Our community gathers at a home every Friday night. People arrive on motorcycles and those in cars inch their way through alleys, avoiding ditches and piles of trash and roaming pigs, dogs, and chickens. Each person that enters shakes the hand of every other person and then we sit, sometimes on chairs, sometimes on mats on the floor. The women are generally over here, the men generally over there, kids walking in and out and mostly unaccounted for during most of the meeting. If we are lucky there is a fan on, but we come prepared for our legs to fall asleep and to arrive back at home dripping in sweat. No matter. Every week it continues to be a highlight of the week.
We sing without any printed words, but with great enthusiasm. Someone opens the Scripture and everyone pulls out their well-thumbed Bibles and reads along. Someone prays, usually a long, meandering, formal prayer for everything they can think of, the kind of prayer that no restless American group would put up with. What I know is that I am thankful they pray every week for those that are sick, for me and other pregnant women by name, and they pray for the children. In a society where health and life are fragile things, they pray.
And then we eat food prepared by the host family that week, sometimes sitting on the floor, once eating with our fingers, but invariably good Indonesian food that beats most of the restaurants in town. Usually Indonesians eat quickly and mostly in silence, something Isaac and I keep forgetting as we chit chat with our neighbor out of instinct. Afterward, over empty plates, we talk. It's there that we have grown to know them more, know their lives and work and families. They know us now, enough to make jokes with us, for the guys to talk theology with Isaac, and for us to just be a part of the conversation.
I love this community. I know now that we have in our community those that are wealthy and those that are poor. We have a surprising variety of people groups from across in Indonesia and our province represented. We have pastors, teachers, government workers, widows, restaurant owners, laborers. There are old women with tattoos on their faces from the old days, and there are current students, driven and educated and visionary.
Of course neither this community nor the people in it are perfect, and we already well know some of the flaws and struggles, and I'm sure will encounter more as time goes on. But truly, Scripture is clear in commanding the people of God to gather together, to worship and pray together and encourage each other.... and it is among this people of God that we have been most encouraged. As we work cross culturally it is also so important to us that we do not enter as the classic foreigner who thinks they have all the answers and the plan. Instead we are so glad to have this body, and that of the school community, where we are working with them to accomplish what God is doing here, through all of us as His church.
Please pray for us, that we would grow deep in this community, that we would be able to serve and discern how best to serve, and that God would use our church community to show His glory here.
(photo above is of a home fellowship meeting for staff from the school here)