UCA Borneo Trip Brings Unusual Results

Borneo students are becoming missionaries in their own country, thanks to the efforts of Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) student missions.

"This was a result of our mission trips that we hadn’t anticipated,” grins Fred Riffel, UCA chaplain and one of the sponsors of the academy's spring break mission trip, “but it makes sense—and it’s very exciting!”

This was UCA’s seventh annual church-building trip to Sarawak, Borneo. Over the years, several groups have stopped over at the Borneo Mission School in Kuching. The students there had noticed the UCA students stopping in every year and knew they were headed out into the jungle to build churches.

Finally, some of them approached Gilbert Tan, Sarawak Mission executive secretary, and asked, “Why don’t you take us out to build churches?”

“Why not?!” Tan asked himself. He was able to raise a little money for building supplies and planned to take 15 students. When he put out the invitation for a training conference, however, 240 students signed up!

Knowing he could not begin to provide that many with building supplies, Tan expanded the program to include evangelism and community service projects as well. When the time came for the conference, 350 students showed up.

“You have inspired our own young people to work for the Lord in their country,” Tan told the UCA group. “They figured if you were willing to travel halfway around the world to work for God here, they could certainly work for God here. They have done some amazing things and have built two churches.”

One of the miracles accompanying this year’s trip had to do with the water supply. The longhouse that was planning to host the UCA team has all of its water piped in from a waterfall four miles away. Their tanks had been consistently low, and residents were worried about having enough water. Two days before the UCA group’s arrival, the water started running and refilled all of their tanks. Every day, the water ran out, but each evening the water would start running again and fill the tanks. When our group left for a couple of days to do some touring, the tanks dried up. The afternoon the group returned, it rained and the tanks refilled. The day after our group left, the tanks ran dry again.

As a result of the group’s witness, three families in one longhouse alone have decided to be baptized, including the chief’s family. This year, UCA’s group of 71 included 42 UCA students and three medical teams, each including both a doctor and a dentist. In addition to operating medical clinics throughout the area, they built two churches (one for the Bair Longhouse and one for the Sangir Longhouse, both near Bintulu), held an evangelistic series and presented a successful Vacation Bible School.

The gospel is spreading so fast in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak that they need 12 new churches each year. Unfortunately, they have only been able to build an average of six per year. But UCA is pleased to have built nine of those in the last seven years and plans to build two more next year.