Living in the physical darkness of the Indonesian rainforest and the spiritual darkness of the religion of their ancestors, the Suku Anak Dalam are a nomadic people from Sumatra who survive by hunting, foraging and trading.

Otherwise known as the Sanak people, their name roughly translates as ‘people of the forest’. With no access to education, health care or any form of support, these people are especially vulnerable as much of the Indonesian forest has been overtaken by rubber and palm oil plantations.

Some years ago, Pastor Hutagalung, a pastor of the Geraja Kristen Luther Indonesia (GKLI or Indonesian Christian Lutheran Church), heard about the needs of these people still living under tarpaulins in the bush and reached out in mercy. offering physical and spiritual care. The sick were given medical attention, the hungry fed and the good news of God’s forgiving love and the hope we have in Christ was shared with these people who had never heard the name of Jesus before. They received the good news with joy and thanksgiving.

Kristian Yanto and Naomi Isa Puri are two members of this tribe who are now also part of the Christian ‘tribe’ to which we have all been called.

Kristian serves as an elder in the mission congregation and says, ‘Before knowing the Lord Jesus, I lived in darkness. I only believed in ancestral spirits, about evil spirits and shamans. I lived in anxiety. But after I became a Christian, I knew and believed Jesus Christ as my Saviour. My heart is peaceful and there is joy’.

Naomi similarly speaks about her conversion to Christianity being a journey from darkness to light. She says, ‘After believing in Jesus Christ and being baptised, I went to the church.

I believe Jesus Christ is my Saviour. Currently, I continue learning the word of God and try to [live a] better life under the guidance of the pastor of Indonesian Christian Lutheran Church’.

With these few words, Naomi and Kristian point to a reality that we often miss in the West. The mission of God is a spiritual battle against ‘the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places’ (Eph 6:12). And the good news is that this battle is already won in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and this victory over sin and death and the devil is available to all who call on the name of the Lord.

Pastor Hutagalung now serves among the Sanak people full-time and lives in what is becoming a Lutheran village surrounding the church. The light of the gospel shines brightly in this little community as Kristian, Naomi and their fellow villagers now share not only their ethnic heritage in this life but the sure and certain hope of life together in God’s eternal kingdom.

– Bishop Esra Sinaga (GKLI) and Pastor Matt Anker

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