In my life, I often find God in the context of adventure. Since our college days rock climbing, hiking, camping and cliff jumping somehow someway incredibly cool conversations about God often occur. God is often found in the pursuit of something, in the pursuit of living life out in God’s creation. Sometimes I pursue God and I actually find Him! Other times I pursue something else and I find God in the pursuit. I know that I must draw near to God and pursue Him and wait for Him. But, I think there is something to be said for living well and then looking for God on the journey. He certainly shows up at unexpected times, in unexpected ways. I had the distinct pleasure of getting to hike one of highest volcanic peaks here in central Java, Mt. Merbabu. I see this peak every day and I have been eager to hike it since before I arrived. I invited most of my classmates and friends and 8 people were able to join. One of these individuals is an Indonesian named Wanto. Mas Wanto (Mas is the Indonesian title for a young/unmarried man) is a lifeguard at the International School. Jessica and I have been able to get to know he and the other lifeguard, Mas Wiwi. They are from the southern part of Java and love to surf and swim. They are also both “Cousins.” Mas Wanto told me that he hiked Mt. Merbabu 2 weeks ago, so I invited him to come along since he would be off that day. We met at the International School and then headed up the mountain. (Like most adventures, we started later than usual because some were late, some forgot to pack something, and I needed to put gas in the car!)
We arrived at the trailhead 30 minutes after dark and we prepared to start our hike. We clicked on our flashlights and started up the trail. We were a comical troupe of men, varying from 17-32 (me being the oldest). Most Indonesians don’t tend to hike through the night to see the sunrise at the top of a volcano. We were loud and boisterous, with one of our group sporting a portable speaker that blasted Jack Johnson, Bob Marley, and Bethel Worship Music all the way up the trail. We were jovial along the way. We were able to have some fun conversations and get to know each other deeper since we had nothing but time. We spoke of families, childhood memories, favorite movies, and even sprinkled in some theological discussions. It was a great time of fellowship and exercise.
The beauty of hiking at night is that you can’t see where you are going, so you have no idea how much farther you have to go before you reach the destination. We finally arrived at the campsite and set up tents and hammocks. A few of us were hoping it wouldn’t rain and the rest of us were planning on at least a little bit of the wet stuff coming our way. It is, after all, still the wet season in the tropics! Mas Wanto made a quick bowl of Mie, which is the Indonesian version of Ramen noodles. It was very delicious. I had eaten two hot dogs before the hike, but there is nothing like hiking to make me hungry so we all shared food and had a great time! We tucked in early and “slept” for roughly 5 hours before 3 am arrived.
After our somewhat restful sleep, we headed up the mountain to see the sunrise. It took us about 2 hours to reach the top and it was worth the effort. We arrived as the sky was turning light blue and we saw the first glimpse of the sun peaking over the horizon. There were a lot of clouds but it was still a beautiful sight. I also didn’t think I would experience such cold on the equator, but I guess it is always cold when you are over 10,000′ no matter where you are on God’s green earth! After starting our descent, we got to see the beauty of the mountain for the first time. It was interesting going up at a night because all you know is the muddy trail in front of you. But, we saw the luscious green mountainside with clouds sweeping by. It was amazing, like we had been going up in black and white and now were descending from the peak in full on color! It was beautiful!
The highlight of the trip came for me at the very bottom of the hike. We had fun descending, I climbed a tall metal lookout tower and received a beautiful view, we took pictures with dozens of Indonesians, we surprised them by replying “Monggo” or “Selamat Pagi” when they would say “Hello Mister”, and we even took a short rest back at the campsite. But, the best thing happened just before we reached the cars. I was walking with Mas Wanto and he and another of my friends were talking about the Bible and Adam and Eve. When my friend stopped for a second, I picked up the conversation and asked,
“Apakah Anda sudah membaca Al’Quoran?” (Have you already read the Koran?)
“Iya, saya mencoba tetapi dalam bahasa Arab,” he replied. (Yes, I have tried but it is in Arabic.)
“Betul. Apakah Anda membaca Alkitab,” I asked. (True. Have you read the Bible?)
“Tidak. Saya hanya membaca Al’Quoran,” he replid (No. I only read the Koran.)
“Apakah anda sudah membaca Injil,” I asked. (Have you already read the Injeel, or New Testament.) The reason I asked this is is that “Cousins” are commanded by Mohammad in the Koran to read the Injeel, or the writings about Jesus. It is totally acceptable for them to read the New Testament!!!
“Iya, tetapi hanya dalama bahasa Arab,” he said. (Yes, but only in Arabic.)
“Kalau saya memberikan Injil dalam bahasa Indonesia sebagai hadiah kepada Anda, apakah Anda membaca buku itu,” I asked. (If I give an Injeel in Indonesian as a gift to you, would you read it?”)
“Iya, saya senang membaca buku itu,” he said. (Yes, I would be happy to read it.)
Well, the first thing I did back in Salatiga was to find an Injeel. Now, I just have to wrap it up in a nice cloth and give one to him and one to Mas Wiwi. (I don’t want to offend Mas Wiwi so I get to give away two New Testaments!) I will wrap it in a cloth because that is what “Cousins” do in order to not defile their holy books. It is just amazing to me how adventure and spending time with others can open up the door to spiritual conversations and helping others take one step closer to God.