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Mission: Indonesia

 

First Bible

A Muslim man in West Java excitedly reads the Gospel of Matthew after receiving his first Bible.

‘Blessed are the persecuted’

Reward of heaven awaits Muslims who convert

By Gary Fallesen

As I spoke at the Asia-Pacific Adventure Ministry Conference in Malaysia about outreach to Muslims, I was met with wide-eyed stares. I had said the “M” word.

 

Muslims.

 

In Malaysia, 55 percent of the population of 25 million is regarded as untouchable. The Malay people are not allowed to convert from Islam to Christianity. Legalized discrimination is a way of life in the world’s most economically successful Muslim nation. In fact, Malaysia ensures that Muslims are given better access to jobs, housing and education — and the top two positions in government can be held only by Muslims. The few Christians living in Malaysia focus their witnessing on Indian-Malaysians and Chinese-Malaysians, who might be Hindu or Buddhist, not Muslim.

 

Across the Java Sea, in neighboring Indonesia things can be even worse. Reportedly, an estimated 10,000 Christians have been killed in recent years on Maluku Islands by Muslims attempting to “Islamify” the population.

 

Open Doors, an international ministry working with persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries, ranks Indonesia No. 41 on its World Watch List. (The top 10 on the persecution hit parade — headed by North Korea — consists of six Islamic countries, three communist nations, and the Buddhist Bhutan.) Things improved slightly in Indonesia in 2006, according to Open Doors, but the World Watch List still cautioned: “In strongly Islamic areas of Indonesia (e.g., Aceh, West Java and south Sulawesi) Christians are under much more pressure than in other regions.”

 

Walter Casper IV and I entered West Java in June with seven other Climbing For Christ members from our new JEJAK Chapter, which is based in Jakarta, Indonesia. We were going to Sumedang to initiate an outreach project aimed at the Muslims living in the hills around that city. These Muslims are Sunda people, the largest unreached people group (at 32 million) among the 127 unreached people groups in Indonesia.

 

Indonesia is an enormous mission field with 180 million Muslims and many animist people groups in some of the most untouched areas remaining in the world.

 

Spending time in Indonesia and Malaysia makes one realize how good we have it in the church in North America. We can speak openly about Jesus, worship our Lord without fear of repercussion, and enjoy freedoms too often taken for granted.

 

Open Doors estimates that 200 million Christians in more than 60 countries “face the most brutal retribution because of their faith.” It is only when we put ourselves in the shoes of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ that we realize what the early church experienced. Most of the Bible was written by persecuted people for persecuted people. By working with persecuted Christians we learn more about the original meaning of Scripture.

 

Jesus taught: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

 

But this isn’t just an exercise in experiential Bible study. This is the very serious business of doing the Lord’s work, of going where He sends us, of reaching out to those living in places where others will not or cannot deliver the Gospel.

 

Sadly, not enough workers are volunteering for this harvest.

 

A mere two percent of the Protestant missionary force is actively involved in evangelizing among the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims. About 20 percent of the world’s population is Muslim — or an astounding one in every five people. William Miller, an American missionary to Persia (pre-1980 Iran), wrote in A Christian’s Response to Islam that “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.”

 

Rice fields

A Climbing For Christ missionary, right, works with women in rice fields in West Java.

Ron Rhodes concludes in The 10 Things You Need to Know About Islam): “How heartbreaking to know that Muslims die every day, hoping that Allah might have mercy on them and bring them to paradise. The reality is that to believe in Allah is to believe in a false god. To believe that submission to Allah brings salvation is to believe in a false gospel. 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?”

 

Watching Indonesian member Lambok Simamora share with and pray for Muslims we encountered in the hills and rice fields around Sumedang was a blessing. Not only to those who were hearing the Good News, some possibly for the first time, but also to us. It served as a reminder that we are called to “… Go into all the world and preach the Good News to all creation” (Mark 16:15).

 

“Jesus loves the people of Indonesia more than His followers do,” wrote the authors of Indonesia: Unreached People Groups. “The Christians of the world have broken their promise to God. God blessed His people so that all the nations of the earth might be blessed. God commands His people to show and tell His love to all people groups. In obedient submission to God, many Christians have promised to do so.

 

“Yet most Christians have broken this promise. Most people who call themselves Christians are neutral, negative, and sometimes even hateful toward people different than themselves. God is calling the true followers of Jesus to denounce ethnic prejudice and personal selfishness and show His love to all peoples.”

 

Even those people we might fear or stereotype.

 

In a rice field on a mountainside in West Java, we sat with a fanatical Muslim. “In places like Sumedang, where we were (introduced as) ‘tourists visiting the waterfalls,’ I know that God was with us as we walked among the Muslims and shared our love of Jesus with them just by saying, ‘Hi,’” said Walter Casper, who like me has had his life forever changed by this mission experience.

 

Islam has a way of imprisoning followers. It threatens separation from family and community, at the least, and physical harm or death, at the worst. In many places — from China and Southeast Asia to Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq to parts of Africa and former Soviet states such as Uzbekistan — the persecution of Christians is a legalized way of life.

 

We listened to story after story of those in Indonesia who had converted to Christianity and, as a result, were outcasts. These are our brothers and sisters, members of our Christian family. We need to love them and stand by their side. Because by doing so we show others that we serve a God of love and we invite a lost people to meet our Savior.

 

This story originally appeared in The Climbing Way (Volume 8, Summer 2007).

The Word

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
— Matthew 5:10-12 (NIV)

 

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