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Prayer Profile
The Penesak of Indonesia

[IMAGE] Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation and continues to grow rapidly. It has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world, with more than 300 distinct people groups, many of whom are Muslim. Located in southeastern Asia, the many islands of Indonesia command vital sea routes between Australia, Europe, and the Asian mainland. These islands are the principal link between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The 21,800 Penesak are located in the south-central part of the island of Sumatra, very close to the Komering, who are one of the major groups in the region. Historically, the Penesak were probably a people of coastal Borneo who expanded into Sumatra as a result of their trading and seafaring way of life. Their culture has been strongly influenced by other peoples, including the Siamese, Javanese, and Sumatrans. Their language, also called Penesak, is a member of the Austronesian language family.

What Are Their Lives Like
Indonesian culture is a mixture of many diverse civilizations. Hinduism and Buddhism from India exerted a profound influence on Indonesian life and left a strong imprint on the architecture and sculpture of the country. Arabic influence in Indonesia has been promoted since the thirteenth century, mainly through the teachings of Islam. The islands have also been affected by Southeast Asian and Polynesian cultures, as well as by the influx of the Chinese and the Dutch.

Most Indonesians are farmers. The major food crops include corn, root crops, vegetables, and rice. In Sumatra, products grown for export include fibrous plants (ramie, kapok, and sisal), rubber, tobacco, tea, coffee, palm oil, peanuts, pepper, copra (dried coconut meat yielding oil), and betel nuts (seeds from the betel palm). In the mountains, vegetables are also grown.

Like the Komering, the Penesak are a rural people, living in villages of 50 to 1,000 people. Much of the country is covered by jungle, but the villages are located along the coasts, rivers, and roadways. Within their villages, the Penesak build their houses on stilts raised four to eight feet off the ground.

Farming is the primary occupation of the Penesak. Rubber is the main cash crop, but coffee and rice are also grown. Wet-rice plots are worked by hoeing, or by plowing with oxen or water buffalo. Planting and harvesting are usually done by either hired mixed-sex work groups or by the extended family. Farmers often use tractors in cultivating their crops. They set aside a portion of their proceeds from their harvest for several years and then buy their tractors from the government.

Since most of the people make their living from farming, major ceremonies are usually held after the harvest. These events include marriages, circumcisions, and hair cutting rituals. Every family in the village participates in such activities because of their strong community feelings.

Penesak families do not usually live together as an extended family. Instead, each family tries to have its own separate home. Newlywed couples may temporarily live with his or her parents, but they prefer to have their own home as soon as possible.

Women wear cotton sarongs (loose skirts made of long strips of cloth wrapped around the body) with long-sleeved cotton blouses. They also wear skirts over trousers, jackets, and scarves; they do not wear veils. Men wear Western-style cotton shirts and slacks.

What Are Their Belief?
Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Indonesian constitution. Islam, in various forms, is the dominant faith of the country. In fact, Indonesia is the largest Islamic community in the world. The Penesak are 99% Sunni Muslims, and only 1% of them profess to be Christian.

What Are Their Needs?
The Penesak do not have any Christian resources in their own language, and no missions agencies are currently targeting them. Intercession and pioneer missions works must be undertaken to reach the Penesak with the Gospel.

Prayer Points
  • Ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers who can minister to the Penesak in culturally relevant ways.
  • Pray that the Bible and the Jesus film will soon be made available to the Penesak.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Penesak towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Penesak through dreams and visions.
  • Ask God to strengthen, embolden, and protect the few Penesak believers.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Penesak bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Penesak.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: The Penesak
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Their language: Penesak
  • Population: (1990) 20,200
    (1995) 21,800
    (2000) 23,500
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Sunni) 95%
    Nonreligious 4%
  • Christian: <1%
  • Church members: 240
  • Scriptures in their own language: None
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 0
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 5,200 (24%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 1,500 (7%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 3,700 (17%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 16,600 (76%)
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Population: (1990) 182,811,600
    (1995) 197,587,700
    (2000) 212,730,600
  • Major peoples in size order: Javanese 26.2%
    Javanese Indonesian 10.7%
    Sudanese 10.6%
    Madurese 5.7%
    Sudanese Indonesian 3.1%
  • Major religions: Muslim 43.7%
    New religionist 35%
    Christian 13%
  • Number of denominations: 113

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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