21 October 1928 – 10 January 2016

Here is a brief story of a sincere maidservant of the Cause who carried out tireless services for the Cause from the time she accepted the Faith in 1958, earning profound admiration and appreciation from individuals and institutions, including the Universal House of Justice, at the time of her passing. From the time of accepting the Faith,  Lily Jansz had one goal and only one goal in mind- to please the heart of Baháʼu’lláh  through relentless service in the vineyard of her Lord.

Lily Jansz, whose father George was a Ceylonese Dutch Burgher, was born on 21 October 1928 in Sungei Petani, Kedah. George came from the then Ceylon to British Malaya slightly after 1902 and married a local Chinese lady Miss Amy Choon in 1910 at the Wesleyan Church in Ipoh town in the state of Perak. From this marriage arranged by a broker, five children were born in Perak and later three in Sungei Petani, with Lily Jansz as the youngest. In 1915, the family bought three acres of land in the Bakar Arang suburbs of the Sungei Petani town and built a family home on that land. George ran a printing firm, and after the First World War, he had a coconut plantation. This was where Lily grew up in her childhood days.

Later Lily and her elder sister Janet Boey had a hairdressing salon, “Salon de Beaute,” in Penang. It was while here that Lily Jansz was destined to accept the Faith. She came to know the Faith through Miss Jeanne Frankel and her mother Mrs. Margaret Kelly Bates who had arrived in Penang in October 1957 from their pioneering post in Nicobar Islands. While Jeanne Frankel and her mother were waiting for instructions from the Guardian on their next pioneering posting, they started to teach the Faith to the local people in Penang. It all started when Jeanne and her mother wanted to get their hair done. For that purpose, they walked into a hairdressing salon, “Salon de Beaute”. While doing up their hair they mentioned the word “Baháʼí” to Lily and her sister Boey. Jeanne and her mother invited them to their house for further discussions on the Faith. After some visits Lily accepted the Faith. She did not fully understand all the details of the  Baháʼí teachings but was fully convinced that the Baháʼí Faith was certainly a good religion. Having accepted the Faith, she resorted to reading on the Faith from whatever literature was made available to her.

The Salon de Beaute became a focal point to attract many others for the Faith. Many wives of prominent people of Penang came to her beauty salon to improve their looks. Several others came to know about the Faith through Lily Jansz and it became clear that the Hand of Providence had chosen her to play this important role throughout her life, in a quiet and often unpublicised way. She was able to attract people from the higher brackets in society. She was running a beauty parlour where the wives of the prominent people of Penang came to improve their looks, and to whom she gave the Faith. With her acceptance of the Faith, she chose a path of teaching the Cause with such an obsession in different capacities for more than half a century, to the awe and admiration of many Baháʼí women of her time. She was certainly one of those few Baháʼí heroines who rose and showed the way at a time when not many believers of her sex were active in the field.

Lily immediately started sharing the Faith to several eminently placed ladies who visited her salon. Through the efforts of Jeanne and her mother, the first Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Penang was formed during Ridván 1958 with Mrs. Keong Hean Kok, Miss Lily Jansz, Mrs. Shantha Sundram, Mrs. Myra Ong Hak Lim, Mr. Ong Kim Seng, Mr. Chew Swee Seng, Dr. Chellie J. Sundram, Mr. N. Jegathesan and Dr. P. K. Rao. Mrs. Shantha Sundram was elected the Secretary of the Assembly while Lily Jansz was elected Treasurer. She served on this institution for several years.

First Local Spiritual Assembly of Penang, 1958. Chairman Dr. Sundram is standing in the middle. Seated in the middle are Lily Jansz and  Mrs. Shantha Sundram

Apart from involving in local teaching she also started to move outside Penang.  In August 1960, Theresa Chee of Alor Star accepted the Faith at the Baháʼí Summer School in Port Dickson and once back in Alor Star the  excited Theresa called the Penang Bahá’ís for assistance. The ever-ready Bahá’ís of Penang- Dr. Chellie Sundram, Dr. P. K. Rao, Shantha Sundram, Lily Jansz  and  Chong Kia Toon came for a fireside chat at Theresa Chee’s house. It was to Chong Kia Toon that she married later.

Throughout her Baháʼí life, Lily attended many Baháʼí gatherings held all over Malaysia, such as Summer and Winter Schools, National Conventions, teaching conferences and gatherings held in honor of visiting Baháʼís. She had moved closely with the very early believers of Malaya who had laid the foundation for the growth of the Faith in Malaya and had met several visiting Baháʼís, chiefly Hands of the Cause who blessed this soil through their visits.

Lily in her Salon de Beaute

It needs to be mentioned that her elder sister Lily Boey moved to Singapore in 1965 after marriage and opened her own salon there. Lily Jansz managed the Salon de Beaute on her own in the ground floor of Hotel Merlin, the most famous and leading hotel in Penang. Today it is renamed City Bay View Hotel. It needs to be mentioned that Lily was doing well in her business but never attached to materialism. There is a verse of the Blessed Beauty that she came across when she newly accepted the Faith. The verse is,   “Exultest thou over the treasures thou dost possess, knowing they shall perish? Rejoicest thou in that thou rulest a span of earth, when the whole world, in the estimation of the people of Bahá, is worth as much as the black in the eye of a dead ant? Abandon it unto such as have set their affections upon it, and turn thou unto Him Who is the Desire of the world.”

