I could tell you all about the food, the clothes, the traffic, the early morning calls to prayer... but that's not why we came.
Our team arrived in Jakarta in high spirits, excited to start afresh. I immediately took to learning little bits of Bahasa, the Indonesian language, which, to my joy, put smiles on many new faces as I blurted out random sentences like, "Saya suka ayam! I like chicken!"
We were warmly welcomed by the YWAM base in the city, where we stayed for the month. Our team, now seasoned warriors with a month of missions under our belts, settled in quickly in eager anticipation of new and old ministries: red light, slum, school, English class, refugee, and church ministries.
RED LIGHT MINISTRY
Our team did a lot of red light ministry, though I didn't. Elissa foresaw that not all twenty of us would be able to roam around the red light district without raising eyebrows. She requested that each of us pray and ask the Lord about it, so I did. He told me that red light ministry was outside of my realm of influence. But it was really neat to hear about all the seeds that were planted and the relationships that were being formed. A lot of what our team did is confidential, and especially since I wasn't involved much in this ministry, I'll say no more.
Even though Indonesia is a Muslim country, we didn't have to hold back in the slums. In the photos above, our team was led underneath a highway and found ourselves in an entire slum community. Standing under the light between the two roads, we performed our skit called "Ragman," which demonstrates Jesus' healing power through his death on the cross. I shared the gospel and then Coni gave a testimony of God's physical healing in her own life. That's when I realized that we couldn't just walk away without asking any of them if they'd like to be healed in Jesus' name. So that's what we did.
How many people were healed, you ask? I don't really know, I'm not the Holy Spirit. They often requested healing for things they weren't experiencing in the moment. But of the things that ailed them in that moment, they said that the pain went away! I'm grateful that God gave us the opportunity to partner with his desire to heal with those who were willing. I am certain that he worked powerfully in each one of their hearts in some way shape or form.
After we prayed for one lady, she led us into her home to meet her husband, whose name he told me not to forget: Sam Shudeen Abdullah. Though the Lord did not heal him of his lame leg in that moment, I was floored by the joy and laughter he expressed. After commenting on it, he said that it's all he can do for his wife.
School ministry in Indonesia was reminiscent of our ministry in the Philippines. We would go into private Christian schools and share our dramas, testimonies and teachings as led by the Spirit. In general, we came to find that what we said was not quite as important as how well we related with them. Our last school ministry time was particularly memorable as we got students to really interact with us, playing games and weaving our message through dramas and shorter testimonies throughout.
Waiting for the Go-Jek (Indonesia's version of Uber) to go teach English class.
One of my favorite ministries was teaching English to church leaders. After familiarizing ourselves with the level of the attendees, we split into two groups; Chris and I took on the advanced class while Sophie, Geby and Jonathan led the beginner's class. The beginner's class covered pronunciation, letters, and common phrases. In the advanced class, we answered more complicated questions from our students, often about the tenses and grammatical syntaxes.
It was very fulfilling to see the growth in my class, as well as being able to create a more long-term relationship with the church leaders. I'm really excited for how God is going to work with these equipped leaders through their English in unifying the Church locally and globally.
We spent an entire day traveling to and connecting with refugees at a camp outside Jakarta. It was our first time outside of either city, Manila and Jakarta.
The refugee camp was not what we expected. The camp looked more like a really fancy neighborhood that had not been kept in a year or two. I forget the specific details, but I recall that there may have been refugees in the past who were wealthy and built up the government-sanctioned area. But now, the people there have very little, though the surrounding communities continued to believe they did not need assistance. They had built up makeshift walls inside the halls to create classrooms. Off in the corner was another makeshift wall, on the other side of which was someone's bed. It was really special to see how all of them from different countries had unified together through their sufferings to educate and look after one another.
We had come thinking that we were going to evangelize to them, but found that they were intent on informing us of their woes. After running through some of our dramas and a testimony, we tried to corporately pray for them but one of their leaders strategically intervened. So we primarily listened and encouraged them as best we could. I specifically recall Coni 'doing her thing' and having a lengthy and fruitful one-on-one, and I'm sure she wasn't the only one. It was really eye-opening for me to see how American policies directly affected these people stuck in a state of limbo between their home and their dream.
