24 days. 14 people.
There’s no way to prepare for showering in mandis, wiping with your left, sitting criss-cross applesauce for hours on end, eating food that stares back at you, eating a sagu worm, sweating constantly, and listening to hundreds of puns about sarongs. It’s through all these experiences and more, we got to have the opportunity of a lifetime. Being able to see how God is moving on the other side of the world.
One of the most impactful ideas from this trip for myself (Isaac), was that of the Islamic faith and the work of contextualization. I did not know much about the work that was being done here before and was curious to have a first-hand experience. This idea from one of our guides seems incredibly important to me: Our God is a God who has created a culture and defends it. He does not want to change or rid these people of their culture but rather wants them to be people of their culture who love and know Him. In acknowledging that, it is absolutely beautiful how the people work to bring the Good News to these people of Islamic faith in an applicable and realistic way. Though it may not be your first thought, there are many truths that Muslims believe that is even within the Qur’an. This hit me on our third island as our host sister shared the story of Moses. There is a deep longing for God in these people, and how beautiful it has been to see the revealing of Jesus Christ through their own culture and beliefs.
As Isaac previously stated this idea from our guide has brought about so many questions for our group (Caleb). To say this trip was easy would be a lie, which shows the beauty of the people who live and work here. While we jump into their lives for 24 days, they live in it for 365. As we have reflected after every island stay and the trip as a whole we have all had this one reoccurring theme: we are leaving with more questions than answers. When you hear that you’re going to the other side of the world and will be living in Muslim families’ homes who have never heard of this man Jesus Christ even though he is in their book, you fully expect to come home to friends
and family telling of how much you know about God and how you have all the answers to the hard questions you had always asked. In reality, though, you come away with more questions, but a deeper understanding and a glimpse of God. This idea from Adam (one of the team members) really embodies how we need to learn. He shared this idea that you are a bottle in the ocean. God is the ocean and we are the bottle. If you fill up your bottle and pour it out and then fill it up and pour it out, then you will never fully understand anything about God. But if you fill up your bottle and admire, play, feel, and experience the water in the bottle you get a fuller glimpse of our God. Most of us will be coming home with hard questions that we may not have the answer to but in an American culture so steeped with immediate satisfaction, there is no better lesson to learn than patience. The process to the answer requires patience but that process is where we slowly see God working in our lives and in the lives around us.
Caleb and I had the privilege of sharing a host family during our third island visit, and we didn’t realize the full level of the hospitality we received until we left the island. One of our guides pointed out how our Bapak (host dad) was always around. We lived at least a mile from the village center and any activity that we participated in during our visit we had to make the walk. Despite making this walk 4-5 times each day, our Bapak was always present. He was watching us at the work projects, watching us play volleyball, and even we left home without him, he would show up with us half way through the walk. His sacrifice of any schedule, any comfort of avoiding that long walk by riding his motorbike, and of his precious time showed a love and hospitality I dream of having. The hospitality we have received here in SE Asia has been moving, and I am honored to have the opportunity to know and live alongside these beautiful people even for just a few days. Upon leaving the last island, our Bapak and I locked eyes as we drove away on the boat, and I was instantly shocked at the level of relationship that can be reached in such a short amount of time. I realized this is why we are here, and this is how God is moving here.
As we wrap up this trip as a whole, Isaac and I could not help but think back to this idea of prayer. Specifically a conversation I had with a 17-year-old on our first island. We were wrapping up from our stay there and one night he randomly said to me “Though we may be far in sight, we are close in prayers.” We are all forever a part of these people’s lives that we met throughout this trip and we are forever a part of their journey to Heaven. While we are leaving, that fact can never be taken away from any of us. No goodbye is easy when you view it as a fact of life that we will likely never again see these translators, the workers at Telunas, the people who watched us from afar on these islands or the people we had specific interactions with. As one translator said, though, “I don’t give goodbye speeches, I give see you later speeches”. When we leave this comfort of this tangible world, we can finally see the glimpse of God’s great Kingdom. We don’t share so that we go our separate ways. We share so that we can be connected in prayer and finally be together in worship for eternity with our Good, Good Father.
Caleb & Isaac