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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Inside Indonesia

By Ken Horn
Mar. 2, 2014

Indonesia is a massive nation of islands — more than 17,000 of them — lying between the Indian and Pacific Oceans in Southeast Asia. Combined, the land area of these islands is nearly three times the size of Texas.

With 250 million people, Indonesia ranks as the world’s fourth most populated nation. More than 85 percent of this number is Muslim, making Indonesia the largest Muslim nation on earth.

I have come here to see firsthand how God is using missionaries and national believers to impact unreached peoples and areas for the gospel. My brief trip will include several locations on four islands.

Java — The Journey Begins

My starting point is Surabaya, Java’s second-largest city. Missionary Randy Martin meets me at the airport. He and his wife, Colleen, came to Indonesia in 1992 and have been involved in Bible school ministry for much of that time. He currently teaches at SATI, the Advanced School of Theology in Malang, a city about 60 miles away. I am glad he is accompanying me on this island journey. He is fluent in Bahasa Indonesia, the national language, and has a friendly, easy-going style to which people readily relate.

Our first stop is River of Life Church led by Sunjaya Wijaya. This thriving church has three services and two Sunday School sessions each week, along with a monthly service in Mandarin to reach the city’s Chinese population.

Of Chinese heritage, Sunjaya was raised to follow Confucianism and Taoism. He attended Christian schools as a child but had no relationship with Christ.

Struck by a serious physical illness as a young man, he remembered and claimed the words of Mark 11:24: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (NIV). He was healed, and at age 23 he committed his life to Christ.

Sunjaya’s strong-willed mother reacted negatively to her son’s new way of life. Disgusted, she wanted nothing to do with Christianity. But after Jesus appeared to her in a vision, she also committed her life to Him and was baptized. One month later, she passed away.

Called to be a pastor, Sunjaya went to SATI. He graduated in 1996, and Jeff Hartensveld, former missionary to Indonesia and current director of AGWM Mobilization, asked him to consider pioneering a church. As a result, River of Life Church started in Sunjaya’s small living room. With a ministry of healing and deliverance, the church outgrew its space in only six months and purchased a larger facility.

From its beginning, believers at River of Life have made missions a priority, even while struggling to fund their own needs. And every time the church gives to a need elsewhere, Sunjaya says, miracles happen.

Among the ministries at River of Life is a unique outreach to children with autism led by Sunjaya’s wife, Erni. This thriving ministry began with one autistic child in Sunday School. The parents weren’t Christians, but their experience with Christian love in action eventually led them to receive Christ. Erni and other church members now minister to 32 children, 80 percent of whom are ethnic Chinese.

Sunjaya also extends the reach of the church by conducting outreaches across eastern Indonesia. He trains church planters, mentors and equips them, sends them out, and maintains close contact with them.

These new church plants can be challenging endeavors. One church planter opened a work in a dangerous area. Angry locals carrying kerosene and torches surrounded the church and parsonage, threatening to burn the buildings and the people inside. Just as they were about to ignite a blaze, the Lord intervened. For no apparent reason, the howling mob became calm and quickly dispersed. There was no human explanation for this quantum leap in behavior.

Similar stories abound. As brave men and women step out in obedience, God becomes their protector and provider.

In one difficult area, churches were repeatedly closed, leaving no lasting influence. Determined, the church planters changed their approach and started cell groups in homes. They found that non-Christians who refused to attend a church would agree to come to a house. Since then several new believers have been baptized.

The overall goal of the Indonesia AG is to open 1,000 new churches and raise up 10,000 leaders. Sunjaya and River of Life are doing their part, having opened eight new congregations.

A few months after helping Sunjaya plant River ?of Life, Jeff Hartensveld planted an English-speaking church in Surabaya. Beginning with three people, the church, known as International Christian Assembly, has since grown to 1,200 people meeting at two locations. Missionaries John and Korie Taylor now lead the church, which has planted 29 other congregations.

Breaking New Ground

From Surabaya, Randy and I travel about 60 miles south to the city of Batu, where missionary Jamie Kemp is speaking to a large group of teenagers. Jamie and his wife, Tasha, came to Indonesia in 2009 to focus on breaking new ground in youth ministry. Their first endeavor was pioneering a Chi Alpha ministry in Yogyakarta, a college town in south-central Java.

