In the heart of Sarawak, Malaysia, the uplifting puppetry ministry of Chai Sew Moi has been subtly providing inspiration for people around her. She has had a tremendous effect since retiring in 2016 and has used her talents to share her faith with children and communities.
Sew Moi's journey into puppetry started in a modest way. In 1993, she made the decision to try her hand at puppetry after watching Sesame Street with her nieces in the 1970s and later with her own children. With no formal training, she created puppet characters for the 13th Sabbath School program, aiming to promote church mission offerings. Her newfound ministry gained momentum as she engaged nine-year-old children as puppeteers and voice actors.
Since those early days, the puppetry ministry at Sew Moi's church has flourished. Children became active participants in song leading, church activities, and special programs, all featuring puppetry. One of her notable puppet plays, Hobart the Worm: We're Wonderfully Made, conveyed the message that everything created by God is significant. This production transcended borders, with performances reaching countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Korea, Taiwan, and Mongolia.
As a former private school teacher, Sew Moi extended her passion to her colleagues, teaching them to use puppets as an effective teaching tool. In 1998, she received formal puppetry training at a Children's Ministries Convention and later learned from professional puppeteers from the United States and Australia.
Reflecting on her journey, Sew Moi shares, "I am comfortable teaching children, crafts, and creative activities, but some ministries like public speaking, preaching, or singing are not my forte. Lip-syncing with puppets became my avenue to fulfill my dream of singing."
Sew Moi's lifelong commitment to her mission includes teaching puppetry skills, promoting ministry, and delighting audiences through her performances, both during her teaching career and in retirement. Her puppetry has left a lasting impact on her community and online followers.
In 2021, amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sew Moi found a unique way to bring joy and hope. She embarked on a 100-day puppet singing marathon, sharing religious songs requested by friends and family. This initiative served as a beacon of hope during a challenging period. The Kuantan Primary Sabbath School subsequently requested her services to produce four video songs for their online program, Sing Along with Puppets, every Sabbath until January 2022. The endeavor became a collaborative effort, featuring child singers under age 14, parents, grandparents, pianists, voice actors, and scriptwriters.
Simultaneously, Sew Moi introduced a thematic puppet song video platform, including categories like "Praise Garden," "Gospel Station," and "Christmas Bless," all aimed at spreading joy, hope, and love during the challenging times of 2021.
Sew Moi's impact on children is immeasurable. "Children embrace puppetry immediately, without reservation. Presenting a puppet show is a reliable way to catch the child's attention," she said. While some initially had reservations about puppetry, they soon realized its potential to convey biblical truths and moral lessons.
Sew Moi pioneered puppetry in several Southeast Asian nations, thanks to her faith-based belief in God's mission. She introduced puppetry and puppet-making workshops during conventions and seminars to share this gift with others who wanted to reach out to children. Her dedication and efforts eventually resulted in the creation and distribution of 24 puppets across eight Southeast Asian Adventist organizations.
Sew Moi believes using puppets in church can help children and adults connect with their faith on a deeper level. Puppetry ministry is indeed a rapidly growing trend in the church, offering a modern form of entertainment while delivering valuable spiritual messages.
"Children are a gift of the Lord. Let's handle this gift with care. Let's care so much about children that we minister to their needs. Let's teach them biblical truths. Let's lead them to have good, wholesome fun. Let's use puppets and plays to bring the childlike quality in all of us," Sew Moi quotes David Faust, emphasizing the importance of ministries in nurturing young hearts and souls.
Sew Moi's ministry is a testament to the power of faith, creativity, and unwavering commitment to spreading the message of hope, love, and joy through the enchanting world of puppetry. Her legacy continues to inspire and uplift communities far and wide, reminding everyone that even in challenging times, the light of faith can shine brightly through the simplest of gestures.
Click the link to see one of Chai Sew Moi's puppet ministry