We have been in Papua for two years now! It was pretty striking to be at the graduation ceremony last week at the theological college where Isaac teaches. Two years ago we were newly arrived and attending the ceremony was pretty stressful. We didn’t know anyone but everyone knew who we were, everyone was asking for photos with us, it was hot, our kids were overwhelmed and we didn’t know where we should sit or what was expected of us.
Now, two years later, the ceremony is so meaningful. The professors are Isaac’s co-workers and friends that he’s with all the time. Many of the graduates are students Isaac has had in class, some are dear friends from our church or other places. One of Isaac's closest friends, Serva, that has been his language helper and teacher's assistant graduated with his Masters. It's so meaningful to see the culmination of lots of hard work and such a formative period in their lives.
The majority of the students here are from the various tribes that are scattered around our half of the "bird's head" of Indonesian West Papua, but we only see them here in the city rather than in their tribal homes. Graduation is a treat for us because so many of the students have family and friends from the mountains that arrive to celebrate with their graduates. Seeing them surrounded by family that weep over them, hearing dance and chant celebrations through the night from the student housing down the path from us, well, it helps us see the full community, and their cultures are so cool! I just wish I could give you an audio clip of what that chanting sounds like. Isaac and I stood outside together at night just listening, not wanting to disrupt the festivities but marveling that we actually work here! This school was started to educate leaders for these tribes and the churches in them. It's a treat to see it all more personally at graduation, as well as to see our own friends graduating.
Above: With fellow professors (and Ryan, our TEAM co-worker) at one of several graduation practices.
Below: With Cece, who is one of the worship leaders at our church and our kid's Sunday School teacher. She's amazing and she graduated and she also graduated with honors.
Below: The team of professors at the theological college. The college is accredited by the government and has two main tracks: theology (for training pastors and church leaders), and education (for training teachers).