Puppetry Evangelist Brings Joy and Faith to People across Borders

How a retired Adventist teacher in Malaysia is using puppets for ministry

Edward Rodriguez and Hazel Wanda Ginajil-Gara, Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and Adventist Review
Puppetry Evangelist Brings Joy and Faith to People across Borders
The puppet ministry of Chai Sew Moi in Sarawak, Malaysia, has reached children across borders with stories of faith, knowledge, and inspiration. [Photo: Southern Asia-Pacific Division News]

In the heart of Sarawak, Malaysia, the uplifting puppetry ministry of Chai Sew Moi has been subtly creating inspiration for people around her for many years. She has had a tremendous creative and spiritual effect on others since retiring in 2016 and has used her talents to share the faith of God with children in church and in local communities.

Moi’s journey into puppetry started in a modest way. In 1993, she made the decision to try her hand at puppetry after watching the American program Sesame Street with her nieces in the 1970s and later with her own children. With no formal training, she created puppet characters for a 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 her church has flourished. Children became active participants in song leading, church activities, and special programs, all featuring puppetry. One of Moi’s 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 including the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Korea, Taiwan, and Mongolia.

As a former school teacher, Moi extended her passion to her colleagues, teaching them how 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, 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.”

Moi’s lifelong commitment to her mission includes teaching puppetry skills, promoting puppet ministry, and delighting audiences through her puppet performances, both during her teaching career and in retirement. Her puppetry has left a lasting impact on her community and online followers.

Chai Sew Moi with some of her creations. [Photo: Southern Asia-Pacific Division News]

In 2021, amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, 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 Saturday (Sabbath) until January 2022. The endeavor became a collaborative effort, featuring child singers under 14, parents, grandparents, pianists, voice actors, and scriptwriters.

Simultaneously, 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.

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 says. While some initially had reservations about puppetry, they soon realized its potential to convey biblical truths and moral lessons.

She pioneered puppetry in several Southeast Asian nations, thanks to her faith-based belief in God’s mission. Moi 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 twenty-four puppets across eight Southeast Asian Adventist organizations.

Using puppets in church, Moi believes, 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,” Moi says, quoting veteran Christian educator David Faust. “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.”

The original version of this story was posted on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division news site.

Edward Rodriguez and Hazel Wanda Ginajil-Gara, Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and Adventist Review