What is your response to the ministry of local missionaries?

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The Ministry to Sarawak Indigenous People (MSIP) under the Board of Evangelism, Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference (SCAC) has been serving the local indigenous people for around twenty years. I have been serving in this ministry from the beginning. I wrote about the ministry, I called on them, I taught them, I was challenged in various ways, I prayed for them and I went to the longhouses and schools throughout the state. I visited and talked to the Penans and the Ibans. I prayed for their healings. I had breakfast, lunch and dinner with them and I slept with them under the same roof. Seeing how these people responded to the gospel always reminded me of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 9:37- 38 “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” That shows how desperately we need local missionaries.

There are around 6,900 long houses in the whole Sarawak. Around 45% of the total population of the indigenous people live in the longhouses. As disciples of Jesus, we have to love our neighbours and so we are compelled to minister to them so as to save them.

4,000 longhouses

SCAC has adopted around 112 longhouses over the past twenty years. SIAC is shepherding 350 longhouses. Rev Peter Shin, the Korean pastor, and his pastoral team are taking care of about 100 longhouses and 26 schools. BEM, Anglican, Catholic and some independent churches also shepherd many longhouses. We and other denominations are facing a shortage of pastors or missionaries to shepherd the inland indigenous people. By my estimation at least 4,000 longhouses are not shepherded because of shortage of pastors or missionaries. They become an easy target of the I-effort. Some churches (as well as some denominations) said that they are facing shortage of pastors even in the town and they cannot shepherd the indigenous people in the interior. This shows our urgent needs for local missionaries.

Praise the Lord that around 30 churches of the total 130 churches under SCAC are now adopting longhouses. Over the years there has been a significant increase in the number of survey teams and short-term mission teams to the longhouses. The local missions are now receiving more attention and churches are becoming aware of this ministry too. Currently SCAC has 14 short-term, long-term, voluntary and paid local missionaries (including a couple serving as missionaries to the Hakkas). Of the 14, 2 are serving in rather similar function as missionaries and another one is an Iban.

Most local missionaries participate in longhouse ministry. They collaborate with SIAC pastors and also with Rev Peter Shin to provide pastoral care to the longhouse folks. They are now covering Pakan, Lubok Antu, Selangau, Sarikei, Kanowit, Ulu Julau, Ulu Layar and other remote areas.

In terms of longhouse pastoral ministry, the local missionaries preach, visit, teach in Sunday schools, conduct bilik to bilik prayer, making arrangements for short-term mission teams, visit and survey other longhouses which are all evangelical related ministries. The most ideal medium of communication is Bahasa Iban because the majority of those who stay back in the longhouses are the elders and those who have not had much education. Therefore, if you speak Iban yet do not preach the gospel to the Iban, you are wasting your God-given linguistic gift.

However there are younger elementary school students, secondary school students and young people who understand BM in the longhouses. So those church members who are well versed in BM yet do not make full use of your BM speaking ability in the BM ministry or to teach Sunday school in the longhouses, you are also wasting your talent. You are not a good steward of God’s gift.

Missionaries needed
in mission field

Because of the huge numbers of unreached longhouses, the biggest need of the longhouse evangelical ministry is to have enough full-time local missionaries. Before the pandemic, we travelled to Kuala Tatau and Kuala Balingian to visit and inspect seven longhouses. We need a local missionary there as well.

We also need full-time campus missionaries. Currently we have a full-time campus missionary who is a retired primary school principal. The 26 primary and secondary schools that Rev Peter Shin and his team are ministering to are located in the vicinity of Bawang Assan, Tanjong Manis, Jalan Oya, Selangau, Lubok Antu and Engkilili. They need our help too, mainly in conducting Bible classes in BM.

The Kapit Scripture Union workers informed me that the principals of eight primary and secondary schools welcome churches to teach God’s word in their schools. I earnestly seek retired teachers and brothers and sisters well versed in BM to respond to this calling.

Basic requirements for local missionaries:
1. In addition to the language skills emphasized above, you must be burdened to spread the gospel to the indigenous people.
2. Good at teaching God’s word.
3. Can work independently, be bold, hardworking and be able to adapt well.
4. Good health.
5. Have a valid driving license.

During this MCO lock-down have you ever reflected upon becoming a local missionary in the second half of your life? If you can fulfil all the above conditions, please consider it. If you cannot fulfil the above conditions, yet you are interested, please equip yourself and contact us at the right moment. No matter if you are the former or the latter case, please contact me for further enquiry.

Written by Rev Law Hui Seng
Translated by KT Chew
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