Church Planter - Indonesia
Yulianus serves among his people in Fuau, and also among many other tribal groups scattered throughout the Mamberamo River basin in Papua. Through preaching and evangelism, he tries to help these tribal groups grow in the knowledge of the Lord. He also is in the process of mobilizing Bible translators from each of the nineteen tribal groups to help them get the scriptures in their languages.
I was born in Fuau village among the Fuau people. In the past, the Fuau lived in darkness in the power of Satan. The people in that region usually warred with one another, and life like that was always lived in fear. People always felt unsafe. They’d run and hide in one place, only to then flee to another place and hide.
They were scared of their enemies. Also, they were scared of evil spirits in the jungle. There were trees in the jungle that had an evil spirit or a “guard.” Also, there were rivers that had evil spirits guarding them. The people there could travel through, but could not spit on the ground just anywhere or throw away food scraps just anywhere, or else would bother an evil spirit or bother a place that possessed an evil spirit. Later, those spirits would then be mad and make you sick. The Fuau people always searched for safety, but they were never safe.
The Fuau people also were always searching for a leader - someone who could lead them well so that they could be safe and prosperous. But they never got such a leader. Even though my uncle De Fuai could see things in the future (if an enemy came, he would see it and tell people beforehand so that they could escape; if an animal were coming, he would also say it), he, too, was murdered by someone (a Pagai person). At another time, there was a massive war until the Fuau people no longer had any hope left at all. But before my uncle (De Fuai) died, he had already announced to the people about the good news that was coming for the Fuau later.
My father’s name was Gweti, and my mother’s name was Dure. They were people who had never met the Lord; they only believed in the evil spirits. When the Gospel entered in 1971, my father and mother did receive the servants of the Lord, however. At that time they were unknowing, “Why has a Westerner come?” But then they remembered what my uncle had said beforehand, and how he had said this to my mother and others in the village: “Later, one day, good news will come to us. At that time a giant hawk will fly from the mountains and come, and this bird will possess teeth like our arrows. There is a person named Ababi who will come.” Ababi in Fuau means “Loves me.”
Then, the missionary Costas Macris entered, and he used a float-plane. The person that he brought with him (a Dani evangelist from the mountains) had the name “Ababi.” So, my mother and father and the whole community were happy to hear any news that this evangelist brought. At that time I was still a little kid. Ababi lived in Fuau and delivered this Good News. My parents always assisted him by delivering food and teaching him the Fuau language. But my mother and father did not believe in Jesus; they were only followers of that faithful evangelist. Then, Macris brought in a school teacher, as well (a Dani person named Imanuel from Karubaga). And my mother and father always took me to see those servants of God. I usually assisted them.
Afterward, ten years later (after the entrance of the Gospel) my mother received Jesus as her Saviour. And my mother always sat with the evangelist, teaching him the language, and learning the Bible. Then my mother would always story those same things to me later. My mother pushed me continually so that I would always go to that evangelist and continually learn from him. Then, after my mother received Jesus, four years later, my mother taught me about Jesus. After this, I also received Jesus (or rather, Jesus received me!).
But, my father still did not yet trust in Jesus at that time. So after I received Jesus, I always went and attended Bible courses that the white missionaries taught one week every month [i.e., they gathered the men of the best potential together once a month to teach them for a week out of each month]. And so I thought I’d also like to enter Bible school. In the year 1994, therefore, I entered Bible school and graduated in ’98 at STAKIN. Then I returned to the Mamberamo Region to serve the Lord.
In the year 2001, my father also believed in Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. I gave him the Word of God and brought him to meet Jesus. And I also brought my aunt and gave her the Word, and she also believed. While serving the Lord in the Mamberamo Region, I would always be thinking that my mother and my father before did not believe in the Lord Jesus, but God took me from Fuau from the others, and I was able to get out for schooling because of the Lord. So I made a decision that I wanted only to serve the Lord. There is a passage I always remember - Romans 1:16-17, "The Gospel is the power of God." I believe this! I possess a heart for my Mamberamo brothers in the Fuau, and throughout the Mamberamo region. They MUST also believe in the Lord.
So, even until now, there are those who have many times petitioned me to enter into political affairs, but I always remember back to God’s calling on my life. I remember back to the letters to Timothy that serving the Lord is a good thing. [1 Timothy3:1, “This is a true saying and worthy of full acceptance, if a man desires the office of an overseer, he desires a good thing.”]
