Australian missionary couple Ronny and Kay Heyboer have dedicated the past 28 years to caring for and educating the tribal people across the island of Borneo known as the Dayaks.
“The Dayaks have got large tribes and small tribes and some of them live around the coastal areas of Borneo where a lot of them already have churches. The Catholic Church has been quite active and there’s lots of other Protestant churches around. But the further you go into the interior where it’s more time consuming, more costly and more dangerous to reach, you come across a lot of the tribes that are still quite primitive and therefore they only have their animistic beliefs. There’s nothing else,” Ronny told Vision Radio.
That’s where the Heyboers went and founded Rivers of life Ministries Borneo which has since started up other ministries such as Living Waters Village, Medical Ministries and Church Planting Ministries.
They graduated from Rhema Bible College in Townsville in 1995 and began their ministry in the city of Kuching in Malaysian Borneo. Two years later they moved to Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo.
In December 2002, the Lord clearly directed Ronny to prepare a place in the jungle for 1,000 neglected children and schools for 2,000 children. The Heyboers purchased around 300 hectares of land and commenced an extensive building project to provide accommodation, schools, a Bible college, a training centre, a Praise and Worship centre, a hospital, a clinic and an airstrip.
There are now more than 830 children and youth in the village who are being equipped to return to their own villages and others to plant churches and take the Gospel to unreached tribes and shine a spiritual light into the heart of spiritual darkness.
Ronny told Vision Radio that when they started they found life is very cheap with little value in the community, so children are widely neglected and maltreated, especially girls.
“The Dayaks are animist with about 400 different tribes who believe in spirits. After the Lord told us all those years ago to go to Borneo and to start planting churches, we noticed that a lot of kids were neglected. We found them unwanted in the jungle and we were challenged to start bringing them into our place and to look after them. So we’ve built an entire small town there in the middle of nowhere,” he explained.
“Some do have loving parents, but because of where they live, they’re so remote. Every village has its own witch doctor who lords it over the people. When girls are nine or ten or 11-years-old they will be married off by the witch doctor and parents don’t really have a say in this. The witch doctor will marry their daughter off to an old guy who’s already got three or four wives. They’re pregnant straight away and by the time they’re 20, they’ve already had four or five or six kids. And they look like old women because they’ve been completely abused — absolutely awful to see.”
“This is why I believe that God told us to prepare this place where we can bring these kids in and these girls are not going to be sold off anymore. So we can love them and care for them and educate them so they can make something beautiful out of their lives which they wouldn’t be able to do in the villages if they stayed there.”
“When you go to share the love of God with them, you can’t just open up the Word of God and just say: Look, Jesus the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. They haven’t got an understanding of a lot of things. So you’ve got to use a picture format or something that they can relate to, to be able to bring the Gospel to them. So God just gives you in different places, different pictures in order to be able to make the Gospel relate to them a lot better. And it works. That’s how people receive the Gospel and become a Christian and do away with the animistic beliefs. Really amazing.”
“These people don’t know Jesus. And so life is very cheap and life has no value. We as Australians know Jesus created us because He loves us so much and He values every human being, every life. But if you don’t know that, then life is very cheap. That’s why they don’t really care about their kids. We have a Christian heritage and whether you’re brought up in a Christian home or not, you are still riding on the blessings of our forefathers. I believe in knowing that our Christian values and principles are so entrenched in us and our upbringing, that we believe that every person is valuable. And therefore we should look after human beings.”
“If you don’t have that, you can understand where [the Dayaks] are coming from. That’s why it’s so important that we share the Gospel message with them to let them know that there is a God who created them, who loves them and who wants the very best for us all. That’s why he sent Jesus to help us to get to know Him, so that we can embrace Him, believe in Him, and then make make the most of our lives.”
Click below to hear the full interview with Ronny Heyboer: