On the island of Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya, we crossed an invisible culture line that we had no idea even existed.
The island of Papua shares a border with Papua New Guinea. It has been a long time struggle for who “owns” Papua and which country controls it. At this time, Papua is part of the country of Indonesia.
Papua is a land of hundreds of cultures. It is predominately made up of indigenous Papuan cultures with a not so distant past involving tribal warfare, headhunting and cannibalism. A dramatic change has been seen in this aspect native culture largely due to the work of Christian missionaries. Local churches have been formed all throughout the area so that Papua is considered a “Christian culture”.
As the Indonesian government has continued to seek control of Papua, many immigrants from other parts of Indonesia have started to settle into the island of Papua. With them, they have brought their religion of Islam.
Our contacts here in Papua are well aware of the differences of culture, religion and life that they are dealing with daily. The family we visited have lived in this part of Indonesia for more than 10 years.
Their work here includes working with the local churches to disciple and build up local Papuan leaders. Their goal is to have locals know and share the Gospel with their neighbors and with immigrants.
We have had the chance to talk with local Papuans and immigrants from other parts of Indonesia on our visit here. We met, Avi, a local Papuan who is excited to share his faith. Avi’s tender heart struck me through his kind eyes and huge smile.
On a visit to a small island that is home to immigrants, we met a family that is visited regularly. They have been hearing audio recordings in their language of creation, the prophets, and Jesus. They have a desire to hear more and talk of how what they are learning impacts their lives today. They are hearing a message of Hope that they desperately have needed to hear.
The culture here is steeped with alcoholism, abuse and the relations between locals and immigrants is not often friendly.
There are many organizations working here in Papua (MAF, Wycliffe, New Tribes, etc). The community of believers is a strength as they work together to send out the Good News into a broken culture.
We were blessed to see firsthand the work here. We are excited to be able to share the story, stay connected and see how The Lord will use them in this place.