Rajasingham Duraisamy Amarasingham, better known as Amara, was born on January 3, 1930, to a well-to-do and highly-respected family in Kuala Lumpur. His father, Dr A.E. Duraisamy, was an exemplary medical doctor of his time. His mother, Satkunam Jacobs, a kind and generous woman, died a day before Amara’s third birthday. His father later married Elizabeth Devadason whom Amara came to call ammah (which means mother in Tamil). Amara grew up in a traditional, church-going Methodist family, regularly attending Sunday school and learning to memorise Scripture.
At the age of 11, Amara went to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to live with his uncle Dr J.T. Amarasingham and his aunt, Queenie. He was there for seven years and was greatly influenced by this godly family who planted the seeds of the Christian faith in him. In Ceylon, Amara attended one of the country’s best schools – St. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, in Colombo.
In 1948, Amara returned to Malaya and studied at the then University of Malaya in Singapore. It was there that he questioned the Christian faith which he found meaningless. On the advice of a Christian friend, he read the gospel of John. By the time he finished reading John’s gospel, he knew who Jesus was and that Jesus died for his sins. Overwhelmed by God’s love for him, Amara fell on his knees and gave his heart to Jesus on December 24, 1951. Thus began his 50-year journey with the Lord Jesus.
On June 17, 1959, Amara married Susheela Paul from Madras, India. She, too, came from a respected, traditional Christian family. Their marriage was a rock-solid Christian partnership where they worked together for the kingdom of God. In late 1959, Amara returned to Kuala Lumpur with Susheela and started working at the Chemistry Department in the Malaysian civil service. He had by this time obtained his master’s degree in science.
In 1960, the couple joined the Trinity Methodist Church, Petaling Jaya, which was then a young church. They were key members there with both teaching Sunday school and Amara as a lay preacher. When he was transferred to the Chemistry Department in Penang in 1968, they worshipped at the Trinity Methodist Church there where he started and led Bible study for the next 10 years. Throughout his ministry, Amara preached powerful messages based on the word of God despite being a shy and quiet person.
Amara’s desire was to bring about revival in the Methodist church. In the 1970s, he and a few like-minded evangelical Christians met together to pray and organised expository teaching on Sunday afternoons. He was also instrumental in bringing international evangelical speakers such as Eric Alexander and Michael Griffiths to speak at the Keswick conventions in Malaysia. In later years, he expressed his delight at how God had answered that prayer for revival by bringing the best and the brightest into full-time Christian ministry.[
Amara described his time in Penang as a watershed ministry and it was with a heavy heart that he left Penang in August 1978 to return to Kuala Lumpur as the director-general of the Chemistry Department. Before leaving Penang, he presented everyone in his department with a Bible. Many years later, he heard that several of his colleagues in Penang had become Christians.
Back in Petaling Jaya, the family worshipped at the Sungei-Way Subang Methodist Church (SSMC) where Amara served as an elder. By 1983, Amara was feeling spiritual dryness in his life. In December that year, the Lord provided an opportunity for him to have a quiet spiritual retreat in Paris. By this time, he had also started on the discipline of fasting. Again, God was preparing the ground for the next phase of his life.
On May 2, 1984, Amara had his “charismatic” experience. It happened at his home during a home group meeting on a stormy evening. The group had invited a close friend, Mrs Rosemary Tay, to speak. The storm stopped just as the meeting started at 8pm. That night, they experienced miracles: people saw Jesus walking into the room and anointing them, and some with long-time illnesses were instantaneously healed. That experience took Amara to a new dimension in his walk with Jesus.
The next morning, the Holy Spirit woke him up to pray at 3am. That became a daily routine. On the days he overslept, the Holy Spirit would tap him on his shoulder to wake him for worship and prayer.
After his charismatic experience in 1984, Amara’s preaching took on a new depth and dimension. Often, more than half the congregation would be at the altar for ministry after his preaching. He regularly spoke at his local church and many other places within and outside the Methodist church. He was a man of humour but, in later days, he refused to pepper his sermons with jokes as he felt it often took away from the key message, with people remembering his jokes rather than the sermon.
Over his 40 years of Christian ministry, Amara taught at Sunday school, acted as a youth advisor, pioneered Bible studies and prayer meetings, and brought in excellent international evangelical speakers to Malaysia. He also served in the councils of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship and Scripture Union, worked at Malaysian Care, led a home group, as well as mentored and counselled people from all walks of life, including a support group for parents of special needs children.
His last pastoral appointment was as pastor of Subang Methodist Church. Throughout his ministry, Susheela worked alongside him. Amara believed that a husband should give his wife the physical, emotional and psychological protection to enable her to move freely in the gifts God had given her. In addition to being a helpmeet, Susheela was also serving in her own capacity. She was a speaker and sat on the editorial board of Asian Beacon (a Malaysian Christian magazine) and the board of governors of the Penang Methodist Girls School.
In his professional life, Amara rose to the position of director-general of the Department of Chemistry. On his retirement, the Sunday Star reported that the Chemistry Department had grown into one of the best among developing nations during the 26 years that Amara was there. He was the first Malaysian to go to the Antarctica in 1964.[
In 1985, despite lucrative job offers from the secular world after his retirement, he chose to work as the deputy director of Malaysian Care, which helps marginalised groups in society, under the leadership of Reverend Peter Young. There, he saw many a broken reed and a smouldering wick made whole and beautiful by the Lord: drug addicts, prostitutes, and the mentally and physically disabled. His time at Malaysian Care was one of his most rewarding ministries.
He finished his book At Heaven’s Gates at 9pm on July 7, 2001. Early the next morning, he had a massive stroke. He went home to the Lord on July 9, 2001 aged 71. Ten days earlier, during a prayer meeting, his good friend Yeoh Beng Keat had a prophetic word for him – that while the Lord saw that it was in Amara’s heart to do much more for His kingdom, Amara had completed what was assigned to him. The prophecy ended with a vision of Jesus on the cross saying, “It is finished.” Although puzzling at that time, its meaning became clear later.
About 400 people attended each of the three wake services and over 1,000 people were at Amara’s funeral service, a tribute to a man who lived wholly for God and a testimony to the many lives he had impacted while on earth.
- ^ T. Selvaratnam and S. Apputhurai, Legacy of the Pioneers: 125 Years of Jaffna Tamils in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur, Percetakan Printpack Sdn Bhd, First ed. 2006.
- ^ In his book At Heaven’s Gates, he wrote: “The best had been touched and were willing to give up lucrative careers and potentially large incomes to serve the Lord full-time.” Among them were now-Bishop Emeritus Hwa Yung, his brother the late Reverend Hwa Chien (former Trinity Annual Conference president), Andrew Tan (a senior pastor of the Canning Garden Methodist Church, Ipoh) and Khoo Boo Leong who was involved in drug rehabilitation work.
- ^ R.D. Amarasingham, “Husbands, Love Your Wives”, Asian Beacon, Volume 19 No. 4.
- ^ The Sunday Star, December 30, 1964
- ^ “So Hard to Get Used to the Daylight”, Sunday Mail, December 27, 1964,
- ^ “First Malaysian at the Antarctic”, New Straits Times, May 27, 1997.