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How The Moken Sea Gypsies Got Their Book

Book review by Wong Wei Jin

A simple and light read but with stories of profound acts of faith that will challenge us to live better for the Lord. It documents the journey of an individual who has set out in her heart to follow closely after the Lord and how He used her greatly. Aunty Say Bay falls in love with a people group whom she calls ‘her precious and rare black pearls of the Andaman Sea’ and sets out in translating the Word of God to their language so they can eventually get their Book.

To further interest you, there are stories of sea-pirates which give a glimpse of what a South East Asian version of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ could look like.

Who are the Moken Sea Gypsies? They number about 2,000 – 3000. Obviously a minority people group but still very much a part of God’s World. It humbles me to realise in John 3:16 that when God loves the world; that world does not revolve around what I am familiar with but He also has plans for this seemingly small group of people.

The Sea Gypsies are shrouded with mystery. The local people call them the Salone people, but the Sea Gypsies call themselves Moken. They belong to no particular land but made their homes on boats. Eight months in a year, they would be travelling in a flotilla of about 5 - 6 boats. It is said that the Moken would rather live on their boats than on land because it would make it easier for them to escape if they were threatened in any way. (Page 66 from the book)

An excerpt from the book, “I cried and cried when we finally arrived. I had no relative, no friend; I was a stranger in that 105-square-mile island. I did not speak the language; I did not understand their culture. I felt helpless and abandoned… Then the Lord strengthened my heart.”

You will read about stories of Aunty Say Bay describing her inadequacies but an adequate and sufficient God! Her simple acts of obedience in her journey culminating with her reaching this specific group of people would inspire you to not give up on your own journey of faith. It speaks clearly and loudly, especially in this age where we are constantly bombarded with news from various sources which can so easily distracts us. The book is filled with stories about her facing various challenges and trials and yet, she responds in the simplest way of faithfulness and obedience. Again, a reminder to us that our Sovereign God is looking for Faithful, Available and Teachable (FAT) people and always looks after His children, though sometimes not in the way we imagined it to be.

As you read, you may identify with some of the examples of South East Asian way of doing things and laugh to yourself as you discover how Aunty Say Bay navigates through to the differences and focus on the similarities.

A simple read which provides profound challenges and reminder about how our God is real and is indeed looking for willing hearts to just say, ‘Lord, use me, I am available and ready to serve.’ A gentle reminder for us also that we do not actually have to travel very far to meet people who have yet to hear the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Psalm 48:14 For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.

We may lose our world, but we cannot lose our confidence in Him. We may sometimes be surrounded with stories of broken promises, dreams that do not come true and disappointment, but like Aunty Say Bay, we cannot give up on God. People may ask then ‘What is the point?’. Our devotion to God does not always equate to fulfilled desires. The point is that there is a God that loves us and invites to a lifetime journey of faith following after Him. It may appear that sometimes God may have abandon us, but in truth, God is always doing something.

Like what David says, in Psalm 39:7 And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.

In challenging environments, stories like Aunty Say Bay's story reminds us to not give up and to press on. We can trust in a loving and all sufficient God and say, "Not my will, but Yours be done."

The book can be purchased via Wycliffe Malaysia.

Wong Wei Jin

Wong Wei Jin is a pharmacist who is passionate about what God is doing amongst the nations. He is particularly excited about the work of Wycliffe in Malaysia and beyond, and the opportunities to see God further glorified through it. Join him in further exploring where and how you can be part of this big and exciting movement.