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Small Business Capital in Indonesia Yields Saved Souls

February 26, 2015

A chainsaw rental business thrives on demand to clear away trees.

In impoverished areas among Indonesia´s varied peoples, Christians are learning to run small businesses to support themselves and their ministries – and to open avenues to Muslims and Hindus that otherwise would be closed.

An indigenous ministry in Indonesia has granted workers funds to start businesses that were key to the recent planting of two churches in Bali, where 83 percent of the people are Hindu. Along with dozens of other churches the ministry previously established with the aid of small businesses, the micro-enterprises recently helped plant a church in the western province of Sumatra, where Muslims make up 87 percent of the population, as well as four churches on the 73-percent Muslim island of Borneo, the leader of the ministry said.

The small businesses, from beauty salons to chainsaw rentals, have been integral to these church plants, he said.

“As people in the church begin to have their own micro-businesses, they have income, and that funds the establishment of a healthy church in that area,” he said. “Recently church planting servants have testified that more than 1,000 people have been reached with the evangelical faith through methods of micro-business in Indonesia, and more than 20 people who have received Christ Jesus were baptized.”

Among the enterprises that have begun with start-up assistance from Christian Aid Mission are laundry, frozen treat, used clothes, farming, sewing machine, soccer center, café and chicken egg businesses. These services have created inroads to resistant communities.

“Because we are in a Hindu area, Christians are not welcome into a village or area unless there is some product or service that can be helpful to the community,” the ministry leader said. “If the Christian has a helpful business or service, he is welcomed into the community and has opportunities to build relationships with people. The discussions that naturally happen as a result are very effective evangelism.”

Hinduism is one of six recognized religions in Indonesia. Though Hinduism is practiced by only 1.7 percent of the total population, that amounts to more than 4 million people. Indonesia is home to the world´s largest Islamic population, 204.8 million, which is 12.7 percent of the world´s Muslims.

In one enterprise in Bali, a pastor fit cooler boxes of frozen treats onto a motorbike, which drew children and their mothers to invite him to their doorstep.

“Over time, this has created relationships and great opportunities for evangelism in this Hindu culture,” the director said. “Without the tool of the iced treat business, the opportunity to build relationships and share the gospel would not be there.”

Residents of the island of Bali meet for worship.

Once established, the pastor enabled several church members to run their own frozen treat businesses.

“They all now have successful iced treat businesses, which have expanded the evangelistic outreach to this community, but also have funded a healthy local church,” he said.

Benefiting the community is one of the fundamental purposes of business, according to numerous Christian philosophers and theologians, who affirm it as a public service rather than just a means of seeking personal gain. As the late British politician and industrialist Sir Fred Catherwood wrote, “Our creed is that we are here to serve not ourselves but others. We should, therefore, be much more conscious than others of our standards of service.”

The indigenous ministry leader noted that small businesses in Indonesia provide income for local missionaries, pastors and church members; these workers find that Christian values, such as industry, honesty and integrity contribute to business success.

In familiar settings without tension and conflict, the ministry leader said, conversations about Christ take place within business relationships on deep levels. While not all of the business workers travel, they follow in a tradition established in the early days of Christianity, when the gospel spread in large measure through Christian merchants, slaves and other workers taking advantage of the Roman Empire´s excellent roads, according to historian Justo L. Gonzalez.

In Central Java Province on the island of Java, another ministry has helped start small businesses that have revived the spirits of pastors discouraged over their lack of livelihood. In these impoverished areas, the ministry’s director said, village pastors receive no financial support from their congregations.

“Before we introduced this micro-enterprise system, the typical pastor spent his time going to ministry conferences sponsored by foreigners in hopes that someone there would offer him money for a project, or an offering to help him feed his family for another week or so until the next ministry conference,” said the director of Kezia Ministries. “In their communities, pastors were viewed as individuals who lived very poorly and did nothing but go from conference to conference. The result was a negative impact on the work of the ministry, in that no pastor focused on his true mission of the Great Commission.”

Micro-enterprise assistance from Christian Aid Mission has enabled many pastors in these areas to sustain their families and ministries, as well as help the local economies.

“Not only does the small business offer the pastor a way to provide for the needs of his family and ministry, but it can also provide jobs for church members and a bridge to reach those who do not know about Jesus,” he said.

In Wonogiri County, a pastor runs several small businesses, including one producing Indonesian crackers. The enterprise provides jobs to Muslims and possibilities for the pastor to explain the Christian hope he carries within. Kezia Ministries provided low-interest business loans to the pastor so that he could expand the business.

“We not only mentor pastors as business owners so they can be self-sustaining, but also provide needed discipleship training for the pastors so that they can be fully equipped for the work of the ministry in every way,” he said.

The ministry thus provides strategic guidance to pastors, from start-up to management and expansion phases, along with discipleship training.

“These pastors are trained in how to use their micro-enterprise as a ministry vehicle to spread the good news of Jesus Christ while sustaining their families and their ministries,” he said. “Thank you for allowing pastors to be free to do the true work of the ministry. Please pray that the Lord will grant a harvest of souls through microenterprise ministry in Indonesia.”

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