UCA Students Build Two Churches in One Trip

Once again Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) students spent their spring break working in the primitive region of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. Every other year, they’ve built a church, conducted a Vacation Bible School (VBS) and operated medical clinics. This year they did all of those things again; however, this time they built two churches! One was in the Emplanjeu community (where the group stayed), and the other was in Bangkong, about a five-mile commute on a primitive road.

For each church, the students poured concrete floors and sidewalks, then laid the brick walls. They were also able to install a metal roof on one of the churches. At both sites, the local people worked closely with our group through heat and sun and rain.

The churches have beautiful arched window openings and measure 48 feet by 24 feet, which is larger than most of the other churches UCA has built in Borneo. Each one will seat close to 200 people—nearly the entire community.

Emplanjeu is a fairly new congregation that has never had a church. Bangkong is an older congregation with a very old building about to fall down. In each community, about 30 percent of the people are Seventh-day Adventists.

Between 40 and 50 enthusiastic, curious children attended VBS each evening, where they learned English songs, the good news about Jesus—many of them for the first time—and did a lot of crafts.

There were 41 UCA students and 20 others in the American team. Two dentists used two students each and traveled to surrounding communities to provide dental care. In addition to distributing toothbrushes and toothpaste, students gained valuable experience as they worked right alongside the dentists.

UCA students stayed with the native families (many of them in longhouses) and ate the native food. They were well received by the people and developed a special bond with them, giving the students a new sense of the global family that makes up our Adventist Church.

The students took many little gifts for the children, such as balloons, sponges, matchbox cars and bouncy balls. They left most of their clothing and other personal belongings with the people as well. In return, the people made sure each student also had a gift.

The students were fascinated with the culture and history there. For example, one of the longhouses had three heads hanging on the porch, one of which was a Japanese soldier captured by the natives during World War II.

The emotional and spiritual climax of the whole experience was when the students were able to join the grateful native people in praising the Lord at both church dedication services on the Sabbath before they left Borneo.

With UCA in mind, two more church building sites have already been selected by the Sarawak Mission for spring break of 2006.