Church is not a building but the people of God

During October and November 2015, Matt and I volunteered to teach English in Indonesia. I studied Indonesian at university and was teaching it at Living Waters Lutheran Primary School, Alice Springs.

While still at university, I had a desire to use my language skills abroad. I therefore had spoken with Glenice Hartwich about mission opportunities in Indonesia, but the timing was never right. In April 2015, an opportunity arose to take a term break from teaching. I took it with both hands.  Matt and I lived at the Seminary in Pematangsiantar, Siantar for two months with Dr Martongo Sitinjak and his wife Rev Basa Hutabarat. We were teaching at different schools three days a week and from Thursday to Sunday would go elsewhere to share greetings  from the LCA and teach more English.

These trips included Bibelfrau  – a women’s bible college and Medicon – a training college where we gave lectures to groups of over 200 students. We also attended a youth camp at Lake Toba. We were often called upon to give impromptu speeches! The local people were so excited to have us among them and to hear us speak about our lives and the church in Australia.

We were well looked after, and spent time with dedicated people who worked in the Lutheran World Federation office. From seeing organic farming fields, experiencing the best local cuisine and attending meetings with local youth to address current issues such as AIDS and the need for peace, we had a very broad range of experiences – some more confronting than others.

In our first week more than ten churches, a few hours northwest of where we were living, were burned down and demolished by Islamic extremists, some of them just young boys. I had never come this close to religious persecution, and I was really shaken by it. Although the people with us were concerned about this incident, their faith was not shaken. When speaking at a youth night we asked the youth how they felt about their churches being burned down. Their response was that they have always been taught that the church is not a building; it is the people of God. They went on to explain that they do not feel threatened or afraid because God protects them. Wow! We were amazed and encouraged by their response.

The people are so dedicated to being God’s hands and feet in Indonesia. They are committed to spreading the message of love and peace to their communities. Our faith in God grew in ways we never imagined. We learnt more about how constant He is, and that He always takes care of us. It was amazing to learn about the Lutheran Church in another country, and to realise that although there may be many differences between us and we may not worship in the same language, we are united as brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you would like to consider the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in mission, serving in practical ways, teaching English, teaching in the seminaries and institutions of our partner churches, or in local churches, you are invited to phone Nevin on (08) 8267 7300 or email For more information, go to

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