The following is a report from Rahmat, a HeartCry missionary working in Southeast Asia. Please read the report and use it to pray for him and his family. Please ask that God would continue to give an open door for Gospel ministry in this SE Asian country. Pray also that the Gospel would be central to all the ministry that takes place.
The yearly observance of Ramadan began at the end of May. During Ramadan, Muslims (with some exceptions) are to refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Every morning at about 2:30, the older boys have the responsibility and privilege to make their rounds through the neighborhood to wake everyone up! This is so there is time to get up, prepare food, and eat before the first call to prayer which comes at about 4:30 a.m. here. The boys go through the streets playing a large drum and other instruments and singing a chant of “sahur, sahur!” which is the word for the pre-dawn meal. During the day things are often quieter than usual, with many businesses (especially food sellers) closed for part or all of the day. The fast breaks at about 5:45 p.m. here, and in the late afternoon the atmosphere becomes very festive. People are usually out in the streets making their way home, visiting, and buying and selling traditional foods to break the fast. And after their evening meal, kids play outside much later than usual and often set off firecrackers in the street. There is also increased activity from the mosque loudspeakers, such as extra songs at all times of the day. Practically speaking, Ramadan can be a time for us when it’s tempting to be irritated with our neighbors. There is a lot more noise than usual at times that are “inconvenient” for us (like 2:30 a.m.!)
Spiritually speaking, however, Ramadan is a time of increased focus on spiritual things. It’s our hope and prayer that God would reveal himself to Muslims through his Son during this time when they’re thinking more about spiritual realities. They believe that if they sincerely follow the fast and fulfill their religious obligations, then their soul, their fitra, will be purified and return to its original, pure state at Eid ul Fitr (the holiday that is observed at the close of Ramadan). This shows at the very least two things:
- they have no concept of original sin – that is they believe people are born without a sinful nature, and
- they are blinded by the god of this age into thinking that their own religious efforts can cleanse their souls. Three ways you can pray specifically for Muslims during Ramadan: Pray that God would soften their hearts, and make them open to read or listen to his word. Pray that they would have a subjective awareness of their own guilt despite their best efforts to ease their consciences through their religion. And pray that we would have opportunities to speak of Christ during this time.
Our house church continues to gather each Sunday afternoon at 4:00. We usually worship together until about 6:30, then eat and fellowship until late in the evening. We recently finished studying through James’ epistle, and then the book of Habakkuk in the Old Testament. It was encouraging for us all to learn more about God’s faithfulness in the midst of suffering and evil. Please pray that as our minds are shaped by these theological truths that we would be able to apply them practically in our lives. We also continue to have a mid-week Bible study, and we’ve been encouraged that some of our missionary friends have been more involved in the house church. Changing our meeting time to the afternoon has helped because they are also a part of other churches in Bandung. Pak Salim and his wife, Ibu Riri, and their daughter, Kaitan, have been consistently coming to the meetings, and Pak Salim has taught some as well. While I was recently on another island, Ucu also taught and it was a great blessing for everyone. Please pray for the house church, particularly that God’s people would grow in maturity and more clearly reflect the Savior in their lives.
Weekly Missionary Prayer Meeting
We continue to meet each week with our co-workers, as well as a couple of other indigenous missionaries. We worship together, pray together, and discuss theology together. Please pray that God would continue to use this time to help us all grow more in our understanding of God’s word, theological truth, and that we would see God answer our prayers in the ministries that He’s entrusted to each of us. John Piper reminds us of the profound biblical truth that missions exists because worship doesn’t. Pray that our worship together as co-laborers would greater catalyze us all to be more sacrifically involved in Christ’s mission to build his church. Our desire is to meet with God, and then be God’s vessels so that other people might do the same.
As some of you already know, I have been working on translating the New Testament for almost three years. He initially started the project in order to help better learn how biblical concepts should be expressed using the national language, as well as work on Greek exegesis. As a church planter and Bible teacher, I was teaching each week from already existing translations (there are a few available), and was constantly having to correct the translation and say things like, “Well this is not what the original language actually means,” or “It might be more accurately translated like…” I felt that having to do this constantly might have the adverse effect of eroding people’s confidence in God’s word. So, I began his own translation with the purpose of using it to help people clearly understand the Scriptures, and give them confidence in the Bible.
