In the early 1980s, the Sabah Education Department assigned Brother Ubong, a primary school teacher, to Kampung Salinatan (Kampung means â€œvillageâ€ in Malay) in the Pensiangan district. Brother Ubong then introduced to the villagers Brother Juperin (now Preacher Zefanya), who at that time was working as a medical officer at the Keningau District Hospital.
Whenever Brother Juperin was stationed at Pensiangan to provide medical care to the villagers, he would bring along Preacher Timotius and five other brothers to preach the gospel to the spiritually thirsty people there. Miracles accompanied their work, and many villagers accepted the truth. Praise the Lord, the Holy Spirit worked wonders in this region.
In 1985, the Kg. Sakali and Kg. Sapulut prayer houses were established. Due to a severe shortage of manpower, however, the church in Sabah was unable to provide continuous pastoral care to these isolated villages. Despite this fact, the church slowly continued to expand to Kg. Lotong, Kg. Sikait, and Kg. Salinatan. The number of believers totaled about two hundred and fifty.
During the last few years, holy work in this area has taken on a new momentum. By 1998, three churches were established, one each in Kg. Sikait, Kg. Sakali, and Kg. Salinatan. The mighty working of God has been evident, and this blessing, coupled with the increase in manpower from the Sabah General Assembly, has resulted in the present total church population of about five hundred in Pensiangan. At present, there are eight churches in the Pensiangan district: one each in Balantos, Lotong, Sakali, Salinatan, Salung, Sapulut, Sikait, and Sinikaluan.
The Pensiangan district lies in the inner regions of southwestern Sabah (previously known as North Borneo when it was a British colony). Sabah is now one of the thirteen states that make up the country of Malaysia.
The people in Pensiangan are of the Murut tribe. They live a communal life, traditionally in long houses. The population is scattered along the Tagul River, hence they are called Murut-Tagul. They are farmers, good hunters, and fishermen, and the staple of their diet is tapioca. Traditional religion is still practiced, and traditional culture and costume are well preserved. However, many of them have now converted to Christianity.
Transportation in this region can be extremely difficult. Only the first three churches are accessible by ground transport; the other five are accessible only by boat through river rapids, either upstream or downstream. Boat rides from one church to another can take up to four or five hours, and there are often delays caused by shallow water or by trying to avoid large rocks. Flooding during the monsoon or rainy season makes these journeys very risky. Many villagers have lost their lives braving the rapids, having smashed their boats against timber logs that were washed downstream.
These are some of the conditions that our interior preachers in Pensiangan have to deal with as they carry out the Lord's work in this area.
Names on the Scroll
In the mid-eighties, Preacher Timotius and the five other workers were evangelizing in Kg. Sapulut. One night, Preacher Timotius dreamed of an open scroll with eleven names on it. His name and the workersâ€™ names comprised six of them, but he did not recognize the other five. The same dream appeared twice that night.
As he continued with his work the next day, Preacher Timotius completely forgot about the dream. It wasnâ€™t until he reviewed the list of newly baptized members that he realized that the first five names on it were the other five names on the scroll in his dream!
The Lord had told him through the dream that this region was a rich harvest field, and that the villagers here longed for the truth and thirsted for the word of God.
The Best Doctor
In 1989, there was a woman named Sabiah in Kg. Sikait who was sick for about a month. Although she had been hospitalized and had spent fourteen days at the local witch doctorâ€™s house, her illness continued to grow worse. Eventually, she asked Preacher Timotius to pray for her. Three days later she was completely healed, and she has remained so to this day.
The Lord also healed the illnesses of three children in this village through the power of prayer. From that point on, the local witch doctor dared not stop our preacher from preaching the gospel to the villagers. Through these healings, the villagers came to know that the Lord Jesus is the best doctor, and many decided to be baptized. This was how the Kg. Sikait Church was established.
The Woman Who Could Have Only One Child
There was a woman who could have only one child, as every time she gave birth to another child, the one that she already had would pass away. These tragedies continued through her fourth child. With a heart full of despondence, she came to accept Christ. Praise the Lord, now she is a woman blessed with many children.
Healed of Skin Disease
Many inhabitants of Kg. Sakali used to suffer from skin disease. They were so ashamed of their sickness that they would hide in the jungle, segregating themselves from the rest of the villagers, just like the lepers of biblical times. Miraculously, when the truth reached them and they accepted Christ, they were completely cured of their skin disease.
The Funeral That Never Happened
In early 1999, the Sabah GA assigned Preacher Timotius to the Pensiangan area for a duration of two years. On the way to Kg. Sinikaluan, Preacher Timotius met a stranger who asked him to
visit his fatherâ€™s house because his father, Pundas Tikus, was dying from liver cancer. The stranger asked Preacher Timotius to pray for his fatherâ€™s soul, as the doctors who attended his father at the hospital had already given up hope and advised the family to prepare for the funeral.
Seeing his father lying there with his body and face swelled up, the son had been filial enough to request prayers to God for his fatherâ€™s soul to be saved. (Pundas Tikus, fifty-five years old, was a farmer and a pastor of another denomination.) As he reached the familyâ€™s house, Preacher Timotius saw many villagers gathered there to bid farewell to the dying man, in accordance with village tradition. Friends and relatives were already busy preparing for Pundasâ€™ funeral.
Amid the mourners, and despite the ridicule of the unbelievers, Preacher Timotius conducted a short prayer. Compassionately, he then consoled the dying man and the family members, telling them not to fear but to believe that life is in the hand of God. Therefore, he said, they should submit everything to God. He then told them that he would be back to see Pundas, and he proceeded to the other villages to carry out his pastoral rounds.
Amazingly, however, on his return to Kg. Sinikaluan a week later, he learned that the funeral had been canceled! The dying man recovered, and as a result of this healing, Pundas Tikus became a living witness of the life-giving authority of God. Many people were amazed at this wonderful miracle. On separate occasions, a total of 184 people repented and received water baptism in the Sapulut River, and three prayer houses were set up at Kg. Balantos, Kg. Salung, and Kg. Sinikaluan.
Praise the Lord for bringing all of these lost sheep back to His one sheep pen. Within a short period of time, a total of two hundred members in this region were brought back to the fold. God has blessed His workers and once again confirmed His word by the miracles that accompany it (Mk 16:20). May all the glory be to our Lord Jesus forever and ever. Amen.
NOTE: The members of these newly established churches welcome pastoral care and visitors. Anyone interested in visiting these villages may contact the Pastoral Department of the True Jesus Church, Sabah GA, P.O. Box No. 10510, 88805 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, MALAYSIA.