In Scripture, deacons are not ‘called’ (as pastors are) but are qualified by God and chosen by the church. The Greek word for deacon is diakonos and the word used for the gift of service is diakonia. The deacon’s office is the office of a servant. Sister Elisabeth did not think she was friendly or […]
In Scripture, deacons are not ‘called’ (as pastors are) but are qualified by God and chosen by the church. The Greek word for deacon is diakonos and the word used for the gift of service is diakonia. The deacon’s office is the office of a servant.
Sister Elisabeth did not think she was friendly or humble enough to be a deaconess, but her parents convinced her to train at the deaconess school, promising her that the role would not just involve preaching (which she had experienced from the deaconess in her own church). For many young women studying at Sekolah Tinggi Diakones HKBP in Indonesia, their role models have been deaconesses from their home churches, noticed because of their servant hearts.
The staff and students of the school practise a simple life. Sister Elisabeth was allowed to bring only a few things – four shirts, four skirts and two pairs of shorts. The daily schedule is full for the 123 students who live on campus. The day begins at 5am with personal Bible reflection and concludes at 10.30pm after worship. During the week, the women study subjects such as theology and social science (including psychology and health science). On Saturdays they have practical study in the hospital and prison and with the elderly and children in the countryside. On Sundays, they teach Sunday school and sing with choirs in services at nearby churches.
Although there is teaching most days, the staff do not just want the students’ heads engaged. They want their hearts moved to become more like Christ. Deaconesses remember those who are forgotten, neglected and living in oppression and darkness. When she graduates, Sister Elisabeth’s role will involve feeding the physically hungry with food, as well as bringing the Holy Spirit’s joy into the lives of the suffering, poor, weak, sick, marginalised and oppressed.
Given the immense responsibility which rests on the shoulders of these young women, it is not surprising that Sister Elisabeth was hesitant to serve in this way. But the expectation of those training to be deaconesses is not to offer perfect charity, hospitality and selflessness by their own strength. The Holy Spirit transforms their hearts to want to create spaces of deep belonging, and then equips them with all they need to do so.
Women like Sister Elisabeth remind us of the desperate need to invite the lonely into the warmth of love, where we are able to get a glimpse of the fullness of life that we have been given for eternity. And as we do so, we can be assured that it is God who affirms us with the same joy he has over his Son, equipping us to live as those who God loves; that is, to serve others with that same love.
This story was also published in the August 2023 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.
Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to www.lca.org.au/international-mission/act-now/pray
Read more stories about our partner churches in Indonesia at www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/international-partners/indonesia/