On Sunday afternoon, we finally hopped on the boat and headed from Telunas to our first home stay on an island. There was much anticipation and excitement as we realized we were about to engage in conversations and activities we had been planning for months. After about an hour we arrived at the village we would be staying at for the next few days. Our team was greeted with an overwhelming sense of hospitality as much of the village had come to the end of their jetty to meet us. What felt like all of the village children lined the jetty and greeted us with an Indonesian handshake and then offered to carry our bags as we headed to our homes. As soon as we got to our homes our Ibus (mothers) and Bapaks (fathers) welcomed us with tea and coffee (loaded with sweetened condensed milk) and homemade snacks. We sat in a circle on the floor and began the process of encountering a culture very different from our own. While at times it felt very uncomfortable (i.e. being hot, sleeping on the floor, eating sting ray, hearing the mosque, or waking up to giant centipedes in the middle of the night), we were met with such hospitality and our Ibus and Bapaks treated us like family, which made the transition easier. Also, we’re learning more about what it means to be “comfortable” and each of us are loving the opportunity to take steps out of our comfort zone.
It feels like much of what we did on these island visits could be divided into two parts – constantly playing with kids and engaging in conversation with adults (mainly our Bapaks and Ibus over meals or at night). While there was still much darkness and confusion on this island, you could say that there was also a sense of hopefulness that this island could be on the brink of a change. This could be seen in both the children and the adults. For example, the children knew some songs about the Son, and while it was sad that they did not really understand what they were saying, God’s presence was felt in many interactions with kids. One of the most well off men on the island has recently begun to trust in the Son during this island visit, we got to have a really good conversation with his next door neighbor/brother and leader of the village. It turns out they both watch a TV program about the Son almost every night and the leader of the village asked about the story of Him and what is true. One of our translators shared the full story with him. He moved around uncomfortably and then sat in silence. When our translator felt the the Spirit prompting her to ask if his heart felt hot and he replied “yes.” It it amazing to see the way God is moving on this island without us, and also how He did choose to use us.
After arriving, our first full day began with a mandi (bucket shower), breakfast (consisting of more sweet coffee and tea, spicy noodles, and homemade donuts), and a work project mixing concrete for a public mandi floor. We then had the honor of jumping off of the jetty into water to cool ourselves after the hard work. Children joined soon after, and we found ourselves playing, wrestling, and running around for hours with the joyful children. The laughs and giggles from these playful kiddos will be burned into our memories forever, and we are thankful to have them. As the day wound down, we took another mandi before dinner where we sat on the floor eating and talking with our Ibu and the children that gathered to listen.
The next day began the same as the first, but our work project was painting the public mandi a bright orange with a trimming of green. We then had a chance to visit the school and teach some English to the children before heading back to our houses for lunch. Once finished with lunch one of the female houses had the opportunity to follow their Ibu into the forest where she explained that every day she worked with rubber trees. Children followed into the forest singing and listening as the Ibu showed them all how she would cut a sliver of the tree back to release a white liquid that when dried would become a rubber that she would then sell. It was interesting to see more of her life, and it honored her to know that these women cared. Dinner was more lively that night as we spoke about these new topics.
That night, the village held a closing ceremony in our honor where we danced and sang in Indonesian dress. As we said goodbye during the closing ceremony our hearts were heavy. Children and Ibus followed us to the jetty the next morning as we left this beloved new island. We had made so many friends, and we were thankful for the time we had been given to learn about the culture and love these people fully. We now pray that God will continue to work in this area and bring more into His arms.
This trip so far has been one of beauty and challenge in many ways. It’s hard to put words to what I have experienced so far but I would have to say though that most sticks out to me is the idea of resting when God is meeting you. It is easy to be comfortable, especially when it comes to our relationship with God. For me, being comfortable has always meant being angry. Questions such as, “why does God allow things to happen in the matter in which they do?” is often on my mind. When I see pain that I cannot reconcile with my view of God it makes me angry. I would fix the problem so why doesn’t He.
God so often has met me in that place of anger but I too often let that be the last emotion I feel. A God that I am angry at is a God that I feel in control of. Through the first visit to the island I am, slowly by slowly, learning to be. Letting God meet me in an emotion outside of anger feels out of control, maybe even dangerous. What if what I feel isn’t something I am comfortable with? What if I feel nothing but emptiness? I’d much rather feel anger than nothing at all.
When going to the final 2 islands please pray that my team and I leave room for emptiness. Knowing that our God is a God who fills. He may not make us feel better or make things easier but He is always filling space, pursuing us in the midst of heartache and joy, pain and pleasure, laughter and cries. Pray that we have the courage to feel all these things and let God meet us there.
“This emptiness is gospel, not law; poetry, not prose. It is welcome to a God who is coming in to fill.”