The Sarawak Methodist Church has been established for over 110 years and Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference (SCAC) currently has over 100,000 members. This great achievement would not have been possible without the numerous efforts in sharing the gospel over the years. To better organize the members in evangelizing, SCAC then set up the Board of Evangelism (BOE) to oversee the evangelistic and missionary works within our home land.
Rev. Law Hui Seng is the current director of BOE. He aspired to “serve the people” in his youth. Later he responded to God’s calling and changed his ambition from politics to theology because he felt that saving the soul of the people is more important than bringing them a better life.
“My ambition was to become the Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak. I wanted to live in a big house and to drive a big car. But I responded to God’s calling and regarded these as a waste. God is my only ultimate treasure.” said Rev. Law Hui Seng.
Rev. Law is passionate about evangelism especially among the indigenous people of Sarawak because they make up the majority of the population. He walks his talk by working hard in this field.
Q: Please introduce yourself and tell us how you became the Director of BOE.
A: I was born in Sibu in 1966. During my school years I stayed with my grandmother at Tiong Hua Road. I attended the Rejang Primary School and later Sacred Heart Secondary School. Because I was very naughty, my neighbour invited me to the Sunday school at a local church. I followed the children there to sing hymns, praising God and reading the bible. Two years later after my neighbour stopped going to that church I stopped going too. When I was in Form 2, my classmates invited me to attend the Youth Fellowship of Masland Methodist Church where I got to know the Lord personally and was baptised.
Then I went to USM to read Political Science. There, I joined Campus Crusade for Christ. The body mainly trains college students in evangelism, discipleship and leadership training. During the long break after my first year, I joined the Pangkor Island retreat camp. God called me during the retreat but I did not respond immediately. The reason I took up Political Science was because I had a big dream of becoming the Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak one day. I aspired to change the lives of the people through political influence. Later I found no peace in my prayer, so I asked God, “Why can’t I find peace?” God’s answer was that I did not respond to His calling. So I responded and gave up my political dreams.
After graduating from the university, I enrolled into the English Department of Trinity Theological College in Singapore. Despite objections from many people, I never hesitated. At first I was struggling because I could not grasp the essentials of the lectures. I worked hard but my results were still poor. By God’s mercy, eventually I was able to grasp the gist of the lectures and improved greatly thereafter.
After graduating from the Theological College, I served in Bintulu for 3 ½ years, 4 years in Kuching, 12 years in Miri and then studied for my Master degree in Divinity at the Sabah Theological Seminary for two years. I took my Sabbatical Leave in 2013. In 2014, I was appointed Pastor in Charge of En Tao Methodist Church and the Director of BOE. This year is my fourth year in this capacity.
Q: Please give us an outline of BOE.
A: We are not certain which year BOE was established. The main responsibilities of BOE are the local evangelical and missionary works. There are five small groups, namely the BM Ministry, Ministry to Sarawak Indigenous People (MSIP), Evangelism Methods Ministry Group, Evangelism Band and Daosheng Troupe. The office bearers are: Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, Auditor and the chairman of Evangelical Executive Commission of each District who are our ex officio members. There are 10 Districts under SCAC so we have 10 chairmen of Evangelical Executive Commissions. There are BM Executive Commissions in Miri and Kuching District.
Q: What are the main ministries of BOE?
A: Some of the small groups under BOE are more active than others. Each has its own mission. The most active small group is the BM Ministry which was established in 2013 chaired by Rev Nicholas Ting. It was separated from MSIP to focus on and consolidate the BM ministry of the 17 churches and preaching centres in urban areas. Under the leadership of Rev Nicholas Ting, the “BM Ministry Blueprint” was drawn with the aims of training more BM speaking pastors and to set up a BM Department in Methodist Theological School.
Another more active group is the Ministry to Sarawak Indigenous People (MSIP). MSIP’s ministry involves reaching the Sarawak indigenous people, mainly the Iban and Penan communities in the rural areas. In addition to adopting Iban longhouses, pre-school education has been carried out in two Penan longhouses in Ulu Belaga.
Together with Sarawak Christian Life Music Society, we also set up the Lawas Care Centre with an annual expenditure of RM 180,000 to provide education and care for about 25 Penan children.
We also organize short-term mission teams (STMTs) which work closely with Sarawak Iban Annual Conference (SIAC). SIAC sees a membership of over 40,000 yet they have only 45 pastors. They need STMT to help them because of shortage of pastors and the remoteness of longhouses. The area that we have covered for the longest period of time is Ulu Julau where we have worked for 14 years. In recent years we have been sending 15 STMTs each time with around 145 members to 43 longhouses around this area for follow-up work. STMTs are also sent to Bintangor, Kapit, Sibu and other places but there are problems with continuity.
