Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Dongi Dongi Mission Trip - Reflection

Feeling Accomplished

One of the common critiques of short-term mission trips is around the immediate and long-term impact of the mission activity.  Some wonder if anything of lasting significance can be accomplished in a couple of weeks.  Others question if the money spent on the cost of the mission trip could be better utilised by sending it directly to the mission field.  While these are valid questions that should be given reasonable consideration, at the end of our three weeks in Indonesia I am left with the following reflective conclusions:

  • We have mobilised a team of Salvationists from our Corps to actively engage in the international mission of The Salvation Army.
  • We have evoked a spirit of generosity in our Corps and community to resource the vision of an overseas Corps and community.
  • We have invested into the lives of 180 children and their families by helping to establish a school building more appropriate for the needs of the local community.
  • We have partnered with a community by participating alongside them in a project that has laid the foundation for ongoing relationship beyond the end product.
  • We have shared life with other Salvationists through local hospitality, mutual encouragement and pastoral ministry.
  • We have been mutually enriched by exchanging broader perspectives of Salvationism through our respective cultural expressions and experiences.
  • We have responded to unplanned ministry opportunities adding value to and alleviating stress from local leadership and discipleship initiatives.
  • We have followed-up relationships established during previous trips through ministry engagement that continues to sow into the faith journey of other Salvationists.
  • We have returned home better equipped with a higher level of cultural intelligence to more effectively engage cross-culturally in our Corps and community.

It is one thing to contribute to a mission by sending money but quite a different experience to commit to a mission by going and personally engaging with those on the mission field.  Both can be valuable, but approached with right attitude the latter fosters a level of engagement that puts relationships ahead of the task and helps to develop a level of cultural intelligence that can integrate into mission and ministry back home.

Dongi Dongi Mission Trip - Day 21

Answered Prayer!

In my previous blog post I briefly shared that I lost my phone at a major shopping mall in Jakarta.  This is not how I imagined finishing up our mission trip!  However, after some fervent prayer and the determined actions of my travel companions, this happened (as shared on Facebook):

"I would like to share with you an extraordinary experience I had this morning! On Saturday I lost my iPhone while at a major shopping mall in Jakarta, which contained my credit card, driver's licence and medicare card in the cover. You can imagine my distress at losing my phone and identification in such a busy foreign city!! Yesterday morning, Neville and Nyoman decided to try calling my phone from Nyoman's Indonesian number, to no avail. However, last night we noticed two missed calls on Nyoman's phone from my phone number. Nyoman called back and discovered that my phone was found on the ground beside our car in the car park at the mall by a man from Bandung. He took the phone home and tried to send a message to me via my Instagram account, which was still logged in on my phone. This morning, this man and his family drove all the way from Bandung, about a 3 hour drive, back to Jakarta to return my phone and identification to me! While this alone is remarkable, my phone was still in 'flight mode' and my SIM card was disabled by Telstra after we reported it missing, so it shouldn't have received our call; the battery on my phone never holds charge for more than a day anymore; and it was found by a Muslim man and returned by his family who wanted to demonstrate the integrity of their faith. I praise God for this miracle against the odds of ever seeing my phone again and the risk of my ID being used for identity fraud overseas. I'm still astounded by this incredible blessing!!"

What threatened to be a spoiler of an extraordinary mission trip became a major highlight!  Once again I was reminded how God can use any situation to bring unexpected encounters and blessings that reinforce how great He really is!!  I also can't help thinking that my encounter with this family is no accident and that our paths will cross again some time in the future.

Dongi Dongi Mission Trip - Days 19 & 20

Return to Jakarta

Following Stav's saga of getting home after a number of flight cancellations due to lingering smoke from fires, we were watching the flights in and out of Palu very carefully.  Fortunately, our early flight out of Palu departed without incident and we arrived in Jakarta on time for the final stage of our journey.  It was great to be greeted at the airport by Nyoman's brother and brother-in-law, who welcomed us as a part of the Timonuli family.  We enjoyed refreshments at Major Spener and Rai's quarters at Jakarta #2 Corps before booking into our hotel and heading out to the local shopping mall for lunch and an amazing massage!  Unfortunately, Nyoman's misfortune of losing his phone the day before transfered to me with my phone disappearing in the shopping mall car park.  More about that in my final blog post!

One of the things I love about traveling overseas is exploring the local market place, especially experiencing the flavours and fragrances of street food.  There is something captivating about the buzz and activity of street stalls that come alive at night!  The first night in Jakarta we played it safe by enjoying a delicious duck meal - bebek goreng.  The following night Neville was determined to try cobra, which was selected from a cage live and we got to see every stage of its preparation before eating it coated in satay and chili.

