Recently I returned from a trip to Indonesia with the organization Compassion First. After ten flights, and over 35 hours of air time, I am happy to report that I am safe, healthy, and recovering from my first significant bout with jet lag.
The primary reason for this trip was to facilitate a SoulCare and Personality workshop for the Compassion First staff based in Indonesia, and to get better acquainted with their outreach ministry. I traveled with a small group from the US and we spent two days traveling, 7 days on three different islands in Indonesia, and the last 24 hours getting a little rest and relaxation on the island of Bali before departing home.
The first city we visited was Surabaya. This is predominantly a Muslim city of over 2.7 million people, just south of the equator. The Muslim faith was very apparent as I awoke each morning to the sound of amplified calls to prayer across the city. One morning I woke early and took a walk at daybreak to take it all in. I am amazed by this devoted expression of their faith.
We spent three days in Surabaya assisting the CF outreach to the prostitutes and their children who live in and around the Yellow Flower Cemetery. This is acres and acres of concrete and marble headstones, and narrow streets that transform into a brothel by night for those seeking sex acts for as little as 75 cents. This is survival for many women and their families. CF recently acquired a day center that serves as a ray of light, bringing hope and dignity to the women and children caught in this unfortunate economy of prostitution. Our team helped their local staff by painting the exterior of the day center and playing with children. We also helped host a thanksgiving-style celebration for 100+ kids and parents who were shuttled across town to a golf course banquet hall where we served them dinner and enjoyed an evening of balloon animals, face painting, performances and encouraging word to all present.
We then spent several days in a much smaller city north of the equator on the island of North Sulawesi. This area has a significant Christian influence and one could say that it is characterized by a 153’ statue called Christ Blessings, erected by a Christian developer in this city. We got a chance to visit the site and referred to it as “Flying Jesus.” It was both cool and a bit eerie at the same time. :)
The CF aftercare shelter is a secure facility in a city (left unnamed to protect the nature of their outreach) and is a place where local police work in partnership with the CF staff to bring girls rescued from child sex trafficking into a safe home. In this home they receive all of the long term care they need, protection, counseling and of course--tons of love. Here we prepared a thanksgiving dinner for the staff, volunteers, and girls as a prelude to the staff retreat where I was the guest presenter. The next day was dedicated to me teaching and facilitating a Soul Care focused workshop that revolved around the Enneagram Personality Test. The group of 35 was made up of the girls, staff and volunteers that serve as program directors, pastors, cooks, therapists, administration and security. My workshop materials were translated and prepared by local staff, and a young lady named Primy was my interpreter. Though I had some concerns about the content getting “lost in translation,” I was pleasantly surprised that the material was relevant and timely for the team. I was very encouraged with how things went, and enjoyed time playing guitars and singing with the girls. I was also able to put my handyman skills to work on a couple small repair projects before we left.
Finally, our last 24 hours was spent in the Tanjung Benoa peninsula, south of the equator, on the island of Bali before returning home. Bali is predominantly Hindu, easily observed by the daily displays of Puja (pu-chey), a form of ceremonial worship by placing fresh flower trays on the ground in front of businesses and shops. Bali is a popular holiday destination for many Australians, and was a nice stop for rest, relaxation and some familiar food (yeah pizza!) before the long journey home to the US. While in Bali I enjoyed some time on the beach, a swim in the Indian Ocean, and a thrilling tour of the peninsula on a motor scooter.
As I reflect on this experience, my personal takeaways can be summarized in the words of the Apostle Paul, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I observed these three Kingdom resources being expressed generously through the work of Compassion First…
● Power of Faith - I am coming away with a deeper understanding and compassion for the complexities of human brokenness and the need for God. We all share a sense of shame when we know we are settling for less than the best of our God-given potential. I saw faith being expressed by a belief that God is somewhere near, and somehow involved in the worst of situations.
● Durability of Hope - I witnessed a tenacity for survival. Despite pain, suffering, and injustice, we all share a desire for things to be better. Like plants that need water and sunshine, we simply need to be reminded and encouraged often that there is “more” and “better,” just around the corner. I saw hope being expressed by people serving practical needs and contending that God’s redemptive plan would eventually win out.
● Capacity for Love - I have been renewed in my faith as to the relevance of the gospel of Christ for all humans. We all share a desire to be put right with our Creator and restored in our significance and belonging. Jesus demonstrates a seeking and sacrificial love that extends mercy to the offender and grace to the undeserving. I witnessed love being expressed in practical, relevant, and intentional ways without judgment. This was powerful.
I am grateful to my friends and family who helped sponsor this trip ;by giving me as a gift to Compassion First. To find out more about Compassion First, you can visit them online atwww.compassionfirst.org.
But for right now, until that completeness,
we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:
Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does.
Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you.
1 Corinthians 13:13-14:1 MSG