Dispatches: Indonesia/Philippines

Dispatches: Indonesia/Philippines

Mission: Indonesia & Philippines 2017

Saturday, Feb. 4

C4C Philippines meeting: (left to right) Doc Jhoe, AA, Jhun, Gary, Jordan, Ace, Pat, Joel, Rory holding baby Max and husband Gutch,  Asiel and his wife, and Spencer. Nearly everyone in the photo is a Mission: Philippines veteran.

We headed east today from Manila to North America, crossing many time zones and the international date line and flying and driving on a Saturday that lasted for 37 hours. Jordan and I returned safely to Rochester, NY, USA.

We left Southeast Asia encouraged by time spent with  JEJAK (C4C Indonesia) and C4C Philippines members.‎ The fire has been rekindled; may the flame continue to burn brighter among our members here. It’s time for the church to rise in Indonesia and the Philippines and deliver the Good News to those who have not yet heard.

As brother Ace stated: “The Philippines is about to step into the next stage of its mission. Definitely excited about what’s ahead.” Amen!

Friday, Feb. 3

Jordan, left, and Ace, arm raised, singing praise to the LORD.

‎Ace opened our C4C presentation in prayer, quoting Matthew 18:20, “where two or three are gathered  in my name, there I am among you.” We had only slightly more than two or three in attendance despite promises of a large crowd at an espresso bar in Makati. By the end of a Spirit-charged evening, however, our group had grown to 14 - with at least 10 texting that they were stuck in gridlock traffic. Just another Friday night in Metro Manila.

Those affected by the terrible traffic jams included the pastor and his wife who flew in from a different island just to meet us. It took them 3 1/2 hours to drive from the airport; they arrived as we were finishing our meeting.

But we met later with them to discuss an area of the country God has given me a burden for, and we were greeted with an open door.‎ The start of a beautiful friendship.

This capped a night in which Jordan started us off in worship and shared how God brought him to Climbing For Christ. I then talked about the work God has done in the past year through C4C and where He is leading us this year. It was a bit of a vision cast intended to inspire another chapter of C4C (much like JEJAK in Indonesia) that has gone rather dormant the past two years. Ace felt my message accomplished what I intended after we turned the attention of our meeting to 2017 work in the Philippines.

He shared about our decision, agreed upon earlier in the day, “to equip local leaders” in KIbungan, where C4C has ministered since 2007. “We want to empower the people there,” said Ace, who now pastors the aptly named Equippers Church.

The goals he set are in line with our philosophy to work alongside people in the mountains, serving spiritual and physical needs, while raising up leaders to serve the Lord and take ownership of the ministry.

We then encouraged‎ others in C4C Philippines to step up and become leaders, too, so the pressure can be lifted from Ace and shared by members desiring to do more mission climbs in their own country. There remain many unreached tribes that we hope to turn our focus to in the months and years ahead. Ace and others committed to twice-a-month training sessions to prepare for the work that is waiting.

As one member said: “C4C Philippines is known as THE mission ministry in the mountains‎.” We rejoiced in this by closing our program with a song (“How Great is Our God”) and prayer.

Thursday, Feb. 2

Family dinner (left to right) Ace, Gie, Hershey, Jhun, Jordan and Gary.

We enjoyed fantastic fellowship and food (my favorite shrimp and mangos in all the world) with old friends Ace and Gie Concordia and Jhun and Hershey Hacbang. Ace was the second Filipino member of Climbing For Christ, joining in June 2007 while I was on our first Mission: Indonesia. He emailed then saying, "In the Philippines, it's very rare I get to climb with fellow Christians. How I wish there was an organization like yours here."

I told him we were here. Ace was a member of the ministry; he represented us. He took this to heart and began recruiting more members.

On Oct. 19, 2007, the first meeting of C4C Philippines was held  in Metro Manila.‎ One year later, Ace and Jhun carried out the inaugural Mission: Philippines, trekking into the mountains of Benguet in northern Luzon. To date there have been 19 Evangelic Expeditions in the Philippines and more than 350 of our 2,255 members are from here. We hope to meet with many of those members at a gathering Friday night (6-9 p.m.) at the Libertad Espresso Bar G-IV in Makati (Metro Manila), and encourage them to do the work God has prepared for them.

Wednesday, Feb. 1

We flew out of Jakarta this afternoon, saying goodbye for now to Budi and JEJAK, and landed this evening in Manila, where we say hello to Ace and C4C Philippines. A gathering of members is scheduled for Friday night and we are hoping to hold some planning meetings the next two days as we seek to renew the passion for missions within C4C Philippines.

