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Adventist medical project in Malaysia sparks interest among tourists and local officials

Dr. D'Dyanna's morning plans on the third day of the Adventist medical project in eastern Malaysia did not include the arrival of an excited lady who had traveled with her friends from another village to the project site. As the lady shared her story though, it became obvious that it was part of God’s plan for the team that day. Immersed in providing free medical services to local villages in the district of Lubok Antu, Sarawak from September 20-25, the team needed to hear her story.

She excitedly shared that she had met some of the same Seventh-day Adventists at a similar medical mission a few years back. Upon hearing of the team's return, she and her friends couldn't wait to share that they now wanted "to know more about Christ, keep the Sabbath and be baptized into the big family of God."  Members of the team happily introduced the ladies to the local church pastor who made arrangements for visits and Bible study. 

This is just one of the experiences that captivated Dr. D'Dyannah Lajamin during the trip. Having just finished her medical study, she was invited to join the team of professionals from Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Sabah, Sarawak and the United States.  Since 2006, this medical project has provided yearly free and quality health care services and treatment to the Iban tribe living in the long houses in the deep interiors of Sarawak.

The team firmly believes that the only successful way to reach out and connect with others is through Christ's method of meeting the people's needs. They are encouraged by the writings of Adventist author, Ellen G. White, citing medical missionary work as an effective approach that breaks down prejudice. The experience with the locals proved this to be true for the volunteers.

Pastor Gilbert Tan, an Adventist pastor for the church's Sarawak Mission who has locally coordinated these trips with the area Adventist Community Services (ACS), has seen the effect of this project in the lives of the local people. "It is very expensive for them to go by boat and pay for a van to go to the nearest town to get their eyes and teeth checked.  Many of these people in the long houses have cataracts or cannot read.  The eye specialists [who perform the needed minor surgeries] are making a difference in the lives of the residents. They can now weave or do other daily chores,” he explained.  Although some residents do not need surgical help, they can no longer see well enough to read. To meet this need, the team distributed 200 reading glasses.  A similar life-changing effect is also made possible by the dentists who give free dental care, cleaning and tooth extractions.

This long boat provided transportation for the medical team to visit the long houses in Lubok Antu, Sarawak Malaysia as they gave almost 900 treatments from September 20-25 to the Iban tribe living in the local villages. [pictures submitted by Daniel Yeoh]

These effects are more obvious, but there are other, unexpected effects as well beyond the local community. During this trip, the group met an Italian tourist guide married to an Iban. "In one of his tours to a long house, he saw what we were doing for the people and was impressed.  He invited us to join them in Lemanak river for future mission trips," said Chew Yan, a nurse working in Penang Adventist Hospital.

Dr. Chew Sze Ted, a doctor from Sarawak who also volunteered with the group shared, "Every morning and evening, we [would] sing praises together and have a short devotion... A hotel guest told [one of our doctors]...that our singing reminds him of Christmas. He was touched by our songs. Other hotel guests also stopped by our meeting room to hear us sing. We may not have direct [interaction] with them but we believe that what we did had an impact on them. We prayed for them too."

In addition to tourists, local officials also see the positive effects. The free medical-dental clinic in one of the long houses at a village called Mengkak was permitted by a member of the Sarawak parliament who praised the initiative and efforts of the Adventist group. He and his staff were impressed enough to invite the team to return as often as they could to help his constituencies and promised to provide funds to support future mission trips. A chieftain who heard about the clinic invited the team to come to his town next.

Likewise, the local hotel that sponsored the accommodation this year provided the food, refreshments, meeting room facilities and water transportation to the various villages the team has served.

This welcoming spirit especially helped each member of the group to face one challenge after another. This trip was uncertain at first due to the unconfirmed date of accreditation survey for Penang Adventist Hospital (PAH) where almost half of the team is employed. The group found out in time that the hospital survey was scheduled a week after the trip which gave enough time for preparations.

Next, bad weather delayed the PAH team leader and four volunteers who were carrying the necessary medical supplies for the project. The team then had to rely on prayer and resourcefulness until they were reunited on the second day at the first long house village.

"We are just doing our duty and [have] to find time for it. Our medical profession is about helping [people]... and going the extra mile [doesn't cost us anything]," says Dr. Daniel Yeoh, the team's leader.

 

An elderly man treated by the medical team that visited the town of Lubok Antu in Sarawak, Malaysia from September 20-25.
This elderly gentleman is among the local patients who received a free treatment by the medical team that came to Lubok Antu in Sarawak, Malaysia from September 20-25. [picture submitted by Daniel Yeoh]

The team provided almost 900 treatments including blood pressure and blood sugar testing, dental checkup, dental scaling, tooth extraction, eye vision check with portable slit lamp, glaucoma screening and others. Four nurses from the Lubok Antu clinic joined and provided free Pap Smear tests and breast examination for ladies on the last day. A simple dental care talk, craft activities, giveaways of toys, stationaries, toothpaste and toothbrush were offered for the children. In addition, the team donated a portable dental scaling machine to the church's Sarawak Mission and trained a local pastor in its use so that they can help more people in Sarawak.

Everyone can play a big [meaningful] role in this project," shared by Chen Chee Yu, a pharmacist who joined for the first time.

Originally organized in 2006 as part of a four church building trip by Peninsular Malaysia Mission, members soon saw the opportunity to start a medical mission for the local people and have gone there yearly since then.  Every team member is appealing to the Adventist world church to pray for them as they continue this decade-long medical project. They look forward to many more interruptions in their plans as they seek to be a part of God’s greater plan for the indigenous people in Sarawak.

[Lloyd Lee and Leong Chew Yan with additional reporting by Lydia Tan]

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