The Chief Gets Saved

This was Sulidan’s country. How he loved it, the rugged land, the silent forest and the soft sweet green of the freshly planted paddy. He knew the trees, the many trails and the faces of his people. He could gauge the prowess of the braves and the ‘two-hearts’ of the schemers.  Every man must give account to him.

When anger and jealousy threatened to disrupt his people, he knew the troublemakers. The magic-men respected him and the selfish were aware of his impartial judgments, for was he not their acknowledged chieftain, the aged Sulidan?

For many years he had been a ruler of men.  There was little doubt some feared him.  He was not afraid of men nor did he tear to rule over them.  What perturbed him was the secret held within his own heart. The fact that the terror of the demon-world gripped him as the jaws of a crocodile grip its prey and drag it down to death. The thrust of a spear, the flight of an arrow, the dread piercing of a blow-pipe dart, he could understand. Such weapons had their safeguards. The venom of a snake was fearful but were there not herbs to counter it?

Who though could explain the casting of a spell?  What power was this that could blurr the mind and glaze the eyes of its victim into vacant passivity? Who was it, who snatched the breath from a man’s nostrils so that he moved no more? Who were the spirits who lived in swamp and tree and stone?

Why were these demons so malignant and so hardly placated? Where would his own spirit flee at the last? What were the frontiers of the dark country beyond the darkness of the forest? Sulidan was old now, very old by the Dusun’s reckoning. The time would not be long ere another sat where he sat and said to the people the things he said; and he would be but a memory and no more.

Many years before, there had come to live amongst the Dusuns of the Kota Belud district, a man of the white race. Such men from the unknown Western world were always a mystery to the tribal people. They seemed so few, their power so strong and their lives so selfish, but this man was different.

His heart of care spoke from his eyes, and what is more he learned the tongue of the forest people. He spoke to them of the Great Spirit, of the Strong One, who made all things and was stronger than the strong. Over the years many turned to Christ and began to spread the news.

One day a Dunsun Christian met Sulidan and confronted him with the Gospel.  As he listened he knew that this was the Truth for which he had waited, that here, somehow, was the Answer to all his questionings and the Liberation from all his fears. He knew this was the turning point of his life, that he dare not return uncommitted, to the forest and its demons. With all the determination and faith that he knew he cast himself at the feet of Jesus Christ and confessed Him as his only Lord.

Hardly a day passed without men from the kampongs coming for his advice and counsel. As they entered they submitted courteously to his authority and left to abide by the ruling which he gave, but now it was Sulidan’s turn to go to others.

Eventually he came to Teginambur where devoted followers of his new-found Lord had already raised a leafy structure for a chapel, and where he could speak to those in Christ before him.  What would they think about him? Soon he was sitting before the deacons, as those who were learning to take responsibility in the Church were called. Social status, local authority, the outward dignities of a chieftain were all laid aside.

In the fellowship of the Church there is a submission to the Supreme Authority, to Christ who is Lord of all and Head over all. They listened to his personal testimony, and heard of the deliverance he had experienced, since believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

“We arc willing,” they said, “for you to be baptised.”  Did the Kadamayan ever run so clearly as that day when Sulidan stepped carefully down over the boulders into the cool, flowing waters to await his lookcd-for moment? Did Kinabalu ever stand in such splendour against the sky as that day, when Salidan obeyed his Lord’s command? “Lord, by Thy favour Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong… Thy perfect love has cast out fear.” So beneath the waters he passed in the Name of the Triune God.

As he was helped from the river he eventually moved over to the stony water-course and sat there with the other Christians to pray. Suddenly in the stillness of the valley the cracked old lips of the converted chieftain burst into thanksgiving. How often he had lisped and muttered the empty doggerel of the charms. Now his voice rang out in die pure bliss of worship, sounding the high praises of His great Redeemer.

Higher and higher his voice ascended until those who witnessed this great outpouring of a ‘young’ believer’s heart were moved to tears. Some may have wondered, perhaps, at so strong a demonstration of emotion from old Sulidan-but his song was the song of a man set free. Sulidan had been made anew. The long sultry hours of the afternoon quickly passed and soon the sun was going down over the western jungle. Sulidan could not drag himself away. The new mystery of fellowship in Christ was filling him with wonder.

Following the baptism he had sat with many others at the table of the Lord. How strangely satisfying it had all been to him. To be a chief was as nothing compared with being a son.

And now he must face the lonely track and tread the two miles home.  As he left, it was pitch black. It was his test of faith. Let the night be filled with demons and the forest echo with eerie calls of the unseen world! in his heart was the Stronger than the strong. There was no fear in love. Step by step he moved forward. Sulidan was conqueror. He knew he was doing what few Dusuns could do because of their fear of the demons.  Few would walk thru the forest after dark, but he would do it through Christ his Strength.

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