"Usually, the women work harder than the men," Dr. Surjadi says. "Every day, they have to work in their garden, feed and take care of the kids, feed their pigs and prepare the meals for the family. The men’s jobs are to cut down trees for new gardens, make fences, build the huts, and prepare the firewood. But those jobs are not everyday jobs."
Dr. Surjadi has been working on their concept of family. "The men sleep separately from the women," he says. "And the kids do not have a name until they are six years old, because if you can live to pass that age, then you can survive." Beginning at age three, children have to find their own food by following their mothers through the gardens. Also, it’s common for men to have more than one wife, and "this situation can easily trigger war between tribes or villages," Dr. Surjadi says.
During Dr. Surjadi’s years of work in the villages in Irian Jaya, his focus has been on community health training. It includes the simplest health habits including bathing and washing hands, washing dishes, cleaning their homes, and building latrines. He is the only health provider for the entire area in which he is working, so disease prevention is very important.
There would normally be an evangelist living in each village, so he would train the evangelists to administer simple medications and first aid.
His latest idea to curb malnutrition is his nutrition program. There are currently 63 babies and 89 children under five years old enrolled in the program. Their weight is recorded regularly, and they are given nutritious foods and vitamins. Dr. Surjadi also hands out vegetable seeds to the mothers and teaches them how to grow the plants and cook nutritious meals. They can also sell the excess of their harvest for profit.
Aside from the success of his programs, Dr. Surjadi is frustrated with the Indonesian government for its lack of medical care in the remote areas. The government has heard of Dr. Surjadi’s work and is supportive. "But it looks like they just want to throw their responsibility to me," he says. "I don’t like it, and it is not fair because they have money and other resources such as medicines and vaccines."
In an attempt to attract them toward working in the villages, Dr. Surjadi invited several government health workers to come with him to do health screening and vaccinations. However, they only came a couple times to help. "I’m still praying that someday we can find a good leader from the government who can work together with me," he says.
Most of Dr. Surjadi’s evangelism work is done in cooperation with evangelists who have been "dropped" into the rural villages by Indonesian churches. More than 20 families have been sent into the villages. "Some of them are still faithfully staying there," Dr. Surjadi says, "but quite a few of them quit their posts." But Dr. Surjadi understands why they have left. "The field is difficult. Many of them lost their kids or their spouse during their time in the new post."
Dr. Surjadi quickly learned that the new evangelists needed leadership and family training to equip them for work in remote areas. "It helped improve their life and character to be a good servant of God," he says.
In other efforts to help the evangelists and further the Kingdom of God, Dr. Julius has started a literacy program. It was initially going to be for children, but he was overwhelmed by the number of adults that wanted to be included as well. "So I translated Sunday School materials into their mother tongue language, so that while they are learning to read and write, they also will be introduced to the content of the Bible and salvation," he explains.
The literacy program is also helping the children to know the alphabet and how to read and write before they go to formal school. Partnering with the evangelist in their village, the children work their way through a series of 12 books to improve their literacy. The entire program is in their native tongue, Moni. "After that, they can continue their education in the formal school, in which they will learn and speak Indonesian," says Dr. Surjadi. "It is quite complicated, but that is the way for them now to keep them from isolation."
The work in Irian Jaya has come a long way in the past seven years. "The first time I went to survey the places, they were so suspicious," Dr. Surjadi remembers. "One time when I just landed in the chopper, the men of the village welcomed me with bow and arrow in the position ready to shoot the arrow! But now the situation is the opposite. They welcome me very well when I come and even sometimes they push me to come back again. Maybe because I am the only doctor that has visited them."
When Dr. Surjadi first came to Bugalaga, the "gateway" to the unreached people, there was only an abandoned missionary house. Now there is a training center for community health meetings, a new church building, a simple airport terminal building, and storage rooms.
He has set up six kiosks in Bugalaga. "The kiosks sell any kind of basic daily needs which they cannot find in the interior such as vegetable oil, salts, sugar, soap, etc," he says.
Four suspension bridges now connect Bugalaga to other remote areas. And Dr. Surjadi was surprised when the government built a clinic, a school and some offices, "even though there is not any of their officers working there," he said.
Life for the Surjadis has changed since Dr. Julius began his work here, and they have learned an important lesson. "After we saw pilots die by plane and helicopter crashes, and people dying in an epidemic, and bad weather, and unstable political situations, and even the earthquake which hit Nabire (their hometown) two times in the same year, we understand that we need to depend on the Lord every day, commit to Him in every situation, and believe that He always has a good reason for every problem, to remind us to always prepare ourselves to be ready to go back to the Father’s home at anytime."