When Malaysia imposed a Movement Control Order to curb the spread of COVID-19, Haggai leader Elisa Khaw Li Sen, an entrepreneur and mother, was presented with something she didn’t know what to do with: an abundance of free time.

“The first thought that came to mind was now I can have more time to catch up with my readings and to spend more time with God.”

While increased time in prayer is a worthy pursuit, the ingenuity of many Haggai leaders means that they cannot stay still for too long. Malaysia’s lockdown regulations were strict and abrupt, causing severe disruptions in the supply chain of food and other essential items. By April, Malaysian unemployment hit a 30-year high. Malaysians were increasingly desperate. Elisa and her friends knew they had to do whatever they could to serve people while demonstrating the Gospel.

Elisa and two others joined forces to create “Caremongering Penang,” a community of volunteers providing food and other types of emergency relief in Malaysia’s capital city of Penang. The group first focused on feeding those who were hit most significantly by the lockdown, specifically foreign workers and migrants. Within weeks they had fed more than 30,000 families.

Caremongering Penang has a network of more than 11,000 volunteers.

In addition to sharing the love of Jesus with those most desperate for food and supplies, the network allowed Elisa and her friends to engage with other community members eager to do their part. This provided opportunities to build relationships and demonstrate the Gospel with people they would not have met otherwise.

“During this time God taught me how to work with people that I do not know . . . I want to thank Jesus for new friends that I have made from this pandemic — people that would have not crossed my path if not for the opportunity to serve.”

Elisa Khaw Li Sen

What began with a few friends wanting to support their community through a crisis has grown into a network of more than 11,000 volunteers across the city. They use a public Facebook group to alert the community to urgent needs and pool resources to meet them.

The Movement Control Order relaxed over the summer, but Malaysia is still reeling from effects of the pandemic and ensuing shutdown.

“Caremongering Penang is still going on, and we are looking at going deep rather than wide now. There are still some needs that are arising, and we will be getting to know families better to build relationships with them.”

For Elisa and those on her team, this experience opened their eyes to deeper humanitarian issues in their community, especially among migrant families. To address the long-term needs of this population, the group has shifted their focus to support educational and job skill development.