In 1962, Joon Moi was just a few days old when she was brought to the Nursery Section of The Salvation Army Kuching Children’s Home in Sarawak. Her young mother could not manage a newborn.
“So, I spent almost all my childhood and teenage years at the Children’s Home in Kuching, a place I very much regard as home,” says Joon Moi, who will be turning 61 this year.
Although she didn’t receive the love of her mother growing up, and never knew her father, she found love and care through the officers and staff of the home.
“Most importantly, at The Salvation Army, I learned about Jesus and His unwavering love not only for me but for everyone who accepts Him – whoever you are and whatever your circumstances,” she shares.
Finding love and a life of service
After finishing secondary school, Joon Moi became a junior staff at the Kuching Children’s Home. At the time, the home had deaf and blind children, so she was sent to Kuala Lumpur to learn sign language.
In 1987, The Salvation Army sponsored her secretarial studies at Stamford College in Singapore, where she met and married Nigel Jones who was from the United Kingdom. The young couple then began a life of service, starting at The Haven Children’s Home in Singapore where they cared for and ministered to young Singaporeans who had been neglected or abused.
After four years in Singapore, they spent one and a half years in the UK at The Salvation Army’s Strawberry Fields Children’s Home in Liverpool (made famous by The Beatles with the song “Strawberry Fields”) before taking up appointments in Kuching, Sarawak in 1995.
Nigel headed the Kuching Boys Home, while Joon Moi took over the reins of the Kuching Children’s Home, the very place she had grown up in.
It was a full-circle moment for Joon Moi, who says, “We served nine years in Kuching where I was blessed to be able to give back to the Home that once cared for me.”
From serving the young to walking with the elderly
In 2003, there was a pivotal shift. Joon Moi was appointed the Superintendent of The Salvation Army’s Joyhaven Home for the Elderly in Petaling Jaya, a role which lasted nearly ten years.
“During this time, I learned that old folk have needs just like children. They may not be as physically fit as youngsters, but many aspects of caring are similar such as keeping active, staying mentally stimulated and taking care of one’s health. The need for Jesus in their lives is very much the same.”
In 2013, she became the Superintendent of The Salvation Army’s Perak Home for the Aged and still serves the 30 residents today.
As a keen learner with a compassionate heart, Joon Moi found new perspective when working with the elderly. Despite the residents’ age, every elderly person has a unique personality, skills and potential waiting to be tapped into and discovered.
“We identify their strengths and work alongside them, and this can be arts and crafts, gardening, cooking or other skill-related hobbies that bring them fulfilment. We also provide physiotherapy and occupational therapy so they continuously work on their physical well-being,” she says.
Time is like a thief that slowly robs people of their strength
In her work with the elderly, Joon Moi has witnessed residents succumb to illnesses and age-related disorders such as stroke, dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
It is a sobering reminder of the gravity of her role, to ensure they are given the physical, emotional and spiritual care they need to be kept safe. “ Some even call me “Mother” as they regress into their past as children,” she added.
Working with the aged also means fulfilling their last wishes, something deeply personal to Joon Moi. Some residents would request to meet family members whom they have not seen in years.
“When this happens, my role as their ‘mother’ or caretaker is to help them fulfil those wishes and comfort them until their last breath. I find immense joy in knowing that they are loved and cared for to the very end.”
Due to precautionary restrictions, the Home’s activities were limited during the pandemic, but Joon Moi says that supporters remembered them even during this difficult time.
“Well-wishers would deliver food to us to ensure the residents still received the best care in this safe haven despite the outside world being in turmoil,” she says.
This year, the Home is looking forward to the three-day open house event for during Chinese New Year where supporters and families can come together and mingle. Some residents who are more mobile and healthy are also invited to other open house events hosted by volunteers where they get to enjoy home-cooked meals. These special invitations, she says, are meaningful experiences for the residents.
Everyone has a story to tell
Over three decades of ministry, Joon Moi has learned to be a good listener. “Both children and the elderly have stories to tell, often meaningful and heartwarming,” she says. Children share their hardships and how much they’ve grown through the challenges.
The elderly, on the other hand, share their life experiences and how overcoming challenges has made them wiser.
“I have learned through the years that each person is a precious individual no matter what their past or circumstances. With Jesus in their life, there can be happiness and contentment so that each day is a blessing,” Joon Moi says reflectively.
Her hope is that the work will continue to be supported so that the Home can be a “beacon of hope” for Malaysians in their final leg of life. These precious human beings may be advanced in age, but they still have so much to give.
Looking back on her life of service (that is far from over) in The Salvation Army, Joon Moi knows it has been a learning journey.
“I am filled with gratitude towards The Salvation Army for nurturing me into becoming the person I am today. I hope I have been able to help the people I serve,” she says.
This Chinese New Year, The Salvation Army invites you to the Perak Home for the Aged in Jelapang, Ipoh, to spend time with their mature residents, listen to their wisdom and hear their stories.
If you have the time and resources, you may also contribute a cooked dish to add to the Home’s festive meals. To find out more, please call The Salvation Army’s Perak Home for the Aged at +605 5262 108.
All photos provided by Joon Moi Jones.