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From the North to the Southeast: Online Evangelistic Meetings in Nusa Tenggara Mission
March 23, 2021

 For many, the COVID-19 pandemic was a disaster. Thousands of people lost their lives. Others lost families, suffered financially, or lost their jobs. Churches were also affected. For example, church services have long been replaced with online services to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, however, this has been an opportunity to experience the workings of God, who always does new things and turns people’s crises into opportunities. 



The Nusa Tenggara Mission, following the recommendation of Richard Sabuin, director of the Education department and Sabbath School and Personal Ministries for the Northern Asia-Pacific Division (NSD), invited Kwon JohngHaeng, NSD Stewardship Ministries director, to serve as the evangelist. The Nusa Tenggara Mission is located in southeast Indonesia. Geographically, the Mission would fit better into the territory of East Indonesian Union Conference, but with more transportation options connecting the Mission with the capital city of Indonesia, the Nusa Tenggara Mission belongs to the West Indonesian Union Conference.

Initially, the evangelistic meeting was scheduled for September 2020, but the gatherings could not take place due to COVID-19 and the speaker was not able to go. Even so, it was not God’s plan to delay or cancel the evangelistic meeting indefinitely. Pastor Richard Sabuin talked with the leaders of Nusa Tenggara Mission, and he suggested that the evangelistic meetings be held through Zoom and Facebook.

The Nusa Tenggara Mission leaders, along with pastors, promoted Zoom and Facebook to the local church leaders and members. Pastors and lay leaders taught the Bible to seekers and appealed to them to be baptized. Dr. Sabuin taught baptismal candidates for several hours using Zoom.

Finally, at 7 p.m. on Sunday, February 21, 2021, the seven-day evangelistic series began. Pastor Kwon preached from the library of his apartment in Korea, and Pastor Sabuin translated the sermons into the Indonesian language from the living room of his apartment in Korea. More than 250 Zoom accounts were linked every evening. In some places, they gathered in churches wearing face masks, and in some places, about ten people sat around and listened to the word from a distance of two or three meters using a cell phone. In some places, only the audio was heard without seeing the video. Many of those in the audience were organized Bible study small groups. By calculating the number of people gathered in one place as ten or more, it is estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 people listened to the messages every evening.

Although the meeting was an hour and a half every day, Indonesian church members sang hymns and opened the Bible to search for verses as if they were at an on-site evangelistic meeting. One of the most touching features was the children of kindergarten or elementary school age who would sit in the front row with their twinkling eyes and listen.

Every evening I appealed to the audience to make decisions by raising their hands, and they responded to the appeal. On February 27, Sabbath, after the evangelistic meeting and worship, baptismal services were held in different places. In some places, it was done in a church baptistry. Others were held by streams or in mountain valleys. On that Sabbath, 27 precious souls were baptized and entered the remnant church, and on the following Sabbath, March 6, another 13 precious souls were baptized. This brings the total to 40 souls for the kingdom of heaven.

More Attendees

Three years ago, I held an evangelistic meeting at the Remboken Church in the Minahasa Conference in Indonesia. The church was cramped, so the Conference set up a tent in the front yard of the church. There were 118 people on the first day, 257 on the second, 322 on the third. The number of attendees increased every evening. On Sabbath, the last day of the evangelistic meeting, 530 people gathered. It was quite a good number. However, when the evangelistic meeting was held online this time, more than 2,000 people were able to participate.

Security

While I was doing evangelism at Remboken, as I watched the increasing numbers every evening, I expected a large number of people to respond to the altar call. However, when I first made an altar call, there was no response at all. I suspected that the interpreter might have gotten it wrong, so I tried again and again, but no one moved. When I returned to my quarters after the evangelistic meeting, Pastor Rouland Raranta, my interpreter, saw my disappointment and spoke to me. “Pastor Kwon, people are afraid to openly express their decision in public places. But those who have decided to be baptized know the local pastors.” This time, with the online evangelistic meeting, there was no difficulty in responding personally to appeals.

Saving Time and Money

When I went to Indonesia three years ago for an evangelistic meeting, I had to go to the Indonesian embassy and pay to get a visa. I had to pay for an airplane ticket, wait at Incheon Airport for an hour, travel to Singapore for several hours, spend the night at the airport, then fly the next day to Indonesia and travel by car for several hours to the meeting place. There was also the cost for room and board. For the online evangelism meetings, all I had to do was go from my living room or bedroom to my study room.

Cost for the Meeting

When planning an evangelistic meeting in the field last year, a budget of $8,000 was required. For the online evangelistic meeting in Nusa Tenggara Mission, it was about $2,500. Some of the money was used for data purchase. About 100,000 Rupiah or $7 each was paid for data purchase so that 100 sites could access the Internet. All costs were just over $700. Actually, the program had more than 200 Zoom connections plus the Facebook audience which we could not count.

Togetherness

Online evangelistic meetings allow thousands of people to access each other simultaneously and see each other’s face on Zoom without the limitation of space, allowing the attendees to feel group dynamics that they can experience in public meetings. Also, those who joined the online meeting together with a group of people, such as families, friends, and colleagues, could feel a sense of closeness and encourage one another in strengthening their faith.

Total Member Involvement

Public evangelism meetings within the territory of the Northern Asia-Pacific Division are often attended by adult members or older age group. However, since evangelistic meetings on the Internet are attended by families in the evening, families of all ages can participate in the evangelistic meetings and listen to the message. Moreover, most on-site evangelistic meetings are usually planned, prepared, and conducted by adults. However, online meetings delivered through Zoom, Facebook, or YouTube often need the help of adolescents or young adults rather than adult members. In the Internet evangelistic meeting, such as the one conducted by Nusa Tenggara Mission, youth have a sense of ownership and help with the evangelistic meeting.

Pastor Albertho Tulalessy, president of the Nusa Tenggara Mission, representing all church members, expressed his gratitude: “We thank Pastor Kwon and Pastor Sabuin who have become God’s mouthpieces in this evangelistic meeting. We are grateful that the NSD extended its helping hand to support evangelism in our Mission. Most of all, we praise and magnify the name of the Lord for what He has done through this evangelistic meeting. Please pray for the newly baptized souls and all the members in Nusa Tenggara Mission that we may be faithful until Maranatha.”

The increase in knowledge and traffic is one of the signs of the end time. The pandemic brought social severance, but it did not prevent the spread of the Gospel, and it made it possible to find breakthroughs more quickly. The pandemic is not an excuse for evangelism to shrink, but the time to find new ways that God allows for spreading the Gospel more widely and more quickly.

Kwon JohngHaeng, NSD Stewardship Ministries director