PASTOR Rachel Kedung Bulan wants to live her life for God and to serve His people, believing that it is His great love that has forgiven her and saved her from her own insecurities, shame and guilt.
Growing up in a loving family, she started messing up her life with drugs when she was 18.
For her, growing up as a pastor’s daughter trying to follow the rules as close as possible and doing church did not keep her out of the dangerous substance.
She had a close encounter with God during her most hopeless moments at a church convention where she unintentionally attended after living a drug-fuelled life.
She was touched by God’s grace and decided to replace her broken life with His perfect love.
Joy in new-found faith
Healed from her addiction, Rachel found infinite joy in her new-found faith and at 28, she made a commitment to become a pastor.
An ‘almost forgotten dream’ was realised on Feb 25, 2023, with the official opening of the Kenosis Women Centre in Miri, the first Christian drug treatment facility for women in Sarawak and Sabah, and the second of its kind in Malaysia.
“The women rehab centre has been a long time coming,” says Rachel, who is also the chairperson of the Board of Kenosis Women Centre.
She recalled having envisioned herself helping people with drug abuse recover from their addiction after watching a movie featuring the plight of drug addicts.
“In the movie, one of the guys treated at a rehab centre was doing well until he finally left the centre and found to be taking drugs again. The part where he confided that he did not want to do it, but had no choice, really moved me because I knew how it was like to be in his position.
“Suddenly, I felt called right there to reach out to people involved in drug abuse.”
Just three years before that, Rachel dreamed of a safe haven where girls could come to receive healing and breakthrough. It was a dream conceived during the lowest point of her life when she was a drug addict struggling to set herself free from the addiction.
Rachel is open about her past missteps.
It was a story of excruciating pain, depression and fear, but also a story of triumph, of powerful testimony.
As she was watching the heart-breaking movie, she knew right then that one day she was going to help others beat drug addiction.
Becoming a pastor
She was 25 at the time and had graduated with a Degree in Mass Communications from Curtin University, served as a church youth leader, and three years on, she became a pastor at the Cornerstone Community Church Borneo in Miri and Kuching.
Currently Rachel, now 36, is the co-lead pastor of the church. She also holds a diploma in the School of Ministry from the Bible College of Wales to her credit.
The women rehab centre is, in her words, ‘an old dream that became reality – a dream that almost died a natural death with the passage of time’.
“It was a dream which had been buried under layers of other priorities.”
Since she was healed from drug addiction, Rachel had been loaded with commitments, projects and activities. Before realising it, her dream of a rehab centre for drug addicts was slowly fading away.
When the idea of a women rehab centre was mooted by the chairman of the Sarawak Kenosis Men Centre in January 2022, she was looking at it as an ambitious project that would necessitate extraordinary efforts and capabilities.
Her immediate response was: “Maybe one day down the road, but not too soon. We will pray that as the Lord leads, He will provide us the ‘people champions’ (human resources) and the ‘money champions’ (financial resources) to start the project.
“How God hears our conversations!
“In just a span of one month, I was introduced to two students from a theological college in Miri who had been volunteering at the Miri Men Kenosis Centre, and now they’re serving at our new centre.
“And then we received a significant amount of money raised by Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Kuala Lumpur for the proposed centre.”
Crusade to help drug addicts
“Within the same period, someone very dear to me, a young lady, came and confessed that she needed real help to get out of addiction. It was amazing that all these happened almost at the same time that we had no reason to delay any longer.
“Hence, the women’s centre, which is run by Cornerstone Community Church in collaboration with Borneo Evangelical Mission (BEM) Sarawak and SIB Kuala Lumpur.”
In her welcoming speech during the official opening of the centre, Rachel pointed out: “Today, we’re not only celebrating the launch of the centre, but also the launch of a more fulfilling life for the many girls who get the chance for a new beginning.”
Rachel was 22 when she hit rock bottom as a result of drug abuse. Her drug dealer had just been caught with two kilogrammes of marijuana by the police, and she was told that the authority had been asking him for all the names of his contacts – she was one of them.
Fear and uncertainty gripped her. She found herself with no choice but to cut herself from her friends who were with her on drugs. She went into depression for losing her friends and went through it alone.
Past suicidal attempt
Rachel was standing on the balcony of an apartment having consumed much alcohol while still on drugs, when suicidal thoughts crept in. She heard the ‘voice of evil’ bidding her to take her life.
Struggling with herself, she walked into the room where she fell asleep.
She was still battling with herself when she had to pick her father at his office, which was situated at the church building. As she waited for him, a youth church leader greeted her.
“I didn’t want to talk to him actually, as I was not into church things.
“He said: ‘You look like the whole world is on your shoulder’.
“I must have looked miserable. Then, he told me that there was going to be a church conference in Penang soon and if I were interested, he would find a sponsor for me.
“I was not big into church conferences, but I wanted to get out of Miri and so, I said yes.”
The Penang trip was to be the turning point of her life. In the meeting, she found that everything that the preacher preached was speaking to her.
“I cried so much until I felt there was nothing left inside me.
“I said: ‘Lord, I’m sorry that I’m giving you back my life when it’s broken… but if you want to do something with my life, I give it all to you’.
“I was having problem with my speech at the time for taking too much crystal meth. When I got up the floor, I felt so light for the first time in so long.
“I said: ‘Lord, I’m ready to live for you’.”
Upon returning to Miri, Rachel started to do well in her studies and serve the church and picked up again her projects, joined filming competitions as she majored in film and television – and no more drugs.
Putting her faith in God, she was able to distract herself from the substance by getting busy and being productive.
Looking back at her past mistakes, she is grateful that she was rescued in the nick of time.
“Being an extrovert and a relational person, I craved for social interaction and adventure.
“I never felt unloved by my parents; I always felt loved, but there was a lot of empty space, long hours as they had meetings and other activities to attend to.
“As a teenager, I began to find more fun and excitement with new-found friends and got into mischiefs.
“I didn’t know that I could find fulfilment in a relationship with God. All the while, I had been playing church.
“It was not until I knew God personally that I felt a heavy burden fall off my shoulder. His perfect love casts out all fear in me.
“I am far from perfect, but I want to live right before God.”
Rachel comes across as a gifted preacher zealous for God. She had been a pastor for five years when one day, as she was preaching, she saw a familiar face walking into the hall.
The man was her ex-drug dealer. Her thought was ‘what’s this guy doing here’.
“After I finished preaching, I went up to him and said: Bro, what are you doing here?
‘What happened to you… how do you become like this?’ was his response!”
Apparently, he just knew from his ex-classmate that Rachel had been out of drugs and pastoring at the Cornerstone Church. The man had been in jail for three years, moved to Perth, came back, got married and divorced.
Still on drugs, his life was in a shamble and needed help.
Ex-drug addicts turn to God
The former drug dealer soon came back to her bringing five other drug addicts with him, all men, to be ministered to by her as they all sought to end their addiction and lead a purposeful life.
What she had imagined many years earlier after watching the movie that had inspired her to help people come out of drug addiction, became a reality.
“They all got out of drugs and until today, they have been bringing more friends to the group.”
Rachel had been sitting on the board of the Kenosis Men Centre for two years before the new women centre was established. By then, she had gathered ample experience and knowledge to equip her for the service.
Indeed, God has fulfilled the desire of her heart to reach out to those who are broken and in dire need of help to put their lives back.
For Rachel, there is no human despair that is too deep to be salvaged, no loneliness too remote to be reached with love and no heart that is too broken to be healed.
Her restored faith in God was what set her free from her troubled past and made her into a new and improved person.