Thursday, July 1, 2010

Church in Papua

This looks like the interior of my church in Indonesia. Whitewashed walls, cement floors, wooden benches, screen windows... :

Rogomulyo's new church

(all photos are pulled from the net and are not my own)
It doesn't fit many people, and the women sit on one side and the men on the other. Children and animals wander in and out.

Church opening

Erica, who works in Papua, posted this description of her church on her blog a while ago, and I had to chuckle.
We meet in a small building that was formerly a school; a one classroom
school I think. There are just a few bare light bulbs (the long-lasting low
energy kind of course) hanging from the water-stained, sagging ceiling. There is
a lone water tap poking through the wall near the front. We sit on benches made
of wooden slats (thankfully they have backs on them...). At the front of the
church is a rather nice wooden pulpit which frankly doesn't "fit" with the rest
of the "decor". There is no piano or organ or other musical instrument, we sing
acapella. During the service you may hear the sound of pigs squealing; and the
pastor doesn't miss a beat, just continues on (without the aid of a sound system
of course).

Periodically someone will go outside and throw his sandal or rocks at the
stray dogs that like to hang around. (sadly, it is this very behaviour that has
made the dogs here very unpredictable and prone to unprovoked biting) Children
rarely sit with their parents throughout the service. They prefer to run around
outside and play. Last week we witnessed the baptism of a new baby boy born to
one of the young couples in the church. The baptismal "font" is a blue plastic
stool with a bowl of water perched on top... But this is a place where God's
people meet to worship together and be edified together as we listen to His word
explained to us by one of His shepherds.

When I took Isaac back to visit my home, I was thrilled to get to take him to visit Gereja Petra, even though he hardly understood a thing anyone was saying. I had a hard time keeping a straight face most times, since I knew how he was perceiving it all.

I mean... in Indonesia, when you sing, you sing loud. There is NO shame to not having a good voice or singing off key. In fact, the louder you sing, the more you are perceived as being able to lead music from up front. Therefore, sometimes listening to the "joyful noise" was very nearly painful and from a Western perspective it's all you can do to avoid either bursting out laughing or involuntarily putting your hands over your ears. Like... these ladies? I can nearly guarantee that one of them is sharp, and still singing loud.

Indo: church, in a small village

Celebrating a church opening

There are bigger, nicer churches, and earlier in my childhood we attended one like this, but my experience was that the larger and nicer the church was, the more boring it was. I loved attending Petra. The pastor gave simple messages drawn from scripture and applied to life. I could understand him, despite not having a very sophisticated grasp of Indonesian.


The youth group was vibrant, and was composed of both Papuans and Western Indonesians. It was a pleasure to meet with them - to hear Mattius talking about his wrestling with how he could really know if he was a child of God. To giggle over English worlds and have hot sweet tea in their living rooms despite the fact that it was sweltering outside. To go to the beach with them and watch the girls be too scared to get in the water, and the boys go change from shorts into jeans to wade in....

It was beautiful to pray with them. Sometimes in Indonesia instead of one person leading a prayer, everyone will pray at once, aloud. One time at a youth meeting when we did this and I looked around the church and found myself surrounded by Papuans and Indonesians, crying out to God passionately and personally, and praying for the peace of Papua.... I found myself in tears, so humbled by their love for each other, for Papua, for God, and their acceptance of me.

Kebaktian Doa Pemulihan 2007 Gereja Bethany Makasar

1 comment:

Annie Peterson said...

I love praying all at one time, it's like you're one chorus. In YWAM they call it "Korean Prayer", because the Korean church seriously knows how to pray, and they do it all at the same time! I love it.