News from a Far Country: Sarawak, East Malaysia
“And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel!” 1 Sam. 3:10
The early experiences of making known the voice of God to tender souls who have not heard Him by faith, are precious and indelible.
Sarawak, East Malaysia, Borneo island, was known, over a century ago, as the “land of headhunters”. By the grace of God, early Protestant Mission, condoned by the “White Rajah” James Brooke, eventually brought an end to this fearsome practice through the word of the Gospel. Writing in a Missionary Journal, Mr. MacDougall, in 1848, described the Dayak people as,
“Guileless and open-hearted - chaste, far beyond the code of morals of European natives - their capacities are stated to be above the ordinary level of the tribes of the Indian Archipelago; but he is, at present, religionless.”
It was in 2009 that the first opportunity to visit the interior town of Kapit with the Gospel came for me. A secondary school teacher, one of our firstfruits in the town of Kanowit, Sarawak, who had professed faith in Christ 10 years earlier got in touch, expressing his loneliness and the spiritual darkness he was facing there. We began to plan for series of gospel meetings in this school. During the third of such an effort (2010), there was a girl of 18 years of age, who heard the gospel for the first time, along with over a hundred other students there each night. The messages were on the voice of the Saviour, in His “I AM” declarations of truth concerning Himself and His mission. Though there were other encouraging responses, this girl’s stood out: She knew for the first time who the Lord Jesus is, and trusting Him as Saviour, the new life soon became evident, as the remaining nights, her face could be seen beaming with a smile that belongs to the “new creation”.
Like Andrew, “who first findeth his own brother Simon”, she went to her younger brother, who was showing interest to be an “altar boy”. Among the Bible passages she used was Isaiah 53. His amazed reaction was that he had never learned so much about the Christ of God and His work as this chapter that he was led to encounter and read for the first time. His soul too was awakened, and with the word of God speaking to him, he took the Saviour as his forever.
Amidst surrounding spiritual darkness within their community in the Dayak longhouse, these two were used of God to lead several more to hear the glad tidings of salvation through Christ alone.
“His mother made him a little coat.” 1 Sam. 2:19
Learning from Hannah the diligence and intelligence of spiritual parenthood from a distance, one observes how much there is in the exercise of the parent, and how encouraging the assurance given when the “child” “puts on” the design of “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…”
One dear woman reached by the two believers above was their aunt who was illiterate and married to the son of a “manang” (similar to the witch doctor). Having trusted the Saviour, she was immediately faced by a hostile environment. From the terror of evil spirits to the taunts of relatives and people around, she remained in the good of salvation’s blessings and power of the Risen Lord to keep. Eventually, the night disturbances ceased, and the words of mocking turned into admiration, and acquaintances revered the faith which is in Christ.
She then got her son to teach her to read. Also, by reading to her from the scriptures in the local tongues (Malay and Iban), the youngest boy was brought to consider the God of Creation and Salvation. Her earnest prayer would be that her sons too would come to know her Saviour. One of her joys when initially beginning to read for herself was upon coming to the Gospel of John. She was filled with wonder at the grace of our Lord Jesus who would speak to the woman at the well and win her to receive the “gift of God” and the “living water.”
“Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord.” 1Sam. 5:3
The false and inferior idol crashed to the ground in the sole presence of the superior and eternal true God.
The years 2012-2014 saw efforts in Kuching, the capital city, where we have relocated over to, from West Malaysia, to permanently assure the new believers of our interest in the Lord for them. Of one such endeavour was on Saturday nights, where there would be a session on the Biblical Worldview based on Genesis 1 - 12, and how and why the Gospel of the grace of God matters, once a correct worldview is perceived.
The college and university students who came were given to consider what the early chapters of the Bible reveal concerning subjects ranging from Creation to the “Chosen” Nation, and how that understanding these things and their associated principles, there was a body of knowledge that grants a firmer foundation and conviction for the reality and validity of the only truth.
With the Gospel proclaimed alongside these sessions, the conscience of a student was awakenedone night. With God being real, there was the guilt of sin that had to be answered before Him in righteousness. How precious to know that it was “settled forever” that night.
“And the kine… went along the highway, lowing as they went.” 1 Sam. 6:12
The hand of God leading and guiding with “a new cart, ‘creatures’ working under a ‘new yoke’, bearing the “ark of the Lord”, causes “rejoicing” in them who believe and are given to see such things.
Praise to God is given when believers begin to grow in spiritual maturity. Natural inclinations are given way to spiritual drive and purpose of heart, as discerned from the scriptures. With the assembly in Kuching formed in 2015, it was strengthening to witness a steadfastness of heart to things after the pattern of gathering in the New Testament, knowing that it is the Divine approach in the present dispensation to bear witness to a world around that is increasingly moving towards a global and centralised control of lives.
“There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.” “Finally, brethren, pray for us.”