The list of information we received just short of a week before we were due for our weekend medical mission trip was brief. All we got was — electricity by generator set (still under repair), bring torch, sleeping bag and mosquito net, weather can be cold so bring something warm… then there was the assignment of a few tasks to the respective individuals and a few more items we would need for the medical service.
Out of the 17 of us only dentist Dr Kelvin Tan had been to Kampung Lumampau in Sipitang, a seaside town 144 km south of Kota Kinabalu two years prior to this. According to him, the stretch of unsealed road leading to the village in the interior after we got off from the main road from Sipitang could be challenging, the village is small and it is very cold in the morning. Since our camp commandant Gem had never been there, she could not offer any information on the church, Basel Christian Church Malaysia (BCCM) Lumampau where we would be based except that we would be staying at the pastoral home. So with that we were all prepared for a little adventure to explore this new place that we knew not much about.
We met at church at 9:00am on Friday, 07 July 2017 to load things on to our respective vehicles. Since “off-road expedition” was expected, we had to go by sturdy four-wheel drives.
We set off just before 10:00am and arrived at Sipitang at noon for lunch. Kelvin and his brother and fellow dentist Wesley were waiting for us there. We were later joined by Elder Kerimus from BCCM Lumampau and his wife Ibu Samiah who would lead us to the village.
Although the last stretch of the road was unsealed, the condition was good albeit a little bumpy at places. Our four-wheel drives managed it well and we reached the church an hour and a half later.When we all got out of our respective vehicles to stretch our stiffened limbs, we were rather surprised to find the weather nice and cool at 2:30pm and it felt like we were at Mt. Kinabalu National Park! Except for Kelvin, the rest of us just thought that the lower temperature in the morning as mentioned was due to the location in the interior and surrounded by trees so naturally it would be cold in the early hours of the morning but we never knew we were actually on the Crocker Range (maybe 3-4,000 ft above sea level according to Martin the horticulturist after a close examination of the vegetation) and hence, the nice cool weather. How ignorant we were with our geography in our home state!
Kampung Lumampau with lumampau means a river that never dries up, came into existence only in 2003. BCCM Lumampau is a very small church which was started with only five families.After we unloaded everything from the cars, we took the first afternoon easy as we realised the villagers would only come for the medical service the following day. For a few of us who had been on mission trips of similar nature before we found ourselves a little restless with nothing much to do. From our past experience, the villagers would have reached the centre by the time we arrived and long queue formed before we even set things up, and the whole afternoon would be hectic so this was not something we had expected nor accustomed to. In the end we tried to calm ourselves down and join the others to just relax and enjoy the unhurried afternoon.
nice and easy first afternoon…first evening
Electricity from the generator came on at around 6:15pm when we were about to have our dinner. The planned programme for the evening after our dinner was a sharing session at the church with the local church members. After a short debriefing and with us sharing a snippet of our reflection for the day, we all got ready for bed before the generator set was switched off at 10:30pm. Although the afternoon was not strenuous, the long journey had tired us out.
a new day…
The cooks were up at the crack of dawn to work on the breakfast. I was woken up by the noise in the kitchen and got up at just after 6:00am.
It’s medical service day! The medical and dental service concluded by 5 o’clock in the evening and while the dinner was being prepared, we took a relaxing stroll around the area. It was great not to be bothered by the daily grinds of life back home but to just take things slowly and enjoy what nature has to offer. second night
It was fellowship night at the church after dinner. After Ps. Timothy’s short sharing on John 16, we broke into groups for a short sharing and to encourage the church. Oops! Only then most of us realised we had challenges with expressing our bible knowledge and biblical jargon in Malay!
After the sharing it was more fellowship back at the pastoral house. We had another debriefing session before we called it a night just after 10:00pm and before the generator was turned off.
Another new day with the kitchen crew getting up at the crack of dawn again to prepare for breakfast to feed us. Similar to the day before, we had our short devotion before breakfast and it was yet another moving and enlightening session with everyone expressing on how they had been blessed by this trip.
When the medical service was done, we had 39 patients for medical and 31 patients for dental service with 33 teeth extracted. These were very small numbers as compared to our previous mission trips to bigger villages but this time, the team members had the chance to experience something different. With the small number of patients, both Cheryl who manned the registration counter and Rita who gave out prescriptions had more time to chat with the villagers. They found out more about them and also gave them tips and advice on how to better take care of their health as most of the villagers suffered from gastritis due to irregular meal times and body aches and pains working tirelessly in their vegetable farms.
Although we felt disappointed initially that we did not get the huge number of headcounts we expected, we came to the realisation later that it was not the quantity but the quality of service that mattered. The villagers were given a chance to have a chat with us the visitors from the city and it made them feel like the visit was more of a social outing than a daunting appointment with the doctors. We trusted that our presence was an encouragement to the small church and the village folks there, and that God’s love and His hope reflected in our service helped to strengthen the church.
As for the few of us who came with a certain set of expectation that we brought from the other mission trips which we participated in the past, we learned that we were not meant to come with a pre-set mind or draw any conclusion from our past experience but to be prepared to experience something new as there would always be something good out of it when we answered God’s call to be a part of a new mission trip, and did things out of sheer love. We also learned that we must not be so hard on ourselves by getting disappointed easily but to just let God lead, and wait upon Him. It is His plan, His timing and His purpose! Besides, with the slower pace in such a setting with nice scenery and fresh mountain air, it was time for us especially those who lead a busy life and work a demanding job to just slow down and breathe, and learn to rest upon the Lord.
This time it so happened that all of us in the team were not only of the same faith but also from the same church except for one member from the medical team. The 17 of us were a church, a very small church who represented BCCM Kota Kinabalu (English) to come and visit another small church at Kampung Lumampau! It was encouraging to see that every single one of us joined in and shared during the morning devotions as well as being present at the sharing at church in the evenings, and worshipped together on Sunday with the villagers as one body in Christ.
As concurred by all in the team that everyone felt strong about the love demonstrated wordlessly among the team members and the enjoyable fellowship forged throughout the trip. New friendships were fostered not just among the members of the medical team but also for our own church members as some of us did not know the others well. At the same time, old friendships were strengthened too.
We pray for the church at Lumampau that they will not lose sight of God but grow from strength to strength, and will expereince spiritual breakthroughs one after the other and may their hearts burn ever so fervently for the Lord.
We came away refreshed, renewed and with our spiritual life enriched. When we reached out to serve, lives were changed but we just did not expect that the lives that were changed and impacted the most were our very own!