“He killed a man.” This was the first thing I was told about Pastor Michael who attended the initial Langham Preaching training held in Sarawak, East Malaysia earlier this year.
The training was taught in the Malay language by a team from Indonesia and was focused on preachers working amongst the indigenous peoples in Sarawak. 35 people attended the training, including both indigenous and ‘Big Country’ pastors and leaders.
Michael is from the Murut people in the hills of north Sarawak. He completed primary school and then his life was characterised by drunkenness, gambling and violence. He had five children from three different wives.
Heart and life transformed
The indigenous people in Sarawak were headhunters 100 years ago, but today many are Christians. In the same way Michael met Jesus five years ago and his heart and life were transformed.
He soon decided to go to a local Bible school for two years and started working as a pastor. Two years ago he was sent to work in Stalun, an Iban longhouse village on the coast near Sibu.
The “longhouses” are the traditional homes of many of the indigenous peoples in Borneo. There are long enclosed halls with doors opening off it into private areas for each family.
There is also an outside verandah. I think traditionally they were built up on stilts and it was a way of providing protection and a communal space.
Accessible by small boat
Stalun is accessible only by small boat. So Michael had become a missionary; working in a different environment, a different culture and learning a new language.
Within Stalun there are over 1000 people in ten longhouses. But only three longhouses have been reached with the gospel. And another religion has sent a teacher and built a place of worship to also try to convert the village.
Michael and the Christian longhouse leaders know they need to be able to strengthen the believers to stand firm and to be an effective witness.
So three of them joined the Langham training to learn how to preach in a way that is faithful to God’s word and relevant to the people they serve.
Reaching out with love
The training was not easy for them because of their limited education.
But Michael carefully recorded every session, took lots of notes, and plans to use these to revise and practice what he learned.
The Borneo Evangelical Mission Immanuel church in Sibu also supports this small church with regular visits and help with preaching. Nanny, an elderly lady who speaks Iban and often visits was asked, how do you reach the Iban. Her answer was simply, “With love.”
Praise God for people like Michael and Nanny who are serving the gospel in their different ways, with limited resources and facing external pressures. And praise God that Langham Preaching is able to support this work by encouraging and equipping people like Michael.
Pray for those who have received training in Sarawak.
And pray that this small work will develop so that the churches amongst the indigenous peoples there will be able to stand firm and grow despite limited resources and increasing external pressures.
By Phil Nicholson, East Asia Regional Coordinator, Langham Preaching.