In a remote part of the Balinese Highlands, a traditional healer is alone in
the forest. He’s revered by the people of his village who respect him for his
wisdom and connection to the spiritual realm. During his time of meditation,
he hears a voice: “Look for living water.”
He becomes one of the first and most influential Christians in Bali.
“This man is my grandfather,” Dr Debora Murthy says. “He came into contact with some of the first missionaries to Bali who had a Bible translated into Bahasa Indonesian. They showed him the words of Jesus: ‘I am the living water.’ They were the words my Grandfather had been looking for all his life. He became a Christian and so did many in his village.”
Less than 2% of the Balinese population are Christian, but they punch well above their weight. In a population of 4 million people, the Maha Bhoga Marga (MBM) Foundation uses UnitingWorld funding to reach about 150,000 people each year with livelihood projects (eg pigs, goats, access to markets) and health messaging, as well as disaster responses and support for sustainable tourism.
Debora, a medical doctor by profession, is employed as UnitingWorld’s Southeast Asian Regional Office coordinator, which includes the work of MBM in Bali. “I love waking up every morning in my role as the Coordinator,” Debby says. “The whole team is working together to help people see that they are made in the image of God and have so much potential to grow.”
Debby particularly loves raising up new leaders who understand leadership as about servanthood rather than power. The Southeast Asian region is known for its strongly patriarchal and authoritarian culture, and leaders can be dismissive of the voices of women and children.
“We’re incredibly proud that we have been able to use Scripture teaching to change the mindset of leaders about power and how it can be used,” Debby says.
“The powerful are becoming committed to protecting the powerless. We see Jesus quietly take people aside in the Bible to listen and to heal, and that has become our model too.” Debora describes the relationship between Churches in her region, and the Uniting Church in Australia through UnitingWorld, as quite unique. “You are always patient, willing to listen and work with us to help us find a way to grow,” she says. “Not all NGOs have this approach. We value it so much and we learn by example how to grow the capacity of our leaders.”
Christianity came to Bali...
when the Church of East Java, without permission, sent a minister to share the gospel in 1930. The Netherlands Reformed Church joined the mission, with congregations emerging throughout the 30’s and 40’s. The Church became independent in 1948.
LOVE IN ACTION
HOW THE CHURCH WORKS
In Bali, to be Balinese is to be Hindu. Those who have chosen to be Christian forego landownership rights and are considered to have rejected both their ancestors and their heritage. With 12,000 members in a population of 4million, the Bali Church has worked hard to make the gospel relevant to local people through traditional architecture, decoration, music, painting, dance and teaching. They’ve won the respect of both government and people by showing up to help the poor, including Hindus, with such effectiveness that they are highly sought after as partners in development and sustainability.
For the ongoing COVID-19 response in communities struggling economically after the collapse of tourism.
For the development of better health infrastructure, especially in remote and rural areas.
For the leadership of the Church as they encourage congregations who have been unable to meet physically for some time.
Pick one child that you know – yours, your extended family, neighbours or friends – and do something to encourage them, to help them feel safe and cared for. (Make sure that you have the consent of their parents/guardians and act responsibly).