It is a regular occurrence that Westminster students have the opportunity to travel to distant lands to share the gospel. These opportunities create a profound awareness of life outside of the West, a life that is very different from our own. The promulgation of the gospel in these circumstances evidences a consequential truth, namely that although life takes different forms in the various nations and peoples, there is nevertheless a singular need for a Savior. These four testimonies below recount a recent trip to Indonesia with Dr. Peter Lillback.
It was humid and hot in Jakarta and Ambon, though hotter in Ambon. Jakarta was an interesting mix of lower class poverty and upper class wealth. Looking out the window of our car one minute we would be looking at towering skyscrapers and clean apartment complexes, the next we would see slums: small, boxy buildings with tin roofs barely able to keep the rain out. Given this, there seemed to be no middle class. We also learned that the majority of the population including the president, is Muslim, but they are not the radical sort. Every citizen in Indonesia must indicate their adherence to a major religion like Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism. One cannot say that they are an atheist or an agnostic. Most people who do not believe in a particular religion will write down one of those accepted religions but will not practice it.
The week in Ambon we visited every school on the island and taught children. This, to me, was the most fulfilling part of the trip: preaching and teaching the gospel to children. The focus of our teaching was on practical, Christian obedience. The schools let us come and teach them for about fifteen to thirty minutes. This would be unheard of in the States. All the kids would get excited when they saw Americans. The Indonesian teachers told us we had an advantage over them, since we could hold the kids’ attention.
The island in Ambon was more beautiful than Jakarta, since it was less affected by pollution. There was more green, the water was clearer and bluer, and the skies were brighter. Jakarta is more of a business area than Jakarta, so this was to be expected. The driving on Ambon was more chaotic. There were no lanes on Ambon, yet everyone seemed to know where to go. Overall it was a fantastic, unforgettable experience and I am sincerely grateful to Dr. Lillback and the rest of Westminster for getting to go on this all-expenses-paid trip!
Blasting through the windows and walls at 4:30 am came the Muslims’ first Call to Prayer for the day. While we spent most of the time in Indonesia with Christians, the Call played in the background as a reminder that we were not in friendly territory. Each time the Call woke me much earlier than I wanted, it also awoke me to the reality that this world is battling Yahweh. Christ is the conqueror of every corner of the earth. Nevertheless, we humans fight his reign. Despite our rebellion, the true God calls us to be His children, granting us the privilege of speaking to Him as our Abba Father. The Muslims’ Call was in Arabic, a language few of them understand. But, as Calvin puts it, God lisps to us as a father does the child he loves. Yahweh’s call opens our ears so that we may hear and live, even as the world is deaf and, dead in sin, screams against the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We know our Abba Father because His call reaches us and redirects our orientation to behold the face of the triune God. The Muslim Call to Prayer reminds them to cast out threads of words in hopes of catching the attention of a god who stays aloof. Our Lord’s call to have communion with him binds us to him with the reality that he is a God who loves us immensely, intensely, infinitely.
Bipolar is an apt word to describe my recent two-week visit to Indonesia. The first week felt like it didn’t stop moving. We got off the plane in Jakarta only to depart on another plane to Ambon less than twenty-four hours later. In Ambon we were constantly on the move from school to school, back for a quick rest only to depart later to a gospel rally or evening meeting. Between all the hectic movement and the jet-lag, my body and mind did not know what to make of the first week. However, once we returned to Jakarta everything slowed down, almost in fact, to a complete halt. It was in this new atmosphere that I was able to take the time and reflect upon my week in Ambon. To breathe the air of a faraway land is something quite romantic, but to do it for the sake of God’s kingdom is altogether life changing. I became a different person in Ambon. Being pushed to the limits of exhaustion revealed many of my weaknesses. But being able to work alongside brothers and sisters from another nation rejuvenated my bones. Seeing children in Indonesia who so desperately need to know the Lord Jesus Christ was like a shot of pure adrenaline. It is weeks like the one I spent in Ambon that will get me through the dog-days of the academic year. Indeed, whenever I am tired and find myself wishing to give up, I will remember that transformative time in Ambon.
My expectations, my initial experiences and reactions, and the process of familiarization as a whole was quite an experience, to say the least. Indonesia is a fascinating country. But more than a fascinating country, it was a humbling learning experience in many respects as well as a wonderfully enjoyable experience, and this was in large part due to the people. A friend, who did her Fulbright there, told me that she found it hard to adjust to Indonesia initially, but eventually it was the people that made her fall in love with the country. I wholeheartedly agreed. To get into some of the itinerary, the first week, we the Westminster students joined and participated in an evangelistic ministry that the host church (GRII) conducts, where small teams travel around various islands, visiting local schools and preaching the gospel in 30 min to an hour sessions. This is fascinating for an American, to see the gospel allowed to preach in such a public context. We were assigned a passage to work with and were provided opportunity to preach from it to elementary, middle, and high school students, with a translator. The second week, we sat through Dr Lillback’s course, but our purpose was to build and continue on relationships with the students and congregants. There are many things that we encountered both theologically, ecclesiastically, and culturally that differ from the church in America, especially of the reformed persuasion. But experiencing with a learning posture, I found it most fruitful in learning that the Kingdom of God is big and that the west does not have everything correct, and that humility is the way of our King Jesus. Lastly, as there is limited word space, our hosts were very welcoming, accommodating, and generous. It was truly edifying to experience and see first hand, that God is present and working through the church in Indonesia to advance his gospel.
To the End of the Earth is a series that recounts the missions of Westminster alumni and students.