I was born and raised deep in the jungles of the island of Borneo (now Kalimantan, Indonesia) where I witnessed first-hand the entry of the Gospel and the birth of the Church among a people group called the Dayaks. Years later, after graduation from Prairie Bible Instute and Winnipeg Bible College I returned there with my wife, Becky, and we served alongside that same Dayak church for 16 years.
This past June Northwest granted me a three week window to travel back to Indonesia to revisit the Dayak church. The purpose of the trip was to meet with and encourage the pastors and leaders of the local churches among whom Becky and I had worked back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I have returned with great rejoicing having been immensely blessed and encouraged. Jesus’ church among the Dayaks is alive and growing. I was greatly encouraged to witness their love for the Lord, their faithfulness, their determination to follow Him wholly, their affection for us, and the common bond we have with them in the Lord.
I was joined on the trip by Darrel Davis of Three Hills, Alberta, and my sister and brother-in-law, Henry and Jan Armstrong, of Singapore. All of us had served there together in the past and now were returning to see what God was doing. Everywhere we went we heard stories of God’s amazing work in the lives of many of our brothers and sisters among the Dayaks.
This group of Dayak churches celebrated their 60th anniversary this year and the leaders expressed to us several times their thankfulness for the missionaries (my parents among others) who had brought the Gospel to them all those years ago. It was especially encouraging to hear of their understanding of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ had done in them individually and for them as a racial group. It was delightful to hear their expressions of gratitude, first to God and also to the missionaries through whom God had sent them the news of salvation. For me personally this made everything we had experienced worth it.
There are still many challenges that they face and I ask that you increase your prayers for the Dayak church of Kalimantan. They face significant pressures to accommodate to societal and cultural issues that tend toward syncretism – that is the mixing of the Christian faith with their old animistic religious beliefs. Also, their economic conditions have improved so dramatically and suddenly that they face the temptation to confuse the transformative effects of the Gospel with a so called gospel of wealth.
Despite these challenges, it was clearly evident to our little team that God was at work and we were witnessing the ongoing ministry of the Spirit in Christ’s church among the Dayaks.
Right at the beginning of our visit we were also given the opportunity to meet with the provincial governor at his home. When we told him that our reason for requesting an audience with him was so that we could pray for him his entire demenour changed from cautious suspicion to delighted friendliness.
I was very grateful to the Lord that I was able to remember the language and was able to converse, preach, and teach fluently. After 20 years of very little use – my language facility was not a given. Then there was the food! We had to sample all of the local fruit and local dishes that we had missed over the years. That was very enjoyable for us !
Meeting with the national church leadership and hearing their passion for a vibrant, missionally minded church, and then spending some time with them praying together was one of my top highlights of the trip. They, in turn, mentioned several times how encouraging our visit had been to them. Despite our lengthy absence they still saw us as partners in the Gospel. What an incredible privilege. Thank you, Jesus!