Sophie with one of the refugees outside of Jakarta.
On Sundays, we tended to bounce from church to church as we encouraged the congregations and shared dramas, testimonies, and even sermons. It was a very humbling experience speaking to people who had been forsaken by their families for becoming a committed follower of Christ.
Kids weren't exactly banging on our door like they had been in the Philippines, but God still had plans. The story begins with Chris getting very sick and winding up hospitalized for an entire week. It was hard for him to lie around all day while the rest of the team was out on mission.
But the very day he returned, we split up into groups and went out to pray around the neighborhood. Chris' group was walking past a private basketball court when he saw a kid shooting hoops there.
Without saying a word, he walked onto the court, motioned for the ball, and swished it from the three. Then he walked away.
As I saw all of this transpire, I realized Chris had just opened a huge door into ministry.
Later that afternoon, Jeff and I walked slowly by to see if any kids were there. Sure enough, there were some kids playing soccer. They immediately noticed us and walked towards the gate.
We stood there awkwardly.
They walked past us with wide eyes and then suddenly bolted away down an alley. Jeff and I looked at each other with a shrug and decided to wait a couple minutes.
Sure enough, a whole bunch more kids came swarming back. Before we knew it we were memorizing names and all getting along during a game of barefoot soccer on the basketball court.
We continued to play soccer games regularly with the neighborhood kids. Sometimes the court was so packed that just as many kids if not more sat on the sidelines. I believe that we eventually did dramas and testimonies there, but by that time I was holed up at the base, heavily engrossed in a mural project. Even so, I've seen from photos that the YWAM base has continued children's ministry there.
It all started with one epic shot. Thanks Chris!
"I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses." ~ Joshua 1:3
Perhaps my greatest highlight of our time in Indonesia was the mural project.
This was my first piece of art that I really felt like I did with Jesus. He and I created the composition together with his guiding. It turned out to be way outside my normal style, but I loved doing it all the same.
As I worked on the sketch, my teammates began prepping the wall. We found out that the wall paint was peeling, so we ended up spending two full days scraping down to the concrete and starting from scratch. As someone who typically works on his art alone, I was really touched by how willingly people came alongside to help me make this project happen. The mural really seemed to bring our team together and give us one final 'hurrah' before wrapping up our outreach.
We threw my rough composition onto the wall via projector and sketched it out. Then, in our last two days of outreach, we painted the mural! During the painting time I spent more time allocating tasks more than actually painting myself; I really enjoyed taking on a managerial role in bringing the wall to life. It turned out a lot better than I had expected!
You'll have to ask me in person about the full story of how this mural came to be. During the process God spoke to me really significantly about the dangers of perfectionism; he also helped me center the mural around bonding and having fun together, as opposed to stressing out about the quality of the work. Now I'm really excited to continue art with Jesus!
WHAT I'VE LEARNED ABOUT MISSIONS
Things got hard on outreach. I knew it was going to be hard, but it wasn't hard the way that I expected it to be. I expected the hot days, the rodents, the sickness, and all that.
But I didn't expect that the way we as a team loved or didn't love each other would be one of the most critical factors in our spiritual victories and losses.
I didn't expect to have doubts that the Holy Spirit was really working in the hearts of the people we reached out to.
I didn't expect that God would have a different idea of what ministry success looked like compared to our own.
I didn't expect to be sitting down one day wondering why I was even here, wondering where Jesus was.
It was at these moments when I would look back and take to heart the things that God had shown me during my training in Denver:
I remembered that even if I can't see or understand, he is there, and he is present, and he is alive and active, and that he is good.
I remembered that God's way is not my way, and that I need to surrender my idea of ministry for his idea of ministry, to partner with him and to be quick to obey
I remembered that it's not my job to know who got saved or who got healed, but that it's my job to act, to serve, love, obey, hope, and trust that fruit will come, whether I have the privilege of seeing it come to fruition or not.
