In multireligious Indonesia, many people have never been inside a church. The pandemic is changing that for residents of Semarang (population 1 800 000) and surrounding area.
In coordination with the local government, police and military forces, the 2022 MWC Assembly host venue JKI Injil Kerajaan (Holy Stadium) is holding a vaccine clinic, dosing up to 8 000 people per day in a country struggling to vaccinate citizens amid a severe infection wave.
“We as a church can show that we can do something in the midst of a difficult situation like this,” says Timotius Tanutama. He is one of the founding leaders of the 30-year-old megachurch that is part of Jemaat Kristen Indonesia (JKI), one of Indonesia’s three Mennonite World Conference member synods.
As thousands of people pass through the church each day, “We accept them, we love them, we try to minister to them,” he says.
The vaccines are provided free from the government but Holy Stadium covers its facility costs, worker wages and provides lunches and snacks from Monday to Friday.
Nearby, Holy Stadium Miracle Healing Centre provides quarantine space for COVID-positive people to isolate safely away from crowded living quarters. Set up in just four days, it has sheltered more than 600 people in its 100 beds since June.
Using the outdoor courtyard, capacious main hall, lobby and several side rooms of the church building, some 100 volunteers each day manage the flow of people in and out of the building, checking vital signs, validating batch numbers and entering data to assist the 45-50 medical staff who administer COVID-19 vaccinations.
Many workplaces require vaccination and public spaces are beginning to mandate proof of vaccination. The government directs employers to refer unvaccinated staff to Holy Stadium. The church has also used its extensive social media to advertise the service.
“Most people are very happy [to get vaccinated],” says Timotius Tanutama. “The service is fast and the people are kind.”
While supplies last, the clinic runs Monday to Friday from 8:00-15:00.
However, there are not enough vaccines to keep up. Budiman Prajasantosa, organizer, says the clinic has shut down for several days to wait for more vaccine supply to arrive.
Medical staff are supplied by the government; the volunteers recruited by Holy Stadium are mainly students whose classes are either cancelled or moved online during this lockdown period. Some are members of the congregation; others have never been to church or practice Muslim faith.
Holy Stadium gives volunteers a small daily stipend and lunch and snacks from the catering outfit that is preparing to feed the multitudes at Assembly in 2022.
“This program has let the church help the community and also given a chance to share God’s love with them,” says Lydia Adi, international relations representative for JKI and member of the MWC Faith and Life Commission. “It has opened the doors for the church for people who would otherwise never step into the doors. We are able to serve in a holistic way.”
Bible verses posted on the walls of public spaces catch the attention of the thousands of people passing through the space, and senior pastor Tina Astaris and other church leaders also provide inspiration and prayer support.
The vaccination clinic has provided opportunities for peacemaking efforts. When a Muslim leader who was initially opposed to vaccination brought a group from his congregation for vaccination, Holy Stadium provided a special lunch to show love across faith differences.
“If we hold a crusade, it’s a few thousand people in one week. [With the vaccine program,] in six months, we could have 1 million people come through the church doors,” says Timotius Tanutama. “This is something only God can do.”
MWC granted JKI Injil Kerajaan $10,000 from the Global Church Sharing Fund to assist with their costs for participation in the vaccination program. The JKI Synod is grateful “for the help received to be able to serve the city better and quickly distribute more vaccines to lower the Covid-19 numbers.”
* Mennonite World Conference is calling on its members around the world to love their neighbour by donating directly to UNICEF’s campaign to share coronavirus vaccinations around the world.