When the Local Spiritual Assembly in Georgetown had its Bahá’í Centre in the home of Lily Jansz, her home became a hive of activities. Children’s classes, Chinese Teaching Conferences and Bahá’í weddings often took place in her home. Lily was always a “foot soldier” in the Cause, opening her house for Baháʼí activities. She seldom was the speaker but would rather invite others to speak on the Faith. She loved teaching the Faith and warmly welcomed Baháʼí teachers and travel teachers. She offered the best hospitality for the travel teachers, for whatever length of time they stayed in her house.

Home of Lily Jansz in Penang, 1971. With Lom Kok Hoon and Yin Hong Shuen from Alor Star.

For a long time, the whole of the Penang Island had a one island— one Assembly situation. A new Local Spiritual Assembly in Gelugor was formed in 1972, with its Bahá’í Centre at the home of Dr. Chellie J. Sundram and Shantha Sundram at 3, Minden Heights. The Local Spiritual Assembly in Georgetown had its Bahá’í Centre in the home of Lily Jansz at 20, Lim Cheng Teik Square. Teaching and consolidation projects in the fishing villages was a major activity of the Georgetown Bahá’ís. Lily, Wong Meng Fook and Soh Aik Leng were part of the ‘original’ teaching team that opened up the fishing villages in Penang Island, and Tanjung Piandang in North Perak from 1972 to 1980. Lim Kok Hoon had also given a helping hand. The fishermen became firm in the Faith from the hospitality that Lily provided when they visited her home. They were deeply moved and touched to see an eminently placed lady in society opening her home and extending a sincere, true and warm welcome each time they came to the Bahá’í Centre for activities. She was indeed a true attracter of hearts of men. Home visits became a key activity focus and Lily Jansz became a household name in Kuala Sungai Pinang and the other fishing areas. There was always a ready welcome and open house when the teaching teams visited the homes of the friends. The teaching teams were introduced to other families in the village who have not enrolled. She was giving the Faith to simple fishermen going out with their trawlers, drinking and gambling. One of the Bahá’í teachings which Lily Jansz conveyed to the fishermen who became Bahá’ís was ‘Work is Worship’ and that earning a living was enjoined upon each and every one.

Teaching team visiting one of the believers from Kuala Sungei Pinang fishing village. L – R: Ah Seng, Wong Meng Fook, Lily Jansz and Susie Wong

This set off a chain of events among the newly enrolled friends. Whereas previously they were content to go out in their trawler fishing boats, they became serious and started to explore ways and means to earn their living. Regular children’s classes were held and Bahá’í weddings also took place at the Bahá’í Centre.

The first  Hokkien Teaching Conference, 1972, held in the house of Lily at 20 Lim Cheng Teik Square, bought in 1958. Leaning on the wall towards the right is the organizer Lim Kok Hoon. Wong Meng Fook is at extreme right, and the host Lily Jansz is at extreme left.

Lily used her profession to bring the Cause to the highest authorities and was soon distinguished as one of those early believers to take the Faith to those in high places. In the early 1970s Lily was made a member of Thailand’s Exalted Order of the White Elephant; this chivalric award being presented personally by King  Bhumibol Adulyadej.  Due to the deterioration of Lily’s ribbon associated with this Royal Thai honour it was not possible to identify which category of this Order she belongs to and Lily, herself, has forgotten. Lily and her sister Jane Ong, shared links to Thailand’s Royal Family.

When the fame of the hairdressing salon in Penang became very famous and popular, it caught the attention of Her Royal Highness  the Sultanah of the state of Kedah and became her customer. From 21 September 1970 to 20 September 1975,  she became the Raja Permaisuri Agong (Queen) of Malaysia. Lily Jansz was selected by the Queen as her personal hairdresser on her majesty’s state visit to India, Thailand and  Pakistan. In July 1974 she was selected to accompany the King  and the Queen to England, France and Switzerland. Lily refused monetary payment for her services to Queen. The Queen was much touched by her kind gesture. And  presented Lily  with gold jewelry instead and allowed to enjoy   special privileges, like a private room and use of the official car, with which she was able to visit the Bahá’ís. When the Queen went out on official engagements, she entrusted Lily with her whole bag of jewels for safekeeping!

The Malaysian Royals and their household were guests of Queen Elizabeth at the Buckingham palace. From the Claridges Hotel where Lily was lodging she had written a moving letter to the Queen on 19 July 1974. On departure, Lily presented Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II a special gift- two illumined prayer cards. She also gave the message to people she came into contact with.

The Buckingham palace wrote a letter of appreciation to Lily through the Malaysian High Commission, praising her gesture. The letter dated 23 July 1974 reached the Royal Palace in Malaysia and was forwarded to her residence in Penang. That letter reads:

“Dear Miss Jansz,

I am writing to thank you very much for your extremely charming letter which you wrote on the 19th July from Claridges Hotel. Her Majesty is very touched by your kind wishes and also by the beautiful Baháʼí prayers which you so kindly sent her.

I am passing on your thanks to Mr. Luigi and may I, in return, say how much we all enjoyed the visit of Their Majesties and the Malaysian Household. We could not have asked for more delightful or helpful guests.”

