Lek-Lim Chan was born to Buddhist parents in 1955 in Kuching, Malaysia. After converting to the Catholic faith in 1975, participating in marriage preparation in 1984, during which he learned about the Billings Ovulation Method of natural family planning, and going through extensive studies, Chan now serves as the associate director for WOOMB International — the World Organization of Ovulation Method Billings — based in Melbourne, Australia.
He is also the president of WOOMB Malaysia and spends much of his time sharing his expertise around the world.
Chan presented June 11 at the Pastoral Center in St. Cloud to a group of 13 natural family planning instructors from the diocese.
Sheila Reineke, NFP program coordinator for the diocese, said it is her desire to have the best, most-educated and up-to-date NFP instructors. Chan’s presentation was “another wonderful step down that road.”
“Lek-Lim reinforced the information we already have and clarified questions our instructors had,” Reineke said. “We are seeing more irregular cycles, more infertility than we have in the past for various reasons — contraceptive use, nutrition, lifestyles — and what Lek-Lim shared will help us to better serve our clients.
“Natural family planning allows us to develop our virtue and trust in God’s plan for our lives,” she said. “I think this is very important in today’s culture where it’s often the ‘my way or the highway’ attitude. NFP also allows us to respect the laws of nature and cooperate with the design of our bodies.”
Natural family planning is a method that allows women and couples to recognize their natural signs of fertility and infertility based on the woman’s menstrual cycle.
Feeling a call
Chan first developed an interest in natural family planning when he and his wife, Agnes, were preparing for marriage. Prior to that, he had taken an interest in the Catholic faith in his high school years during the early 1970s. Just before he was scheduled to leave to study forestry in New Zealand, he approached a priest about becoming Catholic.
“But then there was no time for preparation,” Chan said. “The priest said I needed to go to New Zealand and see what could be done there. And so that’s what happened.”
He was baptized into the Catholic faith in New Zealand in 1975. Chan completed his education, receiving both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in forestry and went to work for a private consulting firm. After working there for many years, he was semi-retired when a new idea presented itself. In 1994, he said he felt the call to pursue training to become a natural family planning instructor and underwent training in Penang, Malaysia.
“I found the method was very useful and that it would help a lot of couples,” he said.
In 2000, WOOMB International hosted its annual conference in Melbourne, Australia.
“I found that in 2000, it was a holy Jubilee Year and that there was going to be a Billings Ovulation Method conference in Melbourne, Australia. I knew that during the holy year, people were going to Rome for pilgrimages. To me, it came to my mind that being a Billings Ovulation Method teacher, our ‘Rome’ is in Melbourne. So I made plans to attend the conference,” he said.
At the conference, he learned that some of what was taught in Malaysia was outdated.
“I got more and more interested because there had been a lot of research [about] … how the Billings Ovulation Method is so helpful to couples who were having difficulties conceiving,” he said.
After much thought, Chan decided he wanted to do more.
“I had always wanted to go into something medical but by then, I was too old to do a full-fledged medical degree. Someone introduced me to complementary medicines and so that is what I did,” he said.
Chan received a bachelor’s degree in complementary medicines and began in-depth studies on the Billings Ovulation Method. And that’s where his focus is now, specifically in using the BOM as a diagnostic tool in identifying female fertility disorders and for monitoring recovery when treatment commences.
Simple and effective
Before coming to St. Cloud for the training June 11, Chan was invited by Sue Ek, the executive director for BOMA-USA, the official delegate office in the United States representing WOOMB, to speak at the national BOMA-USA conference in Tampa, Florida.
“We’ve been friends for a long time,” said Ek, who lives in St. Cloud. “He said he wanted to see Minnesota so I was trying to think what would be a good use of his time. We talked about connecting with the local Billings teachers and giving them an update and he was very willing to do that.
“I just hoped it would energize the local teachers who weren’t able to come to Tampa, so this was a way to bring Tampa to them. One thing that we are very proud of with the Billings method is that we have strong science and yet it is very simple. To me, that speaks loud and clear that it is ‘of God,’ that it is not manmade. It is inspired by God,” she added.
The Billings method is taught in over 100 countries around the world but Ek and Chan said there are still a lot of misconceptions about it.
“A lot of people, including some medical professionals, think that natural family planning doesn’t work,” Chan said. “We know that it works and is reliable 99 percent. It’s not just the ‘rhythm method’ anymore,” Chan said.
“And, we are working with the natural system, not meddling with it. Therefore, it is healthy and there is no moral question about it,” he added. “Billings Ovulation Method is very powerful in how to look at the cycles of women and see if there is abnormality and if there is, to look at the root cause. Quite often in the medical profession when it comes to irregular cycles, it is just often treated with hormones, with contraceptive pills. It is more important to look at the underlying causes as to why a woman might experience irregularities.”
Cathy Bahmer has been an NFP instructor in the diocese for 36 years and attended Chan’s presentation. She said she appreciated learning the finer details Chan shared about working with specific conditions like PCOS and insulin resistance and said it will help her in her work with NFP clients.
“It was wonderful to hear from a speaker of his caliber here,” she said. “He reiterated much information that we already have but at the same time clarified some things that can really help us help couples. This method is really for everybody, not just Catholics. It’s just that our faith enhances it and encourages it.”