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Fruitful second chance in Jakarta

EDITOR’S NOTE: To view a video about followers of Christ in Jakarta, go to www.commissionstories.com/stories/421.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (BP)–On the day she almost died, Betty* began to live.

The young Indonesian Muslim woman was swimming in the river when three friends on shore fell in. They couldn’t swim. Betty lunged toward them to help, but they dragged her under. Some people on the riverbank pulled one of the flailing non-swimmers to safety with a bamboo pole, but they couldn’t reach Betty and the others.

As her lungs began to fill with water, Betty remembered everything she had learned during the previous few years about Jesus Christ and His promise of salvation.

“I thought I was going to die,” she remembers. “At that moment I trusted Christ with my heart. I said, ‘Lord, if I die, I will be with You in heaven. But if You want me to live, I will serve You for the rest of my life.'”

Somehow she fought her way to the surface. Rescuers pulled her to the riverbank. The other two drowned.

Betty later was baptized and almost immediately became involved in church ministry. She found healing from the deep bitterness and anger she felt toward her Muslim father, who had driven her away from home when she first began to seek spiritual truth. As she experienced God’s grace and forgiveness, she forgave her father.

She also realized her spiritual calling: evangelist.

“I thought about my two friends who drowned,” she says. “I know the joy of the Lord. I will be with Him in heaven. But what about them? I got a real burden for people who don’t know Christ. I began to reach out.”

That’s how she connected with Rick Arroyo*, Southern Baptist strategy coordinator for Jakarta, Indonesia’s huge capital. Rick was looking for Indonesian believers serious about taking the Gospel to the sprawling megacity — home to at least 12 million people.

“I met her at a pioneer evangelism seminar I taught at the small Baptist church she was a part of,” Rick recalls. “I was ‘fishing’ for people to start a national team, and I was casting a vision. They were all young adults. I used those seminars as a weeding process to see who would stick it out. The group got smaller and smaller until we got our core people.”

Betty was one of the first to commit to Rick’s team. She gained the practical tools she needed to turn her calling into a daily practice of sharing the Gospel, primarily with Muslim and ethnic Chinese women. She learned that some respond to Christ quickly. For others, it’s a process that might take years.


Now in her 30s, Betty is quick with a smile and a conversation. She’s not timid, either; her solid build suggests she could defend herself in a street fight if necessary. Her evangelistic travels around the city with her cell group members call for courage.

“They’re not afraid to go anywhere,” Rick says.

They travel by train, bus or motorcycle, but they prefer the train. “No traffic jams, no red lights — and it’s cheap,” Betty explains.

On a recent trip, Betty and her team took the train from the main city station to several parts of Jakarta to share Gospel tracts and map new communities to return to later. At one stop, a thief snatched a precious pendant from around Betty’s neck and jumped out the open door of the train before it started rolling again. She’ll miss the necklace, but it’s all in a day’s work.

Rhonda*, one of Betty’s team members, describes their ministry this way: “I go all over Jakarta. I give out maybe 2,000 tracts a month. Sometimes I’m afraid, but I always go with someone, and I pray beforehand.”

Betty also carries on running Gospel dialogues — via text message — with individuals to whom she has given a tract or a Bible and who are interested in learning more. “I’m very pleased with this book,” one texter says. “Can I get more to give my friends?” Other messages come from people who have never laid eyes on her, including hard-core Islamists. Some want to debate and make threats. Some are sincerely looking for God.

Betty’s base of ministry is her home — two rooms behind a small café she runs beside a busy road in Jakarta. A large portrait of Jesus hangs in the front room. Many Indonesians have never seen an image of Him.

“A lot of people who come in ask, ‘Who is that?'” she says, pointing to the portrait. “I tell them, ‘That is my Father,’ and they ask, ‘Is he passed away?’ I say, ‘He is in heaven.’ I don’t tell them who He is right away, but I use it as a way to share.” Her regular café customers hear the Good News sooner or later as well.

Her cell group meets for worship and encouragement in the front room. Donning eyeglasses, Betty reads from the New Testament Book of Matthew, chapter 13, where Jesus teaches about the seeds of the Good News falling on good ground and bad. The six women in the group talk about spreading seeds in Jakarta. Then they sing and pray. Everyone contributes something.

Each will one day lead her own cell group if she isn’t already doing so. Rick visits when he can to mentor the group. They also gather with other cells in larger “celebration” worship times for encouragement and teaching.

“God is using any woman who’s interested in following Him,” says Rick’s wife Lucinda*. In Indonesia, “women often feel like they’re not adequate, that they don’t have higher education. But they’ve seen God do this incredible work in their lives. As women, they can do all sorts of things and reach other women where pastors can’t. It’s amazing how God uses the most unlikely people to grow His Kingdom.”

Like an angry young Muslim woman who found life on the verge of death.
*Names changed. Erich Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board.

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  • Erich Bridges