The Women’s Care and Counselling Centre (WCCC) is a service which supports young or single women with unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. It is a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia, located in Port Klang (about an hour from the city centre of Kuala Lumpur). The Centre was opened in 2009 and receives pastoral […]
The Women’s Care and Counselling Centre (WCCC) is a service which supports young or single women with unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. It is a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia, located in Port Klang (about an hour from the city centre of Kuala Lumpur). The Centre was opened in 2009 and receives pastoral support from the Holy Cross Lutheran congregation, through their pastor and local council.
The need for this ministry
In Malaysia, as in most collectivist cultures, family is considered the centre of the social structure. There is great emphasis on unity, loyalty and respect for the elderly. The interest of the family often supersedes that of the individual, and the action of an individual can impact other people’s perception of the entire family. Although it has become increasingly difficult for extended families to live together, effort to maintain ties has also increased. Improved telecommunications and transportation networks help to keep family networks in contact and for major holidays millions of people return to their hometowns for extended family reunions.
Despite the emphasis on family relations in Malaysia, the past decade has witnessed a constant stream of reports about baby ‘dumping’. The estimated figures suggest that every three to four days, a baby is abandoned, with two thirds of the babies dying. Given the secrecy surrounding this issue, there may be many more instances which are unreported.
Young girls and women face unwanted pregnancies in Malaysia due to limited access to information, contraception and sexual and reproductive health services. Education options are impacted, as often young women are forced to drop out of school or university due to the lack of support. Societal pressure creates fear and panic as young girls and women know of the stigma that unmarried women are subject to when facing an unintended pregnancy. More recently, many people from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar, have emigrated to Malaysia. If an immigrant woman falls pregnant, they are not legally allowed to give birth to the child in Malaysia, so many women who do give birth will abandon their baby.
In the late 1990s, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia realised that while women considering abortion or abandoning their newborns were turning to the church for help, few churches were ministering to them. The former bishop, Dr Solomon Rajah, therefore decided to start the Women’s Care and Counselling Centre (WCCC) to support women with unwanted or unplanned pregnancies and, in 2009, this ministry began.
Until mid-2019, the WCCC was located in the Holy Cross church building. About two and a half years ago, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia purchased separate premises which had been unoccupied for at least a year and a half before that. In 2021, the WCCC completed an extension of the premises in order to accommodate more women and to provide sufficient space for activities.
Deaconess Elizabeth Gopal
Since its formation, the Centre has been under the able care of Deaconess Elizabeth Gopal, who turned 70 years of age in March 2022.
Deaconess Elizabeth grew up as the youngest of 12 children. She remembers from the age of 10, going to her neighbour who also had a lot of children, and cooking and looking after the children there. Her own mother was a very praying lady. She disciplined Elizabeth and her siblings in the importance of listening to God’s Word, praying and being part of a worshipping faith community.
Prior to taking on the role at the WCCC, Deaconess Elizabeth had worked as a nurse. She was facing retirement and had been planning to start a small business on her own when Bishop Emeritus Dr Solomon Rajah asked if she would consider coming to work at WCCC. They needed someone who had medical experience to run the ministry. So, she prayed. She prayed for three months, during which time God continued to place the scripture of Jonah on her heart. One Sunday, before the morning service, she knelt and prayed for a confirming sign. At the service, the message was preached by a visiting pastor from India, who she had never met before. He preached about Jonah and it was the confirmation that Deaconess Elizabeth needed. Since 2009, she has given the ministry of the WCCC her full commitment, offering a compassionate and courageous service.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, whenever she has had challenging times at the Centre, the joy of the Lord was and continues to be Deaconess Elizabeth’s strength. She believes with utmost certainty, that she can do all things through Him who gives her strength and she thanks God for granting her a servant heart. She supervises the ministry at the Centre which provides counselling and skills training for the women. If the story of an expectant mother is not clear, Deaconess Elizabeth works hard to get all the information correct before she proceeds. In cases where the girl is underage, Deaconess Elizabeth will let the girl’s parents know what is happening. If they are not willing to care for their daughter at home during her pregnancy, the girl will be cared for at the Centre. Deaconess Elizabeth also assists the women to procure financial aid from government agencies as well as legal papers, medical and food aid for the care of their babies. In most cases, the expectant mother decides to keep the child. After the birth, the mother is embraced and assured of the hope and the second chance that Christ gives.
If the mother chooses to give the baby for adoption, Deaconess Elizabeth assists in the legal process to find a Christian couple able to raise the child. She is diligent during the interview process to ensure the child is going to the right home, as well as being very careful that paperwork is completed accurately, as the government will check with mothers if they were forced to give their baby for adoption or if the baby was sold.
The ministry of the Centre has expanded to reach out to other vulnerable women, many of whom have been subjected to violent abuse. Some are married to men who are alcoholics and some have been thrown out of their homes. Some are immigrant women, hiding from the police. Others are single mothers struggling to feed their children. Some women are concerned for their children who have become addicted to drugs at a young age. Some are in need of domestic items such housing and money. Others are young girls who are lonely and require transportation for medical treatment. When Deaconess Elizabeth encounters women in need, she often finds them withdrawn, with a feeling of immense emptiness.
Deaconess Elizabeth has become a beacon of hope for the women she meets. She demonstrates the kindness of Jesus, doing what she can to help them feel they can trust her to support them. To date, more than one hundred women have seen the gospel made manifest in their lives through WCCC.
Although WCCC does not advertise its services, it has developed a presence in the broader community. Information brochures about WCCC are made available at the marketplace and in hospitals. Women who have been helped will tell others of the valuable service they received and local medical people refer to WCCC, as they are often the first to encounter women in distress. WCCC also works closely with the National Welfare Ministry, enjoying a good relationship with the authorities. At times, women are not able to be cared for adequately by WCCC (for example, women with addictions), so are recommended to other facilities. If a Malay woman seeks WCCC’s assistance, Deaconess Elizabeth refers them to a Muslim centre as it is illegal in Malaysia to tell Muslims about Jesus, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia does not want to jeopardise the ministry by acting illegally. However, WCCC has such a good relationship with other services that if a Muslim service encounters non-Muslim women, they will refer the women in turn.
The number of Christians carrying out this ministry in Malaysia is small. However, God gives Deaconess Elizabeth strength through connection with the churches who do similar ministry. She visits with them, joins their prayer groups and learns from what they are doing. In this way they are able to encourage one another.
Through the Women’s Care and Counselling Centre, women who have lost hope are experiencing truth, righteousness, gospel, faith, and salvation in their lives. They are finding protection and strength.
Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to www.lca.org.au/international-mission/act-now/pray
Read more stories about our partner churches in Malaysia at https://www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/international-partners/malaysia-peninsula/