Shentel and Sereni with their latest season lookbook “Cabin Fever in Paris”.

MIRI – When my friend Michelle invited me to do a photo shoot on headbands, I had no idea that I would be meeting Borneo’s very own homegrown celebrity designers Sereni and Shentel.

Internationally-acclaimed brand, the “Sereni & Shentel, Made in Borneo” was launched in 2009 by Sereni Linggi and Shentel Lee from Kuching.

The dream label began, as I read their lookbook, as a craft project. Two years later the prestigious label has stockists in Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Miri, Sibu, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Penang, Sydney and New Zealand.

A big breakthrough came last year when Lancôme Malaysia commissioned the girls to create exclusive headband designs for their Spring Summer 2011 Collection by makeup guru Aaron De Mey.

Catapulted in the mainstream media by the giant cosmetics company, the girls described the contract as a surreal experience to see their faces staring back at them at every Lancôme counter.

As predicted, the Lancôme special edition headbands were sold out in weeks which prompted more engaged collaborations.

For an ignorant, un-fashionista like me, surely a headband is only headband?

No, no, says Michelle.  I can vouch that this headband can be worn all day with comfort.

Nothing new too, customized headbands.

Apparently I was wrong too.

The unique design that stands out from the crowd is the Blair.

Created and named after the ever popular New York’s Upper East Side fictitious Gossip Girl character, the Blair can be customized to the customer’s whim and fancy.

Shentel helps a customer to explore the design of a custom Blair

The beautiful part is, the customer can mix and match any headband base, ribbons and stones to any color of their choice. The possibilities are of course, quite infinite – certainly acceptable to any woman and her vanity.

So tell me what more could a woman want?

(A worthy note – Sereni & Shentel created National gifts for Miss Universe Malaysia 2011 Deborah Priya Henry at the Miss Universe Pageant held in Sao Paolo, Brazil on Sep 12, 2011.

S & S headbands are available at Lot 2.35 – 2.36, 2F, Bintang Mega Mall, tel +6085.417896, 98000 Miri.)

This has got to be one of my favorite shots taken this year. Despite the rain thousands of the Christian faith stood firm their ground yesterday at Sibu Town Square prior to the commencement of the yearly Christmas procession round town. The power of prayer certainly works as the downpour subsided shortly after the walk started.

4 weeks in phnom penh

The writer with some of the young students

Story and pics by Fidella Tiew

My conversion may be similar to many other Methodist Christians – born in a Christian family, was baptized as an infant, grew up in church, involved in church ministry, basically no dramatic conversion experience. Still remember my late grandmother brought my younger sister and me to Sunday School every Sunday. At that time, just like other children, I went to Sunday School because of “other” motives. When I was fourteen, through a teacher in Methodist Secondary School (now Rev. Tiong at Wesley church), I said the Sinner’s Prayer and accepted Christ as my personal Saviour.

In my adolescence, through Bible study classes, quiet time with God, pastor’s pulpit sermons and other church activities, my faith in Jesus grew. Being involved in various youth activities, taking the leadership roles gave me the opportunity to be trained and developed my leadership skills since young. All these experiences not only benefited me spiritually, but also in my career, thus grooming me to be a “useful instrument” for God.

Through ups and downs in my life, I’ve experienced God at very personal level, developed deeper relationship with Jesus, and continued to grow in faith. Through His unfailing love, God has never left nor forsaken me though many times I have failed Him and been disobedient.

The calling of “every Christian to commit one year of their life to mission” by SCAC came to me very strongly as I had been praying to God to show me the way. Praise God, in 2003, He gave me a job at Curtin University in Miri. At that time I had been working in Kuching for more than 6 years and my cell group at Trinity Methodist Church said God was sending me to Miri for a “mission”, i.e. to work among the Curtin students. I came to Miri in May 2003 and in July 2003 GMC started the Campus Gospel ministry at Senadin. Rev. Law invited me to join the team and I’ve been with the ministry until now. Being a lecturer at Curtin I have a lot of flexibility with my time and the privilege to take long leave during the semester break.

