Gospel overcomes deepest divides

Life for Christians in West Sumatra is complicated. In this majority-Muslim region of Indonesia, churches are not permitted to display crosses, Christians can’t buy land on which to build churches or bury their dead, and you don’t have to go far inland to be under Sharia law.

But our brothers and sisters in the Lord who live and serve in this place refuse to let earthly challenges rob them of their joy as forgiven children of God. They welcome you with warm hospitality and all-embracing smiles that reveal an inner joy. Life might be tough, but you sense they know something they want others to know as well!

Pastor Anjel serves amid the mosques in Padang. His church largely ministers to people from the Mentawai Islands, a four-hour fast-boat trip to the west.

He juggles pastoral responsibilities with managing the church’s tertiary boarding house, serving as house father to about 15 young people and cooking for boarders and guests alike.

I stopped in to see Pastor Anjel and hear more about his ministry. As we entered the church, I could see the sanctuary was lit and hosted a simple wooden coffin, surrounded by women in Muslim dress. In another room, Pastor Anjel explained that a 15-year-old Muslim girl had died. Originally from Mentawai, family members were waiting to transport the body back home for burial. As they searched for a place to gather and grieve around the coffin, they were devastated to discover they could not take the girl’s body into their mosque.

Pastor Anjel invited them to bring the girl’s body to the church where they would be welcome to sit, grieve together and be served by members of the congregation. When they protested that they were Muslim and couldn’t understand how a Christian would allow them into their church, Pastor Anjel told them that God loves all people and wants everyone to be saved. He said Jesus didn’t just die for those born into Christian families, but for everyone and so they would always be welcome in the church.

The gospel shared, the Muslim family brought their dead child to rest in the same place in which Jesus serves the weary each week with his body and blood. As the family gathered, devastated by loss, the good news that Jesus loves them rang in their ears.

This is a society that often allows religious differences to divide people. But Pastor Anjel and his congregation know that the good news of Christ’s forgiveness can overcome the deepest divides.

Instead of repaying evil with evil, they seek to show the love of Jesus to all. They don’t pretend the differences are insignificant, but neither do they construct walls of human design aimed at keeping people out.

Like the angels who announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, Pastor Anjel brings the same ‘good news of great joy that is for ALL the people’ (Luke 2:10) and is helping God’s kingdom to come in one of the most unlikely places on earth.

Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to www.lca.org.au/international-mission/act-now/pray

Read more stories about our partner churches in Indonesia at www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/international-partners/indonesia/