From my Journal

My eleventh visit to Deborah Orphanage in North Sumatra, was from 29 June to 19 August 2014.

The Hulme family from Para Vista came to North Sumatra this year; Bruce, Sonia, five children from twelve to four, and Sonia’s cousin, Vicki Sumner. They were definitely the right people for the venture, culturally sensitive, ready to listen and learn. They are now in the hearts of many people there, especially the children of Debora Orphanage.

A highlight!! This year saw the first meeting of newly formed ‘Team PAD’, people selected to support the Panti Asuhan Debora in various ways; two teachers, a nurse, two pastors, two leaders of women and the head of Diakonal services at the church, a wonderful, epoch making even. In the past, house parents made all major decisions about the children which is a big responsibility, with many possible pitfalls. Thank you, Lord, for Team PAD!!

We attended a morning of their Women’s Congress, and then left on our three day bus trip. This was a gift from Australian friends to the Debora children, a tourist experience for the Hulme family, and also time for informal learning of English. There were so many disruptions during the two weeks the Hulmes were at PAD, that informal English lessons just didn’t happen, but the time was well used.

One beautiful, calm morning with chakchaks (black monkeys) calling over the hill, a delicious avocado drink for breakfast, and rice of course, then washing clothes, we left at about 9am to visit Arse (ar-say) kampong (village), about three quarters of an hour away. John Feber sent a mini bus to bring us to his school, where we spoke to several classes. John, a dedicated teacher, grasps any opportunity to widen the children’s experience. Back at John and Esther’s house, we had a coffee in their new little café created to raise money for their children’s education. Next we went for a walk to Arse Julu, the old village.

There was plenty for the visitors to see. Groups of people were winnowing rice by hand, much like in biblical times. Sometimes machines are rented. We strolled down the village street greeting people. The Australian visitors attracted a lot of interest.

After dinner in the café, I pointed out Aren palms over the road. John went and asked a neighbour if we could have a drink. We watched as the tree was tapped, each had a refreshing drink, and also saw juice being cooked down to make red palm sugar.

Back in Sipirok town, Sonia and Jemimah (twelve) explored the market. I went to the internet shop while Vicki took the younger children back to Debora. At last we all rode home in becaks (motorbikes with covered side cars).

At the evening devotions at Debora, Bruce talked about fruit of the Spirit, and Sonia and children taught a song to suit, then chatting and singing and to bed after a long, eventful day. The next week we made a banner featuring ‘Fruit of the Spirit’, which now hangs in the hallway of the orphanage.

The day before the Hulme group left, several carloads came out from the city to join us in a farewell dinner. It was Toby Hulme’s eight birthday – one he won’t forget. He was enthroned, serenaded in the Batak and Indonesian languages, presented with a cake, which he fed to others by spoonfuls, which is a Batak custom.
Early next morning we travelled by car for about two hours to Sibolga Airport, then flew to Medan. After I saw them off in Medan, I spent five days visiting graduates and other friends as I worked my way southwards, home to Angkola country, travelling in PMV’s (mini buses).

Some features of my visit this year:
– Meeting friends from all around the GKPA church, and other churches further north.
– Taking part in church life, special occasions, festivals and fellowship at smaller gatherings, and trips to outlying congregations for special events.
– Teaching at Debora Children’s Home: the area I visit is 94% Muslim. Christian children need every advantage to continue studies or just get work, so learning English is very important. Teaching is great privilege.
I have now visited eleven times, and do have some difficulties, but overall I receive innumerable blessings. It’s exciting to see children grasp the meaning of words and phrases; to see the glow in the eyes of a child on fire to learn; to see them grasp important teachings from God’s word. I love to be involved in these processes.
I try to use every opportunity for as many purposes as possible, e.g. using clear, powerful Christian songs and texts to teach translation and reading skills; teach First Aid as a vehicle for English lessons etc. I thank God for the opportunities he has given me.
– Meeting graduates where they live and work – just one illustration. When I visited Medan last year I couldn’t find Meli, a 2008 graduate studying accountancy.
Before I left Australia this year I emailed, messages and went on Facebook to graduates to let them know when I planned to be in their area. I put out a general appeal on Facebook – ‘where are you, Meli?’ But received no answer. I sent messages to her brother, again no reply. So my visit to Medan on 12 and 13 July was primarily to find Meli, a sweet, gentle girl. I went and spoke to the family she had stayed with for four years. They said she had run away in early 2013 and was believed to be staying with a Muslim aunt in a distant suburb.
A good friend, Riani, made many phone calls trying to track down Meli, William and Heber for me. Then she went out on a motorbike, and left a message at William’s place of board. He came to see me a few hours later. He’s fine, as always, but still no Meli.
Two weeks later, back at Debora, Meli messaged me. Someone had eventually contacted her. She came twelve hours by bus to see me.
In July 2012, Meli, very embarrassed, had whispered to me that her sponsor church had forgotten to pay for her last year of study. I spoke to the treasurer of that church, and other officials, and expected it would be addressed, but I now found that she had again been forgotten, so couldn’t do her final thesis, and graduate. She was too embarrassed to tell her sponsors the reason as they were members of that church, so she left to find work and has been working in a furniture factory.
When she visited me at Debora, this story came out. We explained her situation to several people I respected and informed the leaders of the church.
This story illustrates why I try to meet graduates. They are out in the world by themselves with little or no family support. Because I love them, I want to know they are important to someone, and also try to model to their church that they need ongoing contact. I spend a lot of time and energy travelling to meet them. I try to keep in contact with them, pray for them and pass on their contact details to their church.

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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