03/21/2020, 08.00
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Baptist pastor dies from virus, ‘death has no sting,’ says son

by Joseph Masilamany

David Cheng is the first of Malaysia’s two COVID-19 fatalities. A few hours after his death, the son wrote a message to friends and supporters, saying that his father “in a better place than all of us. So with that, we are putting on our garments of praise and still rejoicing through this storm.” The clergyman’s wife and daughter have also tested positive to the virus.


Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Malaysia’s first coronavirus victim is David Cheng, pastor at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Kuching, capital of the State of Sarawak (northwestern Borneo).

The 60-year-old passed away Tuesday morning at the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH), where he had been hospitalised four days earlier.

Hours after the clergyman, the COVID-19 virus took the life of a 34-year-old ethnic Malay man in the Federal Territory of Johor. He had attended an Islamic gathering that was later identified as the hub for hundreds of infections across Southeast Asia.

A few hours after the pastor’s death, his son Anders Cheng, a teacher, sent a message to friends and supporters shocked by the news. “Give us some time to grieve but fret not, we are still at peace and death has no sting,” he wrote in his message, citing a passage from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15:55).

Anders Cheng thanked all those who offered support and prayers for his father in the last days of his life.

As Rev Cheng was a skilled guitarist, songwriter and performer, his son also cited a passage from his first album: “Over all over all / He's the ruler over all / And my life in Him is secured”.

Anders said his father was cremated on the day he died after the government imposed travel restrictions to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

The “memorial service,” he said, “felt different”. “My dad is in a place where there is no more pain, sickness, grief, sorrows or worries, and he’s in a better place than all of us. So with that, we are putting on our garments of praise and still rejoicing through this storm.”

Rev Cheng, a convert, was baptised at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in 1977. His wife Sim Lee Naa and their daughter also tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

“As of now, I’m concerned more for my mom and sister and pray that their immunity will fight it without any further complications,” said Anders, adding, “pray with me for my health too that I won’t be tested positive and my sister and mom will be ok and come out stronger.”

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