Thursday, May 8, 2008

Revival In Borneo

In 1946, Guru Paul, a vivacious little Timorese Pastor from Indonesia founded the first primary school and by 1976 there were over twenty Kelabits entered university. During his teaching, he actually taught his Christian faith to the Kelabits. He then becomes the first Bornean member of staff of the Miri Bible College. Robert Lian Saging, one of the first Kelabits to graduate in his honours degree at Kuala Lumpur University points this out in his thesis “The greatest thing to have happened in the history of the Kelabit people was the conversion of the tribe to Christianity. The developments in the Kelabit country carried out by the Government in the last thirty years have been success mainly because of the effect of Christianity on the Kelabits. Christianity has played, is still playing and will continue to play a leading role in the lives and developments of the Kelabit tribe. The Kelabit church is the power and strength of the Kelabit people. The main effect that the Christianity has had on the Kelabits is the change of the Kelabit society from a pagan and unprogressive on to a Christian and progressive one.” There were doctors and other professional qualifications among the Kelabits and many are earning well in coastal towns. Education improves among the many tribes and that includes the Lun Bawang too.
According to the Sarawak Gazette, the Lun Bawang was drunken one hundred days out of 365 days. They were dying out. The Lun Bawang men were incapable to guard their house while their wives had to work. They got drunk at all occasions, at every marriage, death festivals. They drank jar after jar of rice beer. Even small children would do the same and in fact it is said only the dogs were sober. Their lifestyles were terrible. Houses were filthy, covered in soot and cobwebs, floors showing traces of recent debauches, dogs everywhere, pigs under the house. They had diseases, epidemics were frequent and severe.
The revival truly had changed everything. During their disputes, the people would gather together discuss and prayed together as civilized people and settled the matter. Drinking feasts had been replaced by daily prayer meetings and hymn singing and the results was they had enough to support their families. Their lifestyles change, they were able to eat well, wear good clothing and receive education. Their homes change, it was more spacious, well kept and clean. This is definitely the results of someone whose life had been affected by a meaningful Christian experience. The standard of living has improved and illiteracy among the young is a thing of the past. It was God who had brought this group of Kelabits, Lun Bawang and the other tribes to himself.

Their church meetings and pre-dawn prayer were alive and many came to join in to network in prayer. In fact the revival started among the younger generation. Their lives change remarkably.
People of the SIB church have become increasingly aware of God’s purposes for the whole world. He has planned and declared that in the final day there will be those from every tribe language, people and nation will bow down to Jesus. The vision of an established, indigenous church which inspired the three pioneers’ missionaries has come to completion, not only among the Kelabits and the Lun Bawang but also many among other interior tribes.
Once BEM was birth, revival took place everywhere in East Malaysia. They had small church like the Bisaya church that runs its own affairs. By now, the Lun Bawang had been left during the war years with a local leader in each group and they had taken the Gospel to the Kelabits. The Dusuns were now already doing much of the evangelism themselves as well running their own church organization. There was a Bible School at Lawas training the locals so that they could take over the leadership and there were fruits from the school whereby a number of students accompanied the missionaries on evangelistic trips to tribes other than their own. The locals did not stop spreading the good news wherever they went and took every opportunity they had. They were on fire for Jesus and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
In 1952, BEM organized conference for Pastors to meet. They knew it was time to increase more missionaries and also intensive training for leaders of the future church. They had specific items for prayer, they believed for twelve new workers in the next twelve months and also in increase of 70% in the size of the team. During and after the conference, God worked remarkably in many of the missionary team. For example, Oswald Sanders, a General Director of the OMF had visited Borneo in 1956 wrote in his Foreward to Jungle Fire, ‘A great leap forward in the work took place in 1952 as the outcome of a sovereign moving of the Holy Spirit among the missionaries. They discovered anew that spiritual success comes only when the Holy Spirit is able to work unhindered by carnality and sin in His chosen instruments. With confession and cleansing came new vision, this time of long-range planning to be implemented with short-team urgency.’ The blessing truly changed the lives of the missionary team which was the embryo from which develop the Inter-Tribal Conference of the Sidang Injil Borneo (The Evangelical Church of Borneo).
The Pastors began to meet yearly and by December 1954 a representative body was formed for the administration of Church affairs which consists of six tribal churches, the Lun Bawang, Kayan, Kenya, Dusun, Kelabit and Tagal together with Racha Umong and Udan Rangat, a Lun Bawang who had graduated from Bible School. The BEM was represented by the Belchers. In 1955, over ninety pastors and their wives came together. Finally in 1959, the Conference was ready to draw up a constitution for the Evangelical Church in Borneo. At this conference they were helped by representatives from KINGME, the evangelical church founded in Indonesia. This part of God’s building was taking shape and Sidang Injil Borneo was chosen as its official name. The SIB was now an independent church just before Independence came to Borneo.
The indigenous people saw the truth and believed in the truth. As a Christian, I personally believed that if we avail ourselves for His service and that as we put out trust in Jesus and not use our strength, He can use us mightily as how He used the three missionaries to bring Jesus to this land of Borneo. All things are possible through Christ who strengthened us. Even though they had to go through trials and tribulations but it was worth. SIB is now a fast growing church, touching many lives and blessing many people all across this land.
Today, Christians in the SIB not only serve in churches but also in the political world. They are making a difference in the land of Malaysia. They have brought hope to many lives. Evangelism had been their goal and is still their goal. SIB has never lost its focus to keep to our commission, to ‘Go Ye and Make Disciples’ to All Nations’. SIB had managed to set up churches to almost every settlement in Sabah, Sarawak and also branching out to West Malaysia. Holding to our vision to proclaim God’s grace and to reflect His glory, the SIB will not stop mushrooming until the day Jesus comes to take us home.

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