Deep in the heart of the Baliem Valley, the citizens of Wamena and the surrounding highland tribes celebrated the greatness of God in a citywide Gospel festival. Wamena is both modern and Stone Age, unique as one of the last places on earth where inhabitants walk around almost completely naked. It is the largest city in the world only reachable by air. The majority of residents are from the Dani tribe and live a peaceful existence as the second generation of former Papuan headhunters. These highland people practice pig husbandry and sweet potato farming. The local festival committee, comprised of church leaders from every denomination in the city, gave 100% of their effort and support for the first citywide festival in Wamena’s history.
Having recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Good News to Papua, they were eager to see the Gospel in power and demonstration of miracles. The celebration began with a Saturday parade complete with a marching band and speaker cars. The chief of police called it a holiday and invitations went out to every school for children to march in uniform in the festival parade. All police were present, some directing traffic and others giving out festival flyers.
Local estimates reported over 3000 people marching in the parade. Despite torrential rain the week before, the festival opened strong with almost the entire city present at the Sinapuk field. Villagers walked in from the surrounding mountain regions and camped on the grounds for the duration. Faith for miracles was at a peak, since over a month prior to the festival, video footage was projected onto white sheets in the marketplaces with large crowds gathering to watch healing testimonies from other Indonesian festivals. The first healing of the first day was Pandi, a teenager completely deaf and mute since birth. Beaming from ear to ear with smiles, she began to repeat sounds and learn words for the first time. Others from her village testified that she was faithful to attend church even though she could not hear the music or sermons.
Tremendous miracles flooded the platform daily, especially with those once blind, now made whole by Jesus. Fourteen years old, Urbanus Wandik was one of them. A childhood fever followed by witchcraft cures left him completely blind 12 years earlier. His father led Urbanus everywhere; they flew to a hospital but the doctors said it was too late for treatment. Together they went to the festival the first day, but Urbanus was not healed, nor the second day. The father was disheartened and thought to himself, “Why should I go?” But they went the third day again and that evening, after the second healing testimony, Urbanus turned to his father and said, “Papa, I can see, I can see!” Lives were changed and hearts impacted for the 800 pastors and church leaders attending the 3-day Gospel Revolution seminar. In one of the sessions, I preached about God being the Father of hugs and kisses, referring to the parable of the prodigal son. When the prodigal faced the choice to either stay with the swine or leave, many of the leaders laughed because in Papuan culture, pigs are the more obvious choice of value! In a farewell dinner, Pastor Dorman, the festival chairman, was overcome with the goodness of God and spoke with tears, echoing the sentiments of those seated around him. “In the 50 years since the Gospel first came to Wamena, we have never seen miracles. Now with our own eyes we have seen the power of God at work and are more bold to share Jesus with others. Thank you for demonstrating God’s love in action for all people.”
Friends and partners, I want to thank you for impacting these precious people in Wamena with the Gospel. God’s love demonstrated through Jesus is available for every man and woman, regardless of culture, background or religion. Thank you for helping me bring the most precious Gift of all to Indonesia this holiday season. - Peter