Boler, David

1919 - 2008
Church elder, educationist, Christian statesman

David Boler was born on December 5, 1919 at Port Swettenham (now Port Klang) into a Brethren family.[1] His father who hailed from Mangalore, India, was a convert from Hinduism to the Christian faith; his mother, previously from a Roman Catholic background, was a local Eurasian girl from Perak.

David received his primary and secondary school education at the Chinese Girls’ School, Kuala Lumpur, Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur and King George V School, Seremban respectively. While living in Kuala Lumpur, David and his family attended the Venning Road Gospel Hall.

When David’s father retired from the Malayan Railways, he took the family back to his hometown of Mangalore, India, in 1932. There, their home doubled as a place of worship, enthusiastic outreach and Bible study for the community. Through a series of Brethren mission meetings, David himself came to faith in Christ and was baptized on Christmas Eve 1934 at the age of fifteen.[2]

In 1939, David graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree (majoring in Physics and minoring in Mathematics) from St Aloysius College, Mangalore. In 1946, he received his Bachelor of Teaching from Maston Training College in Madras. This was followed by seven years of teaching at a high school in Madras.

However, David had always felt the pull to return to Malaya - the land of his birth. In 1952, he married Yvonne Margaret Lakin, and a year later, they sailed for Malaya to take up teaching positions in Perak. The couple eventually had two children, Brenda and Douglas.

David held Eldership in two Brethren churches – first at Elim Gospel Hall, Ipoh and then Petaling Jaya Gospel Hall (PJGH). During his time as Elder at PJGH, the church started several outreach centres like The Life Chapel, SS Gospel Centre, Subang Jaya Gospel Centre, Bandar Puchong Gospel Centre and Bandar Sunway Gospel Centre. In 1996, he was instrumental in establishing the Christian Brethren Secretariat of Malaysia (CBSM) as a central body to coordinate and encourage the combined activities of all Brethren churches in Malaysia.[3] He became its first Chairman.

As an educationist, David started his teaching career in Malaya (now Malaysia) at the Anglo-Chinese School, Ipoh. His years there spanned 1953 to 1965.[4] From 1966 until his retirement in 1978, he served as Principal of the Brethren mission school - the Bukit Bintang Boys’ Secondary School - in Petaling Jaya.

Related to education is the dedicated work of Scripture Union (SU) in schools. David was an avid supporter of SU activities, having first been exposed to their reading notes during his childhood days in Kuala Lumpur. He was chairman of SU Malaysia from 1967 to 1998. Also, as a staunch advocate of Christian schools in the mission of the church, he was associated with the Malaysian Christian Schools Council (MCSC) for 29 years. And he helped establish the Teachers’ Christian Fellowship (TCF), because he strongly believed that the education environment provided excellent opportunities for Christian witness.

After his retirement from teaching, he took up key leadership positions in various ecumenical parachurch organisations. He was founding chairman of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) which was formed in 1982 to meet the challenges facing religious liberty in Malaysia.[5] Today, sixty percent of the churches in Malaysia belong to this umbrella body which provides a common platform for unity in missions, evangelism, social action and Bible teaching. David was its chairman for twelve years from 1982 to 1994.

In 1985, he played a significant part in the formation of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) comprising NECF, the Roman Catholic Church and the Council of Churches of Malaysia. The CFM’s role is to represent the Christian community so that the united voice of Christians in Malaysia pertaining to national issues and other matters affecting them can be heard.[6] David’s tenure as chairman of CFM was from 1993 to 1995. He was also the founding chairman of the Bible Society of Malaysia, serving from 1983 to 1988.[7] And he was a member of the Malaysia Bible Seminary Joint Council from 1985 to 1996. In 1997, David became the founding chairman of Ministries for Asia Pacific (MAP).

David Boler is warmly regarded as a Christian statesman for the wider Malaysian church. When paying tribute to him, Kong Yeng Phooi, a fellow elder at PJGH and former NECF Council Member, wrote in 1998: “David Boler is a man of the Word.  His depth of knowledge and love for the Word of God are distinguishing marks which all who bear the name of Christian would do well to emulate. Never one to impose will or way, his chosen method is – listen to all and take the best, which normally happens to coincide with his own.  Such is the measure of the man.”[8]

Current Chairman of NECF, Rev Dr Eu Hong Seng, expressed his appreciation for David in this 1998 excerpt: “His kindness, sincerity, insight, convictions and vision have earned him broad respect from all quarters. For those of us who share his faith and desire to make Jesus relevant in everyday living, Mr Boler has been a true inspiration and fine role model. His high standing in the eyes of our community makes him the quintessential Christian statesman.” [9]                                                                        

In 2008, David was called home to the Lord at the age of 88. His daughter, Brenda, envisions that David’s final words for the next generation would have been: “The foundations for a vibrant evangelical movement have been set. Now it is time to get cracking on the rest of the construction. But it won’t happen if you remain in your small church huddle. You have to get out there and make a difference for the Lord – not just in Christian circles but also in your particular sphere of activity, be it work or school or at home."[10]

Romans 8:28 was David’s favourite verse: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. David will be lovingly remembered for answering God’s call in his life, fulfilling God’s purposes, and leaving a lasting imprint on Malaysia’s evangelical landscape.


  1. ^ Ooi Chin Aik, Tan Jin Huat, eds., The Pursuit of God’s Cause, In Honour of David Boler, (Malaysia: National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, 1998), 13.
  2. ^ “A New Beginning: Thoughts to Ponder”, accessed September 26, 2023,
  3. ^ “About CBSM”, Christian Brethren Secretariat Malaysia, accessed September 26, 2023,
  4. ^ David Boler, Pelita Methodist, Vol. 33, No. 5, May 2008, p. 14. 
  5. ^ “History”, NECF Malaysia, accessed September 26, 2023,
  6. ^ “About Us”, accessed on September 26, 2023,
  7. ^ Boler, Pelita Methodist, 14.
  8. ^  Ooi, Tan, eds., The Pursuit of God’s Cause, 45.
  9. ^ Ooi, Tan, eds., The Pursuit of God’s Cause, 45.
  10. ^ Brenda Boler, contributor to An Evangelical Footprint: Leaving A Spiritual Legacy For Future Generations, (Malaysia: National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, 2012), p.63

Tai Kim Teng (in collaboration with Brenda Boler, daughter of David Boler)

The writer is an orthopaedic surgeon and the former executive director of OMF in Malaysia, is the founder and executive director of DCBAsia. 


Boler, Brenda, contributor to An Evangelical Footprint: Leaving A Spiritual Legacy For Future Generations. Malaysia: National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, 2012

Boler, David. Pelita Methodist, Vol. 33, No. 5, May 2008.

Christian Brethren Secretariat of Malaysia (CBSM). “A New Beginning: Thoughts to Ponder”.

Christian Brethren Secretariat of Malaysia (CBSM). “About CBSM”. Accessed September 26, 2023.

Ooi, Chin Aik, Tan, Jin Huat, eds. The Pursuit of God’s Cause, In Honour of David Boler. Malaysia: National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, 1998.