After sitting on hold for two years because of COVID-19, a discipleship program for a remote Indonesian church is finally restarting.
Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and local believers began this discipleship program just before the world shut down in 2020. Now, the program can restart, and not a moment too soon!
We spoke with Jeremy Toews, a pilot mechanic with MAF in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Normally, MAF focuses on supporting the local Church, medical work, and reaching isolated communities with essential services in the name of Christ.
But Toews says the idea for a discipleship program started in the summer of 2019. “Another one of our pilots and I were having a conversation and just really wanted to pursue additional opportunities to come alongside the local church and serve them in the most effective ways possible. So we sought out a couple of the local church leaders that we felt would be in a good position to analyze the needs that the church was experiencing.”
They eventually connected with Pastor Moses, head pastor over 16 churches in the Long Pujungan area of North Kalimantan, and Esther who leads children and youth ministry for the Indonesian CMA Church in North Kalimantan.
North Kalimantan has a strong history of Christianity. Missionaries came in the 1930s and 1940s, and whole people groups embraced relationships with Jesus Christ!
“Over the last few generations, a major challenge that the Church has been facing there is passing on their faith to the next generation,” Toews says.
“They’ll come to church on a Sunday morning. But do they really honestly understand what Christianity even is? What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? And how does that impact my day-to-day life in my marriage, raising my children?
“They’re dealing with some really significant societal issues with substance abuse, with sexual abuse and physical abuse, marriages that are just really falling apart, and children that are growing up with maybe one parent or, in some cases, no parents in the home.”
What the churches in Long Pujungan need is spiritual support for growth — and the idea of a discipleship program was born.
The discipleship program team had just formed. Then, Toews says, “Of course, 2020 hits and the pandemic hits and everything shut down. We ended up in a situation where we could not fly passengers for some time. The community’s interior didn’t want people from outside coming in. They wanted to kind of hermetically seal their own communities and protect their own people from what was going on in the rest of the world. So we ended up in a situation where we were forced to put that on hold for the better part of two years.”
Now that the communities in North Kalimantan are loosening restrictions, MAF and local believers are excited about restarting the discipleship program. MAF will fly teams in and work with the remote churches in Long Pujungan.
“Starting in March, we’re planning to start back up on those regular trips,” Toews says. “Our target is 12 trips into Long Pujungan this year. We’re just thrilled that the doors seem to be open again for us to step back in and pick up where we left off.”
They use a holistic curriculum that encourages Scripture memorization and deals with spiritual questions and practical issues.
Toews explains, “It was a lot of work on the front end. You need to be really careful when you’re going in and doing something like this to make sure you go about it in a way that’s very respectful and make sure that you have the invitation of the community right from the get-go.
“Thankfully, as MAF, we’re the only Westerners. Everyone else we’re working with there is Indonesian. So they understand that [culture] a whole lot better than we do and we let them do all the talking. We let them negotiate all of that and figure out the most culturally appropriate way to step into a community in that sort of context.”
Please pray for MAF and the rest of the discipleship program team as they serve the local community. Ask God to raise up more Gospel workers in Indonesia and soften hearts to His transformative truth.
Written by Lyndsey Koh. This story originally appeared at Mission Network News and is republished here with permission.