Lemuel Leong—Papar, Sabah, Malaysia
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I testify of how God has protected
the local True Jesus Church (TJC) in Papar, a town some thirty-one kilometres
from the state capital Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
In the first half of 2016, the church in Papar received an almost
constant barrage of harassment and persecution over a land-ownership dispute.
Back in 1979, the church negotiated with the then-landowner of the
neighboring property to open an access route between the main road and the
church grounds. It was agreed that, in return for this access route, the land
along the roadside boundary of the church property would be moved back by three
feet for the landowners use. Both parties consented to this land exchange and
signed an agreement letter, but the landowner failed to submit his land title
deed for amendment, so neither of the deeds was updated to reflect the land
exchange (i.e., the landowners land for an access road in exchange for the
three feet of church land along the roadside). This discrepancy is the source
of the misunderstanding that led to an ugly dispute between the current
landowners and the church.
In 2015, we were told that the ownership of the neighboring property had
passed to the former landowners niece and her husband. During that year, the
new landowners tried repeatedly to sell the entire property to Papar TJC.
Because the government had requisitioned this piece of land for future road
expansion, the church naturally declined the option to purchase it. At this
point, the new landowners started to resort to unscrupulous means to pressure
the church. They used the un-revised land title deeds to accuse the church of
unlawful use of their land—the access
road. On a few occasions, they even entered the church after Sabbath worship to
openly threaten the members. They demanded that the church either buy the land,
or pay thirty-six years worth of back rent for using the disputed land as an
Waiting for Gods Intervention
In January 2016,
the dispute intensified. The current landowners dumped a heap of rubble on the
road, blocking the main entrance to the church and preventing our members cars
from accessing the parking area. Sister Rukina Logidu, the General Affairs
Officer, quickly organized the removal of the obstruction. But, shortly after,
the landowners repeated their action, and even threatened to build a row of
toilets on the disputed land!
reported these incidents of harassment to the police, but the police did not deem
them to be criminal in nature. They referred our brethren to the State
Governments Land and Survey Department (LSD) to resolve the matter. After the
complaint was lodged, the LSD needed time to retrieve the relevant documents
from state archives. The waiting period was agonizing. Members came for church
services every Friday and Saturday fearing the landowners harassment. Some even
chose to attend Sabbath services at other nearby TJCs. Apart from frequent
follow-ups with the LSD, the members had nowhere else to turn, so they resolved
to rely on God. With weekly fasting prayers, they implored God to open a way
During those four
months, the members felt as though they were walking through a dreadful
wilderness, under the scorching heat of the sun, beset by dangers all around.
They had to tread carefully, guarding against the ambush of the evil one. As
the resident preacher, I continued to comfort the members with the word of God,
and encouraged them to trust in the Lord—to
pray that He would stretch out His almighty hand and perform a great work,
inspiring awe in all who heard about it (1 Sam 3:11).
The Amazing Intervention of God
On 1 April 2016,
the landowners blocked off the access road to the church with an iron chain. By
this point, the Executive Committee of the Sabah General Assembly (Sabah GA)
had become very concerned, so they also began to petition the LSD for help. On
8 April, an LSD officer verbally confirmed that the disputed piece of land—the
access road—indeed belonged to the TJC, and that the
neighboring landowners had encroached onto the churchs property. The church
could simply remove the iron chain. But in doing so, we ignited the spark that
led to the final confrontation.
At 4 pm that same
day, I arrived at church to find the male landowner waiting in a rage. He
warned us that he had ordered a truckload of debris to block the road again—cars parked on the church
compound would be trapped if their owners did not leave immediately. On hearing
this, I decided to wait and see what would happen. A Papar church member,
Brother Janik, and I contacted the members to pray for the matter, and then we
left the scene to have dinner in town.
At 6 pm, we
returned to find the church signboard torn down and discarded on the road; it
was being run over by passing vehicles. A lamp by the fence was also smashed.
The landowners car was blocking the church entrance, and both husband and wife
were there, together with a burly man with long hair and a beard. Not wanting
to aggravate the situation, we contacted the police and waited for them in the
car. But when the police arrived, the wife viciously slandered the church using
offensive language, and refused to give way.
