Photo: The congregation of the newly formed Hope and Harvest Church.

 

By Naomi Giles,

In a kingdom where old wine and new wine are both needed, the forging of a relationship between two churches gives hope that renewal can come through partnership.

For the first time in Australia, two Indonesian churches are taking a bold step of testing a merger across generations.

Harvest church, led by Olga Ling, is made up of mainly older members. In September last year, they opened their doors and hearts to walk with Place of Hope church, a younger community led by Yosafat Prawiro, for a two-year season of testing the waters for merger.

Olga explains that when Harvest began meeting in the Churches of Christ building at Auburn at the end of 2019, she felt there were new opportunities opening.

“We got a very big venue and our congregation is only about 40. And I said, how about we share with people who really need a place and have the same vision? Sometimes if God gives something for us, we must have a generous heart to share,” she says.

Pastor Yosafat, who likes to be known as ‘Yos’, explains that bringing the churches together allows for a rich mix across the generations.

“Our church mainly consists of young families with small children, youth and young adults. Now God has opened the door to build intergenerational ministry,” he says.

It’s a time of discernment and discovery; Olga likens it to being engaged but not yet married.  The change is not easy, but Olga and her church are seeking God’s heart for the future.

“Every day I say, ‘God I still want to serve you, search my heart’. His congregation loves me, they say ‘I’m so blessed with you’,” she shares.

“Maybe I’m like a mum [to Place of Hope members] because they’re so young. They call me Aunty Olga and say, ‘We’re so blessed we have you, you’re like a mother in the room.’ And I say, ‘Ok, thank you Jesus.’ It’s hard but you have to go for it.”

A good fit

Former Harvest pastor Victor Tee played a part in the matchmaking of this union. Hearing from Harvest that they were seeking a direction for their future, Victor began to see possibilities in a merger that could reach out into a predominantly Muslim community and share a message of life and hope.

“As I started to talk with both churches, it seemed to be a good fit in terms of shared values and mission focus. I felt it would need to be a partnership – rather than the churches just sharing space or in a landlord-lessee arrangement,” he said.

It’s early days in the two-year journey, but Yos says coming together in unity brings glory to God.

“When we are humble and serve together for God’s kingdom sake and not ours, He is glorified. Both our churches aim to build a healthy and authentic community and share a passion to serve generations and community,” he says.

Yos explains the partnership has tangible and spiritual benefits.

“For Place of Hope church, we can see and sense that God’s goodness and grace give us the trust and privilege to lead and serve with better resources and facilities. This in turn creates new excitement and stronger capacity to do His mandate.

“For Harvest church, God provides them with the younger people to take up the ministries into the future. More people, more resources and stronger vision and programs.”

To reflect the growing relationship between the churches they have now adopted the name ‘Hope and Harvest Church’ and are praying and preparing for community service to the Auburn area and beyond.

And with values of family, community, food and fellowship, which are strong in the Indonesian culture, this merger creates a beautiful fragrance to draw in the surrounding community.

“We pray and believe that the best is yet to come!” says Yos.

 

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