Independence

During the 1990s, Sandycroft Would Begin to Look Very Different From Its Earlier Days.

In the 1990s, Dalat continued to grow and thrive in Penang. Retired British military personnel would often stop by to reminisce about how things used to be at the former British military rest and relaxation center known as Sandycroft.

In 1992, Dalat School completed a new gym. And thanks to fundraising by the Parent Teacher Fund, a swimming pool became a reality in 1995. Tanjung Bunga’s empty skyline of 25 years earlier was beginning to fill with hotels and high-rise buildings; the first hotel in the area (Rainbow Paradise) was built next to Dalat in 1994.

In 1999 the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), which had established and managed Dalat, made a major announcement — the school would be closed the following year.

In 1999 the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), which had established and managed Dalat, made a major announcement — the school would be closed the following year. This was disappointing news to many families, including Michael and Khim Lyon. The Lyons’ two children, Nathan and Naomi, were thriving at Dalat. The school had been the right fit for their family, which they recognized when they first visited Dalat. “We chatted with Dave Wilcox [former Dalat director] about the ethos of the school, and we left knowing this was the school we wanted,” he says. “It was academically better [than the other schools.] The teachers cared about children, that they could think for themselves.”

Aerial shot of the Dalat Campus in1990's.
1990's School Logo

The Lyons, along with other Dalat parents, approached the school leadership about keeping the school going. The group formed a committee and hired an accountant to study the school’s financial viability, which was found to be sound. By the end of the school year, it was determined that Dalat would continue operating, now independently, and would open its doors to the growing expat business community in Penang.

Making a Scene: Alumnus David Sanborn (1990)

For David Sanborn, getting on stage is second nature. In fact, you could almost say Sanborn was born to act. The Dalat alumnus knew by age 10 that he was supposed to be an actor and singer. He just didn’t know what the venue would be.

Sanborn’s early years were spent in Thailand, where his family served as missionaries. They later moved to Penang, Malaysia, to help start the Youth With a Mission (YWAM) base there. Sanborn began attending Dalat International School as a sophomore in high school in 1987 and graduated there in 1990.

“It wasn’t always the easiest place in the world,” Sanborn says. “I don’t think any high school on the planet is. But it remains one of the highlights of my life. I’ve never seen a group of teachers with such sacrificial devotion to their students. It would be impossible to single any of them out. They all had a huge impact on my life.”

Sanborn went on to Wheaton College near Chicago, Illinois, USA, where he completed a music-theater degree.

Within a week after graduating, Sanborn auditioned for West Side Story — and landed the lead role. Other shows followed, including an understudy role in the tour of Forever Plaid. Sanborn became a member of the Actor’s Equity union.

But Sanborn longed for more: “These were fun shows that involved no compromise of my faith, but I was longing for an opportunity to serve the kingdom more directly.”

It was this vision that helped Sanborn develop a brand-new concept: a one-man musical using impersonations. With his mother, Ellen, Sanborn co-wrote King David, with lyrics from King David’s own psalms. Sanborn decided to use celebrity impersonations for the musical’s different characters: Arnold Schwarzenegger for Goliath, Sean Connery for Nathan the prophet, Jimmy Stewart for Samuel, etc.

David Sanborn
David Dancing
David in a school play.

Broadway's King David

During the past 12 years, the critically-acclaimed off-Broadway musical has been performed for 50,000 people around the world.

“King David is such a testimony of grace and hope and true intimate relationship with God, and I’ve been blown away by the way God has used it,” Sanborn says.

A few years ago, Ellen Sanborn and David Sanborn completed a new musical — Judah Ben-Hur. The epic, based on the novel and movie Ben-Hur, portrays a prince of Jerusalem, around 30 A.D., who encounters “the man from Nazareth.” The Sanborns managed to raise millions of dollars to premier the musical in Singapore in 2001 with a cast, crew, and staff of more than 120 people.

David staring as King David

Sanborn also played the role of Jesus for three years in a musical called The Miracle (where he was crucified onstage almost a thousand times). With Ellen Sanborn, he has also co-written a musical version of Anne of Green Gables, which has been recently staged by two different theater companies, and they are working on a final draft of Little Lord Fauntleroy.

David playing the role of Jesus

In 2013, Sanborn co-starred in the film The Investigator, the story of a veteran police detective who becomes a criminal justice teacher and baseball coach at a local high school, leading him to the most important investigation of his life.

“I’m so grateful that this is all happening at a point in my life where I really could care less about being a success on Broadway,” Sanborn says. “God has proved to me time and again that His ways are best, so I’m able to hold open each role with an open hand, so whether the press pans me or praises me, I don’t let them have any hold over my joy in the Lord.”

David staring in a church musical.

“I’m still using the gifts that God has invested into my life, just in a different way, and I’m loving it. The main thing for me is that my life is devoted to communicating the love of Christ wherever and however God calls me.”

Sources
  • Ruth Kelck
  • Interview with Michael Lyon, April 2016