Trip to Sarawak, Malaysia

In early July this year, Michael (a CityLife World Impact endorsed missions worker and founder of 3Ce Ministry), Collin (volunteer Life Group coach at CityLife Church) and myself traveled to Sarawak, Malaysia. We went there to visit the Borneo Evangelical Missions (BEM), a church that was founded in October 1928 by three Australian missionaries, Hudson Southwell, Frank Davidson and Carey Tolley.

Michael has had a long term ministry partnership relationship with BEM and World Impact is exploring a potential partnership with BEM’s mission and outreach efforts.

BEM will be celebrating its 90 year anniversary in November this year. Currently, BEM has 118,282 members and 594 churches. It is one of the largest denominations in Sarawak. Every year BEM targets to win at least 4,000 souls to Christ. Last year 2, 246 people accepted Jesus for the first time; and about 4,800 people were water baptised. Annually, BEM plants an average of 27 new churches in various parts of Malaysia; and they also have mission outreach projects in four overseas nations in the region.

On the 10th of July we met with the BEM executive team; President Dr. Justine Wan, Vice President Reverand Bina Agong, General Secretary Mr Stanley Sigar and other key senior leaders of BEM. We also visited some of the outreach projects of BEM in the Rajan River Basin.

Why Rejang basin?

The biggest native, unreached Iban people group live along this river. The first three Australian BEM missionaries made great efforts to reach out to the Iban people with limited success as their traditional belief systems are deeply integrated into their culture. Through all the challenges, BEM continues to reach out to the Iban with the love of Jesus; they need more help and resources to do this.

As a people group, the Iban in general do not have access to modern technologies and resources (literacy, education and healthcare), much of the reason for this is their remoteness of their communities and the mindsets that they grow up with. A downside of strong traditions is its tendency to keep people bound in the past, restricting their ability to access life changing benefits that are widely available in the rest of the world.

Other religious groups are also actively trying to convert the Iban to their faith with large numbers responding to the monetary gifts and social benefits that are being offered to them by these groups.

Many of the Iban people live in what they call long-houses. One long house can accommodate up to 27 families. It is their tradition to live in long-houses and each long house has one chief. BEM has a church planting initiative in many of these Iban villages. In some places there are groups of Christians but they do not have pastors to provide them with the guidance they need to grow in their faith. BEM is struggling with a shortage of leaders.

The BEM leaders are quite keen in using CityLife’s LifeTracks International resources to address their leadership development needs. The leaders all feel that what they lack is an appropriate discipleship tool. The leaders have made a request for a pilot LifeTracks International training program to be run in areas where there are many Iban Christians. They are hoping this will help them raise more leaders and improve the vitality of the existing Christians and local churches of BEM.

Michael and I will be traveling to Sarawak, Malaysia again in November to attend the 90 year anniversary of BEM and explore farther ways in which we can help our brothers and sisters in BEM, Sarawak, Malaysia.

– Paulos