We just celebrated Indonesian Independence Day (Hari Merdeka) on August 17th. The country of Indonesia became independent from the Dutch on August 17th, 1945, so we were here for the 70th anniversary. We had a great time celebrating with our neighbors and friends. While we did have our fair share of fireworks on the 4th of July, we celebrated in a different fashion on this holiday.
The week begins with a bunch of competitions and activities in the neighborhood. We had just returned from being out of town with Jessica’s father when we saw our neighborhood abuzz. There was a huge sound system set up at the local volleyball court with men, women, and children milling about. Some of the men were playing volleyball and they invited me to join. Even though we had just returned from a trip, it seemed like a great way to keep building relationships with our neighbors so I agreed to play. They put me on a team and I waited for my turn.
The team I was put on was made of three young men, one of whom is the son of a close family friend. We had a great time and ended up winning the tournament. During one of the games, everyone had a laugh when I played the setter position. Since I was next to the net during each point, I had a fun time blocking everything that came my way. One of the older men was serving as an announcer and he once said with a great Indonesian accent, “Oh Pak Phil, Super Block!”
Later that night, all the men played a game of soccer while wearing sarongs (basically a sheet wrapped around their waist) or women’s maternity clothing. Not sure I completely understand why, but I had to get some homework done and just so happened to miss this event. Alas…there is always next year!
The rest of week was spent preparing for the next weekend. Each neighborhood sets up a stage and invites everyone to sing Indonesian national songs, pray, and the kids usually do some sort of performance. Early on Sunday morning, I gathered with many of our neighbors and we walked around the neighborhood. I forgot to wear a red shirt (the Indonesian flag is red and white and I wanted to show my support) so I ran home and changed before the walk began. Then, we all just walked in a long line of humanity. I had the chance to talk with several different gentlemen, a few of whom spoke a fair amount of English. I would ask questions in Bahasa Indonesia and they would respond in English. That was a fun experience! After we arrived back at the starting point, everyone started to do some aerobic exercises and I returned home. All the kids played some games, like eating a rice cracker hanging from a string, and they had a lottery-type game to give out Tupperware.
That evening, the official party was held down the street from our house. After hearing the national anthem and the leader of the community read a few letters, we ate a meal of rice, chicken sate, fried tempeh (soy beans), and fried veggies. Our kids had a blast! They just rolled around and played with the neighborhood kids. Solomon kept jumping on the back of one of the kids and jumping in my lap. We had been asked been asked to sing a few songs and play the guitar. I asked what we should sing and we were told, “Just sing something fun.” So, we sang a song in Bahasa Indonesia called, “Ayo Mama.” Feel free to look this song up on YouTube or click HERE. Then, we sang “Brown Eyed Girl.” I am sure most of the people had never heard it before but it was fun and they appreciated our participation. Two of the most important aspects of relationships with Indonesians are to smile and to show up!
A week after the official Independence Day celebration, we had a party at our school as well. It is a lot of fun because we get to interact with our teachers on a whole different level. Many of them bring their families and every student brings a dish, which often means we get food from Indonesia, Korea, Japan, America, Africa, and Europe. Quite an international feast.
We sang a few of the Indonesian national songs and then played some games. The first game is to eat a puffy shrimp cracker (called a Kripik) that is hanging from a string. The trick is you can’t use you hands. The kids got in the act as well, but got a little help from Dad! Then, we played a game where we had to use a sword made of the stalk of a banana leaf to break a water balloon. The trick here was that we were blindfolded! It was so much fun! Jess and I both managed to break the balloon and not injure anyone in the process. The last game was called Tangkap Belut, which means the capture eels. There was a small bucket filled with water, mud, and…EELS. They were about the size of a pencil, maybe a little thicker, and we had to grab one at a time and carry it to our bucket, probably 20’ away. Wow! So tough. They were super slippery and always trying to wriggle free. It was so much fun! After playing the games, we all enjoyed our dinner and spent the time talking with our friends and teachers.
So, we had a great time joining in the celebration of Indonesian Independence! And here’s to the freedom that can only be found in Christ! We hope and pray that God will continue to give us opportunities to share the love of Christ so the men and women of Indonesia will learn about true freedom.