Mobilizing workers to plant churches in Malaysia
Ferhan was born into a second-generation Christian family in Indonesia. Both of his parents worked as farmers to support five sons. The village was primarily Christian, and as a young man Ferhan began regularly attending church, distributing tracts, and sharing his faith. After completing a theology degree, Ferhan served for many years as a church planter with Cahaya Suku in Indonesia. In 2004 Cahaya Suku leadership asked him to move to Malaysia to pioneer a church-planting outreach there. Today, Ferhan serves as the director of this ministry, Malay World Outreach.
Ministry Vision & Strategy
Malay World Outreach began as an outreach of another Partners International partner called Cahaya Suku. Based in Indonesia, their strategy was to train and send experienced Indonesian church planters to establish underground churches of Malay Christians. Now seven years since this outreach began, this branch has become a ministry in its own right and today goes by the name Malay World Outreach. Their vision is to see hundreds of house churches spring up among ethnic Malays.
Daughter of Shamans Now Worships Jesus
Ibu Marziah is one of the members of our house church. She is 50 years old. She almost never misses a meeting. Her parents were both shamans. She herself was also a practicing shaman. However, she had some really serious family problems and they had rejected her. She was badly hurt because of all that had happened. At first, when she started attending our fellowship meetings, she objected to all the teachings. She was very stubborn. But we never stopped praying for her. After almost one and a half years, God touched her heart. She started to enjoy our meetings. Finally, she gave her heart and life to Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior. She’s now willing to be baptized. We pray her transformation will lead the way for many others to believe.
Malaysia is a multi-ethnic federation consisting of Malays, Chinese, Indians, and indigenous tribes. About nine percent of Malaysia’s 23 million people are Christians, and most live in the east of the country. Islam is the state religion with all Malays legally considered Muslim.
The federal constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to profess, practice and propagate their religion, however that freedom is subject to another clause saying that laws may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons of Islamic faith. The government follows a policy of religious tolerance, but, in practice, other faiths are increasingly discriminated against at the state level following the rise of Islamism in Malaysia.
Non-Muslim faiths face difficulties in obtaining permission to build places of worship, restrictions on sharing their faith, and unequal access to media outlets. At the same time Islamists continue to lobby the government to adopt stricter punishments for apostasy and to implement Sharia Law throughout the country.
Apostates (those who convert from Islam to another religion) may be fined or imprisoned for a year of “rehabilitation.” Additionally, all non-Muslims who marry a Muslim must renounce their religion and convert to Islam. One ex-Muslim from Malaysia described his religion as “a house with an open door—enter and its locked forever.”
>SENDING CHURCH PLANTERS: $3,125 per team per month
Sending Church Planters, Malay World Outreach
For the most part, evangelistic efforts in Malaysia in the past have focused on the non-Malay ethnic Chinese, thus, the vast majority of believers in Malaysia are of ethnic Chinese background. There is almost no evangelistic work being done among Muslim Malays as this type of ministry can result in almost certain imprisonment or even death. Islam is so ingrained in Malay life that Islamic rituals are practiced as Malay culture. In fact, the two are almost interchangeable in many daily contexts, thus requiring church planters who are effectively trained in reaching Muslims.
Built on the pioneering work of Indonesian church planters, Malay World Outreach currently has four church planters working to build God’s Kingdom among the Malay people. They were trained and deployed by Cahaya Suku, one of the top agencies training and deploying church planters to reach unreached Muslim groups.
Malay World Outreach’s goals this year are to establish three new house churches that can also function as seeker Bible studies, recruit and train three or four more church planters, and share the Gospel with 250 Malays.
>BRUNEI INITIATIVE: $7,500 for project
Brunei Initiative, Malay World Outreach
Brunei Malay is the name used to refer to several very closely related groups of indigenous people in Brunei. Although they are ethnically related to the Malay and also share the same Islamic religion, there are many cultural and linguistic differences that make the Brunei Malay distinct from the larger Malay populations in nearby Malaysia and Singapore.
The population of Brunei is less than 400,000 people. The Brunei Malay make up 67% of the population. Though they are required by law to be Muslim and classified so at birth, the Brunei Malay are often influenced by the tribal religions of their ancestors. Islam is more of a cultural distinction than a characterization of individual beliefs.
Brunei is one of only three countries in the world that still has a functioning autocratic monarchy. Due to their great oil wealth, the country of Brunei is extremely well off. Citizens are given free medical care, cheap gas and housing loans, and pay no income tax. To many, this might seem like paradise on earth. However, the results are devastating. There is a tremendous drug problem among the people. It seems that since people do not need to work to obtain material benefits, they have lost the motivation to grow and achieve new things. Most are content to just enjoy their piece of paradise.
Part of the contract that the citizens have with the Sultan is that they will never leave Islam. If people were to leave Islam, they would threaten the existence of the monarchy. Those caught proselytizing are sentenced to jail. Church leaders are hemmed in and struggle just to keep their churches together. In this challenging environment, MWO’s team will work to share the Gospel with Brunei Malays outside of the country, disciple them, and send them back to their country to share with others. Over time, they hope to establish a viable indigenous Brunei Malay witness of Christ in their own country.