Letter from Buckingham Palace

Lily was further honoured on 14 January 1975, being made a Member of the Order of the Royal Household of Malaysia (BSD) or known in Malay as Bentara Setia Diraja. Her medal, presented by the King, was awarded for her “undivided loyalty” and service to the Queen



Lily Janz receiving BDS  medal from His  Royal Highness  the King of Malaysia

Lily and Susie Wong relaxing at a park near the venue of the International Teaching Conference held in Kong Kong, November 1976

Lily was suffering from Parkinson disease from the 1980s. Sadly her marriage too failed.  But she went on with life getting strength from the Faith. Even from the early days there was always an inner agitation compelling her to rise to a higher plane of service. In the 1980s she could not practice her profession with effectiveness as her hands were trembling.

Local Spiritual Assembly of 1983. Seated L-R: Hua Keng Tong, Lily Janz, Mrs Teik Cheow, Mr Teh Teik Cheow.  Back row L-R:  Teh Seng Chai, Wong Hong Fong, Yeap Hong Ean,T an Beng Sooi and Soh Aik Leng

Visit by Dr. H.M. Munje of the National Spiritual Assembly of India to the residence of Lily in 1983. Dr Munje is seated in the centre, and Lily Jansz stands third from left

In 1984 she sold off her business and rented out her house and chose to pioneer in South Thailand, finally fulfilling her own burning desire to be a pioneer. In Hat Yai she moved closely with Mr. Victor Greenspoon, pioneer there in bringing the Faith to many local people. Having gained sufficient experience in understanding the simple fishermen in Penang, she was able to win the hearts and minds of the people in Hat Yai  which became a base. The Baháʼís of Malaysia from time to time went to  Hat Yai  for teaching and joined her in the teaching trips.

Lily and Kesavanathan teaching at a stall in Hat Yai, South Thailand

In late 1985 her son Dr. Poh Chean Chong, a dental surgeon who completed his degree in the Philippines, visited Lily and together they visited many communities in South Thailand. Lily had advised her son not to work in Malaysia but to serve abroad in a pioneering post. He consulted the Universal House of Justice and after job searching in several African countries and settled for good in Cape Verde. He is married and has rooted himself there. Lily was most pleased with her son’s gesture in becoming a pioneer.

Lily with her son Dr. Poh Chean Chong

Lily Janz  and Chong Boo Haw of Alor Star on a teaching trip to Tawa Island, South Thailand, January 1987.

From Thailand she visited Penang from time to time to collect the rentals from her tenant. Although suffering from Parkinson disease she was still able to visit many parts of South Thailand where she won the hearts of the people. She was often assisted by the Baháʼís of Alor Star in her teaching efforts. Having had the privilege to meet Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum in the latter’s first trip to Malaya in 1961, Lily was further inspired and guided by Amatu’l-Bahá when she visited Hat Yai in January 1987.

With Hand of the Cause of God Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum at Hat Yai, January 1987

While serving in Thailand, Lily’s daughter, Chong Siew Lian, had given her mother an air ticket to go to Sydney during Christmas 1990.  Lily had been advised to go to Cabramatta to help with a Vietnamese teaching project. The teachers were staying at a rented house for the project. Lily had offered her assistance in cooking for the teachers. Even while on holiday, her heart was moved to offer assistance in this teaching campaign, cooking for the teachers. There she met Dr. John Bruha, an American believer who was pioneering in Sabah, and who was also in Sydney for a marriage holiday. They had earlier acquainted themselves at the Summer School held in Port Dickson in 1988.

They were soon married in the Kota Kinabalu  Baháʼí Centre on 12 August 1991, starting another chapter of active service for the Faith. Their home in Taman Jumbo in Kota Kinabalu was used as a kind of Baháʼí Centre. The large hall was an excellent venue for Feasts, Holy Days, Assembly meetings and other functions. There were two bedrooms for two Iban youth pioneers from Sarawak.
Lily made sure that there was enough food for anyone entering the door. In  a by-election Lily was added  to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Putatan, a satellite town of Kota Kinabalu.  They were actively involved in daily teaching trips. Weekends were devoted to undertaking teaching trips to the interiors. To raise funds for the Faith they  made shell-based ear-rings and brooches which Lily sold   to Bahá’ís and neighbours. and the receipts went to the Local Fund, earmarked for teaching.

Gathering in Pitas  in 1993.  L-R: Chusna, Betty,  Lily Jansz, Dr. John at back, Chang Ruiz (now in USA), Riban and Ryan

Lily teaching in Sabah

After a couple months, when the Local Spiritual Assembly was found to be stable they moved to serve at a nearby village in Penampang District. Their  home there became a stopping point for Baháʼís from Kota Kinabalu and Putatan driving into the interior for teaching or on their return for a cool drink, a light meal, a rest or even a shower. With their teaching efforts the Kampong Tuunon in the Penampang District was thus opened to the Faith. The couple stayed there as members of the community, introducing the villagers to the Baháʼís and the Faith.

During this period, Lily made frequent trips to Penang and Thailand to keep up with her teaching and pioneering work there. Lily’s health was failing further. Despite poor health she was able to  attend  the Second Baháʼí World Congress in New York in November 1992. Lily was very moved, and her spirit was reinforced to meet many of the very early believers, some of whom she had met in the Malayan soil in the early days. She was also very grieved to see the acute poverty, hunger and homelessness of some segments in New York. Her tender heart reached for them. Settling down this time in Kampong Tuunon, they organised regular weekend deepening sessions and undertaking teaching trips to the Pitas district.

