Johor Bahru Baptist Church’s official website is http://jbbc.my
Official Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/jbbc.my
At long overdue last, here’s the photo-journal of the Johor Bahru Baptist Church missions trip to Betong (in Sarawak, Malaysia) from 13 March 2007 to 18 March 2007.
Click to enlarge above map.
Betong is a town (and division) in Sarawak. You can visit the (rather sparse) the official Betong site. Or go here to see satellite images of the area, as well as several videos to do with Betong… Most of which were uploaded by ME to Youtube!
Seeing as cameras were continually snapping away throughout the journey, a selection of photos with accompanying captions can serve as an effective pictorial journal.
This is quite a massive post, with lots of text and more than 70 images! So the rest of it is hidden from the main page until you click ‘Read the rest of this entry’.
Descriptions follow pictures.
This photo is from when we were still in JB. We would meet up every week (or so) to fellowship, get to know each other better, practise songs and acting, and makan a lot. The photo shows Adrial and me practising for our mime, about a bear who got dirty and gets a clean new shirt, and how it relates to the Gospel message of cleansing from sin.
Me and my very pretty Anne on the Air Asia flight ;> We departed from Johor Bahru (actually, Senai which is quite far from the city of JB) Tuesday evening/night.
Our plane after we landed in Kuching. Pastor Daniel Kion met us at the cool-looking Kuching airport and took us for dinner at a hawker centre (ko lo mee with excellent Sarawak pepperness), then dropped us off at the Grand Continental Hotel – according to Tze Woei, one of the best in Kuching! Expensive hotel for a missions trip!
Early in the morning before hotel breakfast opens (and with not enough sleep), we were driven a long way to Betong Sion Baptist Church, our base of operations for this missions trip. The church’s pastor is an Iban, Pastor Leslie. He treks all the way to Selangking in the hills every week to preach on Sunday. He and his family stay at the church, and were our gracious hosts.
The church is the lone building in the jungle-and-single-road area. At the back of the church, past the outdoor tin-walled toilet/bathrooms, Pastor Leslie and family rear chickens, ducks and pigs for sustenance and extra income. To quote Uncle Alex Fong, Pastor Leslie is the only pastor he knows who rears pigs!
Click to enlarge the above pic. From left to right: Anne, Mei Lin (JBBC young adult), Pastor Leslie’s daughter, Pastor Leslie’s other daughter, Pastor Daniel’s son, Pastor Leslie’s wife (in orange shirt), Aunty Agnes (Uncle Chin Huat’s wife), Adrial (Uncle Chin Huat’s son), Rebecca (Uncle Chin Huat’s daughter), Aunty Swee Chan (Uncle Alex’s wife), Scott, Rachel (Uncle Alex’s daughter), Pastor Daniel, Uncle Chin Huat, Pastor Leslie, and Uncle Alex.
The first day in Betong was mostly spent preparing and packing for the next day’s trek, and rehearsing what we would be doing at the longhouse. That evening, we went to Betong town for Chinese-style dinner.
Notice the hordes of barbarian birds, ready to carpet bomb unwary pedestrians and eaters.
After dinner, we paid a short visit to a longhouse in Pasa, not far from town. It’s quite a modern longhouse, built using modern materials such as concrete as well as wood. Outside, in the dark, were lots of in-progress building. And lots of insects attracted from the surrounding jungle to the lights. The above pic shows a sample of the Iban longhouse inhabitants.
Praise and worship in Iban. We’re holding Iban Christian song books. Not all the longhouse is Christian.
Here is the video of worship in the Iban language (39 seconds).
Adrial and me doing our Sticky Bear skit. The shirt was pre-stained with paint, and I give Adrial a new, clean shirt and then tell him how it reminds me of the way Jesus gives us a new, clean life free from the stain of sin. We just mimed, Mei Lin narrated in English, and Pastor Daniel spoke the message in Iban afterwards.
After that, the adults stayed on in the main hall for the sermon, while the children went into a back room (a very deep room, more like a corridor leading to other doors and rooms!) for songs, games and activities.
They really enjoyed making arts and crafts. Such simple pleasures that our city Sunday school kids take for granted!
Back at the Betong Sion church, we settled in for the Wednesday night in the main hall. We each brought sleeping bags, and laid them out on floor mats. And yes, if you noticed, the pic clearly shows daylight coming in through the windows. It’s not a night pic, I didn’t have one of the hall except from daytime.
Thursday morning, we were ready to head to Selangking. As a gift, we had bought three live chickens from the town market. Here they are, all prepared with their ‘armour’ for the journey!
