Preaching

I am back in the US now, and it is long overdue to catch up on some blogging about my time in Indonesia.

At the end of March, I was invited to preach in a congregation in Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra, and some 7 hours from my usual residence in Balige. Actually, we had planned for the visit in 2013, however, I had to cancel due to the time I had to spend renewing my work visa. Finally having the time, I was graciously welcomed in the spirit I have come to know well among the Batak people.

Not only was I nervous about preaching in general, but this task was difficult because my deaconess companion speaks limited English (and I’m not good enough in Indonesian or Batak language to write a full sermon). So, in other words, I had to write a sermon in simple enough English that could be translated, true to Scripture, and all the while interesting enough. The lectionary followed by the HKBP church is different than Lutherans in the US, and the text that I was to preach on came from Ephesians 5:8-14. Thankfully, there is a simple theme in there: Walk as children of light.

It went well, and I am very grateful for the opportunity.

Below are a few photos:

IMG_0616
A full house
IMG_0630
The Podium was really high, like the old cathedrals in Germany.
IMG_0635
Giving me a blessing and presenting with an ulos, a Batak blanket, as a special symbol of our friendship.
IMG_0693
With the pastor and his wife, and a fellow deaconess

Ready for the Unexpected

Be ready for the unexpected. That’s a lesson I’ve learned here. Not that I’ve never had something unexpected happen in my life, but in this life in Indonesia, I’m often called upon to do something I didn’t previously plan on. And here, it can mean living and doing something without much detail or knowing what’s coming next. Flexibility is a must-have attitude. I suppose since I was never one to need all the details ahead of time, it’s easier for me to adjust and go with the flow around here.

So last weekend I had one of those moments of needing to be flexible. As usual on a Saturday morning, I was relaxed, sipping my tea after my breakfast meal of rice and fried egg. I learned from the director of my school, that I had been invited to an event in Samosir (an island in the middle of Lake Toba), hosted by the District President of the Samosir district of the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP). The director of the school wasn’t able to attend, but I was still welcome to go. Although I had woke up that morning thinking I’d wash my clothes and get a haircut, this is the kind of thing that one is better to say yes to.

Two of my students accompanied me, excited to join me along for the journey. As we made our way by public bus and ferry, we chatted in a mix of English and Indonesian. We arrived just after the cultural event of boat races had finished, but right on time for lunch. Excellent. I was greeted by the district president and also the Ephorus (whom they call the leader of the entire 4 million member denomination). After a warm greeting we sat down for lunch, which was surprisingly relaxed for being in the presence of such Important People.

After lunch was a special tree-planting of the church leaders (the exact purpose of this being lost in translation). Another surprise of the day: they asked me to plant a tree, too. A nice little avocado tree. In a plot that had been reserved for some other church leader, I knelt down and planted my avocado tree just before the rain started.

What might have been a relaxing, and perhaps boring day, turned out to be full of the unexpected—traveling across the beautiful landscape along Lake Toba (rather than spending a few hours hand-washing clothes), meeting with church leaders, planting a tree on behalf of the church, having fun with my students. The day didn’t go as planned, but there was blessing in it.

Sometimes when encountering the unexpected, it isn’t so lovely an experience. But it is important to face that, too. Open your heart and mind and live in the moment, and surprising things just may happen.

The Ephorus of the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) planting a tree.
The Ephorus of the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) planting a tree.
Planting an avocado tree
Planting an avocado tree

July Recap

Here are some long overdue photos from back in July. August was a busy month, which included many hours teaching an intensive English course, celebrating Indonesia’s independence, hiking around Balige, going to a wedding as part of a family, and more. Those stories and photos will have to wait.

The night before going to Jakarta, I attended the opening worship for the gathering of the deaconess community, held in Sipoholon. See below the deaconesses in their uniforms. I have often been asked here if deaconesses in America wear uniforms. No, I say. So it is interesting to me to see them all in uniform. My brief appearance was noted, but I hardly had time to meet anyone at all.

The deaconesses gathered for worship and meeting. In the few days that followed they selected a delegate who will represent the community at the general gathering of the HKBP this month (September). There a new leader for the denomination will be selected.

Deaconess community of the HKBP

Then, in Jakarta, I attended a consultation of the HKBP for their Diakonia ministry. I met some people, but only got a general idea of the conversations. It was good, however, to hear about more of the ministries of the HKBP. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to write a synopsis of the event. Below are two photos.

View of Jakarta from the fancy downtown hotel

Small group work at the Consultation for National Diakonia

After the conference in Jakarta, I went to Bali, which I have previously posted about. Worth mentioning is the time spent in Jakarta with the family of the director of the deaconess school. They are now my family, too. It is customary in Batak culture for people such as myself, to have a Batak family name. So, I have been invited to be a Sitanggang. When introducing myself in a formal manner I can say I am “Megan Ross, boru Sitanggang”.

While staying with the Sitanggang clan, I played with the young children who taught me a few words of Batak such as “modom” (sleep), “male” (hungry — I’m not sure about spelling), and “butong” (full). Below are some photos.

The family with some of the school staff

Eating Pecel lele (pronounced “pechel lay-lay”), a type of fish, in Jakarta.

Playing football in front of the house

More photos from HKBP Nommensen University

Here are some more photos from the week I was teaching in Siantar. It was a busy week, but a good time. I look forward to returning next month for more:

IMG_1716
Above, I’m introducing myself to a English conversation class. This time I was there to observe, but always have the opportunity to say who I am and where I’m from.

IMG_1703
I was supposed to observe this class on listening comprehension. However, when the lecturer did not come, it became a time for cultural exchange as I answered there questions and shared about American culture. Then I asked them to sing a Batak song for me.

at the women's dormitory
These lovely students in the above photo, live at the women’s dormitory near campus. The housemother is also a deaconess. Not all of these students are studying English, but they were all happy to talk with me and pose for a photo.

A Week in Siantar

I have had a busy week. I left Balige last Sunday night for Siantar, a city about 2.5 hours away. While in Siantar (full name is Pematang Siantar, but it is commonly referred to as just “Siantar”), I taught English Conversation classes at the HKBP Nommensen University, as well as attended other classes in the English Department. Each day I was busy teaching, observing, and sharing about culture. The students were very happy to have a native speaker of English and had many great questions for me.

I will return to Siantar at the end of June for more teaching and observing. I am in Indonesia primarily to teach at the Deaconess School in Balige, where I have already been for almost 2 months, but I hope to be able to help the students and the teachers in the English Department at Nommensen University in whatever ways I can.

Below is a video. I was supposed to observe in a Listening Comprehension class, but the professor was not there. So, we had a session on cultural exchange instead. I took questions from the students about myself and about American culture. Then I asked them to sing for me. Here they are singing a Batak song.

A class on English conversation. There isn’t enough classroom space, so some lectures are in the auditorium at the same time.

And here is one photo from my teaching. Technical difficulties on the upload are preventing me from posting more than one at this time. Hopefully that will not continue to be a problem.

Other news to share: I finally have a work visa and residence permit. Last week I also completed paperwork so that I have a re-entry permit into the country again. I am very thankful for all the help from Nommensen, who has sponsored my visa.