Happenings, News

A missionary’s day in Sibu

Made himself “all things
to all men”.
— Methodist Church Archives picture.

‘ALTHOUGH the legendary Sarawak missionary, the Rev James Hoover, had not sent out any invitations for Saturday, March 14, 1925, he had entertained 30 callers before 4 pm. After reading this list of callers, we fear no sympathetic ear will ever again be dropped for the lonely missionary!

But we greatly admire his talent of making himself “all things to all men”, developed in his previous 20-odd years in Borneo, as well as a more confident faith in a missionary’s use of his time for his people.

Here is a sample of the people and problems he dealt with on that sunny day in Sibu:
· One of my preachers, to report that man who had run a gambling joint had stopped, and had given $50 to build a bridge in his neighbourhood. The preacher guaranteed his conduct for the future. I was to stop any prosecution that might be brought.
· To ask about help for a boy going to school in China. People in America had promised but had failed.
· Wanted help to get passport to send his brother who is a leper back to China.
· Feared he had a goitre, and wanted a letter to the doctor for examination. He also had business concerning the preacher-teacher at Lobok Geng.
· Desired to leave his quit rent for me to pay, as he had no time to attend to it.
· His father had died. Wanted to report this, and transfer his father’s land grant to himself.
· Wanted to make a garden at Kanowit, and wished me to see the head of the land office.
· Orphan boy from Bukit Lan came to say he had lost his job as a rubber tapper, and wanted to know what to do about it.
· The preacher from Bukit Lan dropped in to say that all the roads needed remaking, and that his salary for the year was not provided for. He also wanted a bit of ground to extend his garden.
· Wanted to get permission from the land office to fell jungle back of his garden. Being unable to talk English or Malay, he wished me to accompany him. Paid ten dollars borrowed two years ago.
· Brought his son to exhibit his anatomy to me, to show marks made by one of our teachers.
· A Malay – to ask correct price of American ten-dollar gold pieces.
· Brought a chicken. Will return later to make his wants known!
· Wanted to buy a combination safe like mine.
· Two men who propose engaging in ferry business. Would I get a catalogue and order a motor launch?
· Two fellows with a wedding invitation.

In the meantime, I had my breakfast and tiffin, went to the Fort twice, the land office once, the bazaar once, wrote two letters, registered four marriages and filled out the forms for the Government. It was then 3.30.’ – MM April 1925, page 50.

Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.