There is an unbroken connection between Taiwanese Indigenous Missionaries and the Malaysian Indigenous Group which we are blessed with in Sarawak. And this connection has now culminated with the celebration of the Chuan Suo-Cheh Methodist Iban Training Center 10th Anniversary in MATOP. Ten years have gone by and the connection is still very strong. Praise God!!
The Chuan Suo-Cheh Methodist Iban Training Center located at Nanga Matop, Meluan, Julau held its 10th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service at 2:00 pm on 13th Aug. The President of Sarawak Iban Annual Conference and his wife, the District Superintendents and the local Iban congregation as well as around 40 Bunun brothers and sisters from the Central Taiwan of the Taiwan Presbyterian Church attended the function. The gathering well received further inspired and drove the mission of both the Indigenous people from Taiwan and Malaysia up another level.
This missionary connection between the Taiwanese Indigenous missionaries and the Sarawak Indigenous people group can be traced back to the 70’s. In the 70’s Rev. Chuan Suo-Cheh, the first Bunun overseas missionary from the Taiwanese Indigenous People Church of the Taiwan Presbyterian Church and seven other indigenous missionaries came to Sarawak serve among the once head-hunting Iban tribe for over 10 years. The visa approval for Taiwan missionaries to Sarawak is only 10 years. Rev. Chuan evangelized among the Ibans in Kanowit, Julau, Bintulu and Kapit.
Rev. Chuan’s heart was with the Sarawak natives even after returning to Taiwan. Till his retirement he returned regularly to Sarawak on short-term missions. During his missionary work in Sarawak he full heartedly got his children to be involved in the mission works and thus the children are also burdened for mission works.
After falling sick in 1998, in order to expand and for continuance of his mission work in Sarawak, he decided to buy a piece of land to build the “Missionary Training Centre” after discussion with Rev Lin Jin Yuan who was a missionary to Sarawak.
Later, Rev. Chuan’s daughter who studied in Wong Nai Siong Secondary School,Sibu, donated over NT$1 million for the building of the training centre. The money was actually the insurance compensation of her husband’s motor accident. The centre was completed in 2006 and the dedication service was conducted by Bishop Hwa Yung. The centre is currently served by Pastor Chuan Wen He, a Chinese from Taiwan who was brought up by the Bunun communities. This is a new chapter of the story between Bunun and Iban. The centre is used as a place for training of worship leaders, Sunday school teachers . Thus it is a continuation of gospel works by the Taiwanese missionaries.
In the past 10 years, under the hard work of Pastor Chuan Wen He, both the physical facilities and software have been upgraded. On the 10th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service he said:
• Whenever someone passed away, no matter how busy the brothers and sisters in Christ, they would lay down their work to attend to friends and relatives of the deceased who are from afar.
• The football field, pedestrian trails and prayer room are all constructed by the Iban brothers and sisters using the gotong-royong (teamwork)method. Because of the hard work there is a strong sense of belonging and ownership.
• Even though the paddy harvest may not be much the Iban believers are willing to offer to God’s servant. Whenever he found it hard to accept the gifts and wished to return them the gifts, the Iban believers would just ask him to pray for them in return.
• Some believers have started to tithe, though there is room for improvement; some members contribute to the needs of some ministries including contributing to the love feast after this Thanksgiving Service. In the past they were on receiving end but now they are the givers.
Pastor Chuan Wen He also thanked Pastor Idai and Brother Semera for serving so well because of shortage of preachers. He hoped that young believers would learn more about their ministry. On top of that gratitude was also extended to the Iban couple who sold this piece of land for the building of the centre at a special low price.
Earlier on, the Chairman of the Central Taiwan Bunun Conference Rev Chuan Cheng Kung was invited to preach and he quoted from Romans 10: 13-18 to preach to the Iban believers the beauty of evangelizing, on the following points:
1) the voice of evangelism is most beautiful because we are preaching hope, faith, love, joy and heavenly peace.
2) the greatest joy: when we see that the person we preach to repent and accept Christ; when the person knows the true freedom gained in worshipping God and is no longer afraid; when there is life renewal and transformation.
3) the greatest satisfaction: human life and soul are priceless, so winning a soul for God is the greatest satisfaction.
Rev Chuan Cheng Kung hoped that the training centre will continue to be used for nurturing of Iban believers to become disciples of Christ and church leaders and through short-term mission, revival meeting, cross-cultural exchange to deepen spiritual life and for the extension of gospel work. He said that he looked forward to Iban believers becoming self-supporting and independent and to work beyond the training centre to undertake evangelical and gospel work. He looked forward to the Iban members to leave evangelical footsteps throughout Sarawak.
The 20 representatives from the Central Taiwan Bunun Xinxiang Church brought the blessings and supports of the whole Church as well offering as funds for mission and construction of the training centre. They also sang Bunun and Chinese hymns during the thanksgiving service.
The Thanksgiving Service week ended at around 4:00 pm and everyone enjoyed the love feast spread out at the rear of the centre.
Reported by Saffron
Translated by KT Chew