Nearly three hundred people participated in the 6th BM Ministry Forum. More than half of the participants were the indigenous people including Ibans, Kenyahs, Kayans, Kelabits and Lun Bawang. The key speaker was Rev Datuk Dr Thu En Yu, the Principal of Seminari Teologi Sabah (STS). This unique 4-day 3-night intensive bilingual forum was held at Mei Ann Methodist Church in Miri from 15-18 September.
Rev Dato Dr Su Chii Ann, the President of SCAC officiated the opening ceremony. With native music and drum playing in the background, the President hit the gong three times to symbolize the official opening. In his opening speech the President emphasized the importance and urgency of the BM Ministry. He also reiterated that SCAC set up the BM Ministry Committee to focus on the urban indigenous people gospel ministry. Its missions include: (i) love our neighbours, (ii) bear the cost, (iii) spiritual growth, (iv) nurture the leaders. We love our neighbour until we are willing to bear the price (eg. strength and money), so that the spiritual life of the indigenous believers may grow, and to nurture the leaders of this community so that they can take care of their flocks. Before long, there will be great revival in the indigenous people gospel ministry.
Rev Thu divided the theme topic into four lectures: (1) My experience of cross-cultural missionary work; (2) Go to Bethel where the calling began; (3) The situation of the indigenous people before and after the independence of East Malaysia, and (4) To be Christ-like, follow the footsteps. In the 4 lectures he quoted the Bible to analyze God’s calling, mission and gift. He also testified that he was approached by a few denominations after he graduated from Divinity School of Chung Chi College in Hong Kong with a degree in theology but he was called to Sabah to serve the indigenous people for ten years! From pioneering to development, God has blessed him and graced him in advancing the difficult ministry. When he was called to be the Bishop of Basel Church of Malaysia he had the vision of building a theological school in Bahasa Malaysia, which is known as Sabah Theological Seminary (STS). That was a difficult task; from the selection of site to purchase of land to fund raising, each step was a great hurdle. The greatest hurdle was the application of permit for it was full of twists and turns. However when there seemed no way God always performed miracles. The government not only approved the permit but also allocated a fund of RM3 million. All co-workers deeply experienced the wonderful deeds of our Lord!
In all the four lectures Rev Thu repeatedly stressed the urgency of indigenous people gospel ministry. His called out loudly that the religious climate in our nation is facing internal and external challenges – fire was set upon our walls; many believers were lured; are we not worried? He urged Christians, both Chinese and indigenous, to rise up in unity to rebuild “the wall of Jerusalem”.
Rev. Law Hui Seng, Director of Board of Evangelism, delivered two special reports: “A Brief History on the SCAC BM Ministry” and “The Vision and Mission of BM Ministry”. He recalled that the vision of BM Ministry was to make every tribe in Sarawak disciples of Jesus. There are around 750,000 Ibans in Sarawak with over 70% of them claiming that they are Christians while most of them are Christians in name only. Many of them have migrated to the urban areas to earn a living or study. By God’s grace SCAC has established 11 BM churches in Kuching, Miri, Bintulu and Sibu. We need to extend more care to these neighbours and invest more manpower to shepherd and nurture them.
The speaker of the first revival meeting, Rev Thomas Lau, MTS lecturer, preached on the topic “Filled with the Holy Spirit”. He gave a detailed analysis with the following three main points: (1) Renewal and change; (2) With the gift from God, you can serve God, and (3) Filled with Holy Spirit you can witness. He quoted Galatians 5:22-25. The Father had given in addition to His Son, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit. By the work of the Holy Spirit one can change from the old self into a new man, with sins forgiven and to live a holy life. Next he said that one may be talented before believing in the Lord, but after trusting the Lord and anointed by the Holy Spirit, and through talent searching, practice, equipping and fellowship one can become a good housekeeper to serve the Lord. Thirdly he quoted from Acts 1: 8; one can receive power from the Holy Spirit to witness for the Lord. In fact when one believes in our Lord, the Holy Spirit dwells in him. He shall keep the commandments, read the scriptures, pray and live a holy life. Finally Rev Lau sincerely warned and hoped that the congregation be filled with the Holy Spirit and be witnesses for the Lord.
In the second session of the revival meeting, retired Rev Ting Diu Kiong preached on “Look at the fields” based on John 4:1-42. The sermon was divided into three sub-topics: (a) What does Jesus want you to see? (b) Jesus wants you to harvest now. (c) The Lord of the crops sends you to harvest His crops. Are you willing? He guided the audience agilely to see Jesus’ intention to break down the racial barriers for us to share the gospel with the indigenous people. In fact Rev Ting has long been enthusiastic about the BM Ministry. When he was pastoring in Hwai Ann Methodist Church at the beginning of this century he mobilized the church in adopting five Iban longhouses along Oya Road. He also had the foresight to see that the Ibans are migrating to urban areas and so when transferred to Kuching as the District Superintendent he set up BM worship service in the suitable churches and the turn up was impressive. He also formulated various strategies to more effectively and more directly share the gospel in the longhouses in various places.
During the forum, 11 workshops were also held and the discussions were upon: (1) The prospects of the BM Ministry; (2) The cross-cultural implementation of the Great Commandment among the indigenous people; (3) Mission and missionary work among the indigenous people. Each workshop was conducted by trained pastors and speakers to analyze and discuss how to deal with this urgent social environment.
In summing up, Rev Ling Biu expressed his hope that all participants would bring this information to churches of all denominations. They could act upon these urgent matters so that our garden-like homeland would not be spoilt and polluted.
The interpreters for this bilingual forum were all young pastors from the Methodist churches. They did a great job. After the forum I asked a native believer if the interpretation was good and if he could understand. He gave a thumbs up, saying, “Great!” and he could understand well. However the simultaneous interpretation came a little too fast and so catching the words could at times be difficult. From these we can see that the Methodist churches have competent BM speaking pastors and thus should set up more BM churches. There is no shortage of competent pastors if there is a will to accept the calling to serve among the indigenous people.
The three-night four-day forum came to a close with a prayer of blessing by Rev Ting Chu Yih, the Miri District Superintendent.
Reported by Wong Kee Siang
(Gan En Methodist Church, Miri)
Translated by KT Chew