Beginning from scratch, Jamie started regularly prayer-walking on one of the area’s 70 college campuses. After six weeks, he met José, a Christian who had been praying for someone to help him reach his campus. José had three friends with the same burden, so the five of them began meeting regularly.

On October 30, 2010, a volcano that looms above Yogyakarta erupted, covering the entire area with ash. Soon 200,000 refugees crowded into the city, quickly draining all available resources. Most foreigners evacuated during the four months of want, but Jamie and Tasha stayed to minister to those in need.

Eventually, the Kemps rented a back room of a doughnut shop and advertised an English Bible study. Thirty people came the first week, and the number soon grew to 60.

Renting a larger facility, the Kemps began Friday Night Live, an English-language worship service. Within the first few months, about 100 students attended.

To reach non-Christians, the Kemps started an English Hour, using the Bible to teach Indonesians English. The Chi Alpha outreach they established now includes cell groups where they do evangelism, small groups for discipleship, and large groups for worship.

Bali — Indonesia’s Exception

Bali is a fascinating stop on our itinerary. The majority of the population is Hindu, a religion almost unknown on most of the other islands.

Our taxi driver is quite anxious to explain his religion to us. He tells us that each village has three temples devoted to its three major gods: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Life is filled with rituals and ceremonies.

Two sculpted gods guard most buildings on Bali, one on either side of the entry. Idols are seemingly everywhere, and walkways are cluttered with sacrifices of food and flowers. In this atmosphere of spiritual darkness, people live in fear of evil spirits.

Before his missions appointment in 2001, Doug Hollis visited Bali, where he hired a Hindu tour guide known as “Dika.” During the tour, Doug took a break to attend church, and Dika slipped in, unknown to Doug.

A year passed, and Dika became seriously ill. When the doctors told him he was dying and there was nothing they could do, he turned to the local witch doctor. When his situation did not improve, he remembered something he had heard in church about Jesus healing people. He returned to the church and was miraculously healed.

It took time, but Dika eventually accepted Christ and asked Doug to baptize him. Initially, Dika’s family disowned him, but a year later his parents also accepted Christ as Savior. The following year, several family members and friends did the same.

Doug arranged for Dika to go to SATI. While in school, Dika sensed God speaking to him about reaching the Balinese people in their own cultural context. Returning to Bali, he did a variety of ministries, all the while seeking God’s direction about which cultural elements to keep and which to shun.

In January 2012, Dika opened a church. He called it Bait Uhan (House of Prayer) to make the gathering place more inviting to Hindus. He began simply by inviting his neighbors to come for prayer for healing. Some of them responded and were healed.

Since the church opened, 48 people have been baptized. About 25 people currently meet weekly in Bait Uhan, and 32 others gather in a second location. Dika’s vision is to plant four more churches.

Sumba — Island of Extremes

Dirt turns to dust as we rumble down the gravel roads of Sumba, an island east of Bali. As we pass over a river, I am told, “People don’t swim there because of the crocodiles.”

Sumba is a sparsely populated and primitive chunk of land where black magic is commonplace. Some people practice a strange custom of keeping dead bodies in their home for up to 15 years before burial as part of their worship of the dead.

Poverty is rife, and few village children go to school beyond the elementary grades. People believe their fate is to be poor. They have no hope.

Doug Hollis’ goal is to change that perception, and he has found that teaching children is an ideal way to begin. The process is straightforward: Teaching junior high or high school children leads to starting a Sunday School. Adults begin to come, and a church is planted.


Hollis’ work in Waingapu, Sumba’s only city of any size, garnered support, and a youth discipleship home, called House of Hope, was built. As funds became available, other buildings and initiatives were added to augment the ministry, including a pig farm, taxi service, and store.

Most residents of the home come at age 11 or 12 and stay through high school. During this time they are taught life skills and spiritual values. Every year about 200 youth apply to the home, but usually there is room for only about five.

Don was one of the first residents at the home. The 17-year-old was working in a rice field with no prospects for the future. Hollis led him to the Lord, took him in, and watched as God transformed his life. Today Don leads the ministry when Hollis is away.

“I love the kids,” Don says, “because I was just like them.”

