Salt and Light in Lahad Datu
Contributed by Pastor Daniel Chong, Calvary Charismatic Church, Lahad Datu
Ps Daniel Chong (middle), with Ps Chin Chi Kiong of Likas Baptist Church, Ps Michael Kuin of SIB Lahad Datu,
Ps Alex Ongkili of Likas Baptist church and Rev Francis Jelina of St Mark's Church Lahad Datu. Behind them
are other pastors and leaders from the inter-church fellowship. - Photo courtesy of Daniel Chong.
A pastor in Sabah reflects on the Lahad Datu invasion and the role of the church in a time of crisis.
When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away. - Luke 21: 9-10
The verse above had new meaning for churches in Lahad Datu which has seen some frontline action since early March 2013 after Malaysian security forces moved in on armed Sulu invaders who had come ashore and taken over Kampung Tanduo village a month earlier.
While Lahad Datu town is about two-and-a-half hours by road from Kampung Tanduo, panic and fear was still felt by all around, especially on 5 March when Malaysia launched an air strike in "Operasi Daulat" against the invaders. Rumours spread like wildfire among the residents of Lahad Datu and schools were closed for about a week. Parents were afraid for their children - there were real fears that kids would be kidnapped and used as hostages in this "war" - and many people left the area to stay with relatives or friends further away. Some simply fled the town hastily while others rushed to the few shops that were opened to buy as much rice and food stuff as they could.
The above verse came to my mind, and I thought to myself, are we seeing scripture fulfilled before our very eyes? If the end "will not come immediately", then what is the extra time for? Is God giving us more chances to prepare ourselves for more of such days to come?
Over the next few days, I also thought, who among us here really have the peace of God, as well as the God of peace?
Our church decided that our activities and services must carry on as usual. We held our daily prayer meetings, Sunday worship and also organised a prayer gathering for pastors from seven churches in the area. Some concerns were expressed when we said we would carry on with our Saturday youth meetings, but we went ahead, although attendance was lower.
At the inter-church prayer meeting for pastors, we held fast to this verse, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" from John 16: 33. We felt convinced to stay put and hold fast, because the crisis had presented churches the opportunity to manifest the God of peace in a time of trouble!
Our inter-church fellowship raised some funds with the help of the NECF Commission on Sabah Affairs (COSA). COSA representatives pastors Chin Chee Keong, Daniel Chin and Alex Ongkili joined the Lahad Datu churches in presenting relief goods to the Malaysian security forces on 14 March (see photo). It was only energy drinks and energy food bars, but it was our gesture of moral support and prayer for our policemen and soldiers in the battlefield.
For the locals displaced by the crisis, we collected used clothes and food items which we gave to the villagers who were housed in a temporary relief centre. We channelled the relief items through the Lahad Datu District Police Headquarters.
Things are winding down now although the security forces still maintain their presence and the displaced people will need to rebuild their lives. We are thankful to God for His guidance and protection. But what wisdom and understanding have we gained from such an experience?
I personally see all this as a form of spiritual warfare in the heavenlies. After years of sowing in prayer for Sabah, a harvest is being reaped as churches move among those affected by this crisis. I also believe a cleansing process to expose wickedness and evil is taking place, and this is the moment churches must seize to bring deliverance and freedom to those in bondage and under oppression.
This episode has also stirred the churches to be more watchful and prayerful. Churches throughout Sabah, Sarawak and the Peninsular were united in prayer over the Lahad Datu siege. I consider it a good wake up call for all of us. Who would have thought that such an event could happen? We have enjoyed peace for such a long time that we have taken it for granted.
The lesson is that it is far better to pray consistently before disaster strikes than to be fervent only after it does. When chaos erupts, it might be too late, or the fast pace of events might leave us confused, unfocused and not knowing how to pray.
Lahad Datu has been covered by so much prayer during this time. We feel blessed that we are not alone to face the challenges, but have the body of Christ throughout the nation standing with us in prayer. Pray that we will know and do the will of God at a unique time like this!