In multireligious Indonesia, many people have never been inside a church. The pandemic is changing that for residents of Semarang (population 1.8 million) and the surrounding area.
In coordination with the local government, police and military forces, the 2022 Mennonite World Conference Assembly host venue JKI Injil Kerajaan (Holy Stadium) is holding a vaccine clinic, dosing up to 8,000 people per day in a country struggling to vaccinate citizens amid a severe COVID-19 infection wave.
“We as a church can show that we can do something in the midst of a difficult situation like this,” said Timotius Tanutama. He is one of the founding leaders of the 30-year-old megachurch that is part of Jemaat Kristen Indonesia (JKI), one of Indonesia’s three MWC member synods.
As thousands of people pass through the church each day, “We accept them, we love them, we try to minister to them,” he said.
The vaccines are provided free from the government. Holy Stadium covers facility costs, worker wages and provides lunches and snacks.
Nearby, Holy Stadium Miracle Healing Centre provides quarantine space for COVID-positive people to isolate safely away from crowded living quarters. Set up in just four days, it has sheltered more than 600 people in its 100 beds since June.
Using the outdoor courtyard, spacious main hall, lobby and several side rooms of the church building, some 100 volunteers each day manage the flow of people, checking vital signs, validating batch numbers and entering data to assist the 45 to 50 medical staff.
Many workplaces require vaccination and public spaces are beginning to mandate proof of vaccination. The government directs employers to refer unvaccinated staff to Holy Stadium.
The church has also used its extensive social media to advertise the service.
“Most people are very happy [to get vaccinated],” Tanutama said. “The service is fast and the people are kind.”
Medical staff are supplied by the government. The volunteers recruited by Holy Stadium are mainly students whose classes are either cancelled or moved online. Some are members of the congregation. Others have never been to church or practice Muslim faith.
Holy Stadium gives volunteers a small daily stipend and lunch and snacks from the catering outfit that is preparing to feed the multitudes at next year’s MWC assembly.
“This program has let the church help the community and also given a chance to share God’s love with them,” said Lydia Adi, international relations representative for JKI and member of the MWC Faith and Life Commission. “It has opened the doors for the church for people who would otherwise never step into the doors.”
Bible verses posted on the walls of public spaces catch the attention of the thousands of people passing through the space, and senior pastor Tina Astaris and other church leaders also provide inspiration and prayer support.
The vaccination clinic has provided opportunities for peacemaking efforts. When a Muslim leader who was initially opposed to vaccination brought a group from his congregation for vaccination, Holy Stadium provided a lunch to show love across faith differences.
“If we hold a crusade, it’s a few thousand people in one week. [With the vaccine program,] in six months, we could have 1 million people come through the church doors,” Tanutama said. “This is something only God can do.”
MWC gave $10,000 from its Global Church Sharing Fund to assist with the costs.