Although it may be difficult to find the community of Kampung Sawah on a map, it's not so hard if you follow your nose. A small slum tucked into the northern corner of Jakarta, Indonesia, Kampung Sawah is known for one thing: garbage.
Every day dump trucks rumble through the crowded streets, spilling their contents into putrid landfills that overflow onto sidewalks and into dusty yards. Families sift through rotting food and swarming flies, looking for items to sell in the market.
The mountains of garbage generate not only stench, but also disease. Children in Kampung Sawah battle a long list of illnesses: typhoid, cholera, dysentery, diarrhea, pinworms and tapeworms.
Meeting Physical Needs When Pastor Veronica Baker came to Kampung Sawah, this physical suffering broke her heart. "I could see immediately that one of their needs was better health access," says Pastor Veronica. "So our church opened a free clinic. That is the thing that made it possible for the community to trust us, to come to us for help."
The free clinic was the catalyst for Kampung Sawah Bethel Church's outreach to the community. Over the next decade the church also opened a school and an orphanage, and it now offers vocational training for families who typically live on less than a dollar a day.
"My heart is for the people here to be saved," says Pastor Veronica. "But to fulfill that mission I believed we should do something for the community first, to help them survive and open up opportunities to work to gain a better life."
Earning Respect Pastor Veronica found a delicate balance in sharing Christ's love with this largely Islamic community. She shared that love gently, slowly earning the respect of even devout Muslims.
"At first, I didn't welcome the church to be built here," says a Muslim leader in the community. "As time went by, I could see the sincere heart of the pastor and the church to help people in need. Every time I received help from Pastor Veronica, she never pushed her beliefs nor asked me to become a Christian...This church is different."
When Compassion began looking for a church partner in Kampung Sawah in 2003, country staff were drawn to the vision of Pastor Veronica and the rest of her staff. It is rare to find a church with as much influence as this one, especially in a predominantly Islamic community.
Compassion's resources were perfectly suited to the church's goals, and in turn, the church knew the community intimately. Church partner staff could immediately seek out the most desperate families — children who needed help the most.
"I trust the church." The Kasih Imanuel Student Center (IO-423) now serves more than 250 children, each from a desperately poor family. These children are attending school, miraculous in a community where 80 percent of students drop out of high school.
One of the children in the program is the son of the Muslim leader so impressed by Pastor Veronica and her ministry to Kampung Sawah. "I trust the church to take care of my child at the center because I trust Pastor Veronica," he says.