11 months in Indonesia.
It is about how my story was woven into the Indonesian story. How Indonesians became apart of my story. It was woven so intricately that my story is insistent that they are apart of it. In fact, my story can never be thought apart from their story. The stories tangled and now they will seemingly part, but that is just an illusion. The stories are bound together forever, because they are the seeds and fruit within the Story the binds everything together.
The fruits of peace and justice flowed as God built up a community between Indonesians and myself. This community also has many fruits that have yet to be revealed—that are still hidden. And some fruits have not even become ripe—maybe they have not even started sprouting. While so much of the story has been revealed, the fruits of how Indonesia and myself tangled for a year are not yet fully harvested—maybe the harvest has only begun. That is why the story is so captivating.
My story is lost within His Story of a Kingdom of justice and peace. It’s lost within that story because my story can’t be separated from the Kingdom story—or any of the other smaller stories going on it. The Story resonates to the depths of my being as I danced in the joy of peace and justice blossoming and wept when shalom appeared crushed. I spent a year learning how the Church dances to peace and cries at injustice. And how it itself forges shalom. And how it itself violates shalom. The Church was the ugliest and most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Even though the ugliness and tragic missteps could have turned me away, there was a tremendous and irresistible vocational calling towards being apart of the Story through the Church. Specifically, towards educating, equipping and practicing diaconal and peace work with the Church. I imagine this future for my story because I look back at my story and it points me in that direction.
The story is important to remember. For the memory of a story gives possibility. So here are the stories of how some Indonesian brothers and sisters had their stories intertwine with mine.
It may have been difficult to use words to communicate between your deaf ears and my novice Indonesian, but my time in your presence on that musty green chair next to your bed where you sat or lay, was powerful because it was beauty amidst brokenness. Your frail bones, wrinkle ridden face and grey hair along with your surprisingly talkative nature, your welcoming open door and your faithfulness to God, brought so much texture and color to my life. You often shared your home with a drunk and died with nothing more than a pile of clothes next to your bed in a filthy house. But it is exactly in that house and on your bed where God met us, and changed me. It's because having Holy Communion on your bed next to the mice that scurried the floors while we sang hymns is a powerful practice of breaking the body and pouring the blood. That is the place where you, Deborah and I, Jason come to a cross where all the mire of your ugly material poverty meets the tragically stubborn poverty of my affluence. Deborah, I told this story, about you, me and God at your funeral a couple weeks ago. I'll see you again, one day.
Dear Erik ,
As co-pastor and friend, your persistent heart of justice has been a tremendous gift and consistent refuge for me in a place where a heart like that has been hard to come by. Your fearless conviction of a just God amidst great forces of an eagerly embraced capitalism, the formation of a domesticated God and grave inequality in Indonesia, has been life-giving. To preach so explicitly and terrificly about God's love for the poor in a church where loving the poor has been largely forgotten. However, you do not give up the prophetic struggle and decide that troublesome churches are just that--to troublesome. Neither do you stop the fight for justice when its progress crawls, stalls and falls. So often I just want to either end up some place where justice is further along and where progress is quick. But you have taught me one of the greatest lessons of this year, that it is the places where justice is furthest behind and where the progress is frail and fraught, that a Disciple of Jesus is incessantly drawn. That's been a tough lesson. Your steadfast practice of discipleship as the way of ministry has formed the way I understand not just ministry, but a way of life and my future. Knowing, being and walking along side people in discipleship is what the world so desperately needs.
Dear Endang, Febi, and Ike,
I play scenes like this over and over in my head as I go to sleep.
Bike down the wide street until a 1-meter wide path appears to the left between concrete walls.
Roll down the path for 50 meters then turn abruptly right and go along side a dusty volley ball court and kids screaming at me for another 50 meters.
Turn a sudden left where people hang-out, and chickens roam, only to turn right again.
But I always miss this corner.
But it is fine, because the lady who lives on that corner shouts "turn." It's because she knows where I am going, because your house is my goal every time I enter that jungle of homes, chickens and paths. The final 30 meters to your house I pass about 10 homes. The last time I came over your weren't even home, but sitting on the neighbors porch chatting. And that's the norm. And we have spend hours and hours doing just that. The rhythm of life between you and your neighbors, was a tremendous pulse that entered my life, that was repeated in countless other neighborhoods, where I was blessed enough to be welcomed and made as one of you. No fences or walls, just the Indonesian flow of life between you and your neighbors, whom despite your differences of faith, live loving your neighbors as if that is all that matters. And when you become enriched by this rhythm, you begin to beat to it too. And when your in synch with it, your life begins to reverberate with the same pulse. It's that pulse, the way you and your neighbors love so well, so much better than I do, that makes me wonder. Maybe you are right. Loving your neighbors is what matters most. Loving those close to you. Loving closely. Loving like Jesus in other words. That's what matters. Then the label Christian or Muslim just doesn't seem to matter that much anymore. That's probably why I never think once whether you and all our friends that we sat with are Muslim or Christian. I look upon those women as the most spectacular examples of neighborly love. I look up to them as people whom grasp the way of Jesus far better than I. I look up to them as teachers. I saw myself as their student.