I often meditate on John 3:16 as well, "God so loved me that He sent Jesus into this world so that every person who believes can have a life that is everlasting." I believe that I have trusted in Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and will certainly be granted eternal life. And now I desire that others may experience what I have experienced. I desire that all those in the Mamberamo region, including Fuau village, can believe in Jesus as their Saviour, also. I have a longing in my heart for the Mamberamo peoples like in Romans 1:14, "I am a debtor both to the Jew and to the Non-Jew, both the learned and the unlearned." I am a debtor to the Fuau Tribe. I have an obligation to them. I don’t want to abandon the work of the Lord. I am aware of all that the Lord has already given me. The Lord has opened my spiritual eyes and given me new life. I must, therefore, work so that others can experience this very same thing.
After serving in Fuau for a while, I began to pray that the Fuau people could get the Bible in their language because the Fuau people don’t know Indonesian too deeply. And the servants of the Lord there also don’t have high training and so also don’t understand Indonesian well. They are like the blind leading the blind. And even though they own identity of “Christian," they have no assurance of salvation. I continually prayed for a Bible of our own for maybe ten or twelve years! But I always wondered, “How would this ever happen? What is the way even to begin? Who can even help us?” But I knew that whenever I prayed, the Lord would hear. This was until the year 2005 when I met my friend Trevor in Dabra at that time. We didn’t meet very long, but my friend gave me a book entitled Digging Into the Contents of the Bible. At that time I prayed, “What is the meaning of this?” And then my friend went home back to America.
Afterward, in the year 2007, I met my friend Trevor again upon his return from America. In October of that year, we surveyed the Mamberamo Region up to the boundary between the Mamberamo Region and the Wapoga region. We descended from the helicopter onto a remote riverside far, far away from the coast. There were no people anywhere! It was like we were just thrown out into the jungle. We only met a Cassowary bird, and that’s it! It came out of the jungle and walked around on the sand unafraid; it wasn’t scared at all!
Where were the people? The day was already becoming night. When we went searching for people we left our backpacks behind at a small empty hut in the forest. Then, we heard it – there was a voice behind us! There was somebody from the village downriver. He had traveled upriver to hunt when he heard the sound of the helicopter. He ran to find out why. “Why is there that sound?” That person was looking for us while we were looking for that person! He was from the Bauzi tribe, and that person was exactly the person that we were looking to find, one particular servant of the Lord who did not know a lot of Indonesian but for whom we had brought small booklets in the Bauzi language from the coast specifically for him in our backpacks! We traveled down to a small village named Fona. And at that time we gave them the Bible booklets - translations of the Gospel of Matthew newly published in the local language by the missionary to the Bauzi people living there. Then my friend Trevor handed over those booklets, and among those present, there were those who could read these booklets themselves!
My heart grew sad, and I began to weep. And I truly wept. I had already been to Bible school, but I had never read from the Bible in my language - in the Abawiri language of the Fuau people. And these people here had no school. They didn’t know Indonesian. But they possessed the Word of God. And so I made the decision then and there to work on the Bible in my language. But I still wondered, “How do I accomplish or even begin this work?”
In April or May of 2010, I then went to Jakarta because of my friend. He said there was a team who came to meet me in Bandung. And so my friend brought me to Bandung for several days, and I lived with them, and I met those white pastors there. I testified to them about my ministry and my plans. I remember Matt G., even though I did not know him yet (this was my first time meeting him), recorded my testimony. And God used him to aid this plan of work for the Fuau people and the Mamberamo people so that they can all truly be able to hear the Gospel through me. He promised to help me. And until now he always has helped me with his prayers and support, so that in the future the church in Fuau and throughout the Mamberamo will not die, and so that there will always be believers in that region.
I feel like this is almost like a miracle. In the past, I did not know these white pastors, and I had not yet met Trevor. I never imagined that later so many people would meet me and help me to help the Fuau and the Mamberamo peoples because the missionaries that were once in the Mamberamo have all gone away, and maybe they have forgotten us. But the Lord still remembers us!
The Lord knows my heart as a Fuau person and a Mamberamo person. That which I prayed for the Lord began to make it visible to me. At that same time, my friend Trevor took me to the Kartidaya office in Jakarta. Kartidaya is a foundation in Indonesia that works with LAI (The Indonesian Bible Society) doing Bible translation projects. Once at the office, my friend introduced me to the Kartidaya people and explained my vision to them. They were glad to hear and receive this vision. Together we formed a program of work for the future.