Tuesday, Jan. 31

David, our newest Climbing For Christ member, and his family hosted us for Sumatra Aceh coffee and dinner on our last night in Jakarta. We discussed many people groups and places across this wide-sweeping archipelago after having spent a good part of the day planning the next few years.

 

On the island of Lombok last week.

There are nearly 40 people groups in Indonesia accounting for a quarter-million souls considered unengaged and unreached, meaning there are no known full-time workers involved in spreading the Word and planting churches among them. Not a single believer is doing what he or she is supposed to do in those areas: “always giving ourselves full to the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

This is called finishing the task. “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9). May we say: This was where it began with some simple fellowship and encouragement.

Monday, Jan. 30

Mr. Dodo and Budi reunited.

Mr. Dodo looked as if he’d seen a ghost. We were walking toward his house in the Sumedang hills in West Java. None of us had been here in four years.

The shocked look on his face was priceless.

“It feels like a dream,” Mr. Dodo would say, repeatedly, as we all sat together, talked, ate, and prayed.

Mr. Dodo, who is 75 years old, was the first Christian in an all-Muslim Sunda village. The Sunda are the largest unreached people group in Indonesia with a population of more than 37 million; 99.4 percent of whom are Muslim, according to the Joshua Project.

Over the years, as Mr. Dodo’s family grew, some decided to also follow Jesus. Others chose Islam. Today, there are 57 family members: Mr. and Mrs. Dodo, six children and their spouses, 25 grandchildren and spouses, and 18 great-grandchildren. Twenty-one are Christian.


Iman and Gary, left, and Jordan and Budi, right, standing with Mr. Dodo and some of his family members on his front step.

We first met Mr. Dodo in 2007 and our teams have visited three times since. JEJAK members visited occasionally at other times, too. But all of that ended in 2013 — the last time Budi was here. Mr. Dodo said he thought Budi was lost. Until today, when he thought he was dreaming.

As a man of peace, Mr. Dodo has been free to share about Jesus with his neighbors. That included Dana, the man (whose photo appears under the “Introduction” below) to whom we delivered a Bible in 2007. Mr. Dodo informed us that Dana died last year. In 2010 we’d been told he was “close” to accepting Christ. “Maybe he accepts in his heart, but not in his mouth,” a JEJAK member said then. “It is very difficult (for the Muslim) to proclaim he is a Christian.”

Mr. Dodo asked us to pray that he and his family would continue to have a desire to be a light in the village.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” — Matthew 5:14 (NIV)

 

A Christian grave in a Sunda village on a hill.

Sunday, Jan. 29

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” — Galatians 6:9 (ESV)


Gary, above, and Jordan, below with translator Kennard, shared at the Abbalove church’s youth worship.

The theme of this trip has been reconnecting. We again had an opportunity to share with the home church of many of our JEJAK members today when we were asked to give testimonies at the Abbalove youth worship.

Abbalove, a church of about 1,200, has more than 120 youth (age 15 through college) who hold their own two-hour worship every Sunday. Because JEJAK was born out of Abbalove’s college ministry many years ago, the youth remain near and dear to their hearts. We also are looking for the second generation of JEJAK members so Budi asked us to share the Climbing For Christ story.

“Thank you for reminding us of the work to do in our own home (country),” one of the church’s elders said afterward.

We encouraged the youth to pursue the “mission” that God has put on each and every one of their hearts. “He has a plan and a purpose for your lives. Follow Him!”

We met after worship with a group of the 10 most interested in serving the Lord through a climbing ministry. We talked about the vision God has given us to reach the unengaged here and how important it will be for JEJAK to continue the work that our short-term teams start each year over the next five years. Thus, our desire to reconnect during this visit; this is a restart for the valuable work God has prepared “that we should walk in” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).


Harry teaching about the harvest we will reap in due season.

Jordan and I were encouraged by a blessed time of worship with an excellent youth praise band and singers and the message and prayers of “Pastor” Harry. It was Harry who spoke to the youth about the harvest, quoting Galatians 6:7-10 and discussing sowing and reaping.

We were reminded to not grow weary. We are here to sow, praying to produce grain, which will reap an abundant harvest. “Gather the wheat into my barn,” Jesus told His disciples at the end of Matthew 13:30. We have ears to hear, and good work to do.

Saturday, Jan. 28

Happy Chinese New Year from Jakarta!

