On October 18-29, I (Matt) traveled to Bali and Timor Leste. A team from New Orleans had come to visit. We served for a few days in Bali, teaching several times at a Baptist church. We also had the chance to teach a family in a village who has just come to faith in Christ. The family comes from a Muslim background, and they were just baptized the week before our visit. So, we taught them for a couple of hours about foundational Christian doctrines – regeneration, justification, & sanctification. It was encouraging to see their reception to God’s word. They had many good questions and talked through the practical application of various points.
After leaving Bali, we flew to Timor Leste where we taught for two days. This time was different than usual. We usually only teach Francisco’s church, Gethsemane Baptist Church. However, this time several other people from various church denominations came. Matt and the team taught verse by verse through the entire book of Titus. Although the discussion/question time wasn’t as vigorous as usual, we still had some healthy discussion regarding male-only leadership in the church (many churches in Indonesia and Timor Leste see no problem with having female pastors), as well as church discipline. These are basic concepts for many of us, truths we often take for granted, but people find all sorts of reasons to not embrace what’s clearly taught in the scriptures. These are “blind spots.” So, it takes time, patience, and God’s grace working through the Spirit to change people’s minds.
It’s for this reason that I was more acutely aware of spiritual warfare while we were in Timor Leste. The battle manifests itself in people’s minds, both in the mind of the one preaching God’s word and in the mind of the one listening to God’s word. The evil one desires that our teaching would be unclear and unfruitful because he knows that the pathway to change, obedience, and cherishing Christ more begins in the mind. So, with the Spirit’s help, we labor to make our teaching clear and biblical, trusting that the Spirit will also illuminate the minds of those listening. Anyone who’s ever preached, though, knows what it feels like when the Spirit doesn’t do those things. The teaching is dull and unclear and those listening are uninterested and bored.
After the New Orleans team left for the US, I stayed in Timor Leste for several more days. I spent most of the time with Francisco and his family in their home. Each day I taught the scriptures in a simple way to them during the morning and evening devotions. We studied Acts 1 and also revisited the topic of church discipline. I also taught during their Sunday school hour and preached in their weekly worship service.
One day we traveled about three hours into the mountains to minister to a family. Francisco is laboring to plant a church in this location. I taught the family for a while on a biblical understanding of man’s fallen state using Bahasa Indonesia. But it had to be translated into Tetun, one of Timor Leste’s national languages (these people’s first language is Mambai). Towards the end of the teaching time, a lady wandered into the house and started listening. She was in the area because that village is having a festival. After I finished teaching the family, I summarized for her what I had taught, and then I taught the gospel to her. Afterward, I asked her, “Do you believe that?” to which she said, “Yes, I believe.” I encouraged her to continue coming back to meet with Francisco.
Before leaving, we prayed for people in the family. During that time, a teenage boy in their family told us that he wanted to follow Christ. So, we spoke to him further and prayed for him, telling him what saving faith would do in his life. Please pray for these two people. Only God knows if they’ve truly been visited with salvation. Please also pray for Francisco as he continues to labor in this animistic Catholic village. Pray that Christ would build his church.