Sumatra, Indonesia

Explore daily life in “the land of gold.”




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February 11, 2014




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Check out this photo essay, Sumatra, Indonesia: Sumatra, once known as Swarnabhumi, “the land of gold,” is rich in history and tradition. Take a closer look at this island and its people.


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A feast for the eyes

Known in ancient times as Swarnabhumi, “the land of gold,” Sumatra has a wealth of history and is rich in tradition. It is the largest island that is entirely Indonesian and hosts a Muslim-majority population. I traveled there to this creative-access location to gather advocacy resources. Stepping off the plane in Sumatra, my brain-to-eyeball connection briefly short-circuited. All the signs I saw used Roman characters, but the combinations were entirely unfamiliar. Soon I would be mangling Indonesian words due to both my inexperience and my confusion about the tonal rules. Despite my language failings, my enthusiasm to discover more of how the Lord is at work in Sumatra was matched by the enthusiasm of my host family. In the days that followed, I found a tension between the bold advance of the gospel and the desperate spiritual needs that still exist. Enjoy these cultural excerpts from Sumatra and get in touch with Pioneers to see how you can be part of the next chapter!

Variations of the knitted caps above may be known as a topi, taqiyah, sindhi or salat. Which one depends on your location in Southeast Asia. In English, a prayer cap. Some Muslim men wear the cap not just to pray but to be mustahabb, or commendable.


Mobile vendors are a mainstay of small businesses in Sumatra. From water to watches, locks to lunch, you can likely find it on a street cart.


Salak, or snakefruit look much like an armored strawberry. Sweet and acidic in taste, salak has a firm, apple-like texture.


The World Health Organization indicates that 61% of road deaths in Indonesia are riders of 2-3-wheeled vehicles. Pedestrians also account for a shockingly high percentage of road deaths at 15%.


Though badminton is Indonesia’s most successful sport, football (soccer) is arguably the most popular. Indonesians play it at all levels from the streets to world cup stadiums.


Known as Riau’s Taj Mahal, the Agung An-Nur Riau mosque was designed by Ir. Roseno and also features calligraphic art created by Azhari Nur in 1970.


Take the Next Step

Check out what it takes to plant a church in Indonesia.

Read an article about historic pioneers, Travels with Paul: On Mission in an Uncertain World.

Just before Koko and her family moved to Southeast Asia, she was diagnosed with medical condition that she was told would eventually cost her the ability to speak. She shares her story on this episode of Relentless Pursuit Podcast.

Going Deeper

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