Multipoint parish – by boat

Posted on May 19, 2010 by Franklin Ishida
Pastors serving Murut area in Sabah

The revs. Mathius and Bing, who serve among the Murut people in Sabah, Malaysia

Some pastors in North America serve multipoint parishes, spending sometimes hours on the road between congregations, even on Sunday mornings to get to the next place in time for worship. This is not always easy, especially if you factor in all the time spent behind the wheel and in all kinds of weather.

In some parts of the world, some parishes encompass dozens of congregations: pastors may have to travel by motorbike or on foot, and each congregation in the circuit may only get a visit every few months because of great distances.

In parts of Sabah, East Malaysia, pastors of the Basel Christian Church of Malaysia serving among the Murut indigenous population often have to travel distances in their parishes. For some, this involves using a boat on the rivers.

The Rev. Mathius serves a parish centered around Pagalunggan, not far from the border with Indonesia. One of his congregations is an hour away — by boat. Sunday after Sunday, and even on weekdays, he plies the river in his boat, surrounded by virgin rain forest.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. The river has rapids, rocks, and other obstacles. Usually one needs a “pilot” at the front of the longboat to check on water depths, considering the changing water volume during the course of the year. One has to not only protect the boat, but also protect the precious outboard motor.

The Rev. Mathius has to know the river well to travel safely. There may not be time to enjoy the scenery. But this is where his ministry lies, his commitment and passion.

Y. Franklin Ishida
Director for Asia and the Pacific, ELCA Global Mission