Indonesia boasts a tropical climate rich in biodiversity and abundant natural resources. Yet, there is widespread poverty throughout the estimated population, dominated by Islam, of 252 million people. Leaders recognized that many poor families could not afford to provide for their children's basic needs or with basic education. Paganism, polygamy and a low view of women and children are all contributing factors. In order to reach out to these children, Word & Deed is partnering with Children of Light.

 Click here to read more about Word & Deed supported projects in Indonesia.

On January 1, 2014 the Children of Light project in Indonesia became a full member of the Word & Deed family of projects. Founded in 1998, by church and community leaders in West Timor, it provides children from poor Christian families with access to Christian education (students supported range from kindergarten to university). Wasry, a sponsor child born in poverty, is now a teacher in one of the Children of Light schools. Below is her story along with a general description of the Children of Light program.

Wasry’s father passed away when she was little. When she was old enough, she helped her mother do what she could to provide for them, working as simple farmers on the island of Sabu in Indonesia. The possibility of Wasry going to school to become educated probably seemed like an unrealistic dream to this struggling family, if it was considered at all. Or maybe it seemed superfluous in the light of their daily struggle to survive. Besides tuition, how would they pay for a uniform or school supplies?
Poverty has bound many children like Wasry to a life of subsistence - a life that does not include education, a life that almost guarantees their continuance in poverty and a life that even hampers their ability to grow up into mature believers, being unable to read the Word of God for themselves. By God’s grace, these children have not gone unnoticed.

Pastor Yonson, a graduate of the Canadian Reformed Theological College in Hamilton, Canada, was serving as a missionary with his wife, Mary-Lynn, in Indonesia in the late 1990s. He and a number of local church leaders saw children like Wasry and were burdened by the fact that so many Indonesian, Christian children were not receiving a basic education of any kind. Families who did send their children to school were making heavy sacrifices to do so, even suffering from a lack of food for it, and still finding themselves unable to provide their children with proper school supplies and clothing.

This was the impetus for the foundation of the Children of Light project and school in West Timor. With leadership from Rev. Yonson and Mary-Lynn, Rev. Yawan and Elder Petrus, the local church community began to build the school. It grew, and many poor families were supported to give their children the opportunity to be educated. When a Children of Light board was established in Canada, the project grew even more. Under the leadership of Andy and Gerda Vandenhaak, this board very successfully made known the needs of the children in Indonesia, paving the way for the Children of Light sponsorship program, through which hundreds of children are sponsored by North Americans.

In 2014, the school has grown from a single kindergarten classroom to include an elementary school (grades 1-6), a middle school (grades 7-9) a mainstream high school (grades 10-12) a trade school with three study options (agriculture, forestry or fishery), a computer trade school and a theological high school (grades 10-12) which has a 40% focus on Bible teaching and a 60% focus on general high school studies. Besides these schools in West Timor, there are also kindergarten classes on the islands of Rote and Sabu – two islands where there are many who have never heard the Gospel. There are 1200 students benefiting from this work, and 300 of them are supported by North Americans through the sponsorship program. Praise God for so richly blessing this project with growth!

In that time, Wasry has also grown. She was one of the first sponsor children to join the program from Sabu Island and studied at Children of Light from elementary school through to the theological high school. Today, she teaches at the Children of Light kindergarten class in Sabu, is involved with the Vacation Bible School at her home church and even serves on the Children of Light board. Wasry, and many of her fellow Children of Light graduates, are not only able to provide for themselves, but they are able to act as light and salt in their communities as godly, Christian leaders. As Pastor Yonson states, “Churches are planted and grow by the preaching of God’s Word, but the speed of growth is [impacted by] the rate at which leaders are developed in all vocations. [Leaders are developed] by Christ-centred education, and that [is something] that COL does with intention.” With God’s blessing through the faithful support of Children of Light donors and sponsors this project has now come full circle.

Indonesia is far away. Wasry’s plight as a child seems distant to us and it’s difficult to envision the day-to-day operations of Children of Light or to fully grasp its impact. But it’s our prayer that articles (like this one), reports, and even the occasional letter you may receive from your sponsor child will be effective reminders that God is at work building and strengthening His church in Indonesia. It’s our prayer that you will be motivated to continue, renew or to begin supporting the Children of Light project. Your prayers and financial contributions to children in Indonesia are making a real difference in the lives of many, many precious children.

May the Word & Deed child sponsorship program continue to be supported and to grow, to the glory of God.

This article was written by John Kottelenberg and Hanna Korvemaker and a version of it was published in the May 9 edition of the Clarion.

A classroom at the Children of Light School.

A photo of Wasry taken in January 2014.

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