And I learned that our abilities and behaviors, how we choose to react to constantly changing environments and circumstances, is where most of our daily spiritual battles take place.
In all of this I've come to find that living all aspects of life with Jesus is everything he ever wanted. And now, it's everything that I want to do.
I learned an incredible amount from our Outreach Leader, Elissa. She often reminded me of a lioness, perhaps due to her mental and spiritual prowess. I enjoyed every conversation I had with her. She looked after her young - our team - very well. Everyone one of us trusted Elissa's decisions even when we didn't understand because of her wisdom, understanding and affinity to listening to the Spirit. She was never afraid to say what needed to be said, but she always spoke truth with love.
BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE
As a team, we really came to learn to rely on one another's strengths. Having a background in public speaking, I got very comfortable with extemporaneously sharing the gospel and other testimonies. On the day after our arrival, Elissa our Outreach leader had been called up unexpectedly to the front of a church service to introduce herself and our team and to give a testimony. No one had told her this in advance. She coolly and collectedly gave out her greetings and introduced us, and then announced over the microphone that one of her students was going to share a testimony. Thankfully, just the day before I had written out an email update to a few supporters back home, summarizing our trip in the Philippines. So I got up and shared about what the Lord had accomplished in our first month of outreach. It was a light burden for me that would have been a heavy burden for many.
But there were plenty of times when I needed people to come in for me too. The "Famous Sin Chair," as it was called by one pastor in the Philippines, was still in high demand in Indonesia (though perhaps not quite so much). On one Sunday I was having having a really rough time internally when I was asked to do Sin Chair. My gut clenched up... I knew that I could go through the motions, but my heart simply wouldn't be in it. My friend Jonathan promptly volunteered to go in my stead. Though everyone on the team had seen my act many times, Jonathan had never once practiced it himself.
He got up there and did an amazing job! And he did it in his own unique way too! Just watching that, seeing the smiles spread on everyone's faces, how he so willingly and joyfully took up the weight from my shoulders, was the beginning of the healing that I was in need of. And no one on my team looked down on me. I suppose by this time we all knew what those slumps were like, but I also knew they were all happy to look out for me and take care of me. How we loved one another!
Stand and Face the Music. Our entire team giving individual words of encouragement, praise, and gratitude to Chris. Everyone got to take a turn before graduation.
On this vein of "sentimacy," - so I'll call it - I felt very well looked after throughout the whole trip. Almost every night us guys got together, talked about how we were doing, and then prayed over each other and spoke truth into each other's lives and identities. I don't know if I've never been so encouraged on a daily basis in my life. Some evenings we laughed and told stories of God's goodness in that day. Other times we shared wisdom and advice. Still other times we stood up against each other, persisting in tearing down with gentle firmness the lies that one of us was holding on to - still in these times there was an overflow of love and redemption. Looking back to those evenings I can see the tender love through which they fought for me. I miss you guys a lot.
Praying for Chris at the end of Stand and Face the Music.
The members of my team were not the only ones propping me up. We were constantly being showered with intercessory prayers from YWAM Denver. Then account for the financial and spiritual supporters of our outreach leaders who were consistently praying for them and our team as well. In fact, each of us students were receiving prayer from our families and supporters as well. Prayers from all over the world raining down on our team in the Philippines and Indonesia.
I am so blessed to have seen the effects of prayers from my supporters and friends from my little corner of the world. I'm almost positive that every single prayer request I sent to these people was answered with a resounding yes.
BACK IN DENVER
Before we knew it we were flying back to Denver with Jesus' victory in our hearts. Perhaps the enemy gave us a 'kick' out the door; over half of our team got sick with unpleasant symptoms on the flight to Denver. Shortly after our arrival, Elissa invited us all to rest back at her house; before long everyone was snuggled in cozy blankets and passed out on couches or floors.
Once the weekend was over we began Debrief Week despite slow sickness and jet lag recovery.
This leaves us on my next story, which I've already posted:
Until next time!