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 (Manna 84: TJC at 100 – The Grace That Has Brought Us Here)
God Opened a Way for His Church
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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 landthe 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 access road.

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!

The church 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 for them.

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 Lordto 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 landthe access roadindeed 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 againcars 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 somy 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.

Immediately after 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!

Having witnessed all of this, the police officers advised the church to file a report against the landowners intimidation and vandalism of church propertythis 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 drinkingthe 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 discussjust 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.

Without another 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 shouted, Hallelujah!

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 until morning.

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.

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Author: Lemuel Leong
Publisher: True Jesus Church
Date: 12/08/2017