The mission here is quite challenging in its own ways. We have 12,500 Parishioners in the whole Parish. The majority of the people in the Parish are Ibans (the indigenous people of Malaysian Borneo) along with a few Kenyan and Chinese families.
Apart from the main Parish, we minister to more than 115 longhouses. These are as they sound: very long houses which hold around 20 families. We try to visit the longhouses that are part of the parish twice a year, some by water and some by road.
Faith over water
We have to travel a great distances along the river by longboat to reach all the people living in the longhouses along the riverside. Fr Philip and I take turns every week to visit the longhouses with our Catechist. We go on Monday and come back on Wednesday.
To be honest, my biggest challenge initially was to learn the local language (Iban), and to travel in a longboat to the long houses because I don’t know how to swim!
But now I am fine and used to it. I learned Iban and can communicate well with the people, along with celebrating Masses, praying and administering Sacraments in the Iban language. On normal days I am available to the people in the office to assist their needs and do my personal reflections.
A loving people in Christ
I am very touched by the people here: by their culture and traditions, but moreover their Christian faith. People are so kind, generous and very lovable. They are very hospitable, especially to non-locals. They are open-minded and speak as they find, without any hindrance.
I really consider myself a very lucky priest to be sent here to live among these loving people. I find myself welcomed everywhere and every house I visit, I feel like one of their family members.
This place is becoming home
There was a language barrier during house visits. But now I am happy because know the language enough to communicate. My visits to the longhouses are one or two days, but such an enriching experience with people.
At first I was really scared travelling in a longboat to the longhouses, because I’d never used one before. But I enjoy travelling on water now (with a life jacket). I really feel happy in spending time with the people; listening to them, their joys and sorrows. Listening to the confessions and celebrating Masses in the longhouses gives me more joy in my priestly ministry.
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