The Christian faith spread to Saratok area initially through the effort of one man – Buda ak Orang Kaya Pemancha Dana.
Buda married Blangkat of Sebetan in 1861, and moved from his home in Padeh to join his wife. It was said that earlier in 1858, Buda was in Kuching, and had met Koch. Buda’s conversion, however, came through his visit to Banting and he was baptised in 1863. He came back to Banting again with his family in 1865 and was subsequently made a catechist. In 1867, Buda was back in Banting again and this time he brought his brother-in-law Belabut, who was also made a catechist. Buda returned to Sebetan after evangelising in Saribas.
Among the early converts in Sebetan were Sadai, Sang and Linggi and they were baptised in Banting with Buda in 1863. Chambers visited Sebetan in 1867 and found many converts who had been won and instructed by Buda and baptised 180 of them. In 1870, Perham moved to Sebetan and ministered to about 200 Christians there. Buda was sent to open a mission centre at Temudok in the Krian. He continued his work there until 1873 when he moved to Sedi, Nyabor. When Perham visited Sedi a year later, he baptised 14 converts. Esau, one of the slave boys rescued by McDougall in 1862 during an engagement with pirates off the coast of Bintulu, and who had accompanied Perham from Banting, was then appointed a catechist at Sebetan. In 1875, Buda resigned, and moved back to Temudok a year later. He died shortly thereafter of cancer.
In Sebatan, Perham built a church which was dedicated to St Augustine, and consecrated it on 28 July 1872. A school was also opened and earned the praise of the Government in 1876. That year Perham was recalled to Banting, and the Saratok mission was without a priest until Bywater came in 1885. Meanwhile Tor, was the catechist at Sebetan and Ambang at Temudok. Bywater then decided to move the mission centre to Temudok from Sebetan. In 1888, E.H. Gomes replaced Bywater in Krian. A year later Tujoh was made catechist for Krian. Gomes stayed in Temudok until 1895, when he had to go to England for further studies.
Saratok was left without a priest (except for a few years in 1905-1907 when Nichols was there) until 1921. This caused bitterness and lapses among the Christians there. Visits continued to be made from Banting and Sabu. Meanwhile, Unak was appointed catechist and he faithfully kept the Church going at Temudok. In 1921, Matius Senang moved to Temudok as a catechist. By then it was thought that the mission centre should moved down to Saratok town.
The mission finally moved downstream, buildings and all, in 1926. The new mission centre was dedicated to St. Peter. The school at Saratok was run by Nanang and Unak. Senang moved back to Saratok after his training and ordination at Betong. In 1933, the congregation at Saratok was worshiping at the old dispensary. In 1939, a new site had been found at Roban and the mission there was dedicated to St. Paul. Andrew Mai looked after the school at Roban.
Angking came to Saratok in 1937, to replace aging Senang who moved to Betong. Angking stayed in Saratok until 1954, except for the two years (1943-1945) during the War, that he spent at his home in Seruai. Andrew Mai looked after the school at Roban during the War. In 1946, Angking returned to Saratok and stayed there until 1954 when he was transferred to Lundu. Hope Hugh took his place but retired a year later. Meanwhile, Wellington also arrived and took charge of Saratok. Arnold puntang worked briefly in Saratok after his ordination in 1956 prior to his posting to Sabah.
Basil Temenggong replaced Wellington in 1956. During this time work in Roban was expanded to Plasu where a school and a church were built in 1958 dedicated to St. Michael. Ambrose Dunggat moved to Saratok from Debak in 1959. Later, Chambers Saden took over from Dungga. After Chambers came Alfed Chabu, and then McDonald Unggin. Dunggat took over from Unggin, and the present incumbent, Chimbie Bunsi, took over from Dunggat.
One of the more romantic stories of the early conversions of Iban, came from Saratok. It started through a dream of one man, Ellie ak Sabang, whom the early missionaries called “the Dreamer”. Ellie dreamt that he was climbing a very tall ladder, and on reaching the top, he caught a glimpse of a place of exotic beauty. He was told by a ‘man’ dressed in white that he was looking at ‘heaven’. When he looked down, he saw a place of terrible suffering.
He related the dream to his cousins and relatives at his longhouse, and in unison they decided to embrace the Christian faith. As a result the whole longhouse of Kemidan, Awik, Saratok embraced the Christian faith. This must have happened in about 1900’s. The “Dreamer” would have been proud to know that one of this great grand nephews, Aeries Sumping, is now a priest proclaiming the Faith he once embraced.
Buda ak O.K.P. Dana from Saribas had met the Rev. Koch in Kuching in 1856, and received some religious instruction. After his marriage he moved to Sebatan. Later he went to Banting, for cock-fighting so it is said (or after a quarrel with his wife!). He climbed up the hill and visited the school, he liked what he saw, he stayed. Buda learned to read and write in record time. He went home, but soon brought his wife and family to Banting. He was baptized on Christmas Eve 1863, and from then on was an itinerant messenger of the Gospel up and down his home rivers Krian and Saribas. The new converts asked for a priest to be sent to their area. In 1867, Chambers baptized 180 new converts who had received their first teaching from Buda. Buda concentrated his work as catechist at Sebetan, where he built a church (St. Augustine). In 1872, Perham found over 200 faithful Christians there. Buda moved further north to Sedi in Nyabor, where he won many more converts.