Today was our first full day on the third island. This morning I woke up wide awake before 6 am. However, I found great peace in seeking the presence of God out on the balcony of our family’s home. During this quiet time, I was struck by the glory of God. Our father is so HUGE and I want to see more of His heart on this island through these people.
After breakfast, the entire team met to paint the kindergarten school building. There are so many kids on this island! There were kids around the entire time we were painting which was fun and also distracting :) We played several games with them including a camp game called “down by the banks.” The kids loved this game and continued to ask to play it the rest of the day.
For lunch we had squid in squid ink! It was definitely sedap (delicious). Ibu Anissa is a great cook and we were able to learn a lot more about the family this meal. We talked about how our Ibu’s mother had been to Mecca. This opened up some opportunity to ask more about what they believe. We also asked about the books stuffed in the rafters above each door of the house thinking it has something to do with Islam. Instead, they explained that these books are charms to protect the kids from spirits that could enter the house. This was my first encounter with the influence of animism. Finally, the last part of the day consisted of visiting another family on the island, eating dinner and playing with the extremely large group of kids that stood outside waiting for us to finish eating. We were able to tell the kids the story of David & Goliath and of Noah & the Ark. Seeing the joy of the kids was encouraging, but my heart was really heavy for the generations of people on this island. I am still learning to trust the faithfulness of our Savior and the power of prayer. I am excited for the rest of our time here. :)
Our second full day on the last island began at the island’s middle school and high school. Our team divided into pairs, and together with the guides we each visited a classroom to speak for a few minutes. We introduced ourselves in English, giving the students a chance to practice. Then they asked us questions about a lot of different subjects, and some of us got to share about everything from American culture to the meaning of a purity ring one on our team was wearing.
In the high school classroom I was in, the students asked us if Americans thought all Muslims were terrorists. We were about as shocked as you are reading this, but I tried to respond as honestly as possible. Some Americans do associate Islam with terrorism, I said, as a result of memories of events like 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I continued by saying that many Americans are Muslim, and some Americans of other religions seek to befriend and connect with Muslims. As for our team, I said that we’d greatly enjoyed living with Muslim families over the past few weeks and had found them to be gracious and hospitable.
The question and answer was brief, but I thought the moment captured one of the major goals of our being in SE Asia this month: to create a bridge between cultures and faiths. The sad reality is that on both sides, stereotypes and misconceptions exist. The pain of past events can distort the way we understand other people and may lead us to label ethnic or religious groups as the enemy, despite how similar we might be other ways. Learning to see past the stereotypes perpetuated by our culture is one of the first steps to beginning relationships with people of other cultures, and those relationships are the gateway to sharing more deeply our love for other people and for God. We are, after all, made in His image, and I’m grateful I’ve had the chance to see that more clearly this month.
Today is the final day for our team on our third island – and our last day of enjoying island life with the Sea Tribe people. We began the day with a special excursion to a city on a nearby island. This included visits to a coffee shop and a Buddhist temple, and (for us ladies) a quick trip to the salon. For about $3, several of us got cream baths: essentially a heavenly head massage. A thousand times yes.
The afternoon was fairly typical in our home. We enjoyed lunch with our Ibu (Ibu Eti), followed by tea time and a siesta. After that, we had a third rematch of volleyball: Taylor Women vs. The Ibus. Unfortunately, we lost, but we had such a great time regardless.
After our final delicious dinner in our home, Ibu presented us with our traditional Malay outfits for the closing ceremony. All four of us had the exact same matching outfit! The ceremony was long – about two hours – but so much fun. There was drumming, singing, and many dance presentations, including a few from our team. I won’t lie through: a personal highlight was the surprise our house had kept from the rest of our team. We had a favorite song, Aku Tak Biasa, from late night karaoke with our Ibu. The finale to our evening was the four of us (Lisa, Morgan, Sondang, and I) in our matching outfits, affectionately termed “Wati and Friends”, giving a surprise performance of our new favorite song. SO great. I think Ibu Eti was proud. :)
Our days have been full of laughter, conversation, children, and excessive amounts of delicious seafood. And yet, even though we have had an extra day on this island, it has not felt like enough time. The kindness of these people, especially our Ibu, has been astounding. It breaks my heart to say goodbye…it feels like the connections formed have been strong, and yet I may never see or know what will come of my hopes and prayers for these individuals. And yet we are learning to trust the Lord with the unknowns and are so grateful for the opportunities we have been given.
See you soon!
Felissa a.k.a Felix a.k.a Fitri
At 8:00 this morning our team left our last island to head back to our home base. My house (our host, Gretchen, Grace, and I) woke up early so that we would have time to eat breakfast and spend some time with our family before we said our goodbyes (a lot of picture taking was involved in the goodbyes).
We left our house with a multitude of children from around the village waiting to escort us to the jetty. They had lined up all of our shoes (because they knew which shoes belonged to each of us, of course) while they were waiting for us. As we walked to the dock, I found that my sleeping mat, my water bottle, and a bag of fruit (all of which I had been carrying for about 3 seconds after stepping out the door) were distributed by kids around me so that they could hold my hands.
The jetty was SO FULL of people waiting to see us off. It was hard to leave yet another island full of generous and beautiful people. It’s amazing to me how quickly we’ve been able to bond with our families and the people on the islands within the space of a few days of living together. Our remaining time at our home base will be spent resting and debriefing as a team before we prepare to head home (back to icy and windy Taylor….)
On each island, our team has been met with such kindness, thoughtfulness, and hospitality–whether it’s kids grabbing our water bottles so we didn’t have to carry them or our ibus packing us extra food for our boat ride back to home base–and we have been filled with an urgency to pray for the Sea Tribe people whose actions so often reflect a Savior they don’t know. Please continue to pray for us as we process our experience and the things that the Lord has challenged us with over this past month.
Lauren (a.k.a. Citra)