John Stumbo Video Blog No. 34
May 12, 2016
On site in Indonesia, John summarizes the rich, yet sacrificial 80-year history of God at work in this nation of more than 13,000 islands. It contains the largest population of Muslims in the world, despite having outgrown the U.S. Alliance in its number of churches. In reflecting on this legacy, John reminds us to see the fruit of our work as lasting and multi-generational.
I’m in Indonesia—my first time ever in this incredible country. I’m going to try and bring you some of what I’ve felt and experienced. I can’t bring you enough flavors, so sorry no satay delivery, but Indonesia—a nation spanning the width of the United States spilling across over 13,000 islands. Over its spices nations battled; to its beaches nations flock. Exotic fruits, lush beauty, active volcanos, plummeting canyons, terraced rice farms—an engineering feat worthy of admiration; chicken satay—a culinary feat worthy of celebration. Indonesia, the home of over 2,500 Alliance churches, one of the five national churches larger than the U.S. Alliance. Twenty-five hundred churches that are the fruit of Dr. Jaffray’s vision, 80 years of Great Commission Fund giving, hundreds of Canadian and American sent ones and a national church that increasingly lives out its call to take the gospel of Jesus to their Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. Eighty years of beautiful stories of God at work in this land. Indonesia is also home of the world’s largest population of Muslims. No country on earth has more followers of the Islamic faith than this fabulous stretch of islands.
R.A. Jaffray, son of a significant Canadian businessman, walked away from the family business to serve The Christian and Missionary Alliance, already had an entire career of distinction in China as God had used him throughout that land to see the church established, and China itself wasn’t big enough for Jaffray. He was the one who led us to launch the ministry in what we now call Vietnam, but as the years went on there was one more location that burned in his heart; as he would pour over maps, he recognized this area that we now call Indonesia as being completely lacking in any gospel witness. He took a trip and he stood upon the soil and he wrote these words, ”Here is a place where the supreme rule of Satan has never been disputed. The prince of darkness has never been challenged here.”
He would write a letter to the mission board in New York City at the time and make an appeal that we needed to launch into this region of these thousands of islands. He was told, “We don’t have money, we don’t have personnel,” and he felt like his hands were washed of the situation; but in a dream, Jaffray felt that he could not let this go. Somehow the gospel must come to this beautiful, beautiful land. And in a word that became prophetic, Jaffray writes, “It will take some sacrifice, it will cost tears and blood.” Little did he know that blood would be his own. “Much money will be needed, much hardship must be endured, lives will have to be sacrificed for Christ. Are there not people who would gladly give of their wealth for such an enterprise? And are there not young people who would gladly lay aside all comforts of life and endure hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, if need be, laying down life itself at His feet?” Now well into his 60s and he had left his home in China and had established a center for the gospel here and, 80 years later, I had the privilege of being the first U.S. Christian and Missionary Alliance president to . . . I think I got nine days of emotion all colliding here. Well, you guys know what it’s like to move, move, move, talk, talk, talk, catch some sleep and then do it all over again the next day. It’s been wonderful; I’ve loved it. But, um, I think I’ve got nine days of emotion and it’s a real mix of, um, sweet joy and, um, the aging pastor, seminary professor, seminary president, national church president, he’s done it all, and he looks at me at the table and grabs the one minute that he has to say, “Please express my appreciation to your church back home. Your missionaries have worked hard and I’m the fruit.” He’s talking about . . . we’re fifty years old, he introduces me to the man sitting next to him who is a church planter that he has mentored through the years.
The church planter came to Christ through one of these missionaries, the Lewises. I come to find out the story that the Lewises had labored in Bali without any fruit, without any evidence that the work was going to go forward, and year after year at their field conference, our missionary team, field leadership team, said we’ve got to take you out of Bali, there’s, nothing’s happening there. And the Lewises would plead year after year, “No, let us stay!” Well, they did get to stay and in time, this young man came to faith in Christ, is no longer a young man, he’s in his seventies, he looks younger than I am, but he’s in his seventies and I find out he’s planted 25 churches himself. I ask him, “What’s your strategy for church planting?” He smiles and he simply says, “Well, I ask people if they are sick and I pray for the sick. And sometimes people get healed and when they do, they become the evangelist. They start telling other people about Jesus. And we also, strategy number two, we drive out demons in the name of Jesus.”
He tells me a story of going to one village and asks, “Who’s the most powerful man in town?” So they send him to the shaman and he comes to the shaman and says, “So I hear that you’re powerful.” And the shaman says, “Well, so you want power.” And the church planter says, “Do you have more power than I do? I have power in the name of Jesus to drive out a thousand demons, can you do that?” And the shaman says, “Well, no, I actually get my power from the demons, so I couldn’t do that.” And they get into this discussion, the church planter actually says argument, for hours they go well into the evening and the church planter is driving home when a tree appears in the middle of the road. The tree hadn’t been there before and the church planter is aware enough of the demonic world to realize that’s the shaman who’s now presented himself in the form of a tree in the middle of the road and the church planter rebukes the tree in the name of Jesus and the tree becomes the shaman again. And the shaman yields.
In that culture, when a shaman finds a power greater than his own, he has to submit to the greater power. And he submits to the name of Jesus. And so in the days and weeks that followed, the shaman would go in town and introduce the church planter to various people. The church planter would share the gospel of Jesus Christ and the shaman, the former shaman now, would say, “It’s true, it’s true!” would be his “amen section.” The church planter starts 25 churches, there’s actually 50 now in Bali over 50, where the Lewises pled that they could stay. Through that church planter, a young man was mentored who now is the head of our seminary in Makassar, Jaffray’s seminary, and was just elected to be president of the national church here in Indonesia. The president has mentored students while he was at Jaffray Seminary, so I’m in a church plant just this last Sunday, 60 people crammed into this little building, I’m dripping with sweat, as the name of Jesus is joyfully celebrated, a little island of praise in a sea of Islam that surrounds us. Testimony time comes and one of the students that the president has mentored says, “We were going out on a missions trip to take Jesus to, the message of Jesus, to one of the surrounding villages and we didn’t have money for the return trip. We only had money for one way, but we decided to go anyway and trust God; it was a step of faith. We were told that there would only be 20 children to minister to and when we got there, there was over a hundred and we were able to share Jesus with over a hundred children and God provide our money to get to come back to the school.”
I just tried to quickly tell you four generations of stories, starting with Jacob [pronounced YAK-ub] goes to a church planter, goes to a president, goes to student and the story goes on and on with multiple little streams and rivulets that spin off from one river into another territory as the fruit of the gospel has produced wonderful fruit. Indonesia is one of the five nations that are larger as a Christian and Missionary Alliance family than the U.S. family. Twenty-five hundred churches joyfully celebrating Jesus in this land. Yet there are 120 distinct people groups within this country which still do not have a church among them. Still, so much work to do and it’s pretty clear that Western Americans are not going to be the church planters in some of these regions. It will have to be—because of politics and skin color and all sorts of issues—it will have to be this new generation.
C&MA pastor in the United States, Great Commission Fund donor, owner, please don’t see all the fruit of your labors as single generational, one-generation of impact. No, no, no. The fruit often is multi-generational, going on and on and on. I’m here testifying that the fruit is sweet and beautiful and ongoing. In fact, in some ways, I believe the story is just beginning to be written of what God is going to do through the Indonesian church. You’ve been part of that Alliance family in the U.S. We’re still part of that. I’m so proud of the small team of international workers that we have serving here. Dedicated, intelligent, strategic, winsome, loving people – they’re representing Christ well. I’m proud to be associated with them.
This is what we’re part of. I’ll come back with more next month.