Indonesia (MNN) — Indonesia has 42 church-planting units working in an area that just a few years ago would never have been open to Christians.
The most difficult area for evangelism in Indonesia, the Aceh province, has become open to Christian organizations such as Partners International since the tsunami two years ago. It was previously closed to such groups because of rebel movements in the past decade as well as the reputation of being the "porch of Mecca."
However, because Christian groups offered relief and reconstruction work, they were welcomed into the area. The region has approximately 4 million people with the majority being fundamental Muslims.
Partners International has been able to work more closely with the people due to their involvement with local Indonesian organizations. "What we can do is start with relief and then into development, and later on we are doing also long-term church-planting programs," said Faisel of Partners International.
Partners' goal is more than humanitarian work. "What we call this type of ministry is 'incarnational ministry,' meaning we are not seeing the social work as the vehicles to do evangelism, but we are seeing this as a whole continuum because we need to respond to the suffering genuinely. At the same time we also need to show them the love of Christ that can eventually transform their hearts," Faisel said.
Those that Partners International are working with are aware that the organization is Christian, and it has been well accepted. This knowledge has helped displace the negative thoughts some people have about Christians. "They're seeing how Christians, whom they use to think of as 'bad people' and not their friends, you know, those are the people who came in response to their needs," said Faisel. It has opened their eyes to the universal church as Christians from all over the world come to their rescue.
Faisel said it is important to support the people who have given their lives for a long-term work in Indonesia. The cost to support four missionary families is $1000 each month and would be a good project for an entire church to embrace.