Dispatches: Indonesia 2019

Gary Fallesen

Dispatches: Indonesia 2019

Mission: Indonesia 2019, Part 1

By Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ

Friday, May 3

Team C4C: Gary, Budi and Jordan in Central Sulawesi.

It was a 35-hour Friday as Jordan and I traveled backward across 11 time zones from Jakarta, Indonesia to Climbing For Christ’s home base in Rochester, NY, USA. We left Indonesia praying the theme verse for this trip over the numerous tribes of this vast, mostly Muslim country: “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalm 96:3). Have Your way, LORD.

Thursday, May 2

Mosques dot the landscape (three in this frame from left to right) in Jakarta, the second-largest urban area in the world.

Last full day in Indonesia for this time and while many in this country are preparing for the start of Ramadan on Monday, we also were making ready. Jordan and I were working on our Project Prayer: Ramadan 2019 booklet. It’s just that: a booklet! Jordan compiled 30 days of prayer articles from our past eight years of praying for the Muslim world. We’ve updated these valuable stories and compiled them in a 62-page PDF posted on our site. We’ll be sending out an E-Update to those on our email distribution list, encouraging hundreds of members and supporters to join us in this year’s prayer initiative.

Ramadan, one of the most important annual events in a Muslim’s life, is from May 6 to June 5.

We had dinner with Budi, who had to return to work at his church today, and afterward met with Max Tilukay, our original C4C Indonesia member. Max first invited me to this country in 2007. We discussed reinvigorating JEJAK, once active but in recent years complacent. We are praying for workers to emerge from JEJAK to reach the unreached and glorify God in this land.

Wednesday, May 1

“Effective prayer is prayer that attains what it seeks. It is prayer that moves God, effecting its end.”Charles Finney

We hoped to meet a Muslim we befriended on our survey of South Sulawesi in 2018, but he was not available. Instead, we three (Budi, Jordan and I) met to pray, discuss, and plan future Climbing For Christ work.

To prepare, we spent some time in study individually and then came together collectively. I talked about effective prayer producing supernatural results and then I led us in prayer. Jordan spoke about God reminding him that Jesus came to serve and that is why we come – to serve others.

Both Jordan and I had a Holy Spirit Richter scale moment Tuesday night at dinner with our brother who leads ministry on South Sulawesi. He told us about an unreached people group living in a mountainous area in West Sulawesi that his team could not reach, and maybe we could try to reach them. Jordan and I heard God opening a door.

We discussed this – and more – with Budi and made plans for the months ahead. Budi will survey this UPG and we will bring a team in April 2020 (tentatively) for our next Indonesia expedition. We will continue to bathe this in effective prayer.

Late this evening, the three of us flew back to Jakarta, where Jordan and I will be spending one more day before returning to the States on Friday. We called home to my daughter, Hayley Hope, who is celebrating her 25th birthday, and sang Happy Birthday to You.

Tuesday, April 30


Headline on front page of Indonesia’s national daily newspaper‎: ‘The flood is still threatening’


We left the rain of Central Sulawesi, where flooding ‎caused many to flee an area two hours from Palu, to go to the heat of South Sulawesi, where temperatures felt above 100 degrees F when we landed in Makassar. Before flying out, Budi helped coordinate flood relief efforts being carried out by his Jakarta-based church. We met one couple at the airport to discuss the aid needed.


No matter the situation, be it sharing the Gospel or helping during a disaster, our meetings always seem to end with nationals wanting to be photographed with the American visitors.‎ Of course, with long-standing  warnings against Americans traveling to Central Sulawesi, it is unusual to see white faces like ours.


We said our goodbyes to “Smiley,” our Palu-based teammate, who served as our driver. Smiley drove ambulances during the earthquake and ‎tsunami relief work. He drives every vehicle as if it’s an ambulance. We were thankful we didn’t need one ourselves.


I began the day reading from 1 Kings in my daily Bible study. A verse (1 Kings 8:12) grabbed my attention. Solomon says, “The LORD said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.” ‎Spending time in the darkness on Sulawesi (or anywhere in Indonesia) it is comforting to think that God is here, dwelling, and I believe waiting for people to come to Him. As I write this one of the five daily calls to prayer is being amplified from mosques too numerous to count all around Makassar. Lies broadcast near and far. But the Truth of Jesus is also here.


