The Hidden Poor - Jakarta

The author has worked for three years serving alongside the poor and unreached people of Jakarta.


Simply going from one side of the street to the other, turning a corner or opening a door, can reveal a very different world. From the regeneration areas of London to the urban hubs of Jakarta, Hidden People are everywhere.


Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country and the nation with the largest Muslim population. It is home to over 250 million people, more than 700 languages and dialects, and in excess of 700 people groups. It is no wonder that Indonesia's national motto is,'Bhinneka Tunggal Ika' (Unity in Diversity). Jakarta is theIbu Kota (Mother City) and a metropolitan reflection of Indonesia's diversity.


Jakarta is a city of contrasts: different businesses, foods, housing, languages, people, systems and traffic! Add foreign nationals of varying persuasions and you have a proverbial bowl of 'liquorice allsorts'. Of its ever-increasing population, about 1 million1 are counted among the urban poor,2 who could be described as the fastest-growing unreached people group in the world.


A cross-cultural team has been formed with a heart for the city, for Muslims and for the poor. They are using their backgrounds in development, education and health to respond to poverty within their own communities. Dr Brian Fikkert provides a helpful definition of poverty, as "[not] just a lack of material things - it's rooted in broken relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation. We were created to glorify God, reflect His image, love one another, and be stewards of creation. But the fall and sin marred what God originally created. As a result, none of us are experiencing the fullness of what God intended for us."


In this definition, we see that poverty itself can be hidden if we limit our scope to what it is and how to respond to it. Longing to see transformation, this team of workers are aiming to provide a response to poverty, and are engaged in holistic mission, that is, concerned with the whole scope of human need.3 They seek to live out the gospel by what they do and say, and in so doing, be a flesh-and-bone representation of the good news in the community.


From an L-shaped room in a community centre, this team have spent the last two and a half years getting to know one of the poorest and most overcrowded areas of Jakarta. They strive to understand the culture and context, respond to 'felt needs' and build relationships. They offer services such as weekly creative sessions for children and free health consultations. All of these activities are conducted with the aim of seeing transformation happen in six areas: economy, education, environment, health, relationships and through increasing a sense of self-worth among the people they serve.


living narratives

Mrs Sun4 is visited at home by Ez, an Indonesian doctor with a heart for the poor and a strong passion to stand up for the marginalised. After giving Mrs Sun a mini check-up, Ez is not rushing to get away; she listens not just to Mrs Sun's concerns about her health, but also those about her family. She struggles to take care of her grandchildren and their father (her son) does not care for them or her. She worries her son is too feminine; he cross-dresses and brings shame on their family, and so it continues. Ez listens, mentions in conversation words from Proverbs, "A cheerful heart is good medicine" (Prov. 17:22) and later offers to pray - Mrs Sun is happy to accept.


Mr Ian was a member of a weekly group for people living by the railway. He shares with one of the team that he had previously never been able to save any money. He and his family used to live in a makeshift home beside the railway tracks. But now through help received they rent a room in a neighbourhood nearby.


Lil goes to the triweekly reading programme, along with other children who live by the railway. A number of them are buskers, some as young as five years old, who travel far from home using various local transport, to help raise money for their families. When Lil first began to attend she was shy and reluctant to participate. Even though the other children included her siblings and close friends, she was too embarrassed to speak and doing anything at the front of class was a definite 'no'. However, recently she excitedly arrived to a session and proudly announced to the Indonesian intern, who runs the programme, that her teacher had noticed her progress at school and called her very clever. Lil is no longer that shy girl. Other children in this group could not read or had a low level of literacy, and some, for varying reasons, were not in school. Like Lil, many of them have progressed in reading and other basic skills, and some who were not in school now attend. The team would never claim this is entirely down to the reading programme, but are thankful to God for allowing them to play a small part.


Kos and Diana, two workers from the team, regularly travel to a village a couple of hours' journey from Jakarta. In contrast to the multi-ethnic make-up of the city, this village is a mono-cultural home to Sundanese people. They visit two or three families who are linked with a couple of longer-standing projects: sewing and book-colouring. The head of one of these families, Mr T, has shared with Kos about his depression caused by ill health and the constant chaos of his large family, with incidences of violence, and various marital and family disputes. Because of the growing relationship between them, helped by Kos being able to speak Sundanese, Kos feels able to share the good news: how God Almighty is our hope, how He is always there and therefore we should return to Him. Kos followed this with an offer of prayer, which Mr T, who would previously have said 'no', accepted. After the 'Amen', he was visibly much happier. Mr T and some of his family have in previous years professed faith inIsa(Jesus), but then returned to their original beliefs. However, it seems that flames which appeared to have burnt out are being rekindled. ADiscoveryBible study is currently being planned with one or two of the families in this village.


These examples are just a microcosm of the transformation that is hoped for, and in faith we believe has started - this is only one community in a city of millions!


"Greater things have yet to come, greater things are still to be done in the city..." From the urban hubs of Jakarta to the regeneration areas of London, or wherever you are, 'hidden people' are everywhere: "Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, 'Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land'" (Deut. 15:11).



1. The Greater Jakarta area has a population of 30 million. Demographia World Urban Areas,

2. "I suspect the proportion of poor people in Jakarta could actually amount to 40 percent of the total population of Jakarta." Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama (Jakarta's Governor), 'Jakarta sees rising poverty, widening income gap',The Jakarta Post, January 2015.

3. Dr C.J.H. Wright, presentation entitled 'Holistic Mission', atLook! 2012, the Wycliffe Global Gathering and Summer Institute of Linguistics International Conference, 7th May 2012.

4. All names have been changed for security reasons.


©Copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved. webdesign and hosting by dotretailer.