Dear Sunardi, Mundiah, Istiqomah, Amin Wahyudi, Zahrotul Umami, Ainur Rohmah, Alifaidah
Remember that first time we met? Back in October, I wandered through the streets close to my home, and you started to talk to me on that crumbly road and we have not stopped talking after that. The kids and I would scamper off to the river and the neighborhood kids would run down the streets to kick a ball around. I dreamed of meeting people like you, and God graciously gave you into my live. The clarity of your Indonesian, mutual eagerness to learn and the way we would laugh and talk all afternoon are unforgettable. When we played in the grass and ate on the floor, it was as if there was nothing else in the world except your family and I. When we split ways, I never felt that I needed to give you money to help with your child who has hydrocephalus or school fees; nor did you ask for anything other than one last visit. The $$ signs and “poverty” that so often mar the names of people like us were replaced. My name was Jason. Your names were Sunardi, Mundiah, Istiqomah, Amin, Umami, Ainur Rohmah and Alifaidah. Those are the names that will stay in my heart.
Meals. I will never experience it the same again. From cobra to horse, to the dog meat we ate for lunch (two days in a row!) or that entire goat head we ate that last week--we ate lots and we ate often. And it was a lot of fun. But it was more than fun or necessity. It was the very place and time where stories were shared. Where joys were shared. Struggles were shared. Dreams where shared. Faith was shared. Actually, it was where faith was lived. Eating meals is how we loved each other not as a pastor looking down on a young adult, nor a supervisor on his employee, but as best friends. Where ever and whenever we will meet again I know one thing. There will be a meal.
Dear Mammi, Mamma, Pappa, Daniel, Irene, Gladys and Geraldy
You were a host family that gave up so much. From eating, travelling to sleeping, the love received was bountiful. That is why all I can say is “terima kasih.” It is thank-you in Indonesian and literally means, “to receive love.” And that is what happened indeed. You accepted me into the family and I will never remember in more clarity than the way we would sit around at night talking, laughing and teasing one another. You feed me extraordinarily well. And knowing that offering someone food is the greatest act of love in your culture, you loved incredibly well. Your intentional love is something I will never be able to pay back to you. There is one thing I can do. That is to extend that love towards the foreigner and stranger like you did this year, to the foreigners and strangers that I will meet for the rest of my life.
Dear Ibu Suprih and Eva,
I thought I said good-bye to you a few weeks ago. Then one day I was sitting still on some steps by a friend’s house just watching life. The chickens roamed and the kids ran naked from the bathroom to the house interrupting the chickens patrolling their apparent kingdoms. Then I looked down along a concrete path between a string of homes and suddenly you were there with your beaming grin. I am pretty sure my face was just as radiant. It was as if we both stumbled upon something great and words couldn’t describe it.
Eventually words came out.
A couple other times this year you would spend all your days wages on lunch for me. So this time I took you out to lunch. We walked 20 meters down the path to a buy some vegetable with peanut sauce on rice.
Then that grin smacked across your face again and before words could come out, laughter did.
You chuckled and asked a question in a way that best friends only do. “Jason, guess what Eva (her daughter) and I did yesterday?”
With burgeoning curiosity I asked “what?”
You paused your eating and just laughed some more and then found the composure to articulate words.
“Eva and I biked for 4 hours and got 6 watermelons for free and then biked home with them for another 4 hours.”
In simultaneous joy we both had one of those laughs were tears come out.
I then asked, “how many did you already eat?”
With proud embarrassment you broke down into laughter again.
“We ate two of them already.”
We must have finished our rice.
I don’t remember.
All I remember is the radiance of our faces. The faces of a 50-year-old Muslim widow earning a $1.50 a day and myself with faces glowing as if we found something worth telling the world.
It is as if we found the pearl and were ready to give up everything to keep it.
It is as if all we wanted to do was tell the world about it.
It is as if we knew that the words we spoke and the laughter exchanged would last a lifetime time.
But what was shared was eternity.
This story captures so much of my Indonesian story. I want this story do capture my life. But I know my life is already captured in the Story. Now to go and be everything that was caught up in these stories. But to do so in Canada once again.