Today, we met the rest of the mission team. A dozen men and women, mostly couples, who have taken up the banner of Christ in this part of the world. I wish I could share their names and faces with you; at the very least they deserve the honor of recognition. But in this part of the world that would only put them at greater risk of persecution. Instead I will try to share their stories. As I said, most are husband and wife couples who came to the area and the team 5-7 years ago. All are excited about spreading the Gospel especially in this particular area, but all are frustrated by how difficult is to keep their audience focused. It is not uncommon to make an appointment with someone, travel many miles through confusing neighborhoods only to discover that the person you wanted to see has forgotten about the appointment and left. Additionally, many hours can be spent visiting with people who are only interested in visiting, and who are offended when you stop visiting. Another frustration is the lack of commitment they see in those who claim to believe. A person claims to be a Christian, yet continues to be active in the Muslim community, even worshiping at the mosque. But there is hope. Reports from the field indicate a growing dissatisfaction with Islam; the people do not feel fulfilled. There is an emptiness. Persistence may yet prevail.
After lunch we were given a special treat; a exclusive viewing of a private museum. The Dipuncak Museum is actually a residence and gated compound owned by the king of this Provence in Sumatra. Though the king lives in Sumatra, the house is still used for special occasions such as weddings, and for honored guests. To that end, the living quarters were closed to us because there was a guest staying within, and if the outside is any indication of the inside, what lucky guests they must have been.
Inside the enormous wooden gates, the compound was at least a football field deep and three wide. Several buildings lay within, but the one we toured was akin to the throne room, consisting of two levels. With swooping red-tiled roof, intricately carved side panels, the building itself was a work of art. The lower level was much like a lanai. Under the canopy were artifacts pertaining to the history of the royal family: a family tree going back ten generations, a royal coach, a wedding chair borne on the shoulders of men, along with pottery, and ceremonial instruments. A friend of the family, our guide proudly pointed out the artifacts that made his people unique. There were the tapestries, hand woven, depicting the sea-faring history of the Lampungese people, the red colored thread actually stained in blood. The royal crown which is so prominent on many buildings around Bandar is on display here. Unlike royal crowns of Europe, this one is not intrinsically valuable; there are no jewels, nor is the gold color from precious metal. The crown is ceremonial, and it is traditional for all wedding couples to wear it on their wedding day. For that day, they are king and queen. I was given the honor of sitting on that royal throne for just a moment! Like people of all cultures, the Indonesians are proud of theirs. We have been blessed that they have chosen to share so much of themselves with us.
Tomorrow will begin early and take us into a local village.
God bless you all for your prayers, please keep them coming.