MY hometown is just adjacent to the Iban community. My father has been doing business with the Iban longhouse folks all this while. Once I prayed that if any Iban (or for that matter the indigenous people) were to come to the church that I pastor, I would preach the gospel to them in return.
In 2008 I was posted to Chin Seng Methodist Church and there were indigenous people from the neighborhood who worshipped at the church. I recalled what I had promised to our Lord but I tried to give all sorts of excuses to excuse myself from my promise, e.g. language barrier. However God touched one of the church members and he became my “mouth”. His fluent interpretation coupled with my passion for preaching, planted my intention to serve in the Bahasa Malaysia (BM) Ministry. Eight years have passed and never for once have I said that I want to quit.
Second year into the BM Ministry, the attendance of the service increased to over one hundred people. God saw my handicap in speaking the language and in the following year SCAC posted a BM speaking pastor to the church to shepherd the flock till this day.
A loud “banging” sound from upstairs
Four years ago, I was posted to Matang Methodist Church. On the afternoon of the second Sunday after arriving, I was attending the Executive Committee meeting when a loud “banging” sound of musical instruments came from upstairs. Nobody knew what was going on. Going upstairs we found that it was an indigenous people worship gathering organized by the Evangelism Executive Commission and the Trinity Methodist Church BM-speaking pastor was in charge. There were other officials from the BM Ministry as well as some church members of Trinity Methodist Church.
There were many indigenous people in the gathering and I prayed silently to the Lord that if anyone one of them accepted Christ during my first preaching I would continue with the ministry. On the third Sunday afternoon of the third month I was asked to preach (a Mandarin speaking Iban sister helped to interpret). After the sermon, I made an altar call. All responded to the call and a quarter of them were truth-seekers!
Gladly I joined the Matang Methodist Church BM Ministry team from the fourth month till today. In 2014, when the attendance reached 150, by God’s grace, a full time BM-speaking pastor was posted to Matang MC to shepherd the flock.
The pastor of Trinity MC thus shifted his focus to Samarahan area while I was posted to Samariang where the BM Ministry had been initiated by Maong Methodist Church.
Again I prayed to the Lord that if fifty indigenous people from Samariang would attend the Service every week for a month, God would have wanted me to continue the ministry there. The outcome was that except for the Gawai festival, the attendance maintained at 50-60. Praise the Lord.
The problem of bridging cultural gap
I am indeed willing to do the work. I have language barrier but it can only be an excuse. The main problem, I think, is to bridge the cultural gap. Though we all live in the same State, there are indeed a lot of cultural differences between Chinese and indigenous people; however a loving heart will bridge the gap in our heart.
Take myself as an example. I came from a family with great passion for cleanliness. One time when doing home visitation, I was served with a glass of water with fishy smell. I prayed to Lord and drank the glass of water reluctantly. That glass of water cured my “mysophobia”. Isn’t it God’s work?
If you asked me what would be the most joyous thing in the indigenous people ministry, I would say that it is leading our good neighbors to Christ. I never thought that God would give me such opportunities to serve in cross-cultural ministry.
In recent years, the church has sacrificed greatly in manpower, financially and in prayer for the indigenous people ministry. There is still room to put in more effort and also room for our members to totally eradicate their prejudice and discrimination against other races.
Of course, the church has to address the issue of the overwhelming effort of the other faith that is pushing towards the indigenous people. A brother once told me: “Sarawak is the last state that one can openly and freely share the gospel with the indigenous people.”
Now, my church has over 10 youths and I pray that God applies His love towards Matang MC to select from among them the instrument to serve the Lord full time.
There are problems to overcome, but overcoming difficulties make me closer to our Lord. Let me repeat, I am weak in commanding language and because of that I have been taking English and BM courses twice a week since last year.
By Rev Ting Hua Sing
Matang Methodist Church, Kuch