Monday, 22 July 2013

Orang Asli Mission

I spent a few days with the Revd Lizune, who is pastor of Shalom Anglican Church in Gopeng.  Shalom Church has a special ministry amongst the Orang Asli, and as well as Shalom Church in Gopeng, they have churches in twelve Orang Asli villages situated in the jungle.  In addition Shalom Church has a mission amongst villages over four hours from Gopeng, up unmade jungle roads, and he also at the request of the Anglican Church in Batu Gajah started a new Malay service on a Sunday evening.

Shalom Church in Gopeng - meeting in a converted shop unit

With such a large area to cover, Lizune is assisted by Orang Asli lay pastors, who live in the villages, and look after several churches each.  As the only ordained priest, Revd Lizune visits a different village each week to conduct communion services. 

Typical Orang Asli village

This ministry amongst the Orang Asli was started by Bishop Moon Hing when he was priest at St Peter's Church in Ipoh, and St Peter's continues to provide financial support for this ministry.

Pastor Lizune talking to a villager

In addition to Sunday services, on Wednesday evening's they hold prayer and worship services in the various villages, and on Friday's the cell groups meet.

Cell group meeting

The only way to access many of these villages is with use of a 4x4, as the roads widening up through the jungle are narrow and at times steep.  Although the preferred mode of transport for the Orang Asli themselves is by moped.  It's common to see three or even four people on the back of a moped, and the wearing of helmets is very much optional, especially for children!  

Preferred mode of transport for the whole family!

Some of these villages are very remote, one village we visited had no direct road access, and so the only way to reach it was by walking twenty minutes through the jungle along a small track.  

The only way to access some villages is by foot

In many of the villages churches have been constructed (I gather with money from Korea), and where no church exists, the members meet in one of the houses.  The majority of the Orang Asli prefer to live in their traditional bamboo houses.  The government are building new houses for the Orang Asli, but I'm told many of them prefer their traditional style houses because they are cooler.  

This house is used as the church meeting place.  The couple who live here want to give this house to the church, and construct a new home in the village.  The man seated on my right is aged 90 or 100.  He couldn't remember is actual year of birth, but was 20 or 30 when the Japanese invade Malaysia in 1942.

As well as visiting a number of Orang Asli villages, I also have the opportunity to attend a prayer and praise service in one of the villages.  It started with a worship song, followed by a short talk based on a Bible reading, before moving into a time of extended worship, where people started praying in the spirit.  The sense of God's presence in that church was incredibly strong, as everyone lifted their voices together in prayer and praise.  The people were also divided into groups and given topics to pray for, and they also offered pray for healing for those who needed it.  The sense of deep love and devotion to God was obvious to see.

I also got the opportunity to attend a cell group meeting in one of the villages.  Again there was a time of worship, followed by prayer and then sharing.  At the end of the meeting there was the obligatory meal!

Orang Asli village church

The impression I got from my brief visit to Shalom Church and the Orang Asli is that the church has a very strong and vibrant presence, and although not all the Orang Asli are Christian's, many clearly are.  It was a great honour and privilege of being able to experience their worship and sense the power and presence of God at work in these jungle villages.  It was also encouraging to see Orang Asli villagers being equipped and trained for ministry, and taken on leadership roles within the church.   

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