However I had never joined any short-term mission trip yet. Being a “city girl” I just couldn’t see myself going to “places lacking in basic infrastructure and amenities” for mission. I had met many brothers and sisters who went for mission trips to Cambodia. Some had life-transforming experiences. Yet I kept giving excuses. Between the years 2004 – 2005 Rev. Law of GMC asked me at least twice whether I had a burden in mission. My answer had always been “no obvious calling from God”. After much struggle and prayers, I committed myself to do the “Disciple course” last year and planned for mission trip after that. Miraculously in April I had the opportunity to meet up with Rev. Lenita in Miri and through her encouragement and sharing, I know God was giving me affirmation that I just needed to go by faith. Christ would be with me and the Holy Spirit would lead me. I was challenged not to worry too much!!

I have always prayed like Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10 – Oh God! that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain. For the last fourteen years, living alone away from my hometown Sibu, God has always faithfully protected me from all evils. I believe He will continue to bless me as I take my 1st “baby step” in mission to a foreign land.

So in January 2008 I spent four weeks in Phnom Penh teaching English at the Methodist School of Cambodia (MSC). It was a very enriching and eye-opening experience. Not knowing what to expect and what I would be doing there I went by faith with a very open heart and mind knowing I would be in God’s good hand.

The Methodist School of Cambodia

Mr. Stephen Yeo, my former teacher in Methodist Secondary School is now the Principal at MSC. He assigned me to do team teaching with Roatha in Grade 7 English class (equivalent to our Form One) and afternoon Level 1 English tuition. The English standard of this Grade 7 class varied from very good (90%) to very weak (5%). Those who had completed their primary studies with MSC had better grasp of English, those who just joined the school from the public primary school had nearly zero English. There were altogether 33 students in the class. So, the initial plan was to split the class. I would take the better group and the local Khmer English teacher, Roatha would take the weaker group. However, only after two classes, I was told that the Grade 7 English teacher, Roatha was resigning, giving only 24 hours’ notice. So, instead of having half a class, I had to take over the whole class. I asked Mr. Yeo if he had planned for this. He said no, he didn’t. God just put me at the right place at the right time. Isn’t God’s plan always higher than men’s plan?

R-L Mr. and Mrs. Yeo

So, with the challenge of having to teach such a class, I needed some strategy. I prayed to God for wisdom. I wanted to get to know each of the students in class, I didn’t want anyone to be neglected due to poor English. Finally this was what I did:

• Gave each student an English name from the Bible – Martha, Joseph, David, Joshua, Ruth, Grace, Faith, … so that I can called their names in class.
• Divided the students into groups of four with a leader helping the weaker ones.
• Gave each group an English-Khmer dictionary to check for vocabulary in every lesson.

With the students

It was the most challenging teaching task that I have ever done. Besides the language barrier, the content was a challenge as well. I remember in the 1st class, according to the teaching plan, I was supposed to teach letter writing format. Half way into the class, I realized that most of the students were lost because they DIDN’T HAVE an address and, they didn’t know what a stamp was, why we needed to put stamps on the letter, etc.

In the second week the students were supposed to write about their family, parents, siblings. Some of them raised their hands and asked me “Teacher, no father, no mother” Oh! my heart broke! I was not prepared and I was totally ignorant of my students’ background. I was not sensitive to their situation. Then I went to spend some time with the School Admin Assistant, trying to know my students’ background. I found out that more than half of the students in my class were under the sponsorship of different NGOs and religious groups. 2 Timothy 1:7 – God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power. With God’s mercy and power, I managed the 4-week class, learned many lessons from God. Throughout that period of time, I was clear that God had called me outside my comfort zone to show love and care to those students the Lord brought across my path.

After four weeks with these students, parting was a bit emotional. Many asked when I would go back to see them again. My love for them will go a long way and I do plan to go back to visit them again.

I thank God for the smooth trip. Besides teaching at MSC, I also visited the Community Outreach Service – Immanuel Children’s Village (COSI) and Emmaus Women’s Centre and churches in some provinces. I was able to see and experience what God was doing in Cambodia and get closer to God, while doing something different and meaningful. The trip obviously was an important milestone in my pilgrimage of life.

Thank God for providing a place to stay with modern facilities, good food, and his protection. Despite my nose allergy, I was in good health. I only had flu on the last day. December and January is a good season (cool and dry) to be in Cambodia. I experienced no hardship as described by many other mission teams. Instead of losing weight, I gained weight.