Unfortunately, Lily’s health further deteriorated. In one of the teaching trips into the jungles, Lily was advised to avoid the perilous journey, to which Lily said she would be very happy to lay down her life in the path of service. The Bruhas were very kind and hospitable and touched the hearts of both the Baháʼí and the wider community.

Lily and John with Mr Yon Yun Thong and family in Kota Kinabalu

In late 1994, under the request of the  World Centre   Dr. Bruha  went to Vietnam to  coordinate the BIC-Hanoi English Teaching Project there. Lily liquidated their property in  Sabah and went back to Penang to resume her Penang and Thailand teaching. As her application for Visa to join  Dr. Bruha  in Vietnam was turned down she remained in Penang. After seven months in Vietnam Dr. Bruha  returned to Penang.

With a strong desire to pioneer somewhere they made more than two hundred applications round the world but there was no sign of any door opening.  In 1995 they moved to California and became members of the Baháʼí community of Eldorado County Northeast and in the following year were elected to the Local Assembly. Lily took upon herself the task of looking after isolated members of the community, with their van taking the needy members of the community to free food stalls. They had a small walnut orchard, and the nuts were offered to members of the community in exchange for contributions to the Baháʼí Funds. In 1998, Lily and Dr. Bruha moved to Hebron, Wisconsin where they assisted in establishing the Rock River Valley Teaching Committee.

As job situation was not promising, Lily and Dr. Bruha decided to pioneer to Australia. From California they flew into Penang in July 1998. While Lily stayed there, Dr. Bruha  flew to Canberra to make  visa, housing and employment arrangements, which took some  eight months.  While waiting in Penang,  Lily made regular teaching trips to Thailand and Penang and taught children’s classes that had been started decades previously.

When Lily joined Dr. Bruha, they initiated and manned a weekly proclamation stall at the local flea market in Canberra. Dr. Bruha, endowed with artistic talents, designed over two-hundred bookmarks, compilations containing quotations from the Holy Writings, pamphlets and refrigerator magnets of which they gave away to more than 22,000 people who visited the stall. This allowed the stall to operate without Assembly’s funding for eleven years.

With their health conditions declining rapidly they were placed in a rest home some four-hour drive away from Canberra on the  coast of New South Wales That was a nursing home on a hillock overlooking the sea. Lilly was quite bed ridden while John stayed in one of the rooms on the lower level. Each morning John  wheeled Lily out and while overlooking the sea, together they will said their morning prayers.   The last  six months of 2015 brought a rapid decline in Lily’s health. Towards the end of December, Lily started to lose her appetite, mostly because she needed more and more help with eating.

They loved and cared for each other and served the Cause

The evening of 9 January,  Lily  quietly grasped the  arm of Dr. Bruha and  told him that her happiest days were in serving the Cause together as one soul.

On the noon of 10 January 2016, Lily’s soul ascended to the  Abhá Kingdom. The Universal House of Justice in its letter dated 13 January 2016 sent this message to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Australia:

The Universal House of Justice was saddened to learn from your email letter dated 12 January 2016 (13 Sharaf 172) of the passing of Lily Jansz, dedicated handmaiden of Bahá’u’lláh. May the memories of her devoted services to the Faith—particularly in carrying, together with her husband, Dr. John Bruha, the light of Divine Guidance to Malaysia and other lands—be a source of inspiration to all those who knew her. Kindly extend the loving sympathy of the House of Justice to her husband and other loved ones for the loss they have sustained and assure them of its heartfelt supplications in the Holy Shrines for the progress of her noble soul throughout the heavenly realms. Prayers will also be offered for their comfort and strength in their bereavement.”

The Spiritual Assembly of the Baháʼís of Sabah in its message dated 12 January 2016 to Dr. John Bruha mentioned:

The Spiritual Assembly of Sabah wishes to express its deepest condolence over the passing of Madam Lily Jansz. Last night  Baháʼí friends from Penampang and Kota Kinabalu held special prayers at the Baháʼí Centre in memory of Madam Lily or Aunty Lily as she was fondly know over here.

During the memorial and prayer gathering the friends shared inspiring stories of some of Aunty Lily’s dedicated services to Bahá’u’lláh in Sabah as well as in West Malaysia and Thailand. Our hearts and thoughts are with you and family during these days of grief, but we are also cheered in remembrance of Aunty Lily’s exemplary dedication, steadfastness and selfless service to the Blessed Beauty. We are also comforted with confidence of her status and well-being with the company on high. On this earthly plane, we will always be encouraged and inspired by her radiant spirit and legacy.

The Spiritual Assembly of the Baháʼís of Malaysia mentioned this in its message to the community dated 12 January 2016:

It was with much sadness that the Spiritual Assembly learnt about the passing of Mdm Lily Bruha, devoted and faithful maidservant of the Blessed Beauty in Australia on 10 January 2016. The Assembly recalls with much gratitude her praiseworthy contributions to the advancement of the Faith in the early years in Penang, as well as her pioneering services in Thailand and Sabah…. Friends are kindly requested to offer prayers for her soul in the heavenly realms and that she be richly rewarded for her selfless efforts for the Cause of her Beloved.

The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baháʼís of the United States in its 20 January 2016 message to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baháʼís of Australia, mentioned:

“Mrs. Jansz’s departure clearly represents a loss to both our national communities. We join you in saluting―and expressing deepest gratitude for―the intrepid pioneering spirit that motivated her efforts to further the advance of the unifying Bahá’í teachings in the diverse lands of Malaysia, Thailand, and Sabah, as well as on the Australian home front.

