The Herald Weekly Vol XVI : 26

Encouraging the brethren in Miri and Brunei

I arrived at Miri Airport at 12.15 pm on Thursday (27 Jun). I walked past a couple as I walked from the tarmac towards the arrival hall. I was not sure who would be there to receive me. But when I turned back, I saw the couple smiling at me. They walked towards me and asked, “Are you Rev Phee?” I said, “Yes”, and they introduced themselves as Rev Anyi and his wife, Janis, of the Miri Reformed Church. We then moved on to fetch Harrison, a former FEBC student who had recovered from stroke, and now serving in the church. We proceeded to have lunch in a coffeeshop. As we ate our lunch, Rev Anyi shared about his church ministry and the background to their Christian faith.

Rev Anyi comes from an indigenous group, the Kayans, who used to live in longhouses along the Baram River. Sarawak’s population comprises of some 26 different ethnic groups. The non-Muslim indigenous communities, collectively known as Dayaks – are mostly Christians (because their ancestors became Christians through the faithful ministry of Christian missionaries from England), or they practise animism (the worship of plants, inanimate objects and natural phenomena).

The Dayaks make up about 40 per cent of Sarawak’s population. The two biggest ethnic groups within the Dayak community are the Ibans (also known as Sea Dayak), making up 30 per cent of the population, and the Bidayuh. Other groups include the Kenyah, Kayan, Kedayan, Murut, Punan, Bisayah, Kelabit, Berawan and Penan. Dayaks live in the interior parts of Sarawak and are also known as Orang Ulu, or people from the interior. They generally live in longhouses and practise shifting cultivation and depend also on fishing if they live near a river. Only a few of the Eastern Penan remain as nomads in the rainforest.

At night, Rev & Mrs Anyi brought me to join the fellowship among some Christians in a meeting hall. This hall was built by a former politician who is happy to have the group use it for fellowship. He also provided them with food & drinks.

The believers here used to live in longhouses near the river. Many became Christians through the faithful work of missionaries like Dr Ray Forster & his wife, Edith. In the 1980’s, I brought a team of young people from Sembawang B-P Church to be involved in this outreach to the Ibans in the longhouses. I remember that Mrs Phee and our 2 young children also went on the mission trip. Dr Forster gave up his career as an engineer, and his wife (a Filipino) was a nurse. They served with the Overseas Missionaries Fellowship (OMF), and their 2 young children were sent to the boarding school for missionary kids in Chefoo (Cameron Highlands).

After many years, the Dayak youths moved out of their longhouses in search of work and educational opportunities in cities like Miri and Kuching. Some believers continue in their Christian faith while others give up their beliefs. Thank God for the faithful few who have responded to God’s call to serve as full- time evangelists and pastors. Rev Anyi and his wife are a few of them.

The believers at the night meeting were very happy to hear that I had been involved in mission work in Miri in the 1980’s. They were much encouraged as I shared God’s Word with them, and they expressed the hope that I would visit them again.

Rev & Mrs Anyi have 3 children, with the eldest son married to a lady (a Buddhist) from KL. Mrs Anyi is very concerned for her daughter-in-law’s salvation. She is also concerned for the spiritual growth of the next generation as they have different goals and lifestyles and tend to forget their Christian upbringing.

As they share their concerns with me, I am also mindful of the challenges that the churches in Singapore face. Let us pray for Herald as we pray for Rev & Mrs Anyi and their ministry in Miri Reformed Church.

On Friday, I met up with Rev & Mrs Peter Wong. I first met Rev Wong when I spoke at the Evangel B-P Church (PJ) more than a year ago. He had invited me to minister to his church in Brunei. He was born in Brunei, and his wife, a Malaysian. They serve in the Brunei Reformed Church (English & Chinese speaking). The country is strict concerning the propagation of the gospel among their people. Nevertheless, God’s faithful servants continue with the gospel work.

We had Bible Study at the home of Terry and Joanne, and I spoke on Pursuing Growth in Wisdom.

We then had lunch at a restaurant owned by a young Mr Yang, assisted by his father. Rev Wong reaches out to the Chinese whenever he is in Miri. The senior Mr Yang is very receptive to the gospel, and Rev Wong wanted me to talk to him.

After lunch, I rested a while and waited for Rev & Mrs Wong to bring me to Brunei to conduct a study on the first few chapters of Romans. I was advised to divide the Chinese Christian literature into a few portions, and that we would place them in different bags. We were told to expect strict checking at the customs, and to anticipate the confiscation of the materials.

Brethren, pray for me and Rev & Mrs Wong. As you worship freely in Singapore, remember the believers of the Brunei Reformed Church, and some ‘underground’ churches there. Many of God’s servants face much difficulties and discouragement. They really need our encouragement in the Lord’s work.

Remember Christ’s words to His disciples: “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers to His harvest.” (Matt 9:37-38)

Pastor Bob Phee

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