This was the most terrible part of the whole missions trip for me!!! The paved road ran out quickly, leaving miles of large stones and gravel all the way to where the ‘road’ ends near Selangking! Vans were not designed for off-road all-terrain use, yet this van is used to regularly ferry people from Selangking to town!
Here is the video of the bumpy ride of uber-nausea (35 seconds).
As you may know, I get carsick easily. Despite having an empty stomach (in anticipation of a long, rough ride – but not anticipating a ride THIS rough!), I got horribly dizzy soon.
In my torture, I said to God: “Lord, see how much I suffer for You.” This phrase will come into play again later, at the end of the post.
At the end of the road of despair, we finally came to the next leg of the journey. This area was the entrance to the Selangking longhouse, which is only accessible by foot. No, the above is not the longhouse we visited – just another longhouse by the river.
Yes, that river. From the start, our shoes and sandals already got soaked wading across the river with its cool, clear water. And we had to re-dip into it several times, as the trail leading to the hill-path to Selangking went through the river.
The next obstacle was a stairway/ladder cut from a single tree trunk. You can see this in Malaysian museums featuring traditional longhouses as the kind of stairs used to get to the upper floor of the longhouse. That’s me climbing up, by the way.
A pic showing how steep some of the inclines are. We went up and down repeatedly as the terrain demanded, but overall we were climbing in altitude.
Another pic of steepness. We had the aid of Selangking longhouse residents who had come all the way down to meet us and carry some of our luggage. No pics of them, since they zoomed off through the hills at a much faster pace than us! I kept my own backpack on as a sign of machoness.
Some of the wild growth surrounding the trail. We also passed some pepper plant rows in not-tree-covered areas on the way.
I bought sports shoes just for this missions trip. They have soft padding fabric inside. This is what results from stepping through more streams on the way through the hills.
Here is the video of my waterfall shoes (10 seconds).
Click to enlarge above pic. We took a brief stop to rest and let everyone catch up. Before or after (I forget), we had sandwiches while standing in a shallow stream with cool water.
The young girl on the right, next to Mei Lin, was our guide. She comes from the Selangking longhouse in the hills. She treks all the way down to attend school at the start of the week, then treks back up for the weekends. She was very used to the ‘tough’ trek we were doing!
A view of the hills from high up, near the end of the trail. The place is high!
And there it is! Selangking longhouse, which is all Christian. You can see the solar panels sticking up on poles.
A closer view, showing the stilts that the longhouse rests on.
The solar panels were provided free of charge by the government. They are the only source of electricity for the longhouse, and each ‘pintu’ (household or family unit of the longhouse) has its own. After charging all day in the sun, they can light a few lights and maybe a TV for the night. A good way to remind the Selangking residents who to vote for!
Our guide piling up hill rice grains.
Meanwhile, some of us played sepak takraw… Next to cliffs that lead to steep oblivion! That’s Anne showing her athleticism. She is MY fiancee, sorry to every guy reading this.
Later, we all went for a bath…. Public bath! We mandi-kerbau with our clothes on, guy first then girls. Of course, girls are allowed to hang around while the guys bathe, but guys must shoo before the girls will start ;P
On the way up to the longhouse, we had passed several Selangkingites going down, some in sarongs.
Turns out the bathing area is a few minutes walk down stairs, and the stairs themselves are a few minutes walk down from the longhouse! But it was cool, and we didn’t get too sweaty going back up.
Mei Lin and others provided some massage for the painful feet, legs and backs of the hikers.
A view of the hills from the edge of the longhouse. The two trees’ bases are in the ground of the hill, lower down than the foundations of the longhouse stilts.
Dinner time! We were hosted by a pintu, which we gifted the chickens too. The three live chickens had been released to run around behind, in the kitchen. When I went to the toilet (a small ‘cubicle’ that hangs scarily over the edge of the hill, with white plastic bowl but no running water), there were only two chickens around…
We ate various dishes, including wild boar and salty musang (fox) that they are allowed to trap and eat as they traditionally have.
Afterwards, we gathered with the other pintus in the main hall for a sermon.
Pastor Daniel spoke. Don’t ask what he talked about – it was in Iban.
Some of us also gave personal testimonies – in English, as Pastor Leslie translated.
There was more food for supper. Each pintu brought food and drink to be shared out, and everyone offered everyone else food and drink. A bit obliged to take it all, especially considering my plan to drink less so no need to visit the dark, scary hanging toilet that is past the kitchen (where a plastic sheet is laid on the floor, with some chicken blood on it as Anne described her experience).
We slept as a group on mattresses graciously provided by the hosts inside a pintu hall. There was an old-style TV+cabinet and other stuff there, making it like a living room. For people to change clothes, I had earlier thought to stack up a few tied-into-a-roll mattresses as a makeshift wall.