Kindly extend our heartfelt condolences to her husband, Dr. John Bruha, and to her loved ones and friends. Be assured she will be remembered in our prayers beneath the lofty dome of the Mother Temple of the West, where we will offer supplications for the eternal progress of her precious soul.”

The National Spiritual Assembly of Australia in its message to Dr. John Bruha dated 27 January 2016 mentioned:

The National Spiritual Assembly takes this opportunity to honour dear Lily’s many contributions to the development of the Faith, including her pioneering spirit which will be remembered with fondness, which saw her raise the banner of Baháʼu’lláh  in Malaysia, Thailand, Sabah and on the home front in Australia…  We are sure that dear Lily’s soul has also been, and will continue to be blessed by the steadfastness and service of her beloved family to the Cause of God.

Seldom has a believer who passed away receive such glowing tributes from National Spiritual Assemblies and the Supreme Body. They all one and all  offered  accolades for her steadfastness and services for the Faith. Each of her thoughts were for the Faith. Each of her movement out of Malaysia was to undertake some kind of pioneering activities. For several decades she was failing in health, but her indomitable spiritual strength propelled her to serve the Cause with all her energy till her last days. This handmaiden certainly deserves all our prayers for her selfless services rendered over more than half a century of her Baháʼí life in West Malaysia, South Thailand, Sabah, USA and Australia. Suffice to say this handmaid was handpicked by the Blessed Beauty to render unique, and selfless services for the Cause during the early days of the Cause. She had left strong legacy and indelible traces wherever she served.

Dr. John Bruha himself passed away on 1 June 2020.

Resting place of Lily Jansz,  Narooma, New South Wales

A. Manisegaran

30 June 2022

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  1. Very inspiring to read of her extensive and sacrificial service to the Cause. I visited Soh Aik Leng couple of weeks ago in Penang and spoke of those early days with Lily Janz.

    Jayagopan Ramasamy

  2. She was my dear sister / nurse who cared for me after I sprained my knee in Nov 1993. I was in plaster for two weeks and her wisdom of hanging the foot up really worked. I was glad to meet her and Dr John in Kota Kinabalu. It’s so wonderful to read her accolades in this earthly world.

    Betty Cheah
    Kota Kinabalu

  3. Such an inspiring story of dedication and service. Around the time Lily was teaching the faith in Cabramatta Sydney, my husband would have been at the Baha’i Center as well, conducting English classes a few times a week for Vietnamese refugees/ migrants. Also, I met with John in Canberra and remember him very well. He talked about how they were looking to settle down in Australia and his wife was going to follow him later.

    Fahimeh Walker

  4. Dear Mani
    I am reading your article about Lily Janz while waiting at the Kuala Lumpur International Aiport to board for Sydney soon.

    I remember my late husband Francis telling me about Lily janz being the Malaysian Queen’s personal hairdresser. From your account her services extended well beyond her occupation.
    She was such a selfless teacher.

    I had the privilege of meeting her in Canberra briefly in the Baha’i Centre there, around September 2009 when I first arrived in Australia. She was wheelchair bound and her loving husband was beside her constantly. God bless their illustrious souls.

    I hope that I have the privilege of visiting her grave in country New South Wales someday.
    Thank you Mani for writing her story so much of which many of your readers wouldn’t have known, if you hadn’t made this effort.

    Warm regards.
    Usha Cheryan

  5. Excellent recollection Mani. Many Malaysian Bahai’s will be surprised there existed a person like Lily, and the works she did for the Cause.

    I remember meeting her a few times. She was always very soft spoken and humble. But never did I know that she had done so much for the Faith until I read this story. She was on fire with the love of God from the day she accepted the Faith and she had been constant and steadfast in her service for the Cause. What is clear is that she had so much love for the Faith and her passion for teaching was outstanding.

    You have unearthed one more gem whose services deserve to be recorded for posterity. These are the stories that would inspire all generations to come. We have so much to learn from such great giants of the Faith.

    C. Kanagaratnam

  6. A very inspiring story and a very fulfilled Bahai life including her two children who also went on pioneering. And the husband, where they cared for each other and both happily shared their time together in the arena of service.

    Gilda Laroya
    Las Vegas,

  7. Such a full Baha’i life serving in so many countries. Very distinguished. Someone we all can aspire to

    John Haukness
    North Dakota

  8. Like the early Dawn Breakers of the Faith, Lilly Jansz was aflame with the love of the Faith. This valiant maidservant took on the role and responsibility in response to the call of the Universal House of Justice at the Singapore Oceanic Conference in 1971, for Chinese speaking believers to arise and “attract large numbers of the talented Chinese race to embrace and serve the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.” Thus began a decade of teaching in Penang Island, where the majority of the population are of Chinese origin, especially fishing villages on the southern and western part, as well as Northeast of the Island. By 1997 no less than 15 Local Spiritual Assemblies were formed in the Residential Area and Fishing Villages.

    Aunty Lily, as she was known was the centre of attraction and was warmly welcome when visiting the homes and families of those who had enrolled in the Faith. Lily reached ‘a spiritual plane where God comes first and great human passions are unable to turn us away from Him’. Little wonder that you hear shouts and greetings announcing that Aunty Lilly has come to visit the friends in these villages.

