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The Penampang branch of Basel Christian Church of Malaysia (Panampang Church), which celebrated its 44th anniversary is located at Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah. Since 2008, the church started its “Agape” ministry to care for the poor in their community.
In 2019, the church set up 7979 Holistic Care Station to enable their volunteers to receive proper training. Meanwhile, through systematic caring strategies and 7979 Family Crisis Intervention program, the church could be more involved in providing holistic care to the poor. The following year, the church set up “Dream Centre”, with the intentions to increase the efficiency of all the community projects under their wings, so that they are able to reach out to more people outside the church, hoping that they’ll not be too defensive whenever they hear the word “church”. During the initial stage of Dream Centre, it already encountered a massive challenge – the “Pandemic”. The volunteers were kept busy with disaster response, bread and vegetables deliveries, setting up of quarantine house and COVID-19 Self-test Kit deliveries. The impact of Dream Centre was extensive to the extent that they received SOS calls from Peninsular Malaysia.
They are not hungry for food
but for hope
Year 2020, amidst the pandemic, 7979 Manna Food Bank program reached Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, the distribution point happened to be Dream Centre. Two years later, Kota Kinabalu of Sabah became the distribution point with the highest number of Manna Food Bank’s aid recipients; there were 116 cases for Penampang Church alone. The number of volunteers had been increasing, together with the number of cases. At present, there are 66 trained volunteers. Esther, a volunteer shared, “7979 programs have clear direction in terms of providing systematic care to the aid recipients, it teaches us what is holistic care.” The church wanted to provide genuine quality holistic care services to the aid recipients rather than putting emphasis on quantity, so that they would recover and get back on track, instead of living on charity handout or financial aid. Henceforth, the scopes they cover are living environment, children’s educations, job engagements, families’ relationships, physical health, soul and spiritual cares. This is the church initial intention, hoping to bring gospel to their midst, and leading them to Abba Father.
Although food had been delivered to the aid recipients, Esther felt that they are still hungry, “They are hungry not because of no food, but they are hungry for hope, they have yet to experience solid love. There is not much we can give, and our giving is of more superficial. However, you may notice that once God’s ‘present’ is felt in a family, then the contented feeling will flow out naturally. Although lives still remain the same, but they are fill with joy.” This is the motivation factor that drives many volunteers to strive forward.
A Beautiful Picture
When we talked about the journey of ministering, Esther shared that after each encounter with the needy, her emotion will become so overwhelmed and she ended up crying to God, “What should I do? You brought all these needy to me, what should I do?” She expressed, providing a holistic care and continue follow ups with a family is not an easy task, we need to spend a lot of effort and time. As a volunteer, we need to handle our emotions carefully to prevent emotional breakdown. Actually, this kind of caring work is more suitable for a full time worker to perform. “If we intend to truly walk into a family, then there will be many areas for us to intervene and assist, as the scope is very wide.” Sometimes, the aid recipients would contact the volunteer at different times, such incidents would require a full-time worker to follow up.
“We have a wonderful team”, Esther shared, sometimes it may seem like she is out alone at the frontline in contact with the aid recipient, but that is not the real picture, actually there are different volunteers handling each area when comes to helping an aid recipient. Whenever, a volunteer felt incompetent to do the task, another volunteer will come in to help. “You will soon find out, when you are willing, many people will be drawn to get themselves involve. This is truly a beautiful sight.”
The Transformation of Church’s culture
Penampang Church’s atmosphere is gradually changing as the church becoming more and more involve with under privilege families. When those aid recipients accepted Christ and join the church, the church members would come in contact with and become acquaintance with people who are of different background.
There was an incident, where a youth in our church who had never come across with a person of under privilege background, got to know a poor little boy, he was thinking of paying them a visit with a gift. After much thoughts, he decided to buy two cups of bubble milk tea and KFC for the boy’s family. One part of their conversation had brought tears to the youth:
“I am very thankful that Penampang Church are willing to accept and care for these children and families who are very different from them.” Esther shared. The church environment that is too comfortable, had brought a complacent attitude to the church and it loses its vitality. With the joining of under privilege families, they are learning to be hospitable; as for the children, it’ll be a good opportunity for them to learn to appreciate what they have and living a simple lifestyle.
“In the past, when we had mission trip at other places, Sabah’s local needs always came to our mind, there are plenty of needs here that needed us to work on. We should deal with the needs here first, before we move on to help people at other places.” Expressed Hannah, the Volunteer Manager. Furthermore, when the church is involves in social concern, the influence and changes that come along gradually become the church culture.