Our cab driver from the Makassar airport was a believer from a village we just visited in Central Sulawesi. Jordan sat on the plane next to an Indonesian brother working for Wycliffe Bible Translators. God’s Spirit lives in them even as He dwells in and over the darkness we have entered.


We ate dinner with a friend we met here last year who directs ministry in South and Central Sulawesi. We updated each other on the work that is happening and discussed possible open doors.‎ As our brother said: “It is so hard now to find workers‎.” We are praying into all of this.‎ God’s will be done in the thick darkness.

Monday, April 29

The church leader, left, with three members of a family living in a stilt house in the forest.

Elvis has left the building.

We’d been told that the worker, a brother named Elvis, who did some pioneer work around Sojol mountain, had been transferred from the area by his denomination. We had been told there was a void. This is why you do surveys and is the stuff of fruitful practices. We interviewed people in Palu and as we wound our way up and down the east and west coasts of Central Sulawesi, piecing together the story of an unreached people.

Then today we put on our walking shoes and entered the humid jungle that grows on the slopes of Central Sulawesi’s mountains. We hiked with one of the pastors we met Saturday. Along the trail, God provided a divine appointment: we met a brother who helps lead the church Elvis started. We sat with him and discussed the people here.

The rugged landscape where the Lauje people live.‎ They cut rattan trees and swim them down the mountain stream.

The Dampelas, who we came to engage, no longer live in the mountains. They are found along the west coast. In fact, we met one family at dinner Sunday night not far from the beach. The Lauje people were living in the stilt houses in the forest around us. And these people are still being served by the church. Three workers have been here for months, leading 25 families in worship. They have built a church building (on stilts, of course).

We met later with two of the workers – a young pastor and a pastor-in-training, both from northern Sumatra. Our plan, discussed and prayed over before our hike, to employ a nearby pastor to serve the people here was found to be unnecessary. God was already at work. He’d filled the void.

The people we encountered all along the trail were among the friendliest we have found in our travels. It seemed to be an idyllic community. Even the neighboring Muslims get along with the believers here. But the young pastor serving them spoke of their physical poverty. They harvest rattan wood, cloves and cacao (chocolate)‎. They earn only 10 cents U.S. for every kilogram of wood. There is no electricity or modern conveniences. But their spiritual poverty has been and is being helped.

‎We returned to Palu this evening in vicious rains. There is flooding south of the city. Budi says this is the sort of “extreme weather” that has occurred all of April – the month after the normal rainy season ends.

Sunday, April 28

A rice farmer tends to his crops while we lift our eyes to Sojol mountain (behind) and the harvest that awaits in the jungles around Central Sulawesi’s highest peak.

‎And on the seventh day, we rested.

This is Day 7 of the trip, although like most expeditions it feels as if we have been GO-ing longer. It’s also the Sabbath. As the LORD would have it, we did not have work today. So the weary travelers chose to rest.

Paradise lost.

We had some good times of prayer, focused particularly around this Dampelas area. To get a better understanding of Indonesia, I share these “challenges for prayer” from the global prayer guide Operation World:

A spiritual conflict rages for Indonesia. Ancient and strong occult powers seek to oppose the influence of the Gospel, while modern Muslim stratagems seek t‎o eliminate Christianity and remove the presence of the Good News. Pray specifically for the binding of these powers and for continued growth of the Church in the midst of intense opposition and growing persecution.”

As you worship our mighty-to-save God today, please pray for our encounters (both physical and spiritual) on Monday when we trek to remote people in an area that has both Muslims and animists. May we be strengthened and His name glorified. Father, we ask, bind evil and loose those who have heard or hear the Good News of Jesus.

Saturday, April 27

The jungle of Central Sulawesi.

We moved from the east coast to the west coast of Central Sulawesi, leaving the Gulf of ‎Tomini for the jungle Highlands around Sojol mountain. Along the way we were connected with three pastors working in the Dampelas area. The tribes here are considered unreached, some are even unengaged. Yet there are local churches.


This begs the question: what is the church doing?!


Jesus was pretty clear on this. He told His body of believers to GO and make disciples, baptizing in HIS name. How then can there be unreached let alone unengaged people in proximity to the local church? This frustrates me; I can only imagine how it makes our God of the Bible feel.

