We came to Indonesia on a fact-finding mission: visit the in-country mission partners, observe their current activities, and see how we could get involved. After spending a week with them, I am humbled by their dedication, and perseverance.
Imagine billions of people isolated from the rest of the world by a great mountain range. Imagine, too, that a great plague is sweeping across the planet; a cruel disease that spares the victim’s life, but leaves them to live in misery. The good news is that you have the cure. All you need to do is to cut a tunnel through the mountain to bring the medicine to the people. The bad news is your only tool is a small hand pick, and to complicate matters, the people on the other side have heard about the plague, but believe that contact with you will contaminate them, so they fight you at every opportunity. Such is the world of our mission partners. Through great adversity, and with limited resources, they forge ahead. Each day chipping away at the mountain in hopes of one day getting through to the people on the other side.
So the question is: do we feel that the goal of the mission partners is worth our support, and what form will that support take? The answer to first question is obvious. They are trying to spread the good news of the Gospel, and that is the the Great Commission. They are working to increase literacy, improve health and well-being, and create a positive perception of Christians and Americans. The second question is a bit more subjective, and one that will need discussion, but I feel confident that we’ll be sending teams back to Indonesia in the near future.
As for the our Indonesian mission partners, I don’t know where they find the strength and tenacity. I’m certain I would have thrown in the towel long ago. It takes a special kind of person to do what missionaries do. Very few people ever travel to the majority world – a term applied to the 90-plus percent of the planet who live on less than $2 per day- or if they do it’s probably limited to the gated, isolated, heavily-guarded grounds of a resort. If this is the case, they may have limited appreciation for the vast wealth, opportunity, comfort, and privilege we enjoy in the United States. By the same token, if the extent of one’s spoken interaction with these people is limited to a dinner, or drink order, they may be surprised at how joyfully they live even without all the luxury we deem necessary.
For certain, I did not see all the faces of poverty, but those I did see were not fly-infested urchins laying in the gutters eating mush. They do not need, nor do they want, our pity. Granted, there were open sewers and everything else I’ve written about, but the people weren’t barbaric. These are proud people with a rich and ancient culture. In most ways, they are much the same as us. They have loving families with healthy, happy children. They go to work, and their children go to school. They have a great appreciation for education, and the young people I spoke with have seemingly inconceivable hopes and dreams, given their origins. These people are happy, probably because they don’t worry about the things that trouble our days. They don’t worry about where the next meal is coming from, or how to pay the power bill. They don’t worry about their jobs, or how many vacation days they have. And they absolutely didn’t worry if their television is nicer, bigger, or newer than their neighbor’s. I mean this metaphorically. In truth, I didn’t see any televisions, though most people did have computers and everyone had smart phones. The bottom line is they just didn’t worry. They live life. I’m not suggesting that Americans just chuck everything, and go live on the beach. Nor am I trying to guilt anyone from a trip to Mexico or Jamaica. But, after spending a week with the people of Sumatra, I was left wondering whose lives were richer. Perhaps we can incorporate something of them in all of us. Perhaps our take-away from this is best summarized by Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t worry, be happy!” Or, at least don’t sweat the small stuff.
And…Stay tuned in the coming weeks and months as the CCV team determines how to move forward in Indonesia.