Joanna, daughter of Sister Ruth Devairakkam, leader of the Advent Christian ministry in Kluang, Malaysia, recently went on a journey that was life changing for her and for many of those with whom she travelled. Her account of her experiences is below. Joanna holds a senior post with the Malaysian government.
10 Days in Ba’kelalan, Sarawak
In my whole life, I have never taken 10 days leave to travel with the church. This is the first time I took off, to travel to Ba’kelalan, Sarawak – with a team of “Orang Asli” from Peninsular Malaysia (the natives of the land), to visit the “Orang Asli” in Sarawak. And I must say, it has been life transforming, for the 37 of us who went.
It took us 2 days just to reach Ba’kelalan. Bus from Kuantan to Kuala Kumpur. Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. 4 hours by bus to Lawas. Overnight in Lawas. 6 hours by 4-wheel drive up to the mountains of Ba’kelalan. The journey was on long and winding road, with a panoramic view of the mountain that never seemed to end. Truly, an amazing adventure.
Now, why Ba’kelalan? Of all places?
I knew it was my pastor’s hometown. It was a place where they grew apples and oranges in their orchards. Passion fruit, coconut and chillies grew freely, and we picked them as we walked. Buffaloes and chickens roamed without a care around the paddy fields. It was a place where a small airport was right outside the house we stayed.
I knew the purpose of the trip was to visit my pastor’s hometown village church, which was organizing a Revival Conference. But I didn’t know, it was a world famous place, known for spiritual experience for Christians.
When I reached the church, I was shocked to find that nearly 1,500 people had come from all over the world, including from Australia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, etc. I didn’t know that the church has been organizing these revival meetings, annually, for the last 27 years.
The church was built with wood, in the village. It was a simple structure with a pulpit, pews and chairs. The villagers raised the money for construction, and built the church by themselves.
Up on a nearby hill, which was a 10 minute climb from the church, was a House of Prayer, called Bethel. Now, this House of Prayer – Bethel, attracts people from around the world, to seek God in prayer. Let me tell you about its amazing history, as shared by a 87 year old man, who experienced it first-hand.
In the 1970s, God caused a revival to take place in the village of Ba’kelalan. Suddenly, people were on fire for God. They started waking up early in the morning to pray. They saw visions and dreams, and when they prayed, the sick were instantly healed. People climbed up the mountains to sing and worship God. Things were happening just like during the times of Paul, in the Bible. People were changing their lives, to follow God’s ways.
And it all started when a few people gathered to pray and sincerely seek God with all their heart. A few of them walked up that hill to sing and pray. When they stood on the level ground, they saw they whole place filled with white clouds. As they started to pray, they saw a ladder. They saw angels climb up and down the ladder, just like in the story of Jacob in the Bible. In the Bible, Jacob saw an angel climbing up a ladder at Bethel, nearly 4000 years ago.
So, the Lord told these few people to name that place “Bethel.”
Soon, news spread and more people came up to Bethel to pray. There was no building. Not even chairs. Mothers brought their umbrellas after working in the fields. They sat with their children and prayed. Fathers came to pray on the mountain, before going to work in the orchards and farms. Bethel became a place for people of all ages, to worship the Lord.
After some time, as more people came, they decided to build a little place where people could pray inside the shade. So they built a simple wooden hut, with practically nothing inside. It’s was place of quietness to just release your whole heart to the Lord Jesus Christ.
When a few others prayed, they saw visions of angels dressed in white, red and yellow costumes. The angels sang a song in their native language. They wrote down the song, made costumes just like they saw in the visions, and they present the song in church every year, till today. It was simply beautiful, just to hear them sing, although I understood nothing. I felt goose bumps as the uncles and aunties in their 70s and 80s sang the song that angels taught them in their mother tongue. They were so old, yet so passionate for God. They were still so fit and strong to climb up the mountain to pray, even to dance and sing.
Till today, people climb up that hill to pray, and have experienced amazing things, just like the stories in the Bible.
The moment I reached Bethel, I felt very touched. When my pastor entered the small prayer house, he said with a broken voice and tears in his eyes,
“Whenever I reach here, I cry. I feel touched by God’s presence. We can feel God here, because God is love. His angels are around us, just like the story in the Bible, even though we can’t see them.”
When I opened my eyes after prayer, I saw that there were no dry eyes, among the 37 of my team. Even the teenagers and young men were in tears.
Two of our team members literally experienced angels. These two guys were only 19 & 20 years old. When they heard the story of angels, they really wished to experience something deeper. That night, when the rest of us were sleeping, they took their guitar and went up to the hill to pray at Bethel. They said they were singing and praying till they could sing no more. Then, they were quiet. Suddenly, they heard the sound of a choir singing beautifully, to the song, “Berhembuslah, Roh Kudus (Breathe, Holy Spirit). They were too shocked, because no one else was there. And even more shocking, they heard the sound of another friend, our team mate (Ah Kee) saying “Amen” at the end of the singing. Ah Kee did not follow them. Ah Kee was far away in the house.
They quickly came down the hill to talk to my pastor. They woke my pastor up from his sleep in the house, and hugged him. These two quiet boys who were never interested in prayer, suddenly told my my pastor to sit down and pray together. They shared their experience.
Amazingly, Ah Kee said that he was praying in the room, when these boys were on the hill. He ended his prayer with the same song that these two boys heard the choir sing. At the end of the song, he said “Amen” and went to sleep. The time of these two boys’ experiences really matched the time Ah Kee said “Amen.” My pastor said, this confirmed that God was present with all of them when they prayed, even at different locations.
I was amazed to see these two boys totally changed after their encounter with God. They were baby Christians. Just converted about three months ago, and now, the way they prayed was with so much power, like my pastor. They were not shy, like before. They were bold, and spoke out with confidence. The next day, this 19 year old boy suddenly bowed down and started crying as we were singing and praying in the house. He said,
“I saw the people of my race crying. They are saying, “ Save us.” We need to share the news that Jesus died to save them. We are already saved from Hell because we believe Jesus. If we don’t share Christ with them, who will?”
I was amazed. Previously, this guy was so shy and quiet. It was so difficult to get him to stand up to give his opinion. Here, he was talking like a pastor revealing a message from God. Truly, his life had been transformed.
I saw another family’s life being transformed. A wife had left her family after marital problems, but she joined her husband and 3 children for this trip. Throughout the five days of the trip, this lady never spoke to her husband. But towards the end of the trip, her whole family decided to take their baptism and affirm their conversion as Christians. The wife confessed her sins and said she was sorry for leaving her husband and children for months. We saw her and her husband talking back again. Her teenage daughter said,
“Before this, I hated my parents. I was very angry. I want to admit my sins. I want to say ‘Sorry’ to God and to my parents. Today, I forgive my mother for leaving us. I forgive my parents because Jesus forgives me.”
Their 15 years old son was in tears as he shared how he experienced God. All of us witnessed this heart-warming moment, as my pastor immersed them in the river, one by one, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The pages are not enough to write about God’s awesome, life-transforming power during my short stay in Sarawak. But I know, my trip to Ba’kelalan has proven once again to me that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. What the people experienced in the Bible, is the same thing that we experience today. What the people of Israel experienced in the Bible, is the same thing that the ‘Orang Asli,’ Indians, Chinese, Ethiopians, Africans, Indonesians, Australians etc, experience today.
Jesus Christ is the same, to everyone, across time, race, culture, civilizations and generations, for eternity.
This is my experience in Ba’kelalan, Sarawak.