MISSIONARIES to Sarawak: Andrew Joseph Fowler Served in Sarawak for 21 years

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Dr Andrew Fowler was born in Killeen, Texas USA. He was educated at Southwestern University, Union Theological Seminary and Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. He has a PHD in Ministry. His wife Monina Cepede, or Nina also served in Malaysia for 28 years.

Dr. Fowler came to Sarawak in October 1957. He started with teaching at the Methodist Secondary School, at the same time assisting the Iban churches at Sg Aup and Penasu. In 1958, he was posted to Kapit as the Principal of the Methodist primary school and at the same time served as the pastor there. It was there he met Monina Cepeda, a Pilipino Missionary sent out by the Philippines Methodist church. She was serving as a nurse at the Christ Hospital in 1957. In 1960, Dr Fowler served as the chaplain of the hospital. He then returned to America to take up theological training for three years. Upon his return to Sarawak in 1963, he was posted to Sarikei where he started to learn the Iban language.

The Fowlers retuned to the US in 1965, but soon they returned again to Sarawak to serve at the Iban Literature Evangelistic Centre in Sibu. In 1971, he was posted to Kapit again. They went on furlough in 1975.

When he returned in 1976, he was appointed as the Principal of the Sibu Methodist Theological School (MTS) until 1979. MTS began in 1970 but it was only for short term Bible Studies and Extended Courses. The theological students were sent to study at the Trinity Theological College in Singapore.

Before returning home to America in 1979, he was interviewed by the Methodist Message Magazine. He said, “No matter what, MTS should continue. It is only through local training and practising that the students could well meet the local needs. In the past, there were many foreign missionaries assisting the work here. However, many have retired and left for home. So the church would undoubtedly depend on these local theological students to shepherd them.”

Dr Fowler also mentioned four main challenges faced by MTS: the lack of teachers, the degree certification issue, financial problems, and the sources of student intake. When he returned home, the administrative work was taken over by the Board of Directors. The courses were overseen by the two Deans of the Iban and Chinese Departments.

Dr Fowler served in Sarawak for 21 years. When he first came, the Chinese and Iban Annual Conferences were not separated yet. In 1956, the Iban Annual Conference had only one elder pastor and today there are more than 40 pastors serving the Iban community. In the past, all major administrative power were in the hands of the Westerners but now the two conferences are independent bodies. The missions ministry is expanding in both Annual Conferences and they are collaborating closely with each other.

After returning home, Dr Fowler’s membership was also transferred to his mother church, Texas Central Conference of United Methodist Church of America. In his hometown Killen, there is a Junior High school which is named after his father, Dr. Joseph A. Fowler. When his father came to Killen in 1932, he was not only a missionary himself but also a doctor, the only doctor in the town in fact. More than 2000 children of this town had been treated by him in some ways over the years.

Dr. Fowler is popularly called Andy by his friends both in the USA and in Sarawak. He and his wife Nina live in Killen, Texas. They have two children, Marianina and Joseph.

Compiled by Menglei
Translated by Christina
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