    To be closely associated with Lilly Jansz and be part of the core teaching together with our valiant Soh Aik Leng is a bounty for which which I am eternally grateful. “There is nothing that brings success to the Faith like service. Service is the magnet which draws the divine confirmations.”

    Thank you Lilly and God bless.
    Wong Meng Fook

  9. Aunty Lily was a wonderful servant of Bahaullah who became a Bahai in the early days when Jeannie Frankel introduced the Faith to her hairdresser, her dentist and wife ( my parents) her veterinarian in Penang.

    Aunty Lily was down to earth and connected with everyone including becoming the hairdresser to the queen.

    Susheel Croft

  10. Dear Mani,

    Thank you for yet another inspiring true life account of Lily Jansz.

    Returning from Melbourne after graduation my first job was with the Drainage and Irrigation Department in Kuantan town in the east coast of West Malaysia. After a few months l came back to Penang Island in late 1978 to work for the City Council of Penang Island. It was at this time that I had the opportunity to meet and build lasting friendship with the local Baha’is in the course of service to the Faith. Lily Jansz and Soh Aik Leng were among the first noble souls whom I had come in contact and developed strong bond of comradeship in His service. Later, the three of us shared to rent a double storey house in Island Glades which served as the Baha’i Center for the LSA of Penang Island.

    Lily Jansz and Aik Leng were at all times concerned about Chinese teaching and children classes. They were especially enthusiastic and focused on the fisherman community and their children in Balik Pulau. Quite a few of the grown-up youths attended the Second Bahai World Congress held in New York in 1992. My room mate in New York was one of them.

    I had learned so much from these two valiant souls and I dare say that their knowledge of the local community and conditions at that time were unmatched.

    One thing that I would always be grateful to Lily was that she had given me her much loved and treasured Abdul-Baha’s photo in exchange for my set of framed Continental Mother Temple’s photos. I treasure deeply the photo of Abdul Baha that she gave me.

    Keng Tong Hua

  11. Thank you very much for the story on Lily Jansz It was well written it contains so much details which I enjoyed reading

    I first met her at her Beaute Salon in 1966 and she welcomed me with so much sincerity the moment she knew I was a pioneer in Laos. She gave me all the encouragement as a pioneer. She seemed to be very supportive of pioneers. She always welcomed each time I visited her.

    I then met her again a few times after that on different occasions in Malaysia. But she never forgot my name. Each time I saw her she was full of kindness and love. She was very sincere and humble in every way although she was such a great woman. She was very close to those in the highest level including she Queen and she received medal from the King of Malaysia. Yet she was very simple and down to earth. She did very well both in the community and in the outside world.

    I am sure she is one of the great heroines of the Faith not only in Malaysia but also in the countries where she served like Thailand and Australia. To me she belongs to the category of those great souls like Mrs Shirin Fozdar and Mrs George Lee and a few others who are no more with us. I cannot thank God enough for creating such a great soul to serve His Cause. She shall be a shining example for many of us. She was so wonderful to all the youths and friends and I was one of the recipients of her sincere love.

    She had the pioneering spirit right till the end, and despite her ailments she went ahead to teach the Faith. I am happy to learn that Dr Joh Bruha was there to give all the support in the last days of her life. I recall her supporting pioneers like me and finally she has laid her own life as a pioneer in New South Wales, Australia

    I give my condolence to the family of Lily Jansz. I offer my humble prayers for the progress of her soul.

    Dr. Firaydun Mithaq
    Chieng Mai

  12. This is another hidden gem of Malaysian Bahá’í history unearthed for us to read, appreciate and learn from. I enjoy reading all the teaching endeavors done by Ms Lily Jansz in the countries she moved to. She served relentlessly till the end of her blessed life. We seldom get such valiant souls who sacrifice everything for the Cause.

    Thank you for Mr Manisegaran for bringing to us all the hidden gems in Malayaian Bahai history.

    Nehru Arunasalam

  13. Lily Jansz is without doubt one of the most devoted early believers of the Faith in Malaysia. She was involved in teaching and consolidation and also doing Bahai Administrative work which spanned almost sixty years in many parts of the world.

    I came to know her when I accepted the Bahai Faith while studying in University Science Malaysia in Penang in the year 1973 . Her service was relentless and during those few years in Penang I saw in her a towering servant of the Blessed Beauty.

    She was very simple , humble and firm in her Faith , steadfast, hardworking and took the Faith very seriously . She was among the early believers of the Faith who were instrumental in laying a strong foundation of the Faith in Penang . She contributed her time energy and material resources for the Faith until very end of her life.

    Mani, you have captured her dedicated life story so well both in words and spirit. Hopefully the younger generation and posterity will read about her and her work and draw inspiration to serve the Cause of God.

    Great job Mani, God bless you always .
    Professor Dr. Ananthan Krishnan

  14. Mani, as always you did a good job.
    Lily Jansz is one of the early pathfinders like Shantha Sundram in the service of the Faith. They were the true pioneers who not only pray but act through their multiple roles in the field of service.

    She was generous, steadfast and humble and youths like us in those early days were able to stay and attend meetings at her house which was often used as another center of activities for feasts, celebration and holy days. I was fortunate to know her after I came back from pioneering in Sri Lanka and started working in Penang in the Straits Echo. I will always be grateful for her hospitality and guidance.

