From the Jungle to Jesus: At Peace With My Creator
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My name is Dikkie Ekiai and this is my story. I was born and raised in the state of Sarawak in Borneo, an island that is divided among three countries in Southeast Asia – Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. My state belongs to Malaysia. Sarawak’s population is made up of many different tribal groups. Before the arrival of British rulers, these tribes would raid each other’s territories and collect their enemies’ heads as trophies. Towards the middle of the Second World War, the British government decided to recruit young men from my father’s mountain tribe, called the Bidayuh, to serve both as trackers and radio operators. My father was one of the ones selected. At the same time, the British government recruited young girls from the coastal tribe, namely the Ibans, to be trained as nurses, and my mother was chosen. My parents’ love story was legendary as they were both the first to marry outside of their respective tribes.
Growing up as what was considered a “half-breed” amidst the old tribal atmosphere of hatred and vengeance was not easy. The difficulties became more apparent later when I was living in a boarding school, as the school for secondary education was quite far from where my parents lived. Each of the various tribes in the school kept to themselves and there were frequent violent and bloody clashes. Despite the war-like nature of these tribes, they did believe in a Creator who made everything and who commands armies of angelic beings who are often sent to interfere in the affairs of men. Our lives were strictly governed by taboos and offerings to these beings. Any major decisions or undertakings would have to be preceded by searching one’s dreams via solitary meditation or by the spreading of offerings to obtain guidance from the spiritual world. I used to complain to my mother that we had too many spirits to appease.
Whenever I managed to get home for holidays, I would spend time wandering through the jungle observing nature’s wonders and would sit every evening watching the sunset and contemplating the frailty and meaning of life. One day while walking through the jungle I came across a big spider weaving its web. Observing how this spider could weave a perfect symmetry and angle every time, I concluded that someone must have designed this creature with its unique ability. This Designer must be the same one who, I was told, had hung the moon and the stars in their place. I had a number of serious discussions with my father regarding my search for the meaning of life, but obtained no satisfaction because by this time he had returned to the old tribal ways of practicing witchcraft and shamanism. I was told that as soon as my secondary education was finished, I was to spend time with families from both of my ancestral tribes to learn and combine the knowledge of shamanism from both tribes. This was somewhat unsettling for me, and drove me to take every opportunity to travel with friends to the town of Kuching (now a city) to visit both a Catholic and an Anglican church.
On the wall of the Anglican church was a curtain containing the Ten Commandments. As I was reading through these, I heard the priest saying that a person should spend time alone confessing their sins at the end of each day. When I went back to boarding school, I started spending time alone in a classroom when everyone else was having supper. There I would tell God the Creator all the thoughts of my heart every evening. This went on for months. At this time one of my relatives handed me a prayer book which he had stolen from the Anglican church during one of our visits. As I continued to confess my sins each evening, I became burdened with the fact that my ancestors had committed murders through their headhunting practices. Because I had handled the old skulls, the swords, and shields used in these tribal wars, as well as the fact that I was a descendent of these men, I saw myself as being as guilty as they were. I did not realize at the time that my sinful nature originated all the way back with Adam in the Garden of Eden. The Lord made me to see that my hands were covered with the blood of the slain victims. Though I didn’t know these words then, my experience was like those to whom the prophet spoke in Isaiah 59:1-3, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that is cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness.” This happened every evening for an entire week, and each time I broke down and sobbed because I knew I was guilty in thoughts, words, and deeds.
One evening I decided to take one of the pages from the Anglican prayer book with me to the classroom. As I was confessing my sinful bloodline to God, I envisioned myself falling along with everyone else into a big bonfire. I looked at the piece of paper I took with me and read that Christ Jesus died for sinners and rose again the third day. At that moment, as I saw a multitude of people falling into the big bonfire, I noticed a group to the side, just as guilty as the others, but these were not falling into the bonfire because Christ Jesus died for them, and I just grabbed on to the fact that I was one of them—a sinner for whom Christ Jesus had died: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). In that instant, I experienced a serenity that I did not understand. It was like watching a river flowing ever so slowly at sunset. This saving experience happened in late 1985.
Within months of this experience, the Spirit of God began to impress upon me to look for a place where Christians are gathered only as Christians and nothing else. I did not know if such a thing existed on earth, as I had received no teaching. Meanwhile I finished secondary school, and after passing the final exam, I tried applying to local colleges not knowing how to pay for the education if I did get accepted. None of the colleges accepted me. Then one day I received a letter saying I was awarded a full scholarship to study in Melbourne, Australia. As the Lord would have it (“I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome,” Jeremiah 29:11), I ended up in none of the countries originally listed for the scholarship which included Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA. I was sent to Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1988. I was excited to see so many different churches and each Sunday I was exploring a new church but I sensed that something was missing. I had met other foreign students, including some Muslim friends, who would tease me and ask if I had found my church yet.
In late 1989, I decided to visit a good friend who was studying at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, New Brunswick, a few hours from Wolfville. There I met a couple of Christians who were reaching out to international students. They later introduced me to Christians meeting in Avonport, Nova Scotia as well as in Nineveh, Nova Scotia. My very first introduction to a simple New Testament assembly meeting was a Sunday morning service for worship, and I was amazed at the simplicity of the meeting. One Sunday night in January, as a couple of men were telling their testimonies of salvation through Christ, one of them said that when he trusted the Lord Jesus, he experienced a sense of peace. For the first time, after searching for about four years, I realized that my experience in Borneo meant that I had been born again (John 3:3,7), and at the same time I also found the place of His Name: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). What an awesome God we have! I was far from God and lived much of my life in total ignorance of the Christian gospel, but the Lord was able to reach me—“The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He spoke to my heart because He loved me and had died for me—“God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). No wonder that Revelation 5:9 records people singing this song to the Lamb, the Lord Jesus: “Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
Today, I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and continue to meet with Christians who simply gather in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a humble honour to worship and serve the Creator, and still a great source of peace to know that God has given me new life and forgiven my sins through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). I would love you to know the same blessing. Thanks for reading my story.