Katharina R. Lestari, Jakarta
Updated: September 06, 2021 08:14 AM GMT
Pastor Samuel Suruk has been helping to rebuild and renovate church buildings and other Christian facilities in remote areas of Indonesia since the launch of a fundraising campaign in 2018.
“That year I formed a community called the Wisdom of Life. And one of its activities was a livestreamed service on YouTube which attracted quite a number of viewers,” the 40-year-old Protestant pastor from the Charismatic Worship Service Church in Bali province told UCA News.
“Together with them, I began a fundraising campaign on social media platforms like Facebook, where I had more than 100,000 followers, to support churches as well as orphanages and homes for the elderly.”
The motivation to do so stemmed from previous mission trips to remote areas where churches and other Christian facilities really needed help, he said.
However, the fundraising campaign wasn’t that successful and only raised a small amount of money. So, in January this year, he tried a different approach and established a registered charity called the Source of the Light of Life Foundation.
A few months later, on Easter Sunday, Tropical Cyclone Seroja struck the predominantly Catholic province of East Nusa Tenggara, triggering floods and mudslides. It killed more than 180 people, left many more injured and damaged thousands of homes.
Jesus taught me about compassion. And this encouraged me to help them
“Hundreds of church buildings, mostly belonging to Protestant congregations, were also damaged by the disaster. Some had their roofing blown away, some were totally destroyed,” Reverend Suruk said.
“Jesus taught me about compassion. And this encouraged me to help them.”
To collect more money to help rebuild and renovate church buildings and other Christian facilities affected by the storm, he decided to work with a crowdfunding platform called Kitabisa.com.
Assisted by his charity team, his fundraising efforts have seen repair work done on two orphanages, five homes for the elderly and four buildings belonging to Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) nuns. A Marian grotto for the nuns and two Protestant churches were also rebuilt.
As a bonus, he also provided the two orphanages with school supplies and distributed a number of braille Bibles to a home for the blind in the province.
“Now I am holding 10 fundraising campaigns with the crowdfunding platform. One of them is for the rebuilding of a church at the St. Teresa of Avila Mission Station in Alanga of East Nusa Tenggara’s Central Sumba district,” he said.
The church campaign began in May and had a goal of raising 729 million rupiah (about US$51,000) by the end of August. As of July 29, nearly 701 million rupiah had been collected.
“It is still ongoing. But we started the construction project for the mission station church in June. It is expected that construction work will end in late August,” Reverend Suruk said.
Meanwhile, repairs to one of the buildings belonging to the RVM nuns are ongoing.
According to Sister Maria Theresia Yasinta Ngodhu, who heads the RVM congregation in Indonesia, all their affected buildings were in the provincial capital Kupang.
The headquarters, a dormitory for female students, a home for novices and a home for postulants and aspirants all had their roofs blown off by Cyclone Seroja.
“The renovation of the fourth building is still ongoing,” Sister Ngodhu told UCA News.
We did not have enough money to repair our buildings. Their help is really meaningful to us
She learned about the charity organization from a friend. After having a discussion with the congregation’s members, she applied for help.
“We did not have enough money to repair our buildings. Their help is really meaningful to us,” she said, adding that she never received any cash directly as the repair work was directly managed by the charity.
She said that despite the goodwill shown by the pastor, some people have accused him of exploiting the nuns to raise money for his own benefit.
“Many people have voiced their suspicions. They think the charity organization is exploiting us,” she said.
Such distrust is to be expected, Reverend Suruk said.
“I take responsibility for all fundraising campaigns that I conduct with Kitabisa. I always send transparent and detailed expense reports to both the crowdfunding platform and donors,” he said.
He said what he has done is a materialization of love.
“Loving others needs action, it is not just words. Just like Jesus, he died on the cross because of his love for us. I cannot tell everyone that I love them but I do nothing to harm them,” he said.
“I always pray to God that I can be a channel of his love. This is an incredible joy that money cannot buy.”