During my times as Asian Secretary of the Ecumenical Center I visited our partners in the Christian Evangelical Church in the Minahasa (Gereja Masehi Injili de Minahasa) several times. Now after some years I‘m back for the first time. Again deeply touched by the great hospitality of the Minahasan people especially of our Christian brothers and sisters and enjoying the smell of Kretek in the air.
In the last two days we were traveling through the Minahasa and listened to the people talking about the daily life in church and the importance of the columns in which the social life in the congregations is organized. Up to 15 families of the neighborhood belong to a column. They are coming together once during the week for prayers, discussing matters of the neighborhood and for keeping care of each other. The columns are the nucleus of a congregation. On Sunday they are meeting in the service and for social events. Today I could preach in one of the 150 congregations of GMIM in the city of Manado talking about the importance of our worldwide fellowship as a Christian community and to see our diversities as a gift given by God.
We visited the place of the first missionary Johann Gottlob Schwarz (1800-1859) in Langowan. Together with Johann Friedrich Riedel he introduced Christianity to the Minahasa and till today the people are honoring them.
With 70% the Minahasa has a strong Christian population. 60% are belonging to the GMIM Church with around 3.000 pastors and 1.000 congregations. There is a strong and close relationship with the government which we experienced by meeting the Governor of North-Sulawesi and the Mayors of Manado and Thomohon.
Traditionally women play an important role in the Minahasan society and also in the church. More than 60% of the pastors are women. In the main congregation of Tondano all the three pastors, the three heads of the church committees and the Elders are women.
But there are also challenges. Young people are not any longer so deeply committed to Church Life. Membership of GMIM is not as stable as it was over many years. In their educational and diaconal work GMIM is depending on the support of the government and in the church itself there are discussions about the role of leadership and about the strategies how to secure the future of the church.
Some more impressions from the last days: