Recently, I’ve been discovering just how transitive life can be for many people in Indonesia. Let me explain…we have heard of at least five deaths in our neighborhood or affecting our immediate neighbors in the past two weeks. In most of the villages, if someone dies the whole village shuts down to mourn.The day someone dies an announcement is made over the loud speaker from the mosque in the kampung (neighborhood). Immediately the men in the community begin building a wooden box for burial and then they set up plastic chairs and a large tarp so people can come over and be with the family. Most of the neighbors will not work but go to the house of the family in mourning and pay respects/give money or food to the family. This week we have been to two different homes of families in mourning. We sit on the dusty concrete floors surrounded by the grieving and other neighbors to offer our condolences as well as our time, which means so much in this culture. It seems that death, or at least the prospect of death, is before our friends on most days.
Two days ago Jess had an assignment from school to ask our neighbors about insurance in Indonesia. She went to her close friend, our next-door-neighbor. After an interesting discussion about health insurance in Indonesia our friend began to cry. She shared that she is the youngest of five children and that all four of her older siblings have already died, leaving her nieces and nephews motherless or fatherless. Through tears of a truly broken heart our friend shared her disappointment with health care in our area and how it cost her dearly. She said she wished that her sister, who died young of cancer could have had the opportunity to travel to another country to receive medical care. She said she still wonders why things couldn’t have gone better for her siblings in terms of health care. She said that many nights she still misses them and cries for them. The longer you live here the more you see it, death is so much more a part of everyday life and hope is hard to come by.
Hopelessness effects culture in some serious and systemic ways . However, there are some precious benefits to a “living for today” mindset. For example, Indonesian people view relationships as their most precious commodity. Just sitting together and talking together is highly valued. Whenever a neighbor has a problem the whole community gathers around to help. If someone’s house is broken, everyone pitches in free labor to help fix it. Our friends work hard at the tasks in front of them and you’ll never hear them complain about life devoid of many modern conveniences.
Where the “living for today” mindset can become difficult is when things are built or done without a long-range view. For instance, there is a road in Jakarta that leads from the airport to the city. It was built a few years ago with the help of a Japanese engineer. The engineer told the people to reinforce and lay a solid foundation or the road would eventually sink into the swampy ground. Because of cost, a decision was made to ignore the advice and fulfill an immediate need. Today, the road is sinking more and more each year. Another example is the way that most people think about trash. There is a river that runs next to our school and it is littered with plastic bags and plastic bottles. When they finish with a bag of chips or cookies, they simply throw the trash on the ground and it is everywhere. Many beaches are covered with trash because the people throw the trash in the rivers, which carry it out to the ocean, which dumps it on the land. It is a tragic situation. A line from a movie we like says, “poverty crushes spirit”. Indeed, a lack of resources certainly affects all aspects of culture and it can be painful each day as we watch our friends struggle.
Issues like these are common in many developing countries. And of course, this is why we are here. We are here to bring the hope of Christ to hopeless and hurting hearts. When we bring the Good News and live it out before our friends and neighbors, we hope we can be a shining light that brings hope and even the desire to thrive. We know that death is ever-present in this context. We know that the Son came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Would you please join us in praying for the men, women, and children of Indonesia who do not know the Good News or have a reliable anchor for their souls to which they can confidently attach their hope?
In other news, we are nearly finished with Unit 4 out of 9 of our language learning and things are going smoothly. There is so much to learn and remember, but we are eating this whale just like everything else…one bite at a time. We learned with great joy that Jessica is pregnant with Vana baby #4! This has made the days a little more interesting as she is nauseous for almost the entire day and there are a few more things in and around our house that are malodorous to say the least. We are working out our plans for where to have the baby and would appreciate your prayers for God’s wisdom concerning all of these details.
God bless you all and enable you to thrive in every circumstance you encounter this week!