Friday morning we had a special service. The church is just a short way down from the longhouse plateau, on the opposite end of the entrance we came through to get to the longhouse. The surrounding gardenery was pretty! The plants growing on sticks are pepper plants.
The worship hall, which is what the whole church here is.
We had a worship service with songbooks. Several Selangkingites played instruments, and Anne took the drums. The women and girls were impressed – Anne must have been the first female musician here, or at least on drums!
A closer look at the drum set. Notice the wooden pole used for the crash cymbal stand. Pastor Daniel told us that the old drum set was donated from a church to Betong Sion, and Betong Sion in turn donated it to the Selangking church! Hmm… Imagine the Selangking men carrying the drum set over the hills to get here!
Mr Rooster, all tied up but proud nonetheless. This was taken while the adults stayed in the church hall for the sermon, while the kids went back to the main longhouse hall for activities.
By contrast, lady chickens were free to run about and explore. Feminism!
Arts and crafts and stickers are always popular fare!
Click to enlarge above pic. The children of the longhouse after arts and craft activities time.
Notice the girl to Mei Lin’s right? She is not making a face for the camera. Her name is Belenyun, and when she was much younger, she accidentally burnt herself with burning oil. Her skin literally melted and fused. She is now in Penang undergoing skin grafting and reconstructive surgery paid for by the Baptist churches. She is currently doing well. Updates on her when I get them, but your prayers always welcome.
And after that, it was farewell. The longhouse residents waved as we left downhill… Whereas the trek up seemed long in the hours, downhill was of course faster. It rained lightly, so me and Anne put on some makeshift raincoaties. I had one plastic under each backpack strap to keep my shoulders dry too.
Steep! Sticks were used to help keep balance. Of everyone, I may have been the only visitor to not slip and fall down even once, although I came close a few times. Anne got it once.
To get back to Betong, we again took the super-bumpy road… But this time I took an anti-nausea pill that knocked me out into a 90%-unconcious sleep. So I survived the journey much better.
That night itself, we visited a longhouse in Nyelutong. We were there to pay respects at the pre-funeral display of the body of a new Christian.
There were plenty of bugs of all varieties. So a short interlude:
Before the missions trip, I went searching for an anti-insect repellant which uses DEET. Trust my personal testimony – go for the proven chemical instead of the citronella and other natural stuff which does NOT work. The American armed forces used DEET to successfully keep the Nazi mosquitos from stabbing them with rusty SS knives. You should too.
This was the armour from Guardian pharmacy (the only DEET spray I could find) that kept me and several others bite-free for the jungleness all around:
Off! Insect Repellant. Slightly different bottle styles in Malaysia.
Yes, those are real human skulls!
…Used as a decoration and reminder of the historical tradition that is no longer practised. A testimony to the civilizing power of the Gospel. So, what has atheism offered humanity so far by way of contrast?
After the visit to Nyelutong, we headed back to the Betong Sion church. Anne, being a secondary school teacher, helped Pastor Leslie’s daughter with her understanding of Chemistry through the night.
Meanwhile, a green cicada had perched itself high up on the wire netting in the hall where some of us were already sleeping. After taking a video of its noise and some deciding, we threw pillows at it to chase it off.
Here is the video of the very loud Sarawakian cicada (12 seconds).
Saturday morning. Rachel developed a bad allergy to some bug bites, most likely from the Nyelutong visit. Others got some too, but she had it worst of all.
On our way back to Kuching now. We stopped by a market-cum-shops for breakfast. This is an example of the fresh fruits and vegetables on offer, many of which are new to us Semenajungites.
Click to enlarge the above pic. After that, we headed for Pastor Daniel’s house which is on the way to Kuching. His wife (in blue shirt next to him) grows all sorts of crops around the house, outside and across the street too – including sweet corn and jackfruit. The group pic above includes Pastor Daniel’s two other sons (in front of Pastor Daniel and wife, one in red shorts and one with lotion on his face for chicken pox itchiness).
Ah, Kuching city proper again! We arrived back at the Grand Continental Hotel (two stays booked apart, not joined). We spent the rest of the day touring Kuching.
This was in the Kuching Museum, along with giant crocodile skulls, models of longhouses, old British-era industrial equipment and historical heritage. Most of which is actually prohibited to take photos of. So much for sharing the joy of cultural heritage.
I chose the above pose with an old wooden propellor of an airplane because it looks like a certain Warcraft hero’s weapon:
I’m blind, not deaf. Lolz!
This is actually a burial pole – a tall pole with a funeral casket on top! The most respected chiefs and renowned are buried in such coffins, which are out of the reach of any wild animals, worms of the earth or grave robbers.
