A BRIEF HISTORY OF BEM KEC / SIB KUCHING
The history of Kuching Evangelical Church (KEC) began at the end of the 1960s. At its annual conference, the Borneo Evangelical Mission (BEM) decided that their ministry should include a move to the big towns like Kuching as many of the children of the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) members had moved to the towns to further their education and seek work. It was decided then to rent and later buy a house at 26 Iris Garden for this work to begin.
A note on terminology
Borneo Evangelical Mission (BEM) – A Protestant, evangelical Christian missionary society that was set up in 1928 to do gospel work amongst the people of Borneo.
Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) – the Christian denomination set up by BEM in the 1950s, as part of BEM’s objective to plant an “indigenous” church.
In the 2010s, for various reasons, SIB churches in Sarawak were legally “rebranded” as BEM churches. Hence, that is why we are now known as BEM KEC and not SIB KEC.
In 1969, there was already a small group meeting with Dorothy Ewan, who had been posted by the BEM as the first Kuching missionary worker to work amongst the teachers. This small group of less than 10 were mainly children of SIB members who were teacher trainees at Batu Lintang Teachers’ College (BLTC). In late 1969, they moved from Lintang Park to Iris Garden.
In the same year, another OMF missionary, Percy King, left Miri Gospel Chapel to start another work in Kuching among the Mandarin speaking students. This group, which met at Deshon Road, joined with the SIB group when Percy King had to leave the country at the end of his tenure. Earlier in 1966, there was also another group led by an OMF missionary who was working amongst the nurses. These three groups formed the members of KEC at 26 Iris Garden when it was officially established as a church in June 1972 with Colin Reasbeck at the first pastor. He was followed by Douglas Sadler (1973-1974), Cyril Weller (1975) and Tony Horsfall (1975-1983).
The early 1970s saw many children of the SIB members move to Kuching as trained teachers or nurses or other professionals. They formed the majority of the lay leaders of the church.
By the mid-1970s, others who were posted to Kuching for work joined the church. They slowly took over the lay leadership from the trainees and gave it more stability from the transient nature of the trainees who were posted to other parts of Sarawak after their training. As the church grew, the premises at 26 Iris Garden were found to be inadequate. Therefore, the church leaders applied through SIB HQ for a piece of land from the Government for a permanent church building. One acre of land at Jalan Laksamana Cheng Ho was given. A church building designed to accommodate 500 worshippers was completed in December 1983.
The church continued to grow. In 1988, BM and Iban services were started in the church. By early 1990s, membership had grown to about 1000 in three languages; English, BM and Iban with elders assigned to the three different congregations.
By early 1990s, the Lord gave a vision to the church to establish sister churches in the East, West, North and South of KEC, as opposed to establishing one mega church at KEC.
The church responded enthusiastically to this new vision. In Feb 1994, a group of about 30 members from the English congregation moved to the East to set up SIB Satria Jaya which later became SIB Lighthouse. SIB Lighthouse became an independent sister church in 1998. Half of the members of the Iban congregation joined SIB Lighthouse, mainly those who lived around the Kampung Stutong area. The other half of the Iban congregation established SIB Siol Kandis in the North.
In December 1994, the BM congregation which had grown to about 600 members were replanted to the South to become SIB Olive Garden at Kota Sentosa. A small number of about 30 members continued the BM service at KEC. In 1999, SIB Malihah Matang was set up West of KEC.
During this time, the decision was made to extend the church building. The church hall was extended to its present size and was completed in time for the 1999 Christmas and New Year celebrations. The three-storey block comprising of a Tadika/Sunday School rooms, 5 functions rooms and three full time workers’ apartments was completed in early 2000. Phase 2, which is a two-storey portion at the front of the church was completed in the later part of 2000.
All the sister churches that were started by KEC were answerable to the Ketua Daerah Kuching as soon as they became independent, which was in line with the SIB system of governance. Each church then managed its own affairs.
Prepared in 2018 by Nicholas Patrick, former elder of BEM KEC.
If you would like to read up more on the history and work of BEM, consult the relevant section under the “Recommended Reading” of our website.