My trip inspired some if not many people around me. I had the opportunity to share with friends and colleagues. Some Christian colleagues from other churches even asked whether they could go or not. I become the bridge for MSC.

All of us can be an English teacher in Cambodia. What we need is a willing and obedient heart when God calls us. Just like in Hebrews 11:8 – By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go. I am very much blessed by the trip, the encounters with the students, teachers, missionaries and God. A few minutes of sharing in church or brief testimony like this cannot do justice to what I have experienced. You have to go and experience it personally.

Singing songs of worship during assembly

Lastly, some of my after thoughts:

  • In mission field, some of my capabilities, experience, skill and knowledge are of no use because God has His own way of making things work.
  • Mission is a slow and long process requiring lots of financial support and long term commitment.
  • Mission is a lonely “journey”, so missionaries need our prayer support.

Reproduced with the kind permission from Fidella Tiew. The story was first published in the Methodist Connection magazine on June 15, 2008.

Note: Stephen Yeo and his wife have finished their ministry term in Cambodia and are now back in Malaysia.

May 1, Sibu – The crowd prayed for the youths during the closing session of the 2011 Methodist Prayer Convention.

Obviously not even the best kaya toast in Miri could momentarily halt the National Director of Alpha Malaysia from sharing his passion over the coffee table this morning.

Never miss a great candid moment – I couldn’t resist to covertly snap this cute and feisty girl when covering an event at her school last week.

IMG_0272 Group pic
Group pic

IN A SIMPLE certificate award ceremony, The Reading Bus programme was concluded on December 18, 2010 at Gereja Tudan Methodist.

First launched in Miri by Grace Methodist Church three months ago, the fortnightly English reading series has produced significant results.

The Reading Bus is a mobile library programme.

It is the brainchild of Kuching-based Bethany Ministries Pastor Cheli Tamilselvam and his wife Lai Mei.

A demographic study reveals there are 20,000 residents within a 10 km radius of Tudan and Permyjaya mostly of the Iban race.

The majority of students living in this area find it difficult to cope with the increasing demands to perform well in English in school.

Many fail to make it beyond secondary education.

According to Pastor Cheli’s observation as an educator, one of the main factors for failure was the serious lack of proficiency in the English language.

The Reading Bus activity is carried out back to back with the Village Alpha.

Village Alpha provides church volunteers a basic but crucial tool for evangelizing to the unchurched.

With the seeds of Christ’s love sown, Gereja Tudan Methodist is now experiencing an increased congregational attendance in their Sunday service. In addition its Sunday School class has doubled to more than sixty children.

There were also heartwarming stories related by Mr. Richard Lin, the lead volunteer and member of Grace Methodist Church.

“We were told that the children would eagerly wait for The Reading Bus two hours ahead of scheduled time in each of our visit. We were delighted to discover a voracious reader named Romica, a 10 year old girl. We also hear that unchurched parents of the students are becoming more receptive to hearing the Good News when approached by the members from Gereja Tudan Methodist.”

Mr. Aaron Hii, the Missions Chairman for Grace Methodist Church was clearly elated with the results of this ministry.

“We encourage other churches in Miri and beyond to duplicate what we’re doing. Believe me, it is a powerful tool to do outreach. After visiting us at Tudan a few times to observe, Gan En Methodist Church and Piasau Baptist Church have undertaken to run the programmes at Lambir and Taman Tunku respectively,” he added.

IMG_0242 A student receiving his certificate
A student receiving his certificate

In the certificate award ceremony the outgoing Pastor-in-charge of Grace Methodist Church, Rev. Law Hui Seng reminded the 75 recipients to use the English language often. “The English language, like all languages will be forgotten easily if not used,” he advised. “When you are proficient in English, you will have better job options in the future.”

Rev. Law also thanked all the volunteers for their sacrifice and love.

To bless all the students of The Reading Bus, a set of encasement full of books was formally presented by Rev. Law to Pastor Chan Jing Mei of Gereja Tudan Methodist.

IMG_0234 Rev Law (left) presenting the bookcase to Ps. Chan Jing Mei (far right)
Pastor Chan (right) receiving the bookcase from Rev. Law (left)