I’ve now completed almost all the Pauline epistles (except the two Corinthian letters), James, and a few chapters in Mark’s Gospel. However, even the completed portions are still being revised, as well as checked by native speakers. It’s a tedious process to ensure that the translation accurately and faithfully reflects the original language in a way that’s clear and communicative. The goal is that when people read the translation it has the same clarity and effect as the original message did to its first recipients. This cannot happen unless the translation follows the sentence structure and normal speaking patterns in the language; it cannot happen, as well, unless the translation is faithful to the original text. This is why translation is something that must be done with much prayer, being immersed in the cultural and linguistic context of the target language, as well as continuously reading and studying the biblical text in its original language. Please pray that God would be glorified with this translation work.
We continue to receive good feedback from Bruce Ware’s book that was published at the beginning of the year. The largest Baptist denomination is planning to use the book as a part of their Sunday school curriculum because the book helps to identify common misunderstandings that Indonesians have about Christ’s humanity. It also challenges Christians to imitate the life of the Savior and be filled with the Spirit’s power in order to live the Christian life from day to day. In a conversation today, the Baptist publisher’s director enthusiastically shared how much the book has helped him. Each week, he’s been leading his entire staff in discussions about the book. We discussed some revisions that need to be made for the book’s second printing.
As we’ve mentioned before, we’ve also translated several other books and are planning to intermittently publish them, as well. In the meeting with the Baptist publisher today, the next book to be published was discussed. We’re going to publish Paul Washer’s book The Gospel’s Power and Message. Please pray for the Baptist publisher as they edit the translation and prepare it for publishing. Reading translated books is often a cumbersome task because many of the translations are not done well. Please pray that this book would be translated and edited well and that it would greatly benefit God’s people in this SE Asian country.
I just returned on Tuesday from a visit to another island (the Western half of the island of New Guinea). My initial plans were to visit the M—— River region where HeartCry missionary Yulianus lives, but this plan was halted when the aviation ministry that handles flights to the jungle was not able to accommodate the needed flights. So I went to the village of Danowage, where Trevor Johnson and Paul Snider (and families) live, along with HeartCry-supported missionaries Jimmy and Perin. A doctor from J—- who works for a well know hospital group also flew in; she is hoping to set up a clinic in Danowage and supply it with two nurses.
The first day, everyone visited two villages down river; the doctor met with some people who had medical needs and also informed them about the clinic that was being planned for Danowage. The next day, they found that due to the previous night’s rain in the highlands and in the lowland areas surrounding Danowage, the river had flooded (rising about 15 feet in elevation). The water had washed away all the pigs (about 100 in all) and destroyed all the gardens adjacent to the river. It was the worst flood in that area in about 10-15 years. After hearing about the flooding and what was lost, Christians in J— donated about $1,500 and a whole shipment of food supplies. The government also sent in some food.
On Sunday, Paul, Perin, Dr. Atik, and I headed down river in a boat towards the village of Mabuwage. The plan was to teach at the evangelistic post there; it was opened up by HeartCry missionary Jimmy Weyato a couple of years ago, and now evangelist Yus is serving there. After going down the river for about 30 minutes, they realized that the river had changed dramatically from the flooding, and many places that once had open streams were now closed up with rocks. So they eventually had to turn around and head back to Danowage.
On Sunday afternoon, however, I was able to teach at the church’s meeting in Danowage. Also that night he was able to gather with 8-10 Dani evangelists in Jimmy and Perin’s home in order to eat supper, teach, and encourage them from the scriptures. The Dani are a tribe from the highlands that is more evangelized. Many Danis have left their homeland to serve as evangelists to other tribes, and some have made their way to Danowage to work with Paul and Trevor). Please continue to pray for the Johnson and Snider families; pray also for HeartCry’s partners in Papua: Yulianus, Jimmy and Perin, and Yus Weya.
Please pray for an upcoming trip I have planned to another part of our island with HeartCry missionary Alah’bi. We’re planning to teach a group of pastors. Pray that God would help them as they prepare to teach, and pray that God would bless the teaching.
Please also pray for a team that will be coming to visit in July, who we will be working closely with. They’re from a church in CA. They have come to our country for the last 3 years and we’ve always been encouraged by their love for Christ and zeal for the lost. Pray that their efforts to reach our target people would be fruitful.