When Isaac first started teaching, one of his students appeared on our doorstep first thing in the morning to chat. The student told Isaac that “like Jesus followed Lazarus”, he wanted to follow Isaac on his missionary trips to remote tribal villages. Isaac bypassed the problematic Lazarus comment and told his student that actually, THIS is his missionary work, teaching and training the students here. If there was work to do in the tribe this man came from, Isaac was training HIM to do it.
Figuring out how to navigate our role here is a big challenge in the first term. We’re new, figuring out the situation here step by step. We’ll see something and think it seems like it needs fixing, or something new needs to be started. But later sometimes we see that someone is already working on fixing it, or perhaps we didn’t understand the full situation yet. Sometimes something that seems great at the beginning ends up being problematic. And sometimes even if it is something that needs to be done, our first question is if our doing it will prevent a local person from stepping in and taking leadership and learning to be responsible for it themselves. Since there’s a history of foreigners working in this city, there is a (sometimes undue) deference to anything that we chose to do, which makes us even more careful about what we chose to be involved in. We wish to empower and train local leaders, not to perpetuate the idea that foreigners are the ones that start and get things done. (Great article on paternalism here)
The great thing is that we love and respect the group of leaders we work with, and we are so encouraged by the leaders of our church, the school, and the denomination we work in. When we see what God is doing in and through them, we get excited. God is working, and His people love Him and are following Him. They see local needs in the denomination, in our congregation, and on the island, and they plan and dream and pray towards meeting those needs. We continue to ask ourselves how we can best help, empower, and partner with those leaders in God’s work here.
When we were first asked to come here, it was to raise the level of education provided by the school Isaac works at. We keep coming back to that call, and now that Isaac is rooted in the community and leadership of this school, comfortable teaching and in relationship with the students and professors, he is much more aware of the challenges related to that challenge. How do we help students that arrive with a high school education but are unable to read? How do we help the school rise to meet the challenges of corruption, inefficiency, and financial challenges? How do we help teachers and preachers teach in a way that students are actually engaged and changed, rather than simply memorizing facts or listening to inspirational stories? How do we help connect graduates to needy places around the island? How do ensure that our graduates are qualified and educated? How do we make this school an institution that produces effective and passionate leaders for the tribes of the bird’s head area of Papua? How do we ensure that the education provided is both excellent but not exclusive of those from remote areas who were not provided a good education before they arrived here? How do we not just raise the level of education but encourage spiritual maturity and responsibility?
These are the questions faced by the professors, staff, and Board of directors at Erikson Tritt Theological Seminary. Now they are not just questions to us, they represent the people around us, the cultures they live out every day, and the reality we live in day in and day out. We’re thankful to be tackling these questions with our fellow leaders. The photo at the top of this post is Isaac and the other TEAM professor, Ryan, with the head of our denomination and the head of this school. Below is the newly appointed Board of Directors with the school staff, and at the bottom are the professors looking very serious at graduation. Please pray for wisdom for us and our team, and for God to be glorified through the work we are a part of here.