Yes I know – it was a while back since I went to Indonesia. 5 months in fact. But I’ve finally got my act together and thought it was about time I at least shared some of my highlights of the trip.
The purpose of our trip was to go and visit 4 unreached people groups of Indonesia, the most Muslim nation in the world. Our mission was to scout out the land, make connections with local people, and research the needs of these precious people in order to report back to our community here in Perth. The dream is that one day we will be able to send both long and short term teams to all 4 of these unreached peoples in order to love and serve them, as well as share the gospel with them.
These 4 unreached people groups are the Makassarese, mostly found in the city of Makassar on the island of Sulawesi, the Orang Dalam, a nomadic people group who live away from civilisation in the Sumatran jungle, and the Madurese, originally from the island of Madura. For those observers amongst you, you will see that I have only mentioned 3 out of the 4 people groups that we visited. Unfortunately I cannot talk about the 4th group we visited here on my blog because of security reasons – but lets just say that they are an amazing people group who need Jesus in their lives! 😉
So up first was the Makassarese. We arrived at the airport during a thunder storm, which in itself was pretty spectacular, watching the lightening from a distance. The people here are incredible – so hospitable, friendly, and quick to welcome you to their city. Everywhere we went people would stop us in the streets simply to say “Welcome to Makassar!” We spent a few days here getting to know a little more about the history of the city, as well as exploring different parts of the city and opportunities for ministry. We were surprised to find that there are many churches in this city, and although they are somewhat afraid of sharing their faith with others for fear of persecution, their presence in the city is definitely known. We dropped in to one of the biggest (and oldest!) churches in the city to meet the pastor, which happens to be right next to the city government offices. We were able to pray with him, and sing a worship song in his church with him, which clearly touched him a lot.
Another absolute highlight in this first location was being able to pray over what is claimed to be the most central point of Indonesia. As a team we felt it important that we go and spend some time there to pray over the whole of the nation, but when we arrived we discovered that the point was off limit due to construction – they are redeveloping it into a big tourist attraction, big surprise! With our plan out the window, we looked around and saw that the highest point in the surrounding area was in fact a hospital, so we rather cheekily entered the hospital with the hope that we might be able to gain access to the top floor to pray over the city instead. Incredibly, not only did the hospital end up being a Christian hospital, but one of our members who is originally from Jakarta also knows the man who is Director for the whole chain of hospitals that this particular one belongs to. We only had to mention his name and we were given full access to the rooftop of this hospital and were able to have a 1 hour open time of prayer and worship for the city, and indeed the nation.
What is really remarkable about the whole of this situation is that in no other circumstances would we have been able to have such an open time of prayer and worship. Because Indonesia is a Muslim nation, most places we went we had to be pretty discreet about what we were doing, but in an openly Christian hospital we had full permission to sing and shout as loudly as we wanted! We couldn’t have planned it better ourselves! Jesus really is amazing.
Next up was our flight to Sumatra. We did a lot of flying on this trip, on a lot of planes. And we also did a lot of driving. Basically, we travelled lots. Because we are hardcore like that. Although if we are honest, it was also pretty exhausting changing location every 2-3 days and spending days at a time in between travelling from one place to the next. But the Lord is good. And He is worthy of it all. And so we did so with a smile. And sometimes a grimace. Because sometimes, transport in Indonesia can be a little bit scary. Road safety is not a top priority in countries like this. If you want proof, look no further than this – 6 of us squishing into 4 seats of a regular taxi. Granted, we chose to do this to save money on transport, but the fact that the taxi drivers didn’t bat an eyelid at it says a lot. And so this is how we travelled at times around the city.
And then there were other times when we had to travel further, and so we hired a bus to take us all. This was the case in Sumatra when we had to transport the whole team from the big city out into the country side. This journey was certainly one of the most terrifying that I’ve experienced in my life time and wont be forgotten for a long time. On the way up the journey took 5 hours and about half of that was in the pitch black. You couldn’t see the road, you couldn’t see the oncoming traffic. And when we stopped for a bathroom break our driver was clearly on edge because there had recently been a spate of attacks on people in this area. Needless to say we were happy to arrive in one piece. But the journey back a few days later was even worse! What had taken 5 hours before now only took 3 hours because of the sheer speed at which our driver was going. With no cares for our safety, or anybody else on the road who he was overtaking, he drove the whole way like a lunatic, and would speed up even more any time we thought about asking him to slow down. So instead, we all held our breathe and silently prayed that we would make it back in one piece. Which we did – thank you Jesus.
