By Katie Montei

A Transforming Call

Elfira felt uneasy about returning home to Indonesia. It had been five years since she was there last, and she thought she had left it behind. She came to the States to pursue a degree in engineering. But during her time here heard a call from God to serve him in another way. She decided to return home in order to help equip and minister with churches in caring for the poor and needy in Indonesia.

Only 11-percent of the population in Indonesia is Christian. Elfira grew up in an environment that is sometimes hostile to Christianity; however, she was exposed to Christian beliefs early in life. Although her father is not a Christian, her mother maintains a quiet belief in Jesus. Elfira and her brothers were sent to Christian schools in hopes that they would encounter God for themselves.

But going to Christian schools did not give Elfira the confident or personal faith in Christ that her mother had anticipated. Elfira was able to recite textbook answers about who God is and tell stories about his activities in the world, but he wasn’t real to her. She explained her attitude by saying, “My identity was so much defined by my academic achievements; yet, the higher my achievements, the more I questioned whether they were all there were to life.”

For many years she prayed to a God that she was not sure existed, hoping that he would reveal himself to her. It was a newly established neighborhood church that finally nurtured and developed her faith; when she was 15 she began taking direction from God for the first time.

When it came time for Elfira to go to college, she made the decision to come to the States to pursue a degree in engineering. She believes it was in God’s leading that her family allowed her to leave Indonesia, because families do not often invest in a daughter’s education. But to her family’s chagrin, it was in leaving Indonesia and experiencing the transforming power of the Holy Spirit during college that Elfira realized that her calling was not engineering, but rather serving the poor in another way.

After a few years involvement in the Indonesian Christian Fellowship (ICF), which is not affiliated with InterVarsity, at Purdue University in Indiana, and deep involvement in a local church, Elfira began to get an ever-clearer calling to full-time ministry.

In pursuing how God wanted to use her, Elfira spent a month last summer as part of City Lights, InterVarsity’s Urban Project in St. Louis. Elfira said that during her time in St. Louis, “God spoke to me specifically about my home country, Indonesia, where poverty and injustice prevail. God says that one way to know him is by defending the cause of the poor and the needy; whatever we do not do for them we do not do for him.” Those ideas, taken from Jeremiah 22 and Matthew 25, were impressed upon her during the Urban Project where she worked among inner city children, the elderly, disabled, recent immigrants, and refugees.

Elfira is unsure exactly how God will use her in ministry when she returns to Indonesia, but is clear about her calling to return.

In order to begin clarifying her calling further, she decided to visit Indonesia and speak with churches and mission agencies in the area about opportunities inside and outside of the Church; she does not feel comfortable moving home without a more defined path. Her hope is to then come back to the States and pursue a seminary degree.

But going home, even to visit, still makes her nervous. Her family disapproves of her calling to any kind of ministry, let alone one in which she will give up her career in engineering – she feels pressure from them to continue with engineering.

Although she is still exploring how God will use her specifically, she knows that he wants her to help equip the church in Indonesia. “I have the heart and passion to make a difference through equipping and empowering God’s church – the body of Christ that has been given redemptive mission in the world – to show love, compassion, justice, and mercy in the midst of darkness,” she said. From her days of searching for God, to her time of calling in college and afterwards, Elfira has faithfully been following God and allowing him to transform her into his vessel to be used in his kingdom.