That the bottled water donations would be forthcoming was a foregone conclusion. After all, Sabahans of all faiths are known to come together to help their fellow brethren in times of need.
But how the people at St Peter Claver Church would distribute the water in Ranau – having experienced dry taps for almost five days due to the water treatment plants being closed down – was another. But Fr Nicholas and team performed wonderfully.
No one was turned away. Everyone who walked through the gates of St Peter Claver’s in Ranau did not come out empty-handed. There was no ceremony; no speeches; no questions asked actually about their race and beliefs.
Perhaps the only question asked was “How many persons in your family and which area are you from?” This was to enable the scores of volunteers to determine how much bottled water to be given out.
Buddhists, Muslims, non-believers and Christians from all denominations benefitted from the bottled-water handout at St Peter Claver’s. After all, the water came from all sources throughout Sabah, and from people of different faiths. There was one gentleman, a Muslim businessman who sent a van-load full of bottled water via Sacred Heart Cathedral, Kota Kinabalu.
Others came from nearby Telupid and Beluran; others came from further away; Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Tawau. From Keningau, Bishop Cornelius Piong led a seven-vehicle convoy with hundreds of cartons of water.
An ambulance headed for Kota Kinabalu with a patient on board, made a stop at the church so that several cartons of water donated from the hospital staff there, could be downloaded.
If on Monday (Jun 15) Fr Nicholas was wondering how to provide water to his flock, he could boast about what he would later witness John 6:1-15 on the multiplication of the bottled-water. They started out with five loaves and two fish for thousands of people – but at the end, they filled up 12 baskets full of the leftovers.
By Tuesday, when the mother and siblings of mountain guide Valerian Joannes came from Bundu Tuhan with their donation of a few cartons of water and some money, Fr Nicholas knew his troubles were all over. It was then a race against time to ensure that not only the townsfolk, got water, but those living in the far-flung villages.
Members of his parish, the youth and some from even Telupid, took leave to come to St Peter Claver’s to assist the parist to receive the donations and to make sure they went out to all those in need. These did not worry about what food to eat or what to quench their thirst. Their families – they let others take care of it.
Social media – the bane of many a parent and elder, proved that it had its usefulness too. All it took was one Whatsapp message from Fr Nick to his fellow priests, both in Sabah and elsewhere. The message was shared thousands of times.
“There is no more water in Ranau,” a desperate Fr Nicholas Stephen appealed through Whatsapp. “The shops have no more stock. People need drinking water and to do cooking.”
At St Michael’s Penampang, Church of Nativity Terawi, St Catherine’s Inanam, St Simon’s Likas and Sacred Heart Cathedral, the cry of water multiplied over Whatsapp, Facebook, short-messaging system (SMS) and whatever else. (Some churches may have been inadvertently left out but God knows).
Many truckloads, and pick-ups loaded with cartons of water left these churches on Tuesday till Saturday, destined for Ranau. There were also contributions of biscuits, instant noodles, canned food, towels, blankets, used clothes etc.
When met at St Peter Claver’s on Wednesday, Fr Nicholas had just finished a prayer meeting. He spoke about the generous donors and the desperate people who came for the water.
“God is so great, we ask little He gives more. Specially all of you my brother priests and my fellow brothers and sisters from all walks of life. God bless you all.”
What made the eyes well up of a hardened priest like Fr Nicholas was when the Joannes siblings and their mother appeared. “Keluarga mendiang Valerian sudah pun susah, bantu juga orang susah. Tuhan memberkati.” (The family of the late Valerian, although still in bereavement from their loss, came to help out those in need. God will bless them)
Valerian was one of the guides who died in the killer earthquake that struck Ranau on Jun 5. He was among the 18 killed on the mountain. Valerian, due to get married in September, was from Bundu Tuhan.
At Sacred Heart, we would like to thank the transporters – all non-Christians who unreservedly provided for a forty-footer trailer and a 10-tonner to help us send the water to Ranau. There were also others who used their pick-ups to make a delivery.
Last but not least, to all those who came forward to help the Ranau people with your contributions, thank you very much and God bless. Please take note that the water was distributed to everyone in need, and not just only the Catholics there. – SHC SOCCOM (CF)