"So how was Indonesia?"
I can't tell you how many times I have been asked that since my return to West Michigan. Its a simple question, really. And yet not so simple.
My standard answer has become, "Hard but good."
What do I mean? Well, I mean that this was not a tropical vacation. It was an invitation to join the people of God on the other side of the world for a few weeks. It was an invitation to teach and to learn. It was an invitation to expand my world in many ways and to expand myself.
But expanding can be hard. Stretching, as good as it might be, is difficult and often painful.
Why was this particular task painful?
On a very superficial level, I missed some of the things that make my life here very easy. Things like brushing my teeth under a faucet of clean running water; going for a walk in my neighborhood whenever I choose to without an escort; not worrying about two-inch cockroaches invading my living space.
It was also hard being alone. The people of Reformed Evangelical Seminary of Indonesia were absolutely wonderful. But I had to travel there alone, and when I wasn't teaching, I was often alone. My husband and family were literally a half a world away. I was homesick.
What was good?
I learned that I have the most wonderful family in Indonesia - the family of God. The faculty, staff, and students of RESI bent over backwards to welcome me. They taught me what hospitality, welcoming the stranger, looks like.
I learned a little about what is often called 'culture shock.' Being in a place where nearly everything is completely different from what I am used to was both disconcerting and tiring. I had a small taste of what our international students must be dealing with when they come to the U.S. to study.
I learned that life is hard for so many people in the world. The day I left Jakarta more than 10,000 people of that city were displaced by the worst floods they have had in 30 years. The people at RESI spent a good part of the day packaging meals and supplies for folks who had literally lost everything, which was not much to begin with. I was often struck by the fact that much of the world lacks the sorts of things that I take for granted every single day.
I learned that in a country where Christians are a tiny minority and life is frequently difficult, they don't worry much about the intellectual problem of evil. It seems that this "problem" is more a problem for the privileged west than folks that really have good reason to complain. And they don't take their faith for granted. The faith of the Indonesian people I met is vibrant and passionate.
God worked in my life during my weeks in Jakarta. He reminded me of my dependence on him. He fostered a new level of gratitude in me. And he helped me experience just a little bit more tangibly the breadth and diversity of his kingdom. I am so glad I'm a part of the family of God, the body of Christ.