Monday, 20 April 2009

How a Whole Long House Embraced Christianity.

How a Whole Long House Embraced Christianity.
The old Church made from barks of trees and attaps has been rebuilt.
See picture above. The football field was where Father A.W Stonton's helicopter landed in 1954/55 when he made an official visit to the School which he established.
This is St Martin's School, Lachau, today. The original block was at the top left. It could easily be one of the oldest school in Sarawak. When it first started there were only 2 classrooms and only one teacher, Mr Massan. He was very strict. Even when we were in Primary 1, we were to talk only in English. Imagine how inadequate we felt as we knew only a few words - a pen, a man. The building on the right is the admin office cum staff rooms. The hostel is located behind the admin block.
This is the main original building. It has been rebuilt since.
I can't help looking back into my childhood days in my long house in Lachau, Sri Aman, Sarawak. We know, most Sarawak Bumiputeras are Christians - my folks included. But how did it first came to my long house? I remembered Father A.W Stonton very well. I can still see him in his white robes and a big cross hung from his neck. He must had been in his 50s.
The first time he came to our long house (must be around 1954), there were not many people around as most were away working in their paddy fields. It was the first time I saw a white man and my curiosity got the better of me.
There was no road then. To have come from Simanggang by long boat via Lingga, Mawang and Bandung and then continuing walking a few hours across hills and swamps, before reaching our long house must be a hectic journey for anyone – for Father A.W Stonton, it was a testimony of his iron will and determination.
That was not his first and last visit. He came the second time a few months later and converted the whole long house into Christianity (Anglican). In due time, a mission school (St Martin's School) was set up and built by the long house people – a wooden block of only two classrooms. Mr Massan was the only teacher.
A Church made of hand-sawn plank and barks of trees was also built at the far end of a field. Lachau was a-buzzed with activities then and our lives changed overnight.
One day, he made an official visit to St Martin's School. We was amazed, how he got a helicopter to fly him to Lachau. It was the first time we ever saw one. The occasion was awesome. We lined up from the helicopter landing point to the school. He shook all our hands and we were instructed by Mr Massan to wish him "Good morning My Lord."
I was nervous and trembling and was glad when it was all over. He came many times after that to conduct Sunday services, even without being flown in by a helicopter. I believed Lachau was one of the many long houses under his care.
St Martin’s School has grown since then. The old block has given way to a modern concrete building. So is the Church. Three more blocks have been built, an admin office cum teachers staff rooms, another block of classrooms and a hostel for students from afar that needed accomodations.
These missionaries were really amazing and most dedicated to their works. I wonder what would have happened if Islam had came in earlier to Sarawak? Probably the scenario in Sarawak would have been very much different from what it is today. Perhaps, Britain had known what would happen in Sarawak after they had left.


  1. what do u think would happen if islam was to come earlier than christianity? just wondering. :)

  2. I also do not know what would happen. Just wondering...Sarawak would have been a different Sarawak than today.

  3. In fact islam was earlier than christianity came into Sarawak -sultan Brunei reign and Arab traders.But it was totally not suitable into our cultures & belief,since a swine as the holliest sacrifice at any rituals and etc

  4. You are right there but their missionaries were not interested in converting our Ibans and Orang Ulus into Islam.

  5. what will happen..for me..mybe there will be no Gawai.even mybe there wiil be no ngajat anymore because the ngajat costume is too "sexy"..or mybe we will dance our ngajat using baju melayu or baju kurung.its ok because we are malaysian,everyone have the right to choose which religion that suitable for them.

  6. The ngajat costumes can be modified to fit today's situation. In fact, I have seen the modern dress - loin clothes was worn with a short inside and the men wore "T-shirts" inside their traditional dresses.

  7. It is a amazing world:)Read your story and I salute you.

  8. for me..its lack of muslim influence that make our Beloved Sarawak what it is today..a model of 1Malaysia..Undisputed Unity and Equality without prejudice..

  9. Dear Anonymous,

    Agree with you . The Christian missionaries were quick to seize the opportunity - spread Christianity in Sarawak before Islam come in. They could see the future!

  10. for me personally, i thanked God for Christianity come to Sarawak first. Many people leaving Christianity because they lack of knowledge and they did not know what is christian is all about. All they know is how to pray, who is God, who is Jesus and pray every Sunday and celebrate Christmas every Dis 25. If you ask them about the bible; Old and New Testament.. they know nothing... more than 89% christian in sarawak know nothing about the bible. thats why they leave christian and embrace other religion. Also they embrace other religion because of marriges.

  11. Anonymous,

    You are right. Maybe its because most who are living in the rural areas are not educated enough to read and learn more about the bible and the religion. It may change with time when more and more Ibans are better educated.

  12. Dear Robert,

    I just watched the history channel on the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers and learned about you and your amazing work.
    It was deep.
    Watching Temenggong Dato.Kanang
    and Awang was very touching.
    Genuine people with a huge huge contribution.

  13. Tony Rich,

    I missed those old genuine soldiers. I pray we still have those kind of people.