We prayed with the three pastors, who represent half of the churches from one denomination in the Dampelas area. There are seven other denominations here as well. We prayed for the Holy Spirit to burn a passion in these men to GO and tell others. Then they went with us to an area we hope to explore Monday. It has been called a “difficult place”; end-of-the-road, off-of-the-trail ‎villages where animism and Islam are practiced. There was a worker here for 12 years, leading an untold number to Jesus. But he was moved by his denomination eight months ago, and no one was sent to replace him.

We hope to explore this situation some more. God put a burden and a plan on our hearts. We will see how He leads.

Budi LOVES stinky fruit.

Indonesia is not for everyone. Just look at the fruit brother Budi is eating in this photo. We also know that Jesus said the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. But I do not understand why more servants with hearts for unreached people are not willing to come to this, the world’s largest Muslim nation. Or, perhaps more perplexing, why believers who are here know and care so little about their lost neighbors. It must grieve the heart of our Savior. Pray for the church to step up and out in Indonesia.

Friday, April 26

Mapping out the area with a local pastor.

We met with a local pastor who oversees more than 600 churches in Central Sulawesi. He has a passion for unreached people. He’s serving in the right place.

“Pastor is so happy we have come to visit the high places,” Budi said, translating for us. “Not so many people want to go to the difficult places.”

There are, by our pastor friend’s estimation, more than 40,000 unreached people living in the northern part of Central Sulawesi, where we arrived today. The mountain area we are going into is one of the three places with the biggest clusters of unreached tribes.

These people are considered Muslim, but they practice animism (or folk religions). Muslims, including government-sponsored projects, come into their villages, bringing food, goods, building houses, and building mosques.

Foreign workers arrived here in the 1970s. But 29 years ago they were forced by the government to leave. Indigenous ministries started to fill the vacuum in the mid-to-late 2000s. But most outreach has been done along the more accessible coastlines.‎ The mountains remain a non-Christian stronghold.

We drove north from Palu along the east coast, arriving in a town where there is a church and a remote worker who serve under our pastor friend. We met the worker and learned more about the people in this region. There is ministry on the east coast, but the west coast remains 100 percent Muslim. We know where we are supposed to GO.

Thursday, April 25

‎We went island hopping, flying from Jakarta to Kalimantan to Central Sulawesi. Another day mostly devoted to travel after we started with a team devotional on abiding. “To abide in HIM is to live in ceaseless fusion with HIS passion,” read the article I shared with Jordan and Budi. “Jesus is our first choice, not our last resort.” Amen!

We choose to dwell in HIM even as HE lives in us. We are pursuing HIS plans for this trip and our lives. Lead on, Father.‎ You are our Shelter and our Deliverer.

We landed this evening in Palu, where a 7.4-magnitude earthquake and tsunami killed about 5,000 people last Sept. 28. Budi’s church has done ongoing relief work here. CLICK HERE to read our Mission Moments story about this disaster.

We were picked up at the airport on a hot, very humid night by the fourth member of our team, a young brother who comes from a Muslim background. We’ll call him Smiley. He is excited to serve with us and we are blessed to have him on our team. We’ll go north together from here, seeking the unengaged and the unreached.

“If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it shall be done for you.” - John 15:7 (MEV)

Wednesday, April 24

Jordan and I did a “Spirit Walk” with Budi, trying to shake off jetlag and get us all on the same divine page. This is the way we have started recent missions (Kilimanjaro 2018 and Nepal 2019), using the late Steve Smith’s Spirit Walk book to lead us through a study in the Word.

Our focus turned to Christ alone. We opened with Elias Dummer’s song Enough. Elias, a Canadian, is a distant cousin of Budi’s wife. Jordan then led us in prayer as we acknowledged that Jesus is enough for us. We read various versions of Psalm 16 (MEV, NLT, Indonesian), played Hillsong’s What a Beautiful Name, and I prayed. We talked about the aims of this particular S.W.A.P.meet – what Smith called his Spirit Walk retreats. (S.W.A.P. stands for Surrendering to God’s will, Waiting on the LORD in prayer, Avoiding sin, and Pursuing the promptings of the Holy Spirit.)