    Lily as we know her was an outstanding hair stylist and her regular clients included Her Majesty, the Sultanah of Kedah. Her talents in hair styling won her accolades and awards from the King of Malaysia and the King of Thailand and the Buckingham Place. More importantly, who could have imagined that a hair stylist could have arisen to travel teach and pioneer in some of the toughest areas in Asia like Haatyai in Thailand, East Malaysia and later travel teach to other arts of the world! May Bahá’u’lláh bless her soul and by His Grace grant her all the love, forgiveness and confirmations in the Abha Kingdom.

    Yin Hong Shuen

  15. Kang, Ho and I were cycling buddies roaming the streets of Alor Star. One day in May 1966, we were invited to a fireside at the Alor Star Baha’i Centre. We the three of us had an informal understanding and bond to resist becoming Baha’is but will accept invitations to Baha’i gatherings for friendship sake, as many of our classmates like Yin Hong Shuen, Ganesan, Choo Yeok Boon, Theenathayallu and many more had become Baha’is.

    One day in May 1966 we were invited to a gathering. As in other invitations we went. Yes we found out that a big group of Baha’is from Penang had arrived. Each of us had someone to talk to us. I had Lily Jansz. We had a very long monologue. I was listening all the time. In retrospect I now think she was effective. She used the motherly or big sister approach on this student who had just left school. No Baha’i history at all. Only Baha’i principles of unity and peace with lots of emphasis on social problems like marriages, drinking and smoking. That was her way, a sort of service project used during the early days. Well to sum it all out, I declared a Baha’i the next day.

    My next encounter with her was in April 1979. I was in charge of organizing the National Convention that year in Port Dickson. On the first day she lead a group of Penang Bahais, marched up to me complaining about uncomfortable accommodation. Looks like she really take care of her flock. I forgot what happened and how it was resolved but i remembered this strong woman who would take care of anybody who knows her. Well, to sum it all up, i was elected a new member of the National Assembly the next day. Looks like something happened to me every time i met her. These are only the 2 times i encountered her.

    Lum Weng Chew

  16. I knew her but never knew these details. She was such an inspiring lady.

    Thank you for sharing uncle Manisegaran

    Jothee Ramasamy
    Kuala Lumpur

  17. It was wonderful to read the story of Lily Jansz whom I had never met. But she is surely an exemplary believer. She has sacrificed so much for the Faith. Stories of this kind give us so much enthusiasm and encouragement to serve the Cause.

    We have all the facilities today and we should be able to serve the Cause with greater effectiveness,

    Segaran Subrayan

  18. I was transferred as the Deputy State Director of Valuation to Penang in 1981 where I had the honour to serve on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Penang Island for two years before leaving on another posting.

    While there I met Lily Janz as a fellow LSA member, whom I heard was the person who presented Baha’i Prayers book to Her Majesty The Queen of England. She was very humble and never mentioned all the sacrifices she made serving the Faith in Thailand and elsewhere which I am now reading in this story that appears in the Bahai Recollections Historical Blog. At that time her health was not very good. Despite her medical conditions she never failed to volunteer for teaching trips and we sometimes had to advise her to stay back. She always spoke to me and encourage me in Hokkein and I will always remember her and her ever cheerful smile.

    Tan Beng Sooi

  19. I was posted to Penang from Alor Star in 1980 and Lily Jansz was the one who helped my family settled in. At that time the Penang Bahais needed a Bahai centre and I used my name to sign a rental agreement as tenant. Downstairs was used as the Centre and upstairs as my residence. It was in Green Lane Island Park. I had the privilege of serving with Lily Jansz on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Penang for a few years.

    Lily did mention that she longed to visit Britain but did not have sufficient money for such a trip. As we know her time n money were spent on Bahai work. She told me when we take care of God’s work God will take care of us. Her dream of visiting Britain was realised when the then Permaisuri Agong( who was the Sultanah of Kedah) appointed her as her personal beautician and Lily accompanied our Queen to Britain…and in style.

    How true- when we take care of God’s work, God will take care of our cause when the right time comes.

    Teh Teik Cheow
    Sungei Petani

  20. I knew Lily Jansz as Aunty Lily. Dr John was the one that told me about the Baha’i Faith. Dr John was a professional and the director of United States Transfer Program that I was attending. Therefore, Aunty Lily and Dr John became my Spiritual Godparents.
    When we went for our teaching in Pitas, Aunty Lily was the one that guided me to tell the villagers about Baháʼu’lláh and the Bab. I also remember her being a great cook.
    I often visited her and Dr John. They always brought me along for every special and celebrating occasions, Looking back, it feels like I am their daughter they always wanted.
    Years down the road while Dr John was alive, he did tell me that I am like a daughter to him.

