I returned this past weekend from my 2nd trip to Indonesia, for the 127 Legacy Foundation. This time was more for planning and preparation purposes, for a team coming over in October. Our group was made up of four people- Dr. Ben, myself, his daughter Michelle, and Jeanne, a frequent member of mission trips with Dr. Ben.
The