I give praise to the Lord because at that time I did not think that all this would happen. Additionally, Fuau village is a forgotten place, a small village in the Mamberamo that’s never received a lot of attention from the government. There’s never been a Western missionary living there. And we thought that there was no way that we could ever gain an open path like this to begin a local-language Bible project. That moment seemed to come from the grace of God to us Fuau people. Then, the Kartidaya people directly made note that the first tribe and the first language to begin this program of training for the One Story Project in Papua would be the Fuau people and their Abawiri language from the Evangelical Church in Indonesia.
Until now, we are very thankful to God because of the One Story Program (recording audio Bible stories into local dialects). This is one method for the Gospel to be heard clearly and accurately by the Fuau. Many Fuau people cannot read or write, and do not have a high level of education. There are many who can barely understand any of the Bible in Indonesian. But with the One Story Project, they can hear the Word of God in their language and can even then “story” it to others. Even though it is not even written down yet, the Bible can be understood, and the Fuau people are happy.
In January 2013, we also visited a village by the name of Taria in the Mamberamo region. We had our friend Trevor with us, and Matt, Paul Snider, and Jimmy Weyato, too. We taught the Taria people from the Word of God, but we also introduced the concept of “storying” the Bible to them as well. Before this trip, we had also helped Taria by sending Yaber Foisa from Taria along with Bastian Guani from Fuau to attend more One Story Training [Yuli used his funds given for the Fuau projects to help this other tribe]. And Yaber felt that through Yuli a blessing came down from heaven. And now the Taburta language, the language of Taria, is being worked on as well. Fuau people have been blessed; therefore, Fuau people must bless others. Hopefully, later the Taria people can also help out their neighbors as well so that the whole Mamberamo Region can finally be blessed. Both the Taburta language from Taria and the Abawiri language from Fuau have already finished 25 audio stories from the Bible into our regional dialects so that we can tell it to the older villages who still do not know how to read or write. Ministry cannot merely happen inside of a church building; it must occur everywhere!
I have made a goal - from the year 2010 until the year 2050 - ALL the languages in the Mamberamo Region must begin an audio Bible translation project. Right now, there are only these two of our languages that have already started. Every year we must add one or two more languages. The language-groups that have already begun a written translation also still need audible Bible storying, as well, because so many Mamberamo people cannot read or write very well. Many do not yet know Indonesian very well; the Word of God must get in their language.
Therefore, we have begun two plans to work for the future. The first is the Bible translation project through audio storying with One Story. The second is a plan of discipleship to prepare young people to become the future leaders of tomorrow so that the church will continue.
We give praise. Through the funding of Heartcry and Trevor all this time we’ve already sent many to school who have finished and now working beside me in this One Story Ministry. We even feel as if we need to send more people to school. There are also some other children and young people we have entered into other schools as well.
One remaining big plan for the future if the Lord opens a path is to build an asrama (school dorm) to help children gain an education under the oversight of good discipline so that the Fuau are trained up well and truthfully. We must increase dorm parents who genuinely possess the character of the Lord Jesus, and only these must become the “mother” and “father” of the dorm to teach these children the Word of God. Then Fuau children can live in the city near many quality schools while gaining strong discipleship. Until now, this is only a dream; it has not yet happened. We pray that the Lord wills this and that it will happen in the Lord’s timing.
The children of the Mamberamo region are the treasure of the Mamberamo. So we want to focus on their future education. Why do I hold this concept? Because I once also lived in a dorm that was built by the first missionaries that entered the Mamberamo region. And I was taught to be responsible and independent in the Lord. That is why my heart longs for this pattern of education to be revived again so that the Fuau children, and the Mamberamo children, can be discipled as I experienced.
Maybe there is someone who doesn’t agree with the concept of putting children in dorms. But I want to say from my experience, back then my parents did not believe in the Lord. If I just stayed in the village continually and didn’t enter the dorm that the missionaries had built, maybe I would never have heard the Gospel. But, those dorm parents really and indeed taught me the true and living Gospel. And besides, there are already many Mamberamo people sending their kids out to the city in a disorganized way. So many are already being lost or influenced by the city. If this is already happening, it is better to shepherd them in one designated place so that there are no lost sheep. As a Mamberamo person, I feel sad because so many Mamberamo children are neglected. So many are not being discipled even when they can be sent to the city for better schooling. Many gain an education, but lose their soul in return. We need to shepherd these sheep better.
In the love and grace of Jesus,