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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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To gather, build and serve

Indonesian Lutherans welcome immigrants while starting ELCA congregations

“Wherever Indonesian Christians find themselves, even as few as three, four or five, they gather and build a church," says Maulinus Siregar, pastor of Batak Lutheran Church, Norco, Calif. That's happening not only in Norco but in cities such as Seattle and New York.

Many Indonesian Lutherans came to the United States looking for religious freedom and a better life after encountering persecution against Christians in their country, says Yutaka Kishino, the mission director for ELCA Region 2, which covers synods in the Southwest. These Lutherans from the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) Church of Indonesia immigrated from a country that is 88 percent Muslim, where they faced pressure to convert to Islam and a lack of career opportunities.

But life in the United States also is hard for new Indonesian immigrants. They are lonely and exhausted and often feel isolated, says Sonny Ritonga, a Sintua or lay leader for the HKPB in Seattle. Most people have left families behind, either parents or children, and immigration is restricted. "They work all the time," he says. "They don't know how to find a church — so on Sunday they work another job. They have no fellowship, no choir to sing with, nowhere to go on Sunday, so they just work."

That's why in congregations related to the ELCA and the HKBP (see page 42), Indonesian Lutherans are reaching out with the gospel and the comfort of Christian community.


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