Lunchtime. This was a version of ice kacang, quite yummy. The place we ate at (used to be the market square in a bygone era) didn’t have the famous Kuching 3-layer tea.
Click to enlarge above pic. After lunch, we just walked around town on foot. There were some stalls along the small lanes, even one right next to an obviously ignored sign…
Standing by the river. Very nice view, cool breeze, quite clean water (i.e. not clogged with rubbish, mud and stink).
We hired a boat to take us up and down the river.
This is what it looks like on the inside.
Big mansion or sultan’s place, I forget which… Suffice to say it’s a historic rich big shot’s luxury house by the river.
Me and Anne ;>
Boo Mei Lin, Anne and I continued walking around while the others went back to the hotel to rest before dinner. We came across an interesting souvenir shop, where among other things we found a wood xylophone.
And the final shot, some of Kuching’s cat statues at night. This just before dinner. That night, those of us adults who were able to (i.e. not knocked out yet) met in one of our hotel rooms for a brief sharing about our experiences from the past few days of the missions trip.
Before the meeting, I continued my verse-a-day reading through of the Bible… And came across something that God must have wanted me to read, to realize and to learn. I shared on that with the others – Anne, Uncle Alex, Aunty Swee Chan and Mei Lin – and also at the testimony in church the next week. I elaborate on that at the bottom of this post.
The next morning, Sunday, we had breakfast at the hotel (nothing great there, yet I stuffed myself and threw up due to indigestion – this is what happens when Chinese are deprived of pork-based Western breakfast meats), went to the airport and flew back to Johor (Senai airport). A church member picked us up in the church van and sent us on our way.
Me and Mei Lin reached JBBC in time for the middle of service, around 10am or so. So she shared a brief testimony. The others were meanwhile sent to their respective homes.
About a week later, most of the missions trip team shared their testimony during Sunday service. Below is the substance of mine, with the lesson that I promised earlier (the bit where I was super carsick on the way to Selangking).
I will admit that I was not particularly keen on going on a missions trip. It costs money out of my own meagre resources, it takes time in the form of leave days from work, and it involves leaving behind all the comforts of civilization that I am accustomed to. To go and immerse myself in jungle rot, parasites, death insects and primordial muck.
So why did I go on this missions trip? It would be a lie to even hint that it was for selfless and holy reasons, such as for the expansion and ministering to of God’s kingdom. Yes, that was the entire aim of the trip – but that was not the driving factor that made me decide I had to go.
Honestly? A large part was because Anne was going. If my fiancee were going to minister in Sarawak, what would she think if I opted not to? How would it reflect on me – my devotion to her, my devotion to God’s work, my selflessness and ‘manliness’ to be unable to leave the comforts of home?
Besides, it would be a good experience – my very first missions trip (really). And I logically thought, well there are kids and uncles and aunties on this missions trip – surely it can’t be that difficult or bad! In any case, I as a fit young man would NOT be the worst one off. All in all, a good and easy starter for missions trips.
And also on my mind was the thought that if I made the sacrifice to go on this missions trip ‘for God’, He would bless me in return. This was what was in my mind when I was suffering on the bumpy road to Selangking – surely God sees my great sacrifice for His kingdom’s sake!
And doing God’s work was in there somewhere too.
So all in all, it was for rather less than totally altruistic reasons I went on the missions trip to Betong.
But the lesson I learned, as I discovered that Saturday night during the sharing in the hotel room, was that all my assumed sacrifice was not sacrificial at all.
For the Bible passage that I turned to that last night in Sarawak was Luke chapter 17;, where I was struck by what Jesus said:
“Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’“ (Luke 17 : 7-10)
What a contrast to my self-righteous, “Lord see how much you owe me” attitude! All my so-called sacrifice was not in fact a bonus gift from me to the Lord, but my very duty as a Christian!
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 26 : 16-20)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13 : 34)
What was I doing but my very duty to God as one of His subjects? What was I giving that was so sacrificial when everything I have – time, money, a cushy job, health, comfort, my relationship with a wonderful woman, forgiveness and salvation and life itself – were in the first place gifted to me by God at no cost?
I realized how truly much I was an unworthy servant. I asked God’s forgiveness for my wrong attitude, and was thankful even for the chance to do His will.
And that is the lesson I learnt from the missions trip, and one I wish to pass on to all who read my words here. Giving and serving for the sake of God’s kingdom is not a generosity on our part. It is not even an option.
As humble servants, our very purpose is to fulfill His commands using the resources and abilities He has so graciously blessed us with. To do anything else is to betray the one to whom we owe everything.
And that is the testimony of my missions trip to Betong and Selangking, Sarawak. I hope you’ve been blessed.