Persecuted but Blessed …
Yesterday I shared how the passion of the believers has both inspired and challenged me. This weekend I have experienced the blessing of persecution up close as I’ve met church planters and pastors.
Saturday and Sunday were all about church planting. Saturday saw Kelly meet (read interview!) numerous potential planters. I looked on at a man in his element. He loves this stuff and wants to make sure that our third plant here is the right one.
Critical to us are the vision, the strategic plan and, of course, the leadership quality of the planter. All the guys we met had been prescreened before they met with us and so we were meeting those with the best opportunity to make a plant work. The most crucial question of all is therefore, “What is God saying?” Kelly will take his time on that and talk things over with the mission team at home.
On Saturday evening we had dinner with the President of the seminary and his wife. We talked about the long term goal of the seminary and of the Jakarta 100 vision – planting 100 churches in Jakarta. The president was passionate about education and even more passionate about educating and equipping church planters. Both Kelly and I left the dinner impressed and encouraged by his very realistic view of the way ahead.
The highlight of the weekend was the meeting with Pastor Sandy yesterday and the visit to his church this morning.
Pastor Sandy’s church was our first plant in Indonesia. He has done a great job building a team and stabilizing a church that has been forced to move four times in three years and seven times in six years! The church moves have been driven by persecution and being forbidden to meet. None of this has dampened their enthusiasm.
This morning we were thrilled to be able to celebrate the church’s birthday! We were asked to preach but Kelly and I felt it right just to be there and worship with them. We wanted to experience as close to a normal Sunday service as possible.
So Pastor Sandy preached from Psalms 34. He challenged the congregation to depend on God even in the face of persecution (v5-7) and to do the right thing even when it is hard (v14-15). He cited examples of the challenges the church had faced over the past three years. Pastor Sandy challenged the church to never forget that God had blessed them and led them this far. Verses 19-20 say:
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
After words of greeting from us, the dedication of three children of a recently saved family, it was time for prayer for two members of the congregation. One was a young man with cancer. The cancer has spread and there is little hope. He has two young children and despite the pain he didn’t want to miss worship. The church has said they will take care of his family. The man’s pain was obvious, his commitment touching and his condition heart-wrenching. It honestly just doesn’t seem right that such a young man with young kids would suffer so…
The second was an older lady who has been blind for three years. Tears flowed down her cheeks as I prayed.
Before praying for them we were reminded of Psalms 30:5 which says:
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
It was an incredibly humbling experience to worship with them this morning. It was encouraging to see that the investment our church has made has been well worth while. The congregation packed the worship hall and the atmosphere was electric. The only problem? They might have to move again! Not because of persecution this time but growth. Their space is way too small for the more than 100 people who worship every week. Continue to pray for Sandy and the church.