Dr. Julius and Debby Surjadi had a themed wedding - a mission themed wedding. The invitations introduced the couple as "an offering to the nation." After the vows were spoken, the pastor led the guests in an intercessory prayer for Indonesia. God brought them together as husband and wife with a mind for missions.
But their lives were divided by where they felt God calling them to serve. Julius felt a strong calling to leave his pastoral position, begin medical training, and enter the world of medical missions. Beyond that, he felt called to go to East Timor, one of the many remote islands of Indonesia.
Debby's calling, however, was to serve within the Indonesian province of Aceh. This island is heavily populated with Muslims, and it attracts violence with its abundance of gas and oil.
Together, they realized only God could tell them which place to go. They planned a prayer retreat, where they spent time in petition before God on behalf of one another, pleading for God to give His direction. After spending an entire day in prayer and fasting together, the following day was spent in prayer and fasting apart from each other. It was at the end of this second day that peace filled the relationship. "After praying and fasting I got a new direction that was Papua," Julius said, "and when I shared this with Debby, she cried because she got the same as I got."
Under government supervision, they were sent to Papua to fulfill Julius' medical training. While there, they both began to learn the distinct culture. Because Papua is considered "the end of the world" - even by Indonesians - they weren't being watched very closely. They quickly made friends and began spreading the gospel with the unreached. There are three kinds of unreached people groups, according to Julius. The first are unreached because of the political situation of the country, such as communism. The second group are those whose religion, whether Mulsim, Hindu or Buddhist, classify them as unreached. And the third group is unreached because they live in remote places. "In Papua," said Julius, "we have all three kinds." Many do not know who the Indonesian president is. "For them, their leader is their tribal chief," said Julius. "There are more than 267 tribes with more than 267 languages and hundreds of clans and dialects." Many of them live in such remote places, they do not know where the capital city of Jakarta is located. "For them, Jakarta and New York are the same: a place they will never know," Julius said. "Every tribe has their own territory. Only a few of the tribes have received civilization."
After training was finished, they returned to their hometown, Jakarta, Indonesia, and began looking for an avenue that would help them begin a Christian medical ministry to the indigenous people in Papua. After a year of waiting, Julius began to think God was changing his heart. They had waited so long with no opportunities.
One day, a friend told Julius about a new hospital in Singapore that needed staff. The incentives of a high salary, comfortable living and using his medical skills aroused Julius' interests, and he presented the proposal before God in prayer.
The next day God answered his prayer: Papua was finally ready for him. The day after his offer to Singapore and while waiting for God to answer his prayer, Julius got a call from Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) about a need for a physician to visit rural villages in Papua. It was in this phone call from MAF that the prayers of five groups were answered: local Papuan churches and evangelists, Mission Aviation Fellowship, the Luke Society, New Heights Church, and most of all, Julius and Debby Surjadi.
Here is how God laid the groundwork for Julius and Debby during their year of waiting in Jakarta.
Staring in the 1950s, missionaries from Australia, England and North America came to the island of Papua to present God's Word. Throughout the years of language barriers and culture differences, the Holy Spirit worked in the Papuan hearts, and many left their animistic ways to become Christians. In 1994 when the Indonesian government canceled missionary visas and sent all missionaries home, the local Christian church took it upon themselves to continue evangelizing to the unreached tribes.
Under transportation visas, Missionary Aviation Fellowship continued their work by bringing evangelists into remote villages. Being an evangelist in Papua is extremely difficult. The terrain is so rough and steep that travel is limited to walking only two miles per day. For this reason, once the pilot dropped them off, the evangelists were there to stay until he came again.
But the pilots and evangelists were soon devastated. One pilot, through teary eyes, told Luke Society Executive Director Dr. Wrede Vogel of taking an evangelist and his family into a village, only to return in two months to find two of the evangelist's children dead. Because of unknown diseases, unknown remedies and restricted traveling, the evangelist was unequipped to save his children. It was then that MAF recognized a need for health education for the evangelists. They began to pray for God to lead them to a medical doctor to train them.
Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Washington, Steve Baker had been in contact with MAF about getting a full-time doctor to travel to the evangelists' homes, teaching health education and providing medicines to those in need. Baker had the support of his home church, New Heights, to help him find this doctor. After reading about the Luke Society's mission, he knew it was the avenue he needed to find the right person. He contacted Dr. Vogel, who was interested in the work that could be done there. When Dr. Vogel visited with Julius, he knew God wanted the Luke Society to partner with this man.
Today, Julius oversees 45 evangelists in the Wolani area, 26 evangelists stationed among the Moni, and 23 evangelists living among the Boma people. "They are the only contact people who bring good news for the unreached people in all things, not only for their souls, but also for the civilization," said Julius. "There are not any government people who have touched them before the evangelists."
"When we moved to Papua," Julius says, "we started everything from zero. Nobody knew us; some of them were even suspicious of us." But settling into the lifestyle was not easy. It was their first glimpse of the primitive ways of the Papuan people. "We stayed in a place without electrical power. For the first time, Debby cooked by firewood," he said. "But He was so good and faithful. He never leaves us. Step by step He guides us, and opens the way one by one."
Julius and Debby cannot express in words how God has blessed them through this ministry so far from home. "Here in Papua, He teaches us to know Him closer," Julius says. "We found that there is no place on earth as safe and good as in the center of God's will. Maybe it looks uncomfortable, but it is always the best, because His will is always the best."