Following my week in the Philippines I flew to Malaysia to meet up with Steve Oliver (South Africa and Dubai) and a team of thirteen from Burundi, Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and the United Kingdom. This was a variation of the team that had met over a period of three years (2006/9) as the Newfrontiers strategic Task Team for Ministry with the Poor. That team produced the two books Embracing the Poor and The Poor deserve the Best as advertised in the side panel. Since the team was formally disbanded in 2009 we came together in Mumbai in August 2011 where we led a conference on ‘Embracing the Poor’. This was now our next meeting.
For me this visit to Malaysia was a first. From our arrival in Kuala Lumpur we travelled south to Melaka, the original settlement of what is now Malaysia. This beautiful and ancient city, that had been the base from which various occupying nations (Portugal, Netherlands, Great Britain, and Japan during the 2nd World War) had governed Malaya between 1511-1957, provided a pleasant environment for our first three days. These were filled with prayer and strategic discussions concerning various matters, including some exciting times during which Burundi was the focus.
Burundi is a small land-locked nation in East Africa. We had with us Evariste who has a commission from God to plant churches in his nation and to reach out into those which surround Burundi. He is a successful businessman who has already begun to transform his village through the introduction of Friesian cows which produce at least 10 times the milk yield of the traditional ‘long horned’ cow. This has resulted in villagers being able to generate income through husbandry and has also provided employment for several people in pasteurising the milk and transporting it to the capital city, Bujumbura.
We then travelled to Segamat, a city of 300,000, 3hours east of Melaka. Liaising with 12 churches we were able not only to share ministry within them but also to visit three mercy ministries. The Good Shepherd Mission Home for children seeks to help children from difficult homes (several the children of prostitutes) by ‘adopting’ them and giving them a non-institutional environment in which to grow up. An adjacent home for elderly women provides an environment with similar care and compassion.
The third ministry we visited was a rehab home for drug addicts. Although the conditions were fairly basic the programme takes them from drug addiction to independence in about two years. Several have moved on into Christian ministry. I was privileged to meet one recently admitted man through the bars of a ‘drying out’ cell. Well educated, from a Buddhist background and an English speaker (many in Malaysia speak Mandarin or Tamil, reflecting the large Chinese and Indian populations) he was very receptive to the gospel and I had the joy of leading him in a prayer of repentance. I believe God has much blessing for him in the future.
Malaysia is predominantly an Islamic nation. I found the people warm and friendly, but what a joy to experience the loving ministries of Christians in reaching out to help those who are poor or disadvantaged.