On Sunday we were doubly blessed by worshipping at Jakarta #2 Corps in the morning and Jelambar Corps in the evening.  I had the privilege of preaching in both meetings and praying alongside two special people who have been journeying through some very difficult times.  Leading up to our mission trip we became aware that the two year old son of a couple we met during our Jakarta Mission Trip in 2011 had a stroke.  His condition was serious and we united with an Army of Salvationists all around the world to pray for his healing.  I can't describe our joy to see this little boy walking around as a testimony to God's grace!  The faith of his young parents is inspiring and to see them totally surrender to God's will for their lives despite their son's condition is as much a testimony as his healing.  
We were particularly looking forward to sharing with our friends at Jelambar who have remained a special part of our lives since meeting and serving them in 2011. Our two day stopover in Jakarta on our way home from Palu allowed us time to follow-up and renew these friendships, being mutually encouraged by seeing how God is at work in each other's lives.

Dongi Dongi Mission Trip - Day 18

Final Day in Palu

Waking up on our final day in Palu was a little surreal after three very busy weeks working alongside three shifts of amazing team members who have fully engaged with our mission trip.  Not only have we accomplished what we came to do but have been richly blessed by generous hospitality, good friends and a number of unplanned ministry opportunities. One of these unplanned ministry opportunities was to participate in the Youth Meeting at Towua Corps, an invitation we received earlier in our trip.

Before the Youth Meeting we ventured one last time out into Palu for a motorbike tour with Nyoman and Tato, who took us up a mountain that overlooked the city.  Half way up the single trail track Nyoman's motorbike overheated leaving us stranded on the side of the track.  Tato and Neville continued up the mountain while Nyoman and I rolled back down the mountain to get help.  Fortunately, part way down the bike restarted and we avoided a long walk back home!  Unfortunately, Nyoman lost his phone where we had broken down somewhere back up the mountain!!

After our little misadventure I finished preparing my sermon for the Youth Meeting and we then joined a very eager youth team for a great night of worship.  Throughout our trip we have observed a vibrancy and passion among Indonesian Salvation Army youth in a number of locations and the Towua Corps youth were no exception tonight.  Their worship team, dancers and timbrelists expressed a joy that transcended language, uniting us in spirit as we worshipped togetherOnce again we were deeply moved to see the Spirit of God minister in the lives of these young people who responded to the message.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dongi Dongi Mission Trip - Days 16 & 17

Last Hurrah at Dongi Dongi

Today we headed out to Dongi Dongi for the third and final time; this time with Neville and Major Erik Kape onboard.  Before we left Palu we stopped by the Mecure Hotel to catch up with Commissioner Ros Poke who was finishing up her trip around Indonesia.  Commissioners Vic and Ros Poke were on staff at the Training College with Vic being our Training Principal when Nyoman and I were Cadets training to be Salvation Army Officers back in 1995-96.  It is amazing where God has led us each over the past twenty years and how our paths have crossed on this mission trip.

Like previous team members earlier in the trip, Neville was keen to get involved with rebuilding Dongi Dongi School.  Majors Paulus and Felma weren't home when we arrived, so we didn't waste any time heading up the hill to see the progress of the builders over the past week and to plan out our work for the next couple of days.  Once again we were amazed at how much work had been done!  The front verandah had been concreted, the brickwork was complete, internal walls had begun to be rendered, and the timber cladding was almost finished.  The builders weren't onsite, so once Nyoman and Eric left to return to Palu, Neville and I got started cleaning up the building site, emptying the classrooms of building waste and sweeping out a mountain of wood shavings and concrete dust.  The cloud of dust combined with our sweat made for one very dirty afternoon of work.  There was also a load of timber delivered on the side of the track out front, so we decided to haul it into the classroom that stored the remaining building materials.  Maybe we were just tired, but this load of timber was way heavier than a previous load that other team members had moved.  In fact, it had been cut thicker and was still very wet (that's our excuse, LOL).  

The Corps Officers returned home late afternoon to find our belongings hidden out the back of their quarters, so Major Paulus came up to give us a hand to finish off our afternoon of work.  As with previous team members, Neville and I were warmly welcomed into their home and blessed by their hospitality.  We engaged in conversation after tea with Major Paulus, without Nyoman present to interpet, and had a lot of fun teaching each other new words and phrases in our respective languages.  Despite the language barrier we managed to communicate well enough to enjoy each others company and discover new things about each others culture.

The next morning before we got back to work, I took Neville across to the old classrooms to see for himself the conditions in which the children were learning.  On our way out Nyoman had just arrived back from Palu and joined us for another day of hard work.  The job for the day was to level out the ground out the front of the verandah by 'cutting and filling' with dirt from the land beside the building.  A couple of local labourers started digging a hole for the septic tank for the toilets so we joined forces as we relocated the soil they dug out of their hole.  The speed these guys worked was impressive. 