    Marilyn Chang Ruiz
    Hacienda Heights,

  21. It’s pleasing to know that Mrs. Jansz was born in Sungai Petani – as I call that town as my own hometown. I have read about Mrs. Jansz from the book Jewel Among Nations written by the author. However, this recollection has elaborated adequately about her personal life and her relentless service for the Cause. The author has successfully unearthed every detail about her illustrious life both personal and spiritual; supported by beautiful collections photographs that speak volumes. I also had a chance to speak to the author on some of the issues relevant to this beautiful reminiscence. I thank the author for his kind verbal comments.
    I earnestly admire her dedication, devotion, adoration, perseverance, and sacrifice – “She was certainly one of those few Baháʼí heroines who rose and showed the way at a time when not many believers of her sex were active in the field.” I am particularly attracted to her audacity using her profession to bring the light of Divine guidance to the highest authorities wherever she travels! That’s amazing. I personally feel encouraged and inspired by her great services and enduring spirit.
    “He who puts his trust in God, God will suffice him. He who fears God, God will send him relief” – Bahá’u’lláh

    With loving Bahá’í greetings
    Vela Gopal
    Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia

  22. Well do I remember aunty Lilly Janz. She was such a personality in our lives and the Penang Baha’i Community. We Sundram girls used to have our hair cut at her famous hair salon, and she would cheekily call us ‘monyet’ the Malay word for monkey.

    It was so inspiring to read all that she accomplished after she left Penang. What an illumined soul. I feel honoured to have known her.

    Mani, it seems as if you were born to document the lives of these believers. What a service you are doing, and done with so much love

    Padma Wong

  23. I read with great interest the story of Lily Jansz with whom I was closely involved in teaching activities in Sabah state. There was an instance quoted in the story. Well, it was I who advised Lily not to join me into going into the Pensiangan are which is in the deepest interior of Sabah and bordering Kalimantan. o avoid perilous journeys. But she insisted that I must take her along. She does not want to die without going teaching to Pensiangan, a pagan, Murut district.

    We had to travel by my 4 Wheel Drive from Kota Kinabalu to Nabawan, a 4-hour drive. Overnight in a village, we had to wait for another 4 Wheel Drive jeep to take us into Pensiangan, a bumpy ride for another 4 hours, if not raining. If at all it rained, we will had to sleep in that jeep to wait for the muddy road to dry up. The jeep we chartered had a gas tank behind. The driver just bought a new gas tank to bring home. Aunty Lily, being her jovial self, said if that tank burst due to the bumpy ride, we will get a free jet-speed flight to Abha Kingdom!

    After a week living with the Muruts (known as Sabah head-hunters) in their longhouses, it was time to head home. Our jeep-transport did not come in as arranged because of heavy rains. So, we had to take a boat out. The river ride will be 3 hours. But it was a market-day, and no boatman wanted to drive us out. Aunty Lily suggested we ask Baha’u’llah’s assistance using the Tablet of Ahmad. We agreed. No sooner had she read the first sentence, suddenly a villager appeared out of nowhere and asked “Are you the people asking for a boat ride? I will take you.”

    Such was her complete trust in the Blessed Beauty!

    This incident remains raw and vivid in my mind.

    Kang Eng Soo
    Kota Kinabalu

  24. I remember Aunty Lily Jansz veryw ell. I was a student at the University Sains Malaysia when I had a chance to move closely with her. She was a passionate teacher of the Cause. She was always on the lookout for teaching opportunities and her favourite areas were the fishing villages. She used to drive around and pick us from various places to join her in the teaching trips.

    She had such a magnanimous heart to help people. I remember she always carried scissors in her handbag when she went to the fishing villages to teach the Faith. Upon arriving at some homes she would quietly go into the interiors rooms or the back portions to look for elderly women and give free hair cut. The elderly women simply loved her for that kind gesture.

    On one other occasion we followed her to a fishing village to join them in their Nineteed Day Feast. That night was a full moon and the catch would be very rewarding. The fishermen decided to hold their Feast on board their fishing boat in the middle of the sea. And lily jumped into the boat and went with them. We youths had to take a public bus back to our homes. That was the kind of dedication and love Lily had for the simple people and the Faith.

    She was indeed a rare kind of believer that I had met, one from whom many lessons could be learnt.

    I am happy a story on this immortal soul us up in this historical blog

    Fifi Studer

  25. I first got to know about Lily Jansz when l met her husband in Labuan in the mid 1960s. He was working in a North Borneo company

    When l got posted to the Royal Malaysia Air Force in Butterworth, and started moving with the Bahais of Penang Island l got to know Lily better especially when we served in the State Teaching Committee. We made many teaching trips together.

    She was an amazing lady completely devoted to the Faith and was full of dedication. She never hesitated to sacrifice her time for the Faith.

    She was an amazing and outspoken lady who never failed to call a spade a spade. She was very famous for telling off persons who get out of line.

    She has a very special place in the heart of my wife Teresa and my heart as well. In more than one way she helped us through hard times before our marriage. When Teresa had to stop working in Butterworth, Lily took her under her fold and gave her a job in her saloon. She also visited Teresa’s parents. All these gestures on the part of Lily led us to have our simple Bahai marriage ceremony in her home on 28 November 1971. And Lily took care of everything needed for the marriage and the marriage ceremony.

    Lily also gave me a lot of advice on life in general, and the difficulties married couples are bound to face. Her memories are forever etched in my mind. She was an exquisite and a strong lady.

    Whilst I had known her only for about 2 years, to me that period felt like a lifelong impact.

    I feel happy her services are well recorded in this blog

    N Munusamy

  26. Aunty Lily was a very inspiring soul. I was fortunate to know her better during her stay in Sabah. With John Bruha they made a great team, fully dedicated to serve Baha’u’llah and many friends in Sabah enjoyed their hospitality and loving friendship. They also offered their home in Penampang for Baha’i activities as well as accommodation to young pioneers and travel teachers.

    Aaron Young Syh Fwu
    Kota Kinabalu

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