Briercrest alumnus equipping Christian leaders half way around the world

Posted: October 7, 2013

Fifty-three years ago Briercrest alumnus Willem Heckman packed his bags and left for Indonesia with a heart for missions and a passion for God. Today, that heart for missions still beats strong and has helped Heckman to establish six Bible Missionary and Work (BMW) training centres in Indonesia.

“The BMW training centres train young people who are high school graduates and are called by God to become pastors, missionaries and Christian education teachers in government schools,” Heckman, coordinator and founder of the BMW training centers in Indonesia, said.  

Heckman founded the BMW training centers in 1999 in Wonogiri, Central Java, as a way to fill a need.  

“The Indonesian government has a policy that when there are 10 students or more of a certain religion in a government school, the school must have a religious education teacher,” explained Heckman.

The BMW centre trains these required teachers to go into the schools and share the Word of God.

“The Protestant director general of the Department of Religion has informed me that the government has a need for 14,000 teachers who have a bachelor degree in religious education (BRE) from a Bible college,” he said.

“This nation has populations of 250 million people with 200 million Muslims. This is a marvelous opportunity for the Bible colleges to train young people in Christian education.”

Once enrolled in the BMW school, students spend 20 hours studying the word of God and related subjects, 20 hours of work and 20 hours of missionary outreach each week in their first two years.

“I call this the 20-20-20 vision,” he said.

“After students complete their two years, they then go on to serve under a pastor and write some papers. After, they all graduate and receive a diploma in Bible. Many begin their Christian service, but some students return for a fourth year.”

A crucial element to the training centre’s program is their dedication to creating graduates who are not only able to be academically successful, but graduates who are also able to be self-sustaining.

“Most Bible college graduates in this nation (know how) to write proposals for assistance, but don’t know how to work with their hands.  We are training young people how to work with their hands and become self-supporting,” Heckman said.

“(Students) grow their own vegetables, one school grows palm oil trees, and another school grows peanuts and corn. The school in Papua has 12 fish ponds, another school grows cacao, fruit and beetle nuts which are sold to a cosmetic factory. (Other) students raise cows, fish, goats and pigs.”

Heckman explained that one of the advantages of requiring the students to work during their time at the school is that the first two years of their education is free.

“It would be difficult to ask the students to work for four hours if we charged them,” he explained.

Heckman said being involved in missions has been an incredible journey of seeing miracles performed by God. It is a journey that began in 1957 as a young Briercrest student. 

 “One morning during chapel the speaker explained to us students about the call of God into missionary service. He read about the Great Commission from Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, John 20:21 and Acts 1:8 and explained that the command of God is our Call,” explained Heckman.

It was then he realized a life of missions was what he wanted, the question now was where. An answer would come the very same day after being handed the book, Into the Wilds of New Guinea.

“I finished reading the book that evening and the next morning the chapel speaker was the author of the book, Hans Veldhuis. Now I had discovered my destination, Netherlands New Guinea,” he said.

Arriving in 1960 Heckman spent the next 10 years serving among the Asmat tribe.

“They had never heard of God and worshipped the Ndat or evil spirit,” he explained. “They believed there were no good spirits and their entire life and activities centred around appeasing the evil spirits so these would not bring havoc and chaos to their lives and villages,” he said.

“They were still cannibals and the men were totally naked and the married ladies wore a small grass diaper. They did not know steel or paper and had no utensils for their food.”

It took Heckman three years to learn the Asmat language and it was not until several years later that the first three men were baptized.

“Slowly others followed. The church was started and then an elementary school and later a Bible School. By the grace of God I was able to start churches and schools in six villages,” he explained of his beginnings as a missionary.

Since then Heckman has been involved in a variety of ministries both within Indonesia and abroad.

He started the Jakarta Bible Institute in Jakarta, Indonesia, which led to the establishment of the Bible churches in Indonesia. He has served with the Living News ministry and then with Torchbearers teaching at the Capernwray Bible schools for many years. 

He started the Christian Leaders Association for the purpose of assisting Christian leaders in the third world and has served as the Missions Coordinator of AMG (Advancing the Ministries of the Gospel) International overseeing their missions projects in over 30 countries.

Despite his journey into different ministries, Heckman found himself back in Indonesia.

“During a flight to Indonesia in 1997 I met a representative of Teen Missions International based in Merritt Island, Florida. This lead to my present relationship and responsibilities,” he explained.

Out of this connection came the BMW training centers.

“One of the blessings to me has been the training, preparation and commissioning of Indonesian missionaries to Cambodia, Canada, Malawi, Madagascar, Mongolia, Uganda and South Africa,” he explained.

Heckman said his time studying at Briercrest really helped to prepare him for the tasks God has given him over the years.

“The Bible studies, school discipline, devotion discipline, dormitory discipline, gratis (work part), weekly evangelistic outreach, personal interest of the lecturers and staff in the students was used by God to establish me as His servant with Bible knowledge,” he said.