As minorities, Indonesia’s Christian children are prone to be bullied at school, given lower marks or forced to study Islam. In fact, a good number have converted to Islam. “We are partly to blame,” said a local church leader, “because we haven’t done enough to nurture their faith and their living.” Follow Open Doors’ journey to strengthen Indonesian children by empowering Sunday school teachers.
Alda (27) had never heard of the term ‘golden age’ before. She is a mother of two and a Sunday school teacher, but, living in a remote town, never once has she attended any teaching or parenting seminar.
So when Open Doors organized a series of Sunday School Teacher’s Training (SSTT) in the last three years in her province, Alda was overwhelmed with new knowledge and experiences.
“I learned to develop a teaching plan, and tailor lessons according to children’s various age levels,” she said. “Also, I now know how to use props to excite the children and help them understand Bible lessons more easily.”
A particular lesson has left a deep mark in her heart. “I discovered that a child’s first five years are the most important stage in his life — a ‘golden age’. This information is crucial in my role as not only a Sunday school teacher, but also a mother. I cried when I remember how my husband beat our first child many times during his ‘golden age’,” Alda recounted.
Alda is one of many parents and Sunday school teachers in Indonesia who lack knowledge in raising children, and cultivate their faith to prepare them for possible persecution later in their lives…
…Because, in Muslim-majority Indonesia, even children face difficult times for being followers of Christ.
Their faith is often questioned and ridiculed by their Muslim neighbors or schoolmates. In the more Islamic areas, students are given lower marks at school by their teachers just because they are Christians.
Unfortunately, many churches in remote areas lack a proper curriculum and materials to nurture the children’s faith. This has resulted in numerous reports of children and youth converting to Islam to get better jobs, education, or for ease of obtaining life partners.
Years ago, a pastor from an island close to Alda’s village broke down in tears as he was telling the story of a Christian village that converted to Islam for rice, instant noodles and used clothes. “But, I realize, we are partly to blame. We haven’t done enough to nurture their faith and their living,” he said.
Open Doors understands that, for the Indonesian （WORLD WATCH LIST ＃38）Church to survive and thrive in the long run, children need to be strengthened today. Among the most effective ways is through their guardians at church — the Sunday school teachers.
Called the Sunday School Teacher’s’ Training (SSTT), the project aims to prepare the local Church for persecution, by training teachers in remote and religiously hostile areas in Indonesia with, firstly, foundational lessons of Christianity and, secondly, biblical principles of persecution that are tailored for a young audience.
The training has run from 2016 to 2018 across five provinces in Indonesia, reaching more than 530 teachers from various ages, professions, and educational backgrounds. Three main topics are discussed over a span of three years: guiding children to Christ, how to be a creative Sunday school teacher, and preparing children for mission.
To be where the need is (where Christians are the most persecuted, and are impoverished), Open Doors must go to great lengths. This means going through jungles, mountains, and seas to reach remote villages. At times, it also means encountering life-or-death situations.
“A squall hit our ship on one of our travels. High, strong waves tossed it violently. People vomited. Some sang Christian songs while others cried out loud for God’s help,” recalled a field trainer. “But we arrived at the destination safe and sound. I was shocked and scared. But that experience confirms that God will always be with us, even in the worst of times, to fulfil His mission.”
The perilous journey was not in vain. The following testimonies from past training participants are hinting that a small step in children’s ministry can be a big leap for the future of Indonesia’s Church.
“The Sunday school teachers at my church now have a better understanding and attitude towards the children. They seem to love the children more sincerely. They’re also more patient and gentle when facing chaotic situations or a crying child. Before, we had to tell them what to do in such circumstances. The children surely benefit from the change: they will mirror the teachers’ loving attitude and be more excited to come to Sunday school. I’m particularly pleased that the training involved various church denominations so we can grow together! Thank you so much. We are grateful for your presence in Aceh. Jesus bless you.”
CR, 43, a mother and head of Children ministry at her church, Aceh
“The training taught me how to preach the Gospel to children, how to teach them, how to use props to facilitate better learning, and also new songs with movements. These are very useful to me as I hope to be a better teacher and storyteller. The training has challenged me to love the children genuinely and build good communication and relationship with them. My hope is for these children to come to know God and become better individuals, becoming good examples in their families. Thank you for this training. I am blessed with so much new knowledge. Keep doing the good work for God so that many more will be blessed.”
Wed, 31, West Sumatra.
She started teaching in Sunday schools in 2015
Open Doors’ training was her first Sunday school teacher’s training
“I became a Sunday school teacher five years ago out of a desire to do something useful for children. They used to play outside all day long and I was sad to see it. So I started a class at home where I teach them Sunday school lessons. Open Doors’ SSTT was my first training ever, and I have been attending the training since 2016 until now [February 2018], where I learned new things in serving and teaching children. I especially value the lessons on props and movements, and on engaging the students in class, such as asking them to search for Bible verses. [Previously, the teacher simply read the Bible to them.] As a result, they can already differentiate between the Old and New Testaments. I wish for this training to continue. I’m eager to learn more so I can guide our children towards a better future.”
Hotmaida, 44, a mother, vendor, and Sunday school teacher, Aceh
“I learned that being a Sunday school teacher means I must be willing to sacrifice both time and money. For example, I don’t mind using my own money to buy small presents as prizes to motivate the children. I open my house for them during weekdays too, and they would ask me to help them with homework. I hope they will grow into good people who fear the Lord, respect their parents and other people.”
Lenny Pardosi, 35, a mother and farmer, and Sunday school teacher since 2015, Aceh
“I used to teach with loads of passion and desire to serve the children, but little skills. At the training, we were taught to design the topics and goals [for every meeting]. Moreover, I found new meaning in my role as a Sunday school teacher who shapes the next generation. Thank you, Open Doors, for your ministry. I know that you came here as a sacrifice, but keep doing the good work for Indonesian children. They are the arrows that we must fight for.”
Eka Susanti, 28, Aceh. Elementary and Sunday school teacher.
- Pray that the Sunday school teachers will continue to apply the knowledge and skills they had gained from the training in their respective churches.
- Pray for God to bless all the teachers with passion, energy and love to patiently guide and teach children in all circumstances.
- Pray for more church leaders to be willing to allocate more resources for children’s ministry, such as teaching tools and Sunday school teachers’ training.
- Pray that the children would grow firm in their faith and become a blessing to their family, school and community.
Open Doors is an organization that assists and supports the persecuted church throughout the world.