Part 6: Visit to the Church of St John the Baptist, Ramunia
In November 2012, with the blessings of His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos and His Eminence Metropolitan Konstantinos of Singapore, eight men from the Greek Orthodox Christian Society travelled to Medan, Indonesia, at the request of Fr Chrysostomos Manalu, an Orthodox priest of Indonesian background. This is the sixth in a series of articles outlining aspects of this missionary visit.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19).
It was with these words in our minds that the missionary work in Indonesia, and in particular that of Father Chrysostomos on the island of Sumatra, 3721 nautical miles northwest of Sydney, was and is a reality.
On Sunday the 2nd of December 2012, after attending the Holy Liturgy, Father Chrysostomos made a decision that two members of our group, along with himself, would travel to a small village two hours from Medan called Ramunia, to visit the beautiful church of St John the Baptist. The drive was uneventful, but with many blessings. Speaking to Father about his work, and the enormous efforts required to reach people in these outpost areas, was an eye-opener in itself. It was amazing that in such a distant place, people had heard about Orthodoxy and had approached Father Chrysostomos to teach them more. Father told us that at this village, there were forty people in preparation to become Orthodox (catechumens). There was a church in the process of being built, and the people were impatient as to when they would be baptised.
Arriving at the village, rice paddies surrounded us; the church itself was also surrounded with rice fields. The people, having heard that Father was coming and was bringing visitors, had all gathered with great anticipation. Their love and devotion to the church was incredible. They thirsted for Christ and absorbed every opportunity they had to hear the words of our Lord!
The afternoon was spent with these amazing people, talking and sharing a simple cup of tea and a local offering. A short talk followed, and then question time was remarkable in the range and depth of queries concerning the basis of the Orthodox Faith, the Holy Trinity, the Theotokos and the Saints. One thing, which was apparent, was that these people loved to sing! Singing, which is a big part of their lives, was one way they expressed their love and faith in God. They would sing at any opportunity they were given.
For us, the two visitors to this isolated village in Sumatra Indonesia, the highlight was of course visiting the church itself. At first glance the church looked to be in perfect order from the outside. It had walls, roof and windows completed. However when one looked inside, it was unfinished. No floor, no ceiling, but simply a shell and the baptismal font, which was simply a hole in the ground. Leaving that afternoon was difficult because the warmth of the parishioners and their love for Christ was inspiring.
On the drive back to Medan many issues were discussed, but what took priority was what would it take to finish the church. Completing the internals of the church would offer these beautiful people somewhere to be baptised in due time and also a place to worship God in an Orthodox Church. This was the dream that afternoon, which with the Grace of God will become a reality in the very near future.
Almost two years have passed since writing this article originally. Truly with the Grace of God these beautiful people have received what we all prayed for. The completion of the church took place a few months ago! What was a dream and seemed almost impossible in human eyes, was possible in God’s eyes. The work of the Orthodox Church in this distant and sometimes forgotten land goes forward, at times almost miraculously. The salvific words of Christ are being heard and responded to by many that hear them. It was and still is amazing for us two visitors that were blessed to visit these beautiful people to continuously learn of their progress.
Our prayers are always that God blesses their works and efforts and strengthens His Holy Church.
Source: August-September 2014 Lychnos Edition