But despite our travel horror stories it was oh so worth the trip. We were visiting a pastor who has an incredible ministry with the Orang Dalam people, which started after he heard the call of God to this nomadic people group whilst studying at theology college! Not knowing anything about them (including how to find them), he literally up and moved his family to a new location and drove around the jungle for days on his motorbike trying to find any signs of these people. When he eventually did find one village, they placed a curse on him (traditionally these people are involved in very dark magic) and waited for him to die. Days later, when he still hadn’t been killed by this curse, they realised that the God he had been trying to share with them was much stronger than any magic they knew, and all gave their lives to Jesus. The whole community was completely transformed, and, seeing the change that had taken place in their neighbours lives, another village came round and asked this pastor to give them whatever he had given them! This was around 25 years ago.
We had the absolute honour of visiting both of these villages, and to meet some of the people, as well as having a time of worship in the church that they have built in the first village. One of these villages was a 2.5 hour journey in the back of a ute through the jungle, which involved going up and down bumpy roads and STEEP slopes – one of which nearly resulted in me being flung out of the vehicle had it not been for the ropes which had been attached earlier for us to cling onto. Like I said, travel in Indonesia can be a little bit scary. Here is the ute we travelled in, and some of the road that make up our journey.
And then there was the second village, which required us to travel by ute for 45 minutes before crossing a very high, swinging bridge over a river in order to hike through the jungle for 40 mins. Not your average journey into work.
But once there we had the absolute honour of hearing the people sing a worship song in their own mother tongue – a people group who, 20 years ago, didn’t have any form of music or dance in their culture. It was a beautiful moment. Afterwards, they even asked to have their photo taken with us!
After that it was on to our next location. Madura is a very Muslim part of Indonesia, which we were keenly aware of due to our hotel being right next to a mosque, and has very dry and arid land. They are most well known for their salt production, and so we spent some time praying and worshipping at their salt port where they export to many different islands. We also went around the city looking for churches – in the whole city we could only find 4. We split up into teams to go and visit each one, and one of the teams got to go to a church where they were literally the first ever missionaries to come and visit them. There are many different people in Madura, but our focus in this city was the Madurese people, and from our visits, we have heard of 10 Madurese Christians in this city. All of the other church attendees are Chinese Indonesian or Malay, so there is definitely a long way to go to reach this people group. Sadly, violence and persecution are not uncommon in this region for anybody who calls themselves Christian. We even heard the tragic story of one girl who lost her life because she converted to Christianity. We of course want to see this changed – so please keep the people of Madura in your prayers.
After a few days there we moved to our fourth and final location. Unfortunately I was unwell for most of our time there, and so was unable to go out on ministry. But my fellow team mates did a great job of hiking through many villages praying for people, and even climbed to the ridge of a volcano at night time to pray over the land! Meanwhile I was stuck in a hut with giant flying bugs and lizards who came dangerously close to dropping on my head and made the most alarming sound with their tongues – all for the cause of Christ!
And then began our journey home – which in itself took a full 20 hours – crazy when you think how close Indonesia is to Australia. But a several hour drive down a mountain, a horrendous journey across the sea crammed on a boat, another 2 hours in a bus in the middle of the night, 5 hours sleeping on an airport floor and then the flight Perth, and we eventually made it home. This was a particularly poignant moment for me, because as we were flying over the great land of Australia, admiring once more just how insanely remote Western Australia is (several hours of looking out the window and not a single sign of civilisation) I realised that this was the first time that I would be flying into Perth as the city that I call home. Every other time I have flown into that airport it has been for the start of a new adventure, but this time, this time I was returning. And it felt great.
So that’s it! A whistle stop tour of my time in Indonesia. Sorry it has taken me sooooo long to get it down on cyber paper, but I hope this gives you a better insight into what I was getting up to!
Until next time!