We flew back to the capital from Lombok in time to join tens of thousands (probably more) in this city of more than 10 million celebrating the start of the year of the rooster.


A little girl on a skywalk over one of the many perpetually busy streets in downtown Jakarta.

Brother Budi was sharing with us the interesting mix of people in this place. Although Indonesia has more Muslims than any other country it is legally a secular state, recognizing six formal religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Islam is the dominant religion and its adherents mostly fall into two categories: traditionalists (headed by the Nahdlatul Ulama organization — or NU) and modernists (the Muhammadiyah).  There are also smaller groups at the extremes. The NU are moderates, dominant on this island of Java, where folk religion merged with Islam. There is so much to learn and comprehend.

It was raining tonight in Jakarta. The Chinese consider it a good sign, Budi said. A blessing on the year ahead. May a spiritually healing rain pour down on this place.

Friday, Jan. 27

We made our way across what they call “the island of 1,000 mosques.” Friday is a significant day for Muslims, who consider this the best day in the sight of Allah. Prayer is especially meaningful on Friday; it is considered obligatory for men to pray this day.

The Quran states in Surah Al-Jumu’ah, ayat 62:9: “O you who believe! When the call to prayer is proclaimed on Friday hasten earnestly to the remembrance of God, and leave aside business. That is best for you if you but knew.”


The roads, normally crowded with motorbikes, cars and trucks, were nearly empty at mid-day as people crowded mosques like the ones above and below. 

On an island that is perhaps 99.5 percent Muslim, you’ll know where to find many people on Friday — one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of mosques found from mountain village to seaside city.

The apostle Paul instructed us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) no matter what day. It is our prayer that many would come to know that you don’t need a special day or time to speak to God. He tells us throughout Scripture (or the books sent before the Quran as Muslims call the Bible) to call on Him, to pray to Him, “and I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:12). He is listening now — and forevermore. Pray on!

Thursday, Jan. 26

The Hindu man was the first to come to this part of Lombok from Bali, but many more followed. There are 40 Balinese families who today were fasting to prepare themselves for a ceremony they say will relieve them of their sins.

He and hopefully others will learn over time that we cannot do that for ourselves, but that it already has been done for us.

Budi and another brother in Christ from Jakarta have purchased land from the Hindu man to start an agro-tourism project. They hope to take advantage of the fertile soil that is producing, among other things, coffee beans and chocolate. They plan to build a few small bungalows for tourists to stay in and perhaps a little coffee shop. It will be a business-as-mission venture that, if ordained by God, will succeed.

The Hindu man showed us around the property and we pray for a blessing on the project.


A Balinese man, his grandson, and his machete, above, and the Hindu temple where he worships, below.  

There was a shroud of fog and then rain, which blanketed the mountain area in a symbolic darkness. We spent most of the day with our porter from the 2012 climb. Budi befriended him then and this is at least the seventh time he has been back to visit. We prayed with and for our friend and his young family.

There are no believers on this part of the island, making outreach even more challenging. But our friend has other followers in his family (living on other islands) and we sense he is open to what we share: love.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” — 1 John 4:7-8 (ESV)

Wednesday, Jan. 25

It had been 48 hours since we’d seen an airport so we were going through some travel withdrawal. Not really. But we did catch an hour-and-35-minute flight out of Jakarta to Lombok and made the crazy three-hour drive from Mataram to Gunung Rinjani National Park on the north side of the island.

Along the way we heard about a church on this 99.5-percent Muslim island doubling in size in recent years (to approximately 400) and about Muslim background believers meeting in various parts of the country at a growing rate. Indonesia is reportedly 12.8 percent Christian now, but some here are saying the church may constitute 15 percent or more of the 257 million people living across 922 islands between the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Tuesday, Jan. 24


JEKJAK members (Right to left) Budi, Max, Rendy, Iman, Alex, and Lambok meeting with Jordan and Gary a Jakarta church to discuss the future.

Alex confessed that the fire once ignited in JEJAK has gone out. But as the former leaders of JEJAK (the first international chapter of C4C, established in 2007) gathered, we could see a spark.

We spoke for some time about the responsibility and opportunity for one who is called, and after much lamenting about failing to do this or that, we turned the page. Jordan read to them from Philippians 3:13-14, which says: “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

I then prayed for our brothers, asking the Spirit to fill them that they may again “speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31)

It was a day of catching up and meeting new co-laborers, all while dealing with the usual jetlag. We heard about new ideas and opportunities, including the start of a farm on one of the islands to reach those in need. We pray for these and other opportunities to be a light as we change plans (Proverbs 16:9) and prepare to fly again on Wednesday to another island. May we go boldly and expectantly.

