Christian gospel saved the Lun Bawang people

Justin (left) on stage with Abang Johari (second right), Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas (right) and others at the launch of BEM Worship and Community Centre project.

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KUCHING, Nov 25: The Borneo Evangelical Mission (BEM) and the Christian gospel it preached saved the Lun Bawang community from the destruction of alcoholism, by turning a sickly and dying tribe into a flourishing people today, says president Rev Dr Justin Wan.

Speaking at the launch of the BEM Worship and Community Centre project last night, Justin said the very same gospel also helped other people in Sarawak to overcome many of life’s challenges.

“Urban migration on account of higher education and work opportunities brought BEM from northern Sarawak to Kuching in the 1960’s. From the rural to the urban (areas), BEM has a spiritual responsibility over her members — old and young, male and female.

“Victory over challenges in life is not easily instilled or cultivated in a community. If the goal is to have people with high moral standing and integrity, being responsible citizens and good role models to peers of their generation, that goal standard is high,” Justin said, adding that it is fortunate the church is especially suited for this and can contribute significantly towards society.

As the general population steadily grows, BEM has found it necessary to deliberately organise fellowship and worship, equipping and training sessions, early childhood education, counselling, seminars, and workshops for teens and adults, with games and outings to foster family bonds, to communicate faith and the goodness of God in everyday living.

Therefore, the new BEM Worship and Community Centre on Lot 6591 at Taman Desa Wira is seen as a timely move for the BEM community because current facilities in Kuching city are very limited.

The centre which will sit on a 2.8 acre site is schedule for completion in 2022.

An artist’s impression of the centre.

“Among the facilities for the community’s use are worship hall with 1,000 seating capacity, a canteen and rooms for Sunday school children, a nursery and kindergarten to accommodate 120 children, a parish hall for games and other events with a seating capacity of 400 and a senior citizens’ daycare centre.

“There are also six classrooms for homework coaching, training and tuition classes, office space for BEM Kuching district and BEM Grace, a multi-purpose chapel for wakes and funerals, male and female hostel accommodation for group camps and for members from outstation, and infrastructure supporting 193 car parks and 47 motorcycle parks,” Justin added.

Thanking God and the present state government under the leadership of Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg for the openness and trust to allow BEM to continue her commission to share the gospel, Justin expressed confidence that the land provided will help to develop facilities for the Christian denomination’s community in Sarawak.

Touching on BEM’s brief history, Justin said it was 91 years ago or on Nov 12, 1928 that missionary Hudson Southwell and his team landed in Kuching.

Rajah Charles Vyner Brooke gave permission to establish a mission in Sarawak and he recommended it to start in Limbang area, and which the missionaries did.

“However, during the Japanese (occupation of) World War II, Hudson and wife Winsome, were imprisoned as civilian detainees in the Batu Lintang concentration camp. Fortunately, both of them survived and after that ordeal, he continued his work.

“He started pre-school at Long Atip in 1951 in the upper reaches of the Sungai Apoh, Miri division, north-west from Long Bedian. Between 1957 and 1963, he constructed the Long Lama Community Development Project, a vocational training facility funded by the Australian government and he taught there,” Justin said.

Hudson was awarded Order of the British Empire (OBE) by the Queen of England for that endeavour in 1963.

“He also completed the Kayan–English dictionary in 1991 and he died in 1996 in Australia. Hudson Southwell’s dedication and legacy of good news to the poor and education for living skills is still in BEM today,” Justin added. — DayakDaily