I had been invited by the believers from the assembly in Jakarta to accompany them in visiting Indonesian Borneo. They are from that island and were going to be returning to their home villages to witness to family and friends with the Gospel. It is not the first time that they have made such a visit, and in fact I learned during my trip that they had been back on 13 other occasions. I was able to combine arrangements with Kurien, an evangelist who also visits the assembly in Jakarta and had been to Borneo with the saints on one previous occasion.
Indonesian Borneo is a large island which is part of Indonesia yet is very rural and provides challenges for a westerner. The heat is fierce and the villages are about 7 hours drive from the airport on roads which defy description. Food and sanitation are primitive with snake, dog, cat, and even rats being eaten. The conditions provide difficulties which require a westerner to overcome inbuilt sensibilities. Rats and monkeys are common place, and the bathing water is brown. These aspects gave me some food for thought as I anticipated visiting the island. However, the Lord was very gracious and although I did have to make some conscious efforts to adapt, I was able to do so and even sleep quite well despite the debilitating heat and other issues. I was conscious of the Lords help in a very direct way during these days.
Kurien and I stayed with two of the families of the young Indonesian brothers who travelled with us. We were based in a village called Sei-Ayak. We spent the time in visitation, preaching, and one-to-one witnessing. There is a nominal Christian denomination which was started by Americans in the 1970s. They were a presence in that area of Borneo until the mid-nineties when they had to leave as a result of unrest and ethnic violence. They operated with helicopters and seaplanes and were involved in humanitarian efforts as well. It soon became evident when we visited some of the churches and got into conversation with the elders and pastors that none of them were saved. They were local men with a very simple understanding of the Bible and focused on their building rather than the spiritual well-being of the people. We were afforded kindness and preaching opportunities by these men and spent many hours discussing the Scriptures and seeking to explain the Gospel to them. My own view is that when these men see the effect of the Gospel they will not be so friendly as their income will diminish with their flock.
We had some elders and pastors visit us in the house in which I stayed and we spent the mornings and afternoons in discussions with them. In the evening we had the younger people come to the house and had upwards of 30-40 people who listened to the Gospel each night.
There is no doubt in my mind that there is an opening for the Gospel in this area of Borneo. The people are gentle, kind, and very hospitable. The Indonesian brethren from Jakarta still have extensive family connections in the area and many friends who are happy to listen to the Gospel. The nominal Christians have many questions and some of them are struggling with the basic concepts of the Gospel. As the Indonesian brethren continue to visit they will find that it will become harder as the Gospel takes effect and Satan stirs up opposition.
The key element to the work, apart from the local contacts, is literature. We had requests for literature which we couldnt respond to, but we hope to be in a position soon of having the Focus series and the other booklets from Bert Cargill translated and printed. This will be a significant move forward as it will be something to leave behind with the people after we leave, and provide in Borneo the benefits that the work in Burma, Sri Lanka, and other areas have.
I hope to be able to go back into this area with the Gospel and literature. I would also hope to do so with Kurien, who was a major help to me in my travels. He was able to assist me in many cultural nuances with the locals in terms of hospitality customs, food, and language. As far as I am aware there are no believers residing in that part of Borneo. It is a vast area with communities scattered throughout the jungle areas and no Gospel activity that we are aware of. The contacts which the Indonesians saints have and are willing to utilise for the spread of the Gospel provide a significant opportunity to reach into an otherwise impenetrable area with the Gospel and good literature.
I have to admit that I was apprehensive about this trip into a country which holds many physical challenges for someone from the West. However, the opportunity was presented to me without seeking it, and having leaned upon the Lord during the trip it was evident to me that this is the time to take good Gospel and New Testament Church literature into what is virgin territory.