Sumatra is the westernmost island in Indonesia. It is the largest island that is not shared with another country. Just north of Sumatra is the Malay Peninsula, and Java is to the east of the island. It has a population of just over 50 million, making it the world’s fourth most populous island (World Wildlife). Sumatra became well-known because of the tsunami that hit its northern tip on December 26, 2004. This area, Aceh, is still recovering from the tsunami. Aceh is often called “The Veranda of Mecca” because Islam entered Indonesia through it in the 13th century (Joshua Project; Wikipedia).
Sumatra is comprised of 10 provinces: Aceh, Bangka-Belitung, Bengkulu, Jambi, Lampung, Riau, Riau Islands, West Sumatra, South Sumatra, and North Sumatra. There are 79 people groups on Sumatra, with the largest groups being Batak, Malay, Minangkabau, Aceh, and Palembang.
Many Batak are traditionally Christian, but the number that actually has a relationship with Christ is much smaller. Those that are true believers have proven to be very instrumental in reaching the lost. All of the other people groups are Muslim. The Malay live in the coastal areas of north and central Sumatra. The strongest characteristic of a Malay person is his Islam. In Malaysia, Malays cannot become Christians, but there is no law against them changing their religion in Indonesia. The Minangkabau live in West Sumatra. They are also called Padang people, and are famous for their especially spicy food. One can find Padang restaurants all over Indonesia. Acehnese live in the Aceh region on the northern tip of Sumatra. Because this is the area where Islam originally came into Indonesia, Acehnese are some of the strictest Muslims in the country. This is one of the only areas in Indonesia where Sharia law is enforced. Palembang people live in the region of Palembang, which is in southeast Sumatra. They live in very distinct pyramid shaped houses. To be Palembang is to be Muslim. (Joshua Project)
Sumatra is the largest unevangelized island on earth. If it was a country, only nine countries would have more unreached people. There are 49 unreached ethnic groups, and of these people, at least 29 have no indigenous church and eight have no one working to reach them. A church planting movement seems to be starting in Sumatra. Pockets of churches are popping up in areas of northeastern Sumatra. The churches are reproducing so rapidly that missionaries (both national and expatriate) are having a hard time keeping up with the growth. As a result, persecution is also increasing.
Sumatra is the largest producer of coffee in Indonesia. Palm oil and petroleum are also produced and are very important to the Indonesian economy.
Sumatra has several unique plants and animals that aren’t found anywhere else in the world. The Sumatran Tiger, Orangutan, and Rhinoceros are all in danger of extinction. The Sumatran Pine is a tree found in the rainforests of Sumatra. The Rafflesia flower is also native to Sumatra and is the world’s largest flower. (Wikipedia)
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