Monday, 3 March 2008

‘Divine’ images sighted at village

I found this article from the borneo post online and felt touched after reading the whole article...
Part 2 of Jesus Sightings in Simunjan of my previous post..

By Doreena Naeg & Margaret Apau

NESTLED between mountains and hills partially covered by descending mist, the village of Semalatong, Simujan, looks serene and even surreal. It is a place where little is expected to happen and life goes on without fuzz.

However, all these are changing … rapidly too. For the once, the sleepy village has crept out of obscurity.

Since Jan 15, it has become one of the most frequented places in the State. Over one thousand visitors during weekends, and 200 to 300 during weekdays, trek through muddy paths to pay homage at a makeshift shrine there.

The villagers have reportedly sighted a cross on the palms of a coconut tree and the images of the Holy Family — Joseph, Mary and Jesus and Noah — on the tree trunk near a house at the kampung.

A village resident Asong Lipa, who happened to make the first divine sighting, said: “It wasn’t only the cross. I saw other images as well.”

The sighting occurred at about 6.30pm on Jan 9 when the unsuspecting 55-year-old farmer was fixing the parabolic dish in front of his house. The sky was crystal-clear.

“I happened to look up and saw Jesus, and Noah in his ark filled with all kinds of animals,” he said.

According to him, the 4X4 feet image was set in a scene of glorification; a ray of light shone from heaven to earth and there was singing of praises.

The scene was just above the clump of coconut trees — some of the palms were bent as though to provide a platform for the images.

Recalled Asong: “It was like a huge television screen, very clear and detailed.”

On Jan 15, he had another sighting. This time, he was with friends when he saw a ray of light in the shape of a cross on one of the coconut trees around noon. The tree was among those on which the cross rested.

Thinking his eyes were playing tricks, he took time to study the light. It remained still even though the palms were swaying.

Asong moved around the tree to investigate further but the image of cross remained constant. He was convinced (and believes) that God is behind the sighting.

A deeply religious man, Asong was moved spiritually. He felt honoured, at the same time, humbled for being chosen as a witness to the divine revelation.

“I felt free and light after seeing the image,” he recalled.

He believes it is a sign that it is time for believers to deepen their faith and live by it.

“We should learn to forgive and forget, and instead of holding grudges, reach out to all, regardless of faith.”

Kobra Majing, who lost her son, paratrooper Raymond Duncan, to a parachuting mishap at Langkawi last year, observed the 40th day of mourning on Jan 12.

She never, in her wildest dreams, thought she would see her son again.

But stranger things have happened. On Jan 16, Kobra and her brother-in-law, Lingam, were resting outside their house at Kampung Semalatong.

Gazing at the nearby clump of coconut trees, Lingam thought he was dreaming when he saw Raymond’s image taking shape above the swaying palms.

He called excitedly to his sister-in-law. Kobra turned to look and was stunned to see her dead son’s image. She then broke down.

“I prayed there and then. I prayed to God to grant Raymond eternal rest and bring him to heaven,” she said.

It is said departed souls communicate with the living through dreams, and coincidentally, Kobra’s youngest daughter, Bara, dreamt of her elder brother soon after the 40th day of mourning.

In her dream, her brother told her he had given a cross to another uncle, Balan, and it was on a tree.

No specific tree was mentioned. After relating her dream to her uncle, Lingam, they searched all the trees in the compound and found the cross on the one where Asong first made his sighting.

Apparently, the cross of light never ceases shining since the day Asong saw it on the tree.

Kobra believes her son was trying to reach out to reassure her that all is well with him and that he is with his Maker.

“As a mother, I am still grieving but what has happened is a closure to me because I now know he is with the Lord in heaven. That’s what I have been praying for and I thank God for answering my prayers.”

Word of the sighting spread like wildfire after Father Joshua from Korea photographed the cross during a visit. He also blessed the tree.

News of the miracle drew large crowds, many bringing cameras or cell phones to record the sighting.

Two of the visitors captured Raymond’s image on film. One picture showed Raymond and the Holy Family — Mother Mary carrying Infant Jesus on one side with Joseph on the other side. The other showed Raymond and Jesus.

Both photographers showed their pictures to Kobra who identified her son. “Many people didn’t believe until they saw for themselves. I personally saw it,” she said.

Meanwhile, on Feb 19, Asong dreamt that an angel came down from heaven to bless the tree with holy water. As if to confirm the dream, the very next day, the Almighty gave the farmer a glimpse of Himself above the tree. The image stayed for a good 20 minutes, according to Asong.

Initially, there was no shrine at the tree …until Dana Nunsang, 60 plus, had a dream that prompted her to organise a ‘gotong royong’ to clear the surroundings and build one.

Dana, an aunt of the Duncans, dreamt she saw five strangers clad in white, standing around the tree with heads bowed and hands clasped. They were praying.

“I have never seen anyone like them in the village,” she recalled.

In her dream, she followed the strangers from a distance until one of them called out and invited her to join them.

She declined because they looked different. The one, who invited her, resumed praying and after a while, looked back and asked her to join them in prayer.

“I remembered feeling a tinge of sadness for not joining them in my dream.”

As soon as she woke up, Dana related her dream to some friends and they immediately rounded up a few villagers to clear the surroundings.

They set up a makeshift shrine next to the tree. Statues of Mother Mary and Jesus are placed

side by side on a table with a tray for lighted candles. Two donation tins are placed on each side of the table.

“I felt better after setting up the shrine,” said Dana who felt it was her way of atonement.

Meanwhile, Asong is always in the village to greet visitors. Apparently, the tree trunk holds more mysteries than just the cross.

“It also reveals images of Noah, Jesus and the Holy Family. Some of these images may not be visible to the naked eye but they usually are through the camera lens.

By far, the cross is the most obvious image and even so, there are those who left without seeing it.

According to Asong, this is due to lack of faith.

He advises believers to pray for clarity of sight before attempting to see the images.

He has wrapped up the lower trunk of the tree and will only show it on Easter Sunday. He refused to budge even when cajoled to reveal the truth about the trunk.

Asong obviously knows more than he is willing to let on … or maybe not.

Asked whether he was given any instruction or message for the world, the farmer kept mum, except saying it was between him and his Maker.

Semalatong is a predominantly Christian village with a minority Muslim population. There is an Anglican church, St Andrew Chapel, at the front end and a mosque at the other end.

The significance of the divine revelation (if we can call it that) and reason for its chosen location will continue to mystify us but one cannot deny the parallel similarity between the lowly manger where Christ was born and the coconut tree, and between the shepherds who were the first to be informed of Christ’s birth and Asong, a farmer, the first to realise Christ’s presence in the village.

At the end of the day, it’s up to the individual to or not to believe. The prerogative is theirs.

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