Mitch Miller reports:
This year we sent a small exploratory team on mission to the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. The team consisted of DavidMark Grabowski, Susan Watts, Joy Miller and Mitch Miller. Our goal was to visit with Payton and Grace Downing…Payton grew up in Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church, and he and Grace are there on a 20-year commitment to work with the indigenous people who live in the mountainous interior of the islands in Indonesia.
We spent a full week with the Downings and during that time we visited a number of churches large and small as well as a “campus crusade” type outreach group. We also visited a theological college on the outskirts of the city of Palu that takes on 50 students per year and produces teachers and preachers who go back into the surrounding communities to spread the Gospel.
The highlight of the trip was a helicopter excursion to the interior to visit an area called Simpang. We visited with a German couple and their three children who have lived among the interior people for 4 years. It was very enlightening as it gave us a glimpse of the work Payton and Grace will be doing and the conditions they will encounter when they go on permanent assignment to the interior.
It was a blessing to see the level of organization and education in the Christian community in Sulawesi. As the minority religion in Indonesia, the Christians have had to pull together to survive, and it is impressive to see them not just surviving but thriving in Indonesia.
Susan Watts reports:
I feel very blessed to have been a part of the LDPBC Mission Team to Palu, Sulawesi in Indonesia. Payton, Grace and Finn are deeply involved in the well-organized Christian community on an island that is about 80% Muslim. Their command of the language and their daily life skills for living in a foreign country is so impressive. I had an opportunity to teach Temari necklaces, hand embroidered balls, to 20 middle and high school girls from Wana who live in the dorms. The cross design on the necklaces represent mankind’s sin and Jesus’ blood which washes us clean in God’s eyes, and can be used as a tool to share the gospel message. The highlight of my trip was the helicopter ride to Simpang, the Interior, where tribal people groups live high up in the mountainous jungle.
“I was amazed by the Christian work the full time missionary family who lives so isolated is doing there with local tribal people. Being on the Mission Team and having traveled to Indonesia and Tanzania on another trip has deepened my faith and spiritual walk with Christ,” Susan said.
Joy Miller’s Report:
Three things stand out in my mind from this incredible week of learning:
A dorm has been established for junior high and high school kids who live in remote villages that don’t have access to high schools. It houses 15 kids – 11 girls and 4 boys – and the family who cares for them. Ethnos 360 (used to be New Tribes Missions) for whom Speedy and Grace work, is interested in supporting this dorm because it gives them the opportunity to add spiritual education to academics. They have devotions in the evenings and attend a girls’ Bible study with Grace every other Saturday night. It was to this place and to these kids that our kids – at VBS – provided a guitar for their worship times. They appreciated it very much and wanted us to say thank you to our kids. You were so generous that there was enough money left over to buy half the water tank they need.
We had what started out to be a weird experience on Tuesday night but only because we didn’t know what God was doing! We found ourselves at the conference table in a real live conference room of the largest church in Palu with board members and ministry leaders sitting around the table with us and I’m thinking, “What in the world are we doing here?! What does our little country church have to offer them? Heck, we should be learning from them!” Awkward! We expected to ask them, “How can we help you?” and it turned out to be the first question they asked us! It wasn’t until the leader of the church board shared her heart that the meeting started to take on new meaning. She is very concerned about the hill people. There are three elementary schools but no one wants to live in the interior to teach…they have only one teacher visiting all three schools a couple days a week. Concern for kids was something we could all get behind. We knew we couldn’t solve the long-standing problem at one meeting but at least we were connecting. And then God stepped in. Speedy’s boss and the church board took over the conversation…it was like we weren’t even there. Now, I don’t know Indonesian, but apparently they were all excited about looking at the problem from a different perspective. The board learned of the dorm idea started thinking, “instead of sending teachers to the hills, let’s bring the kids here!” Speedy’s boss told us later that that meeting opened up a dialog to solving – or at least starting to solve – a burden of everyone’s heart.
Finally, while the other three were helicoptering into the interior, I got to spend the day with Grace from the back of a motor bike! We went to this huge open-air market and I watched Grace navigate the culture like a pro. She’s so brave.
“She bore a child in a third-world country, she raises chickens and scoops up the slugs that slither into the house with her bare hands and tosses them outside. She would shush me for saying she is brave or awesome because she struggles to do this job. But out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. And my mouth can’t not say, Grace is awesome,” Joy Reports.
Actually all three of them are. Please pray that the Holy Spirit bring them to your mind often. And when He does, pray for their health and their safety. Pray for heart confirmation that they are where God wants them, doing what God wants them to do, and that He is pleased with them.