AMAZING JOURNEY ON THE WINGS OF AN AMAZING GRACE – PENDITA MERIPA (ALAN FRANCIS BELCHER)

Posted: 10 September 2012 in Uncategorized
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By. Libat Langub

Alan Beltcher (Pendeta Meripa) dan Madge Hill (Pendeta Ganit)

Alan Beltcher (Pendeta Meripa) dan Madge Hill (Pendeta Ganit)

“Anun bala?“(“How are you“), I greeted him in my dialect when he answered the phone. “Mengered!”(“Very old indeed!“), he replied in Lun Bawang, his second language he spoke and wrote fluently . It was followed by a familiar hearty and contagious laughter. He made my day! From a hotel in the city of Melbourne, I was communicating with him in a language foreign to his native country. He was living in a simple and cosy single storey house in the suburb town of Benella with his wife, Supang (June). I was back in Melbourne in March 2006 during The Commonwealth Game. He was 92 years old then.

On 4th September 2012, he was called to be with His Lord. He was 98 years old.

In the mid-1930s, Mr. Alan Francis Belcher, in the prime of his life, left his job and country, Australia. His purpose and destination – to be a missionary in a far distant heathen land, Borneo! Sarawak was then ruled by the Third and last White Rajah, Charles Vyner Brooke.

He pioneered many missionary works among the natives of Sabah and Sarawak and led hundreds to the saving grace of Christ. Most of his missionary life was spent in Mission Lawas, the BEM/SIB Bible School.

Alan Beltcher (Pendeta Meripa) dan Madge Hill (Pendeta Ganit)

Alan Beltcher (Pendeta Meripa) dan Madge Hill (Pendeta Ganit)

It was in the mid-60s, when he and his first wife, Pendita Ganit (Madge (dec)), a fellow missionary, moved to stay in Long Semadoh, my village in the highlands. Then a 3 to 4 days’ walk from the nearest town, Lawas. Their abode was a small wooden hut built on wooden stilts by the river next to the padi fields. From that little hut and after some 10 years or so of hard work, the whole books of the Old Testament were translated into the Lun Bawang language. They were blessed with the tranquility of their cool and unspoilt enviornment. The village folks, then really simple, innocent, pure, caring and gracious, welcomed them with open arms. Almost immediately they became part of our community in nearly every sense of the word.

My memories of him and Pendita Ganit in Long Semadoh as a child and teenager are sweet and plentiful. One that comes to mind is when the first man landed on the moon on 20th July 1969. He heard the news on his transistor radio, a Philip brand I believe. He conveyed that information to the mostly unschooled villagers. That night we gathered around him taking turn to try to catch a glimpse of Neil Armstrong through his telescope and binoculars.

Another common scene was his daily early morning walk from their hut with Pendita Ganit and their dog, Buki, to attend the 6 am daily morning church service.

Apart from dong his translation work, he was also to the village folks an older version of “McGyver”. His store was never empty and the folks treated him as their ultimate Mr. Fix It.

When the brutal Japanese Army landed and captured Sarawak in 1941, he had his share of thorns in the flesh. 8 of the BEM missionaries, including Alan, were imprisoned and interned with the other white men at Batu Lintang Concentration Camp, Kuching from October 1942 to September 1945. One of the missionaries died while being interned. Alan chose not to hate his captors. After all, he travelled the sea to spread the Good news of peace and salvation. He continued and gave all his life to serve the Lord after his release.

It was during his tenure as the Chairman of BEM that SIB was formed.

As a missionary, he traveled to the northern interior of Sarawak and the interior of Sabah. That was a dramatic feat those days considering the lack of road and communication and everything.

To my humble mind, he was a missionary par excellence, a man with long foresight and many talents. He was a man of simple but great faith. Above all, his preoccupation was with the God who seek him and found him. During my last visit to Alan in Benalla in March 2006, he prayed for me. These humble words were uttered to heaven: “O Tuhan, Na kai nakap Nemu. Iko Nakap nakai. ..“(“O Lord, we did not seek You. You seek us..”). I heard that prayer by him on countless occasions. I cannot thank God enough for that wonderful realization of God’s hot pursuit after His children. I felt truly blessed to know Alan as a friend.

Looking back, I feel that It was no coincidence that God, in His infinite grace and mercy, paved the way for my unforgettable journey to Alan’s country in 1983. Not as a missionary, though. Melbourne, where I studied, was the birthplace of BEM.

He told me once of his admiration for my village. He described it as one of the most beautiful place in Sarawak. I believed he said that as he felt really at home there.

To the village folks, Alan is affectionately called Pendita Meripa, a Lun Bawang name. A fitting tribute to a man who inspired the villagers spiritually.

After being a missionary in Borneo for nearly 6 decades, he went back to his native country in 1984. But we all knew that his heart never really left the village. He left for us an eternal legacy – the love of God for mankind and His redemption power.

In celebrating his life with us, allow me to reproduce the translated words from Psalm 23 in the Old Testament:-

Nani Lun Luk Matar Dumba

Tuhan ineh Lun Matar negku,

Idi na ui pian ku luk baken.

Ieh ngato erurku dei bang laman luk

mula’ uduh;

idi Ieh nguyut negku macing su

abpa’ luk melio.

Ieh mare tueh luk mebaruh negku.

Ieh nguyut negku bang dalan luk

matu maya’ jani’Neh.

Sagan tu pana’ dalan ineh lemaba

dacem luk mepingot,

na ui miak matot,

ngaceku Iko idi denganku!

Idi rukudMu luk matar negku.

Iko temina’ irau kuanku,

su luk inan amung bunu’ku miak

kali’ negku;

Iko ngumau uluhku idi manu’

sangkirku pad macing lubpi

Kali’ rungen do’ idi awaMu miak idi

denganku ruked ulunku;

idi ruma’ Tuhan mangun ku

ruma’ku macing ruked-ruked.

I thank God for Meripa!

LIBAT LANGUB

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