Raymond Lee was never interested in long-term commitment

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Pastors often preach about evangelizing and outreach. If you can’t commit on long-term missions, what about joining a short-term missions trip? What can you do when joining short-term missions trips? What are the conditions? Local Preacher Raymond Lee, the person in charge of Julau short-term missions, says that you can be God’s vessel as long as you are dedicated, even though you may think you have no strengths.

“In the past I could only play the guitar but I was strong physically, so I joined the missions team. Another auntie said that she could only help people with a haircut and she participated, and the longhouse folks queued up for haircuts. One brother could only drive the gospel van and he took the task of driving for the short-term missions team. It is just that simple. So do you still dare to say that you don’t know how or are not brave enough to join a local short-term missions trip? ”

Nothing to do with me

Raymond Lee was born into a Christian family in Kuching. At first he thought that coming from a Christian family made him a Christian. After joining the Youth Fellowship he understood that becoming a Christian involved one’s personal relationship with God, accepting Jesus Christ as his personal saviour.

In 2003 he was invited by his pastor to join the Julau short-term missions trip. At that time he was not at all interested in evangelizing to the indigenous people.

“The late Rev Wong Mee Ing was the pastor-in-charge then. She often shared about the vision of the Board of Evangelism and encouraged Ching Kwong Methodist Church members to join the local short-term missions team. Because of my language barriers and problems with food and lodging I had always thought that evangelizing to the indigenous people had nothing to do with me. Since my born-again experience in 1980 till 2003, I had not even read the Bible from cover to cover once. What then could I offer in joining the short-term missions trip? So when Rev Wong asked me to join the trip, I did so unwillingly.”

“I was thinking that being a strong man one thing I could help with was carrying things.” Jokingly he said that he was not even preparing much for the trip and even the sleeping bag and supplies were prepared by other team members. He is still using that sleeping bag today!

Preparing to work the work of God

Raymond Lee and 11 other members set off from Sibu to Julau by road as well as by river to visit 12 longhouses in the Julau area. They had an abundant harvest but were worried. “We had open up a new horizon, a large harvest field with so few workers. And we were so poorly equipped for the work.”

After returning from Julau he enrolled into the TEE course of Methodist Theological School. He set off his journey equipping himself in 2004 and after 12 years he graduated. In 2019 he was appointed Local Preacher.

In June and December, 2004, he returned to Julau for short-term missions. He was so moved every time he went there. He was also worried about the future of this ministry. “The longhouse folks have a special habit. They welcome us to hold meetings in their longhouse but they don’t like to join other longhouses in their meetings. So the turnout for each meeting is always rather small. We were debating whether to continue meeting in the longhouse if the number of attendees was not increasing. So the short missions team members agreed that if not many people turned up for the meeting the following time then they would stop the short-term missions ministry in the Julau area.”

It was the last meeting of the Julau short-term missions trip that evening of June 2005. Initially only 10 persons turned up but as more trickled in, the number eventually rose to more than 80 persons. One of the residents, from another longhouse, came by boat and he came in crutches because of foot injury. All the team members were greatly touched. “At that time I felt that God was among us; though we couldn’t see with our naked eye, I could feel Him.”

Because of certain changes and movements of the team members Raymond became leader of the Julau short-term missions in 2006. Today he is still the key person of this ministry.

Paying gospel debt

Due to the pastoral evangelism strategy of his church, the Julau short-term missions ministry was nearly stopped at one time. During a certain trip, which he thought would be his last trip there, he chatted with the Tuai Rumah of one of the longhouses. The TR told him that the visitation of the short-term missions team was the fire of revival burning in the hearts of the residents. Each time after the short-term missions team left, the fire would burn until their next visit.

“When I heard these words I knew that we should not stop the Julau short-term missions ministry. To us Chinese, we tend to look for immediate outcome after doing something and we have forgotten that sharing the gospel is just like sowing a seed.
After much effort, he was finally able to convince the church to continue supporting the Julau short-term missions team.

Training new leaders

Today the number of participants of the Julau short-term missions has increased from twelve to over one hundred. It is divided into 16 to 18 teams. During the 5-day-4-night trip, they would visit 58 longhouses. On top of evangelising, the team members also train the residents by organizing children and youth camps. The main purpose is to train up the longhouse worship leaders (Tuai Sembahyang). Currently most of the worship leaders are getting on in years so there is a need to train new leaders. “There are other activities such as prayer walk, team for preparing food, Boys and Girls Brigade and so on.”
Through the hard work of the short-term missions teams over the years, five youths from the area have dedicated themselves to become pastors of SIAC. Two team members have become pastors, namely, Rev Poh Chin Sing and Rev Tie Hieng Sing.On top of that Irene Jee has dedicated herself to become a full time missionary. “The starting of Ching Kwong Methodist Church BM ministry was also a by-product of the vision of these team members after returning from the Julau short-term missions trip. They began by caring for the longhouse folks in the parish and finally started the BM ministry.”

According to the records of the short-term missions team, by December 2019 they had been in contact with around 1,800 persons of whom more than 500 were children below 12 years of age and more than 1,200 over 12 years old.

“Of course we are not limiting ourselves to Julau only and we are expanding the ministry to Kanowit, Ulu Song, Balingian and Sebuyau in a systematic way. All of these are the key areas that we want to expand to.”

Further boost to the ministry

To cope with the expanding ministry Raymond also began training the team members of the Julau short-term missions team.

“We are encouraged by the many new members joining us and now around half of the team are new members. Thus we can share our vision with more people. Now we even have parents bringing along their children to participate in short-term missions trip, encouraging the children to experience and learn about the people. It is a joy to see all these.”

He emphasized that God’s leading is beyond our understanding. For many years, the Julau short-term missions ministry did not have a very systematic future plan. Team members just prayed for a local missionary to be based in the area to shepherd these long-house folks. Three years ago, beyond their expectations, SCAC posted Ling Fang Fang there. Another booster is that a retired pastor of SIAC, Rev. Mansur, joined the ministry.

“We dare not set a target-based future plan because we do not know how God will lead us but we believe that God leads us every step of our way.”

After serving for all these years Raymond concludes that everyone is a vessel in the hands of God. You don’t have to know how to preach or to be well versed in the Bible to be a part of the short-term missions, what is more important is your heart. “As long as we are willing to befriend the long house folks, it is already one of the ways of “the Word was made flesh”.

To Raymond, what God has given him is satisfaction beyond words. He has had the opportunity to experience spiritual renewal, richness in life as well as a changed attitude towards serving the indigenous people. “This kind of gain is non-material, intangible and invisible but I feel that my heart is so filled up. Another obvious gain is that I have learnt to speak Iban. ha! ha! ha!”

Interviewer: Menglei
Interviewee: Raymond Lee
Recorder: April
Translator: KT Chew
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