We also set up a resource centre for purchase of related materials and Bibles.
Q: How many longhouses has SCAC adopted thus far? Are those churches with BM ministry adopting longhouses?
A: Of the more than 130 churches and preaching centres under SCAC only around 20 churches are involved in the adoption ministry. Despite so we thank God that nearly 100 longhouses have been adopted. Of all the adopted longhouses there are five or six in Bintangor District, 10 in Sarikei District, a total of 66 longhouses in the 3 Sibu Districts, 7 longhouses in Bintulu District, 3 longhouses in Miri District and 3 longhouses in Kuching District. The churches that adopt the most longhouses are Sing Ang Methodist Church with14 longhouses and Wesley Church, 13 longhouses.
Apart from that, Ching Kwong Methodist Church has initiated adopting 43 longhouses in Ulu Julau.
I must clarify that it is not the 17 churches with BM ministry that should adopt longhouses, every church should have the burden to adopt longhouses.
To address the challenge against “I” in the Rejang Basin, SCAC and SIAC plan to visit 18 longhouses around Lubok Antu from 21 to 26 October. Earlier on we went to Ulu Song to visit 13 long houses. We also plan to survey 17 long houses in Kapit. When the road to Kapit is opened we hope to provide some manpower resources to SIAC.
Q: How many missionaries have been sent to work with the indigenous people? What is the plan?
A: We have sent 11 missionaries to the mission field and currently 4 are still serving. In our budget we can send 10 missionaries to work among the indigenous people every year. We are short of manpower.
Q: Can you share with us your view about the gospel ministry among the indigenous people?
A: According to my research, 51% of the indigenous people live in the urban area while 49% in rural area. The BM Ministry serves the urban Iban communities while the missionaries and short term mission teams serve the rural Ibans. The main reason is that the rural areas are vast with many schools around and there are many Christian students of weaker faith but are willing to accept further guidance. If we have candidates with the gift of teaching and speaking Iban then we can coordinate with the schools; if the person cannot speak Iban, BM is another alternative. Of course the best candidates are the retired Christian teachers. We welcome any committed brothers and sisters who are called to serve in this ministry.
Team Building & Team Work
Q: What roles are Evangelism Methods Ministry Group, Evangelism Band and Daosheng Troupe playing?
A: We mainly use the “Evangelism Explosion (EE)” and “XEE” to evangelise; “XEE” is the new improved version of EE and uses multimedia to assist in evangelism and is suitable both for adults as well as children. Training courses are conducted regularly. We also use the “Gospel Bridge” and “The Four Spiritual Laws” in training.
Evangelism Band was the product of Dr. John Sung’s evangelical rally many years ago. BOE tried to modify the constitution and is now carrying out the ministry in a different way. We do it once a month by evangelizing in a specified place for about 2 hours. We are currently targeting at helping smaller churches, such as Bahagia Methodist Church.
I hope that this evangelical ministry can flare up again and that all churches can work with preaching centres.
Daosheng Troupe was set up 30 years ago. The aim is to spread the gospel through drama play. Kuching has a very active Daosheng Troupe; there are also Daosheng Troupes in Miri, Bintangor, Sarikei and Sibu. At present Daosheng Troupe can produce its own script.
Q: You have served in the BOE for 15 years from a board member, then Chairman and now the Director, please share with us your feelings and vision?
A: Church exists because of sinners. Unfortunately this most important function is often overlooked. Although we have been trained in all kinds of evangelical training we do not often put them into practice.
Similarly, it is futile for us to lead a person to Christ yet do not have a good follow up. Don’t we know that we have to train them even harder to become Jesus’ disciples? That’s why I pay a lot of attention to the nine months Disciple course.
Unfortunately we have too many Christians who are unwilling to commit themselves and have a lukewarm attitude towards faith. To further push the evangelical ministry all members of SCAC have to be mobilized.
Indeed the indigenous people make up 42% of the Sarawak population and I hope that some of them will become Christian political leaders in future. There are many talented people in the Methodist Church so I think we Chinese should make every effort to help the indigenous people to grow to maturity. I am most pleased that after years of hard work some of the indigenous people that we shepherded have begun to stand up and express their willingness to serve God.
I feel sorry that though we have a lot of talents yet it seems difficult to keep these talents. We have to build up a team so that these talents have a ground to further contribute themselves. We have to rely upon the strength of team building and team work and not upon one’s effort. Jesus did not evangelise to the world by himself, He sent out the twelve disciples to work with him and to continue the work to the ends of the earth.
So SCAC needs to be united and in the meantime to work closely with SIAC!