The aims of a S.W.A.P.meet are captured in Exodus 33:18, John 12:28, and Psalm 139:23-24 and Romans 12:1-2. As I read these, the words “Make Yourself famous through me” (a paraphrase of John 12:28) made me think of the Casting Crowns’ song Only Jesus. This song has been my anthem for many months. I shared with our team how as a high school senior I wanted only to be an author who would be remembered long after death, but when I came to know the LORD my desire grew to wanting only Jesus to be remembered. Our prayer for this trip: That the people we encounter would not see us but see only Christ.

We then took turns sharing from the Book of Psalms. We talked about many, including Psalm 139, 92, 96 (verse three is this trip’s theme: “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!”), 100, 121, 8, 149, 46, 1, 61, 63, and 67. Jordan took us to Exodus 33 and finally Revelation 5:9-10 and 12. We listened to Elevation’s Resurrecting, Shane & Shane’s Psalm 46, Pat Barrett’s Sails, Third Day’s Show Me Your Glory, Rich Mullins’ O God, You Are My God, and Andrew Peterson’s Is He Worthy? Yes, HE is worthy. HE is enough. HE is the only One to be glorified. We also discussed praise and worship as an effective weapon in spiritual warfare (Satan hates when we worship God), watched the PrayerCast video Shine, and prayed together.

Our Spirit Walk completed, we went to dinner with another long-time JEJAK (C4C Indonesia) member, Lambok Simamora. We’d hoped to see more JEJAK members but for various reasons they are unavailable. Budi said, “I think JEJAK is sleeping right now. But I hope it will wake up again.” This is our prayer. We hope to effectively engage unreached people groups (UPGs) and give our brothers and sisters here some disciple-making work to do. Join us in praying for a fruitful week ahead.

Tuesday, April 23

Our Tuesday was short as we traveled West from Chicago to Tokyo to Jakarta across 10 time zones into the future. But it felt long as we completed another 30 hours of travel from home to our destination. Tuesday blurred into Wednesday as it was already April 24 by the time we cleared immigration, picked up luggage (which arrived, praise God!), and met Budi in the new Terminal 3 in Jakarta. We are 11 hours ahead of our home U.S. Eastern time zone. On the opposite side of the world and the clock. Thankful to God for safe and uneventful travel. We put the trip in HIS almighty hands.

Monday, April 22

“He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.” – Matthew 28:6 (NLT)

HE is risen!

We celebrated the Resurrection of our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ, yesterday. Today, fellow staff member Jordan Rowley and I are heading to a place where Easter was not observed by most people and many have not heard about Jesus’s victory over death.

Mission: Indonesia 2019, Part 1 takes us into a new part of the world’s largest Muslim nation. We are seeking to lovingly encounter a Muslim unengaged unreached people group (MUUPG) called the Dampelas, a tribe of about 11,000 souls living in northwestern Central Sulawesi that is reportedly 99.95 percent Muslim. Most of the land where they live is mountainous and used for farming. The Dampelas are said to need medical help – health care in the area is considered poor – so a door may be open to future teams to include medical personnel. There also may be a need for better agricultural training.

Jordan and I will be serving alongside JEJAK (C4C Indonesia) leader Budi Yuwono. We’ll also be joined by Muslim background believers from Budi’s church who are from a near people group. When asked about goals for this first of two scheduled trips in 2019, Budi said: “Get the specific places and tribe God leads us to connect with and (meet) peace people to share the Good News.”

Climbing For Christ first went to Indonesia in 2007, when JEJAK (an Indonesian acronym for following the footsteps of Jesus) became our first international chapter. This will be our eighth Evangelic Expedition in Indonesia, a country with a population of more than 265 million – 82 percent Muslim and 12.7 percent Christian. Nearly one-third of the people groups in Indonesia remain unreached by Gospel workers.

Sadly, through the years the enthusiasm of JEJAK members to reach the unreached has waned. “For us, in JEJAK, we have not-so-high expectations,” Budi confessed. He has told other members about this trip and hopes to have us meet with them during our visit. It is our prayer for a rekindled fire among HIS people in Indonesia.

We also will be returning, briefly, to South Sulawesi, where we did a survey trip in 2018. God opened the door for us to workers there. We hope to continue to encourage them and see how the LORD may lead in ministry among another MUUPG.

CLICK HERE for our Mission: Indonesia 2019 Prayer Bulletin


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