenges” (Kindle Locations 2636-2646). Xlibris US. Kindle Edition.