After our lunch break we were amazed to see that they had dug their 3x3 metre hole to a depth of 1.5 metres and had built a lean-to shelter in the process to give themselves some shade while they worked!  Not to be outdone, Neville, Nyoman and I worked equally as hard to finish off our levelling, which required more and more fill as the gradient increased along the length of the verandah.  It was a very tiring but satisfying day of work.  

Leaving the building site for the last time was a little emotional after three weeks of working on this project.  Neville and I really connected with how Tony, Jill and Stav must have felt as they left Dongi Dongi knowing it would be the last time they saw the project before completion.  Yet, that feeling of sadness was mixed with a deep sense of satisfaction with the knowledge that together we had contributed to the rebuilding of Dongi Dongi School.  Our belief in the Corps Officer's vision for the school, our collective fundraising over the past twelve months and our presence on this mission trip is a significant investment into a community, a church and a generation of children who will be educated in these new buildings!  Praise the Lord!!

Dongi Dongi Mission Trip - Day 15

Eager Young Minds

One of the many joys of this mission trip is the diversity of unplanned ministry opportunities that have added value to our primary mission activity for both our team and hosts.  Last week I was asked to present a seminar on 'Problem Solving' to a class of high school students.  Today I was asked to present a seminar on leadership to a class of vocational school students.  Both seminars excited me as they appealed to my passion as a leader to equip others!

With the arrival of Neville last night, Nyoman seized the moment by offering Neville one of the topics he was required to teach to the same group of students.  Despite the late request, Neville stepped up to the plate and willingly accepted the offer.  So, Neville taught on 'Healthy Relationships', I taught on the 'Nature of a Leader' and Nyoman taught on 'Drugs and Sexuality.'  What a team!

One of the funny moments of the day was driving to the location of the seminar.  Due to an interruption by one of the Palu teachers as we were about to leave, we were running very late and the morning Palu traffic didn't help matters either.  Just as we were about to make a right turn at a main round-a-bout a police motorcade with sirens blaring entered the intersection stopping all traffic to allow them through. Except Nyoman!  He saw it as an opportunity to tag on the end of the last police vehicle and use it as a police escort. It worked!! The normally heavy traffic pulled aside to allow the police vehicles (and us) through, giving us a clear run all the way to our destination in a fraction of the time. Genius!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dongi Dongi Mission Trip - Day 14


The morning started with the news we all were hoping to hear - 'Flight GA623 has departed!'  Stav FINALLY got on his way to Jakarta for the first part of his long awaited journey home.

The morning then continued with a drive out to the Donggala area to visit a campsite in Pusat Laut that the Palu School are interested in purchasing from THQ.  This site would provide an ideal location for a proposed campsite to host retreats and camps not only for The Salvation Army but other Christian groups.  Once we got past all the mining along the coastal road, the views were beautiful and they got even better as we headed inland among forests of coconut palms and stunning mountain and coastal views.  We parked at a government run campsite neighbouring the property of interest, and it wasn't hard to picture the potential for development.  A walk along the beach to view the boundary lines revealed why this location was chosen.  Although the local beach goers seemed as intrigued by our presence as we were theirs.  Oh, did I mention that the beach goers were cows?!  True!  Anywhere else in the world that might seem strange but somehow with the frequent presence of cows wandering around the streets of Palu, this sight didn't seem all that out of place.

The afternoon changed pace and mood as we attended the one year memorial service of Bapak Oscar Hohoy, whose funeral we participated in last year.  Like at the funeral, a large crowd of family and friends gathered outside the Hohoy's house for a time of worship and remembrance.  Oscar's wife Ibu Deasy displayed courage and strength as she shared the difficult journey for her and her family over the past twelve months.  It really was a privilege to once again share this time with the Hohoy family and observe another stage of the grieving process in this culture.

From sadness to joy, we continued into the evening by attending the Youth Christian Community service at Palu #1 Corps.  It was so exciting seeing this massive hall filled with passionate young people from around the city of Palu who had gathered for a combined praise and worship service.  On Sunday morning at Towua Corps a couple of the youth leaders asked me to share a word of encouragement at this youth service.  Their theme was great!  #SelfiesWithJesus, which I had a bit of fun with as I invited the youth to take a selfie and tell me what they saw.  I then spoke about how they are made in the image of God and as God's children, filled with His Spirit, reflect the glory of Jesus.  It was an awesome night of worship led by the youth and a passionate message shared by Major Erik Kape.  God is clearly at work in the lives of the youth in Palu!