One of the police
officers reminded me to take a photo of the damaged signboard, but a strange
thing happened when I tried to do so—my smartphone was unable to focus to take the
photo. I tried again with Brother Janiks phone, but his phone also could not
work. When the same thing happened with a third phone, I somehow realized that
this must be the interference of the evil one. I shouted out, In the name of
the Lord Jesus, and finally managed to take the photo.
At that very
moment, the wife let out a painful scream and sat down on the ground. One of
the police officers remarked that she was pretending. But I replied, It is our
God who has started to work.
I said this, the wife fell unconscious. The husband and his companion rushed
her to the hospital, but before he left, the landowner fixed me with an angry
stare. He stretched out his hand and warned, If anything happens to my wife,
you are finished!
all of this, the police officers advised the church to file a report against
the landowners intimidation and vandalism of church property—this
was now a criminal case.
At 8 pm, I led
the congregation in a special prayer service to thank God for His preservation,
and to petition God for His continuous care. After the service, a sister
nervously informed me that the landowner had returned. As I walked down the
stairs, a group of church youths reported in panic that the landowner was
threatening to torch Brother Janiks car if I did not come down.
I arrived at the
church car park to find the landowner screaming out of his mind, along with his
companion. He had evidently been drinking—the
members later found seven empty beer cans at the entrance. He pointed at me
furiously and shouted, My wife is in the hospital, and its your fault!
I replied, I
didnt do anything to your wife. Please calm down; we can discuss and try to
find a solution.
Theres nothing to
discuss—just buy the piece of land and the problem will be solved!
I remained calm,
saying, If you are able to produce evidence that the road belongs to you, then
the church will happily pay a reasonable compensation.
word, the landowner turned to walk five steps to his car, and picked something
up. In the dim light, I could not make out what was in his hand. But in the
split second that he raised it, I saw that he was holding
a wooden stick. With the close proximity and force of the strike, it was
impossible to escape, so I shouted, Hallelujah! The members looking on also
In that instant,
the landowners arm froze as though it had been stopped by a powerful force. He
could not move forward at all. He then lowered the stick and shouted, Amen!
Amen! Im a Roman Catholic believer! He appeared extremely frightened. His
companion helped him to his car. But before they left, he threatened to return
to burn down the church. That night, four brothers and I guarded the church
The next day, we
learned that the landowner had gone to the police station after leaving the
church to file a report. But he was still in such shock that he could not
speak. After waiting for some time, the police officer advised him to return
home to calm down before making a report. When he returned the next day to file
the report, he said that the minister of the TJC used witchcraft to harm his
wife. Of course, the police did not entertain such an irrational accusation.
God Finally Opened a Way
On 27 April, we
received good news from the Sabah GA. They had found the signed agreement
letter in their documents archive, and passed it to Deacon Agur of Papar TJC.
Relevant documents were then submitted to the LSD to confirm that the land
actually belonged to the church, and to request a letter of confirmation be
sent to the current landowners of the neighboring property as soon as possible.
On 3 May, the LSD
issued a formal letter to the landowners, and sent a duplicate to the church,
verifying that the access road indeed belongs to the True Jesus Church, and
that the landowners are forbidden from blocking the road. On 28 May, we
received news that the female landowner was still in a coma and had been
transferred to Kota Kinabalu Central Hospital. Since then, the church has not
encountered any further harassment.
Thank God for His
constant presence with His church in Papar. Despite months of persecution and
provocation, the members did not resort to retaliation. Instead, they responded
with resilience, clearing away each obstacle and doing all things according to
the law. Above all, they entrusted the matter to God, who protected them from
violence and exposed the landowners misconduct. By Gods hand, they came through
this crisis peacefully. No matter what persecution and tribulation faced by His
church, God is in control; He will execute judgment at the right time, and
bring comfort to those who suffer for righteousness sake (1 Pet 3:14).
Your patience and faith in all
the persecutions you endure are] manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of
God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also
suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those
who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord
Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels. (2 Thess 1:5V7)
May all glory and
praise be unto our heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, whose peace and grace are
always upon the believers in His church. Amen.