Presbyterian Moderator Dr Roy Patton left Saturday, 04 August, for a three week visit to Indonesia to meet with Presbyterian overseas personnel, representatives of partner Churches and to see projects that the Presbyterian Church has been supporting.
It is 40 years since the Presbyterian Church began working in Indonesia, the fourth largest country in the world with a population of 246 million people spread over several islands and with a Protestant church membership of around 15 million.
“Because it is so far away many of us know little about Indonesia and the church there,” commented Dr Patton. “The size of the church, the revival and growth that it has experienced and the way it has responded to its recent history of murder, destruction and violent conflict between the Christian and Muslim communities means there is much for us to learn from and share with our fellow Christians in this part of the world.”
Dr Patton’s first stop in the Far East will be Timor where Rev Elsye and Rev Barry McCroskery are ministering alongsidecolleagues in the Christian Evangelical Church in Timor (GMIT). Barry, originally from Bangor and one of thePresbyterian Church’s overseas personnel, is a member of staff in the Church headquarters and also teaches Theological English to ministry students. Elyse is a minister of GMIT and lectures in New Testament Studies.
During his time in Timor the Moderator will also visit a local Christian radio station in the island’s capital, Kupang, which has been established with help from the Ballymena Presbytery and a school funded by a Presbyterian family from Belfast in memory of their father.
Next stop on the schedule is Sumba to visit leaders of the Christian Church in Sumba (GKS). Sumba is roughly the size of Northern Ireland and the majority of its 640,000 population are members of GKS which has experienced enormous growth during the last twenty years. At its last General Assembly GKS accepted 40 new congregations into membership and established seven new presbyteries and, such is the rate of growth, more are planned to be established in the next few years.
The final destination of Dr Patton’s visit will be Halmahera to meet leaders of the Evangelical Christian Church (GMIH). On this leg of his journey the Moderator will be accompanied by Prof James Haire who, together with Rev Ken Newell, were the first Irish Presbyterians to minister in Indonesia in the early 1970′s.
Prof Haire now ministers in Australia but maintains very close links with Halmahera and advises the Australian government on Indonesian affairs.
While in Halmahera Dr Patton will celebrate Indonesian Independence Day and attend the launch of a new theological bookpublished by GMIH with help from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
Throughout his visit the Moderator will also be preaching and taking part in a number of services. “One of the important aspects of a visit like this is the fellowship we enjoy with our fellow Christians. I’m particularly looking forward to the times of worship we will have together which I’m sure will be both different and inspiring,” added the Moderator. “I have no doubt I will be encouraged by what I hear and see and learn and I hope my visit will also be an encouragement to our partners and colleagues in the churches in Indonesia.”
Stephen Lynas, Presbyterian Information Services