By Russ Schmidt
My wife Margie and I traveled from Sugar Land, Texas to Indonesia for 2 weeks in June 2016 to attend the Vineyard Pastor's Conference in Bali. Visiting church planters in Sulawesi was an awesome trip of great times with wonderful people. The conference gave us the opportunity to get to know precious brothers and sisters not only from Indonesia, but Australia and Korea.
After the conference we traveled with Rudy, our translator, to the cities of Manado and Palu on the island of Sulawesi where we visited some Vineyard pastors we had been fellowshipping with at the conference. They took such good care of us at both places, introducing us to their cities.
Waiting for our flight at the airport in Bali, we talked with a Vineyard pastor returning home from the conference. We learned that he and his wife regularly hike up a trail 11 hours to an unreached people group to share the gospel with them. Such love for Jesus! They give it their all. It is so inspiring and so humbling--what can we offer them when they are so deeply committed and so passionate! Our prayer was to be an encouragement to them, and they so encouraged us!
Saturday morning when we got to Manado, Pastor Denny took very good care of us, showing us his town and taking us on a snorkeling trip. Then we joined Denny and his congregation to dedicate their new church building. They gave us the privilege of cutting the ribbon, sharing a few words, and joining in a celebration meal. The church building is a work in progress: when finished it will have three stories with space for classrooms and lodging. Currently, the ground floor has 3 walls and is a great place to worship the Lord! There is much to be done, including more walls and an electric pump for the well. They are praying that the lot next to the church will become available for them to expand. On Sunday, Margie preached about trusting in the goodness of the Lord, and at the end of the service, we prayed for people. The church is small and growing. Denny has a vision for the church to reach people and to be a place of training and practical experience for new church planters. He plans to establish 10 churches next year. Denny also pastors a church in West Kalimantan and is the area director in Manado. He’s a very busy man!
Our flight from Manado to Palu was delayed by seven hours, so we arrived in time for a late dinner with the church families, but we missed a couple gatherings we had been scheduled for. Pastor Suleiman is so devoted to expanding the kingdom of God that he had received an award at the Pastors Conference for enlisting the most students in the Vineyard Institute classes, over 100, and he had plans for us. The next morning we spoke at the Vineyard Institute.
Palu sits right on the equator on a lovely bay surrounded by mountains. The region is predominantly Muslim, and Ramadan was still going on so a lot of restaurants were closed during the day. Palu is a city known for extremist activity since the local teachings tend to be more fundamentalist, and radicals can easily hide in the nearby mountains. Our brothers and sisters in Jesus live with this stress every day, yet they continue to show God's love and remain joyful. We were taken around the city and up to a viewpoint with a monument dedicated to peace between all religions; it was a great spot with an awesome view of Palu. In the evening I spoke at a gathering where all the pastors of the city had been invited. I was asked to conduct a "workshop on effective leadership," including a Q&A session. We were touched by the open friendliness of everyone we met and how much they went out of their way to bless us. Pastor Suleiman plans to establish a church training/retreat center in Palu, and he works hard to bring fellowship and support to other churches and pastors in the city. Our very full day was topped off around midnight when we felt an earthquake; it was a small one, but it sure gave us Texans a sudden jolt! On our final day our hosts took us around the city to pray for several people before heading for the airport to go back to Bali.
We are grateful for the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with the wonderful people of Indonesia and see first hand how our awesome God is moving in that nation.