Monday, Jan. 23 continued

We landed in Jakarta after 28 hours of uneventful flying and were met by Budi and Iman, two of our Indonesian brothers. From the time we left Rochester, NY until the time we checked into our Jakarta hotel was more than 36 hours of travel. We are now 12 hours ahead of home and more than 50 degrees F (almost 30 degrees C) warmer as we once again dipped below the equator.

Monday, Jan. 23

We crossed the international date line and skipped ahead one day during a 21 1/2-hour stint on one flight (with a stop) from Toronto to Manila. Still more flying to do. Onward and upward!

Saturday, Jan. 21

Time to GO!

Board member Mary Lindsay sent us off with this heartfelt message:

“I wanted you to know that I’m lifting you up mightily that our Lord would surround you with His angels of protection, and that He’d empower you with the Spirit’s power and strength, and that He would open all the right doors (and windows!) that you might cross paths with all the Divinely Perfect people He wants you to connect with!  May you see His Perfect Plan unfold in front of you and give you the Blessed Assurance that you’re exactly where He wants you to be, doing exactly what He needs you to do.  May you have an awesome ‘mountaintop’ experience.”

Amen! Thanks to all our prayer warriors — you are right by our side on this divinely orchestrated journey.

Introduction

Our first visit 10 years ago ended with C4C Indonesia members sharing what our coming meant to them. They spoke about focus, about a fire being set ablaze to reach the many, many needing to hear the Good News. “You have a heart for (reaching) souls,” our brother Lambok said that night in Jakarta. “I have a heart for souls. When I saw you, my heart for souls is now burning.”

We fanned that flame again in 2010 and 2012.

But in 2014 one of the long-time leaders of JEJAK — an acronym for following in the footsteps of Jesus and our first international chapter — declared: “JEJAK is sleeping.”

It’s time to wake up.

Recently, at Finishing the Task 2016, there were 1,371 unreached people groups identified as “unengaged.” Indonesia was the country with the seventh most UUPGs at 38.

 
When he received a Bible in his language in 2007 this Sunda man began reading aloud the Gospel of Matthew. He kept reading and reading. Three years later, we asked about the man. “He is close,” we were told. “Maybe he accept in his heart, but not in his mouth. It is very difficult (for the Muslim) to proclaim he is a Christian.”

In 2007, we quoted William M. Miller, an American worker in pre-Iran Persia, who wrote in A Christian’s Response to Islam (1980) “with some glorious exceptions, the Christians of the world have … failed to obey Christ by sending laborers to sow and reap a harvest in Muslim lands.” Ron Rhodes, a more recent author, concluded in The 10 Things You Need to Know About Islam (2007): “How heartbreaking to know that Muslims die every day, hoping that Allah might have mercy on them and bring them to paradise. … If we Christians really believe heaven is as wonderful as the Bible describes it, then shouldn’t that be motivation enough for each of us to share this wonderful good news with our Muslim acquaintances?”

Yet the majority of workers and funding continues to be invested among already reached people groups and nominal Christians. Only about 6 percent of workers serve among Muslims and only 1/10th of 1 percent of giving is directed toward efforts in the world’s 38 most unevangelized countries, such as Indonesia.

Here are the latest statistics from Joshua Project: Indonesia, with a population of more than 257 million, is 82.1 percent Muslim. It remains the world’s most populous Muslim country, although 12.8 percent of the country now professes to be Christian. More than one-quarter of Indonesia’s 779 people groups remain unreached. Those 223 UPGs account for more than 163 million people.

“This is the largest Muslim population in the world. This is a stronghold,” said one of the members of our 2012 team. “The enemy is going to protect it like hell.”

Mission: Indonesia 2017 is a reboot of C4C’s work in Southeast Asia. (This includes the Philippines, where we will visit Climbing For Christ members on our return leg.) We ask for prayer for our journey and the work we not only do on this expedition but the work God has prepared for us to do in the years ahead. Spiritually, this is an enormous undertaking.

We know that 90 percent of the pioneer work that is accomplished in the field is carried out by indigenous workers, like those in JEJAK. Our role is to encourage those workers — and to keep the fire burning.


  • CLICK HERE for the Mission: Indonesia 2017 Prayer Bulletin.

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