by an Alliance international worker serving in Indonesia
The frontline workers in God’s army rarely look like the square-jawed Navy SEALs you see in movies. Most don’t wear military fatigues and armor or carry weapons. Often, God’s bravest workers look like Briana.* A multiracial carpenter’s daughter, she’s five feet tall and so soft spoken you might assume she’s a timid soul. Yet, as we continually see on the frontlines of ministry in this turbulent and often violent region, God uses the most unlikely sorts.
Becoming a Fighter
Briana was born in the highlands of Papua. When she was six, her father was hit and killed by a truck. At the funeral, the extended families bickered over who would take which of the deceased man’s children.
“We don’t want Briana,” her mother’s family said. “She is too frail. We want her sister.” According to the local tradition, each girl’s value is based on the bride price she brings to her maternal uncles. This can range from $5,000 to $50,000—paid in the currency of pigs.
Fortunately, her father’s best friend, a gentle carpenter, married her mother to protect Briana and her sister. But the threat of kidnapping forced the family to live in seclusion. Although some 70–80 percent of Papuans claim to be Christian, New Guinea is, for women, one of the most dangerous places on earth.
About 90 percent of highland girls don’t finish high school. As teenagers, many of them are forced to marry before they run off with the man of their choice. Eloping makes collecting a bride price difficult. Briana’s stepfather did everything he could to enable her to finish high school, however, and she earned a scholarship to a teacher training college in Java. She wanted to live somewhere women were respected and protected. She had found her ticket out—or so she thought. Upon graduation, though, she was assigned to complete four years of mandatory service in a village next to her birthplace.
Strangely enough, after a few years of serving in the village, she began to see beyond her fears. God was at work in her. She flourished as one of our teachers at Ob Anggen Jr. and Sr. High School, which provides an international standard of Christian education to empower families of village farmers. I’m so grateful for those who have made Briana’s story possible. If not for the generous people who fund our work, Briana never would have received an opportunity to teach at our school—to proved a safe place and a brighter future for so many girls whose fear, brokenness, and desperation mirror her own.
From Fear to Freedom
Although Briana had begun to realize her God-given purpose as an educator, her trials were far from over. One afternoon, as she and two other female teachers walked along a road near our campus, a man named Leo* grabbed one of the women and, holding a machete to her throat, dragged her into the tall grass. Briana pelted him with rocks, and the other teacher rushed to find cell service. Our son was one of the first to get word, and he raced up the mountain and chased away the attacker, leaving Briana and her friends temporarily safe but traumatized.
After we caught Leo, we decided to process the case according to Indonesian law. While our three teachers endured more traumatizing interviews, Leo was put in a cell. The next day, however, his clan arrived heavily armed and threatened to burn down the police station—and our school—if he was not released. By tribal rights, they can do whatever they want to “foreigners” on their land. So, Leo “escaped” from the police holding cell and has been our closest neighbor these last years. He often passes brazenly through our campus.
A feeling of powerlessness overcame Briana as she slipped back into a pool of debilitating fear. We had no idea what Leo—or his clan—would do next. What Satan meant for evil, though, God used for good. Through a weekly growth group, counseling, and the power of the Holy Spirit, Briana found courage to forgive Leo and has faithfully prayed for his transformation. Forgiveness freed Briana from the power of fear, and some of our male students, recognizing the injustice she and her female colleagues had endured, offered their protection. Today, whenever Briana—or any other woman—leaves campus, at least two male bodyguards quickly volunteer to be at her side. These brave young men are committed to change and offer hope amidst a culture that often condones and perpetuates the mistreatment of women.
Braving Adversity Together
Early on morning last October, while I was sitting down to coffee in Tucson, Arizona, I received a text from one of our staff members: “War has broken out. Lots of gunfire.” Another message proved more startling details: “Everyone is running around with spears, bows and arrows, axes, and machetes. What do we do?” Then, I read a message from Briana: “Can you contact Mission Aviation Fellowship to see if they could come and get some of our new teachers out? They are afraid. For us old teachers, we are used to this, but they aren’t.” I responded, “From the safety and comfort of America, this sounds so crazy.” She texted back, “Jesus was crazy too. He left the safety of heaven to come and be with us.” Her text was punctuated with several smiley faces. I held back tears of pride for her Christlike courage.
Briana recently agreed to serve with Ob Anggen for the next 20 years. My wife and I are honored to support 65 other national missionaries like Briana who spur us on with their grit, knowledge, empathy, and commitment. Our prayer and financial partners also inspire us. Our school, which receives only about 10 percent of its funding from local government, relies heavily on the generosity of those who give to The Alliance. Although we must constantly expand our facilities to accommodate our ever-increasing student population, God always provides for our needs through faithful ministry partners who, like Briana, advance boldly alongside us in God’s Kingdom armies.
Provide a Safe Education
In the highlands of Papua, God has used the gifts and prayers of Alliance friends and family to create a safe learning environment for underserved students as they advance in their studies and become lifelong disciples of Jesus. Yet, as Ob Anggen Jr. and Sr. High School continues to grow, administrators must build two additional dorms. To provide for the educational and spiritual needs of Papuan youth, click here, select “a project you love/Find a project”; and type in “West Papuan Dorms.”
Learn more about Alliance strategic projects throughout the world in need of your prayers and financial support by requesting a copy of the 2022–2023 Strategic Giving Opportunities Gift Catalog at [email protected] or by calling (866) 443-8262 toll free.
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