I am writing from the city of Luwuk on the eastern tip of Central Sulawesi. We have just finished a training for local church elders in Palopo, South Sulawesi, and are now starting a workshop on social analysis and program planning for the Christian Church of Luwuk-Banggai (GKLB) (The “we” in this case is CGMB partner Oase Institute of which I am a member). After years of enjoying its reputation as an out-of-the-way place where nothing ever happens, the Luwuk-Banggai area has become the site of a small gold rush, one of the nation’s largest natural gas processing plants, and the rapid destruction of indigenous forests by oil palm plantations. Luwuk now has the feel of a frontier town, with mining and oil workers filling the makeshift hotels such as the one where we are staying.Read more
Her name was Rista Botha and she returned to her home in West Timor in a coffin. Rista arrived in Kupang on 4 March from the bird’s nest (for soup) factory in North Sumatra, an island on the other end of the Indonesian archipelago, where she had worked for the past three years. Rista and more than 20 other young women from islands in eastern Indonesia had been held for years on an upper floor of the owner’s multi-story home, meticulously cleaning and inhaling dirt and germs from bird’s nests in a room without ventilation. The women and girls lived in slave-like conditions: most were illegally recruited and traded for money. They were poorly fed, had no freedom of movement (e.g., they were not allowed to leave the building, even to attend church), their handphones were confiscated, and they were never paid. About a week earlier Marni Baun, another young woman who worked at the same factory, also died and her body was returned. These two deaths precipitated a concerted response by a small group of concerned Christians and activists in Kupang. CGMB member and head of the Eastern Indonesian Women’s Network (JPIT), Rev. Dr. Mery Kolimon, has played a key role in helping to organize and mobilize the Ampera (Alliance Against Trafficking) network to support the women who survived this case, repudiate trafficking, and seek justice for the wrongs committed.Read more
At times the natural world serves as an especially appropriate metaphor for the social world. Today I read an editorial in the Jakarta Globe entitled “Learning to Live with Indonesia’s Volatility” that gave a sobering picture of the devastation caused by the eruption of Mt. Kelud in eastern Java this past week. To date more than 100,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and although the eruption has ceased, dangerous ash continues to fall. I was aware of the volcano’s activity when I read about it in a newspaper. Nevertheless, when I read an editorial title, “Learning to Live with Indonesia’s Volatility”, my first thoughts were not of Mt. Kelud’s volatility, but of another extremely disturbing eruption of literally cinematic proportion. The BAFTA award-winning and Oscar-nominated documentary “The Act of Killing” is a long film with English sub-titles shot in northern Sumatera, Indonesia. The film follows the story of Anwar Congo, a grandfather who loves to dance, a man recognized by many as a hero, a former gangster (preman from the English free man), and a perpetrator in the 1965-66 anti-Communist purges in which it is estimated at least a million people were slaughtered.Read more
I share with you news about a recent case of human trafficking that involves young women and girls from East Nusa Tenggara (or NTT), the Indonesian province where we live. NTT is said to have one of the highest rates of exporting illegal migrant workers, with primary destinations being Malaysia and Hong Kong. Muslim women are sent to these destinations as well as to some countries in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. The Women's Network of Eastern Indonesia (JPIT), some of whose members are professors or former students at UKAW Theology Faculty, which is a Global Ministries partner, researches issues of women, religion, and culture. JPIT has only recently begun to explore how best to respond to the overwhelming horrors of trafficking in eastern Indonesia, an illegal trade that has very wealthy and powerful backing. Yet just as we had begun to strategize, this particular case came to light.Read more
Lectionary Selection: 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Prayers for Indonesia:
O God of Mercy, grant our brothers and sisters in Indonesia peace. Grant the schools of theology and universities with whom we partner clear visions of mission. Guide these Christian institutions of higher education to be agents of good will. Embolden their teachers to lead with integrity by example and inspire their students to demonstrate commitment in word and deed. With hope and good news, grace Indonesia with peace. Give our brothers and sisters healing from their violent history, traumatic memories, and past abuses suffered. Lift their heavy burdens of guilt for past wrongs they still cannot admit. Hear our prayers dear God. Bring comfort and redemption to our broken lives. Show goodness and mercy and forgiveness. Amen.
Mission Stewardship Moment from Indonesia:
Beginning in 1999, shortly after Indonesia’s dictator/President Suharto was forced to resign, the eastern part of the country was torn by a series of communal conflicts, many of them with a religious face. By 2006, these war-torn communities were starting to return from the refugee camps and put their lives back together. I was part of a team with a Global Ministries partner institution Oase that was asked to do a series of workshops on pastoral care of traumatized people on the island of Halmahera.
During a break in one of the sessions, a young pastor pulled me aside. “How do you know if God has forgiven you?” he asked. He then told me a story of how during the height of the conflict he had joined a group of young Christian men who were arming themselves (with machetes and liquor) to chase out the Muslim Jihadists from a neighboring village. Running around a corner, he nearly collided with a young man in Muslim dress. Without thinking, he raised his machete and killed him. But when he looked down at the body, it turned out to be an unarmed boy who probably just ran in the wrong direction.
Later during that same conflict, the young pastor came upon a house filled with Muslim women and children who were trying to hide. He managed to stop the other Christian militias from attacking them, and escorted them to the police station where they would be safe. So his question to me was this: “Do the lives that I saved make up for the murder I committed?”
I didn’t know what to say at the time, but if I see him again, I will share with him these words from Paul: “…even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence… I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.” I Tim. 1:13-15.
(Prayer and Mission Moment by Karen and John Campbell-Nelson)
Mission Partners in Indonesia:
- Artha Wacana Christian University, Kupang
- Christian University in Tomohon (UKIT)
- Church World Service - Indonesia
- Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI)
- Duta Wacana Christian University, Jogiakarta
- Evangelical Church in Eastern Indonesia (GMIT)
- Evangelical Church in Minihasa
- Evangelical Church of Sumba
- Gerega Protestan Indonesia LUWU (GPIL)
- Jakarta Theological Seminary
- Protestant Christian Church of Bali (GKPB)
- Protestant Church in South Sulawesi (GPSS)
- Satya Wacana Christian University
- Theological Seminary of Eastern Indonesia (STT, Makassar)
- Theological Seminary of Kalimantan (STT Kalimantan)
More information on Indonesia: http://www.globalministries.org/sasia/countries/indonesia/
Global Ministries Missionaries in Indonesia:
Karen Campbell-Nelson, a member of Upland Presbyterian Church, Upland, California, serves the Evangelical Christian Church of West Timor (GMIT). Karen teaches Research Methods, Theological English, and Feminist Theology at the Faculty of Theology of Artha Wacana University. She also works with justice, peace, and reconciliation initiatives of the associated bodies in the region.
John Campbell-Nelson, a member of Upland Presbyterian Church, Upland, California, serves the Evangelical Christian Church of West Timor. John teaches homiletics and practical theology at the Theological Faculty of Artha Wacana University and currently serves on a committee to revise GMIT’s church order. Also a member of OASE, an organization to strengthen church leadership in eastern Indonesia, John provides in-service training and continuing education for clergy and lay church leaders.
Translated news from Indonesia regarding #religiousfreedomRead more
Writing to you feels like the last step in a return to “normal” life here in Timor. We returned from five months of home assignment in the U.S. in early February, just in time for the start of a new semester at Artha Wacana Christian University (UKAW), where Karen and I have been asked to join the theological faculty as full-time staff.Read more