During the many years under ban, the brothers in Indonesia wisely followed Jesus’ counsel to “prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) But when the ban ended, many needed to learn how to preach “with boldness.”
For example, some brothers hesitated to preach from door to door and focused on return visits and Bible studies. Others held back from speaking to Muslims. Many introduced themselves as Christians instead of as Jehovah’s Witnesses and used Bible translations from Christendom rather than the Indonesian edition of the New World Translation. * Others held back from distributing Bible literature freely.
Some of these habits were carried over from the ban. Others stemmed from local culture, which favors compromise over confrontation, subtlety over openness. How could the brothers be readjusted?
Jehovah provided the answer in the form of kindly counsel from spiritually mature brothers. (Eph. 4:11, 12) For example, in 2010, visiting Governing Body member Stephen Lett warmly encouraged the brothers to uphold God’s name by freely using the New World Translation in the ministry. “Brother Lett’s talk deeply affected many publishers,” says missionary Misja Beerens. “They saw the need to stand out as Jehovah’s Witnesses and proudly defend God’s Word.”
Since Indonesian Muslims often associate Jehovah’s Witnesses with Christendom, the Indonesian edition of the Kingdom Ministry gave the following helpful direction: “Clearly identifying yourself as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the outset of your conversation is often the best approach. . . . We proudly represent Jehovah, and we want to make his name and purposes known in our assigned territory!” Shinsuke Kawamoto, who serves at the branch office in Indonesia, relates: “This direct but tactful approach brings good results. Many Muslims are curious about Jehovah’s Witnesses. They want to know what makes us different. Their curiosity allows us the opportunity to give a good witness.”
Publishers were also encouraged to increase their distribution of The Watchtower and Awake! “For people to get to know us, they need to read our magazines,” explains Lothar Mihank, the Branch Committee coordinator. “Magazines soften the ‘ground’ and encourage people to be more receptive to the truth. When we distribute them far and wide, we give more people the opportunity to learn about Jehovah.”
Public Witnessing Makes an Impact
In 2013, the Indonesia branch launched two new preaching initiatives approved by the Governing Body: special metropolitan public witnessing and congregation public witnessing. These exciting developments are allowing many more people in Indonesia the opportunity to hear the good news.
The first of several special metropolitan public witnessing tables was set up in a large electronics mall in West Jakarta. Then local congregations began setting up public witnessing carts and tables in their own territories. Within a year, more than 400 public witnessing tables and carts were operating in cities across Indonesia. What results have been achieved?
Yusak Uniplaita, an elder in Jakarta, reports: “Before we started public witnessing, our congregation requested 1,200 magazines a month. Six months later, we were requesting 6,000 magazines a month. Now we request 8,000 magazines a month. We also place many books and brochures.” In Medan, North Sumatra, a small group of pioneers set up witnessing carts in three locations. During the first month, they placed 115 books and about 1,800 magazines. Two months later, some 60 pioneers in seven locations distributed over 1,200 books and 12,400 magazines. “These new preaching methods are exciting the brothers and revealing the spiritual potential in Indonesia,” says missionary Jesse Clark. “Public witnessing is here to stay!”
Using the Language of the Heart
Indonesia lies at the heart of one of the most linguistically diverse regions on earth. * While most people speak Indonesian, the lingua franca, many also speak a local ethnic language
In 2012, the branch office decided to gauge the needs of this diverse language field. “We started by translating material into 12 local languages spoken by about 120 million people,” says Tom Van Leemputten. “When our Javanese translators saw the first sample tract in Javanese, they shed tears of joy. At last, they had spiritual food in their own language!”
Most congregations, though, continued to hold meetings in Indonesian, even in areas where most people spoke an indigenous language. “In 2013, my wife, Carmen, and I attended a two-day assembly on Nias Island in North Sumatra,” recalls Lothar Mihank. “Most of the 400 people in the audience spoke the Nias language, but all of the talks were in Indonesian. After consulting with the speakers, we told the audience that the next day’s program would be in Nias. The next day, more than 600 people crammed into the auditorium.” Carmen adds: “It was obvious that those in the audience paid more attention to the program in Nias than they had the day before when the talks were given in Indonesian. They were delighted to hear
Even deaf people in Indonesia can now “hear” the truth in their own language. Since 2010, the Indonesian Sign Language translation team has produced seven brochures and eight tracts in Indonesian Sign Language. Additionally, the branch office has sponsored 24 sign-language classes that have trained over 750 signers. Today, 23 sign-language congregations and groups are giving spiritual help and comfort to an estimated three million deaf people living in Indonesia.
Currently, the Translation Department has 37 translation teams. There are 117 translators and 50 support personnel working in 19 locations across Indonesia.
^ par. 2 The complete New World Translation in Indonesian was released in 1999. The translators labored seven years under ban to complete the project. Several years later, the two-volume Bible encyclopedia Insight on the Scriptures and the Watchtower Library on CD-ROM were released in Indonesian, a truly remarkable translation effort!
^ par. 2 Indonesia has 707 living languages, while its eastern neighbor, Papua New Guinea, has 838.