EDITOR’S NOTE: This missions account by pastor Brent Mitchell* was told to Robert Jackson, a family practice physician in South Carolina who drafted this article for the Baptist Courier state newspaper in South Carolina.
ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (BP) — My two companions and I were on a ferry heading for an isolated island off the coast of Indonesia when a suspicious dark-skinned man approached us. Surprisingly, he asked in English, “Why are you going to my island?”
Taken aback, I looked at the 240 other dark-skinned Indonesians who had been staring at us, obviously discussing the three fair-skinned foreigners, and replied to my interrogator, “We are tourists.”
He threw back his head and laughed out loud. “No tourists come to my island!” he exclaimed. “Where will you stay? There is no hotel.”
“Yes, we are tourists, but we don’t know where we will stay.” He pondered that for a moment, then announced emphatically, “Then you will stay with me.”
I turned to my friends and said, “See there? The Lord doth provide. We have lodging for the night. We won’t have to sleep outside on the ground.” Then I turned back to see those stoic Muslim faces for the rest of our two-hour ferry ride.
The woman beside me with two dead chickens in her bag kept trying to edge away from me. My companions, two fellow pastors in North Carolina, and I had traveled to Jakarta. We took a commuter flight to one island and then to a second island. Now we were on a ferry ride to our final destination, the home of 100,000-plus Indonesian Muslims called the Solor people, an unreached, unengaged people group with no evangelical witness. They have lived and died without the Gospel for generations.
Our intention was to travel there, explore the island, meet the people, share the Gospel if possible, and initiate contacts that would allow the pastors with me to return at a later date with church-planting mission teams from their respective churches.
Our new friend, Mahmoud Ibrahim, took us to his home immediately — a two-room house with a tin roof. His wife served us fruit juice. Then we had to register with the chief of police, who celebrated our arrival with great pomp. Although few tourists — none — came to their island, they suggested we visit the ruins of the fort, as good tourists would.
En route to the fort, we stopped to buy drinks at a roadside stand because of the 100-plus-degree temperature and extremely high humidity, as this island is situated right on the equator. After drinks, a crowd gathered to see three fair-skinned people on their island.
We popped out and threw collapsible Frisbees, which initially frightened the crowd because they had never seen anything like them. After a few throws, everyone was smiling and laughing. I then took a Sharpie and began to explain the Gospel in six pictures, drawing it on the inside of one of the Frisbees and using my host as an interpreter. The crowd was enthralled and listened intently. When finished, I threw that Frisbee with the Gospel message on it to one of the men in the crowd. He became an instant celebrity.
We then marched down the road to the fort. We passed several more drink stands. At each one we stopped and repeated the process. My pastor friends and I took turns sharing the Gospel using the Frisbees. The crowds got bigger each time, and our interpreter got better and more authoritative each time, as if he was the Indonesian translator for Billy Graham!
On the final day I asked Ibrahim if there were any believers like us on the island. He responded, “Why, yes, of course — the port master, my cousin!”
“Why didn’t you tell me this already?”
“You never asked me.”
“Can we meet him?”
“Of course, he is in the harbor this week.”
So we all trooped down to the harbor to meet and interview the harbormaster. It turns out he had traveled to another island the previous year, at which time he had been invited to a Protestant church by some friends. The church was a two-and-a-half-hour hike to the top of a mountain. That day he heard singing and a Gospel presentation and became a believer. Incredulous, I asked him via my interpreter, “You became a believer after hearing about Christ only one time?”
“Yes, of course, and I took my wife back there a month later, and she became a believer as well.”
“How often do you go there?”
“I return to that island on business about every three months. We attend church when we return.”
“Are there any other believers like you on this island?”
“Only one other, but he is not a very good believer.”
“Why do you say that?”
“He doesn’t go to church very often.”
The three of us Americans burst into laughter. He was quite perplexed.
After meeting with him, my pastor friends promised him they would come back two or three times per year, God willing, with the support of International Mission Board personnel in Jakarta to help him and his wife start a church on their island. He was quite delighted we would take such an interest in him and the people on his island.
Later that day we began our three-day journey back to the United States, with the ferry ride and the two flights back to Jakarta. We were full of praise to our Lord that He had prospered our visit to the Solor people, occupants of an island with no Gospel witness for generations, but which, with God’s blessing, will soon have a New Testament church planted by Southern Baptists from rural North Carolina.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A missions luncheon will be held at Boiling Springs First Baptist Church in South Carolina on May 2 at noon for pastors and lay leaders interested in reaching an unreached people group. If you and your church would like to attend or want to hear more about reaching an unreached people group, contact the church at 864-578-2828.