Every day, Isih Sukaesih would ritually wash her hands, feet, and face. This ritual, called wudu, is required of Muslims before prayer or reading the Qu’ran. For the first twenty years of her life Isih performed these acts without incident or much thought.
However, in the mid-1940s, when Isih was still a young woman, her life would change forever. Japan invaded Indonesia and took control of most of the country in a brutal occupation that included mass starvation and forced labor. It would cost over 4,000,000 lives before Indonesia would gain independence again.
It was during this time of occupation that Isih one day went to perform her ritual washing as she always had. The water felt cold and refreshing on her hands and feet, but as soon as she washed her face and some water came in contact with her eyes, all she felt was a burning pain. Japanese troops had poisoned all the wells in her city. She said, “I got a lot of pain in my eyes and suddenly I could not see. I went to a doctor, a specialist, and he performed a surgery, but totally failed.”
Even in This, God Was Working
Isih’s family could no longer care for her now that she was blind, so they sent her to a blind community in Bandung, a city not far from her home. In this community she met a blind man who was a Christian. Through him she learned about Christ and what he had done for her. She stopped performing wudu because she became a committed follower of Jesus Christ.
In 1997 Isih moved to the Eben Haezer Blind Foundation, a Christian community for the blind. This small community serves as one of over 200 YKB listener communities (see sidebar) spread throughout Indonesia. These listener communities are the backbone of YKB’s ministry in Indonesia.
Listening, Talking, Joining Together
At the most basic level, listener communities tune in to the programs and talk about what they’ve heard. These communities meet in homes, in churches, or under the open sky. They range in size from a few people up to one hundred. Where the listener community is paired with a church it becomes an integral aspect of the congregation’s outreach. Communities in unreached areas become a kind of seed that could one day grow and bloom into a church.
Starting listener communities takes planning and work; each one has a designated coordinator who must be trained and mentored. But if radio ministry makes sense in Indonesia because so many people live in remote areas, it makes even more sense to use radio to teach and encourage blind people such as those living in Eben Haezer.
The Effort Is Worth It
Not only is Isih now able to get support for her basic daily needs, but she also feels encouraged to be living in a community of Christians. Isih explains, “Since I moved to this new community, I feel that I am blessed because I have a lot of opportunity to learn the Word of God, such as through the Braille Bible, and through the radio programs.”
During a 2012 visit, Dave Bast gave Isih a portable radio, a gift she cherishes. Every morning she listens to the radio program, enjoying both the songs and the sermons. When the program ends she goes to work in the community garden, but even then her radio is always close at hand.