INDIGENOUS MINISTRY: Bless the Penan Children

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Representing the BEM Chinese section to work together with SCAC and Life Music Society to improve the welfare of the Penan community, I witness the grace of the Almighty Lord and love from the church members. Although there are difficult times, none of us ever give up. We continue to seek God’s will and try to the best of our ability so that the Penan children can come to our care centre to stay, learn and grow. Let me share with you my view on the meaning of ‘CARE’.

1. ‘C’ is for Care. When dealing with the Penan children, I observed that they need a lot of love. They leave their homes and their lifestyle to move to a totally strange environment and call it their home. Even the urban youth who have to venture to new places in search of job opportunities and to study find it difficult to adapt to the new situation. These Penan children who are so used to living a semi-nomadic life roaming the jungles have to move and also to adapt to a totally different lifestyle in the city. Regardless of the type of farming system they practice, their work is done in a group as a family affair. No one is left behind. So when they have to leave to the city, they need a longer period of time to adapt. Thus they get closer to each other and become more dependent on each other.

2. ‘A’ is for Activity. Since its inception, the centre has planned and organized a series of programmes and events for the benefit of these children. However, we neglected the cultural differences and were impatient to see results. This caused them to rebel and be unable to adapt to the new situation leading to a lot misunderstandings and arguments. Thank God, there was a group of brothers and sisters in Christ who became humble, and gathered together to learn and reflect on the mistakes. By God’s grace we were able to solve the misunderstandings so that the Penan students continue to stay to learn and to grow.

3. ‘R’ is for Relationship. Relationship is essential and a priority among the indigenous people, including the Penans. We often hear the saying“When there is a relationship, everything will be alright; when there is no relationship then nothing is alright.” This is especially true when fostering a relationship with the Penan community. Before the setting up of the centre, I had the chance to get to know four Penan students who studied in a government school and were staying in the church. At first, they did not respond when asked questions. They merely smiled. After about two weeks, they still did not respond to questions but started to nod their heads. After a month, it would be a monosyllabic response. It was only after about three months that they would answer in complete sentences and even take the initiative to greet people.

4. ‘E’ is for Effectiveness. In the general sense, when it comes to all sorts of investments, achieving results is undoubtedly our priority. When things do not play out as expected or the task is difficult to perform, we would reconsider. However the work of God is unlike that. Our Lord treasures more our faithfulness and commitment in even a small matter than the results that we want to achieve. And thus what I aspire to is to help this group of people to  grow both academically and spiritually so that they will be able to contribute to society and become leaders of tomorrow.

Written by Rev Lau Meng Chai
Translated by Shirley Chieng
(First published in the Commemorative
magazine of the Life Music Society)

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