Since so many youth are turned away because of limited space, additional ministries have been created to reach them. Don leads a soccer ministry that is attended by about 150 young people as well as adults.

House of Hope also gives girls the opportunity to understand their significance and self-worth in God’s sight. Early on, Hollis was stunned when he discovered that one girl at the school had 60 brothers and sisters, and her father had 17 wives. Girls on Sumba are viewed as commodities to be sold or traded for buffaloes or cows. One of Hollis’ goals is to save them from that kind of life.

After seeing the impact of a Christian influence on his daughter, one father told Hollis, “She has changed. She has her freedom to choose.”


Martini Ello was a young, single teacher when she came to the remote village of Kadumbul. The people of the village follow an animistic folk religion called Marapu.

Martini set out to bond with the community by helping her neighbors work their fields. As she worked, she talked about her Lord. Eventually she began having services on Sunday for children, and in 2005 a church was planted.

Anselmus Mailymoy came to Sumba in 2000 to follow God’s call to minister among animists. He and Martini married in 2007, and together they serve a congregation of some 60 people.

From its first meeting place under a tree, the Kadumbul church has moved to a building that accommodates services, a preschool, and a living area for the Mailymoy family.


It is dusk when we arrive in Milipinga. A central generator chugs away, but residents of the village use electricity only when necessary.

Dorce, a single woman from an island east of Sumba, graduated from Bible school in 2004 and pioneered the Milipinga church five years ago. Attendance is sporadic, numbering 20 to 30.

Dorce has endured difficulties and trials, and she admits she has been tempted to return home. But God has given her a burden for this village, and she is intent on staying.

This kind of resolve can be found in many remote places of ministry throughout Indonesia’s islands.

Ambon — A Place of Preparation

Getting from Sumba to Ambon, one of the islands in the Maluku chain in eastern Indonesia, requires two flights of several hours each. The Malukus, sometimes called the Spice Islands, are home to many unreached people groups. Maluku School of Theology in Ambon is a center for ?training church planters to reach them.

Missionary Donna Brown, who has served in Indonesia since 1990, is the school’s academic dean, though she sees herself primarily as a mentor and facilitator to empower national leadership. All other leadership positions at the school are held by Indonesians.

The school’s four-year program prepares students for unique and challenging ministries that often include remote villages, difficult physical circumstances, and few amenities. Dialects and languages often differ from village to village, and many of them have no written form.

Buru is difficult to reach, both physically and spiritually. Its people are largely animistic and illiterate. Three years ago a group of Bible school graduates boated to the island and spent time in jungle ministry. Through their efforts, six churches were planted on Buru. Recently, young people from Buru Island came to Maluku School of Theology to begin their studies.

HealthCare Ministries is another major component in the overall strategy of ministry among unreached peoples. The international medical outreach of AGWM, HCM partners with missionaries to bring teams of volunteer health care providers to hold short-term medical, dental and optical clinics; address physical issues; and connect people to a community of faith. Kathy Baxter, a registered nurse, is currently in Ambon as a missionary associate and is working to bring quality health care to remote villages where graduates are pastoring.

Living conditions in villages across the Malukus are often primitive. People die needlessly of preventable maladies, such as malaria, worms and dysentery. HCM provides treatment as well as instruction in proper health and hygiene.

After introducing principles of health care in one remote area, the death rate among children dropped significantly. About 500 people now attend the church that was planted there.

Donna says that while physically reaching these villages is difficult, reaching them spiritually is much easier. People are usually glad to have contact with foreigners.

“They are just waiting!” she says. “You have an open door when you come here. As a young missionary, I was overwhelmed with the opportunities.”

According to Donna, a “modern-day Pentecost” is needed to provide workers for the harvest fields. The few workers currently available cannot respond to all the opportunities.

“A lot of places are open to us,” says Donna, “but we don’t have the pastors to send.”

The islands’ unreached peoples present a major challenge to the Indonesia AG. As a result, the Asia Pacific region of AGWM has made Indonesia a special focus for prayer, both for workers and for entry points among 13 specific unreached people groups.

Indonesia is primed for the greatest move of God it has ever seen. Its islands and people may be difficult to reach, but wide-open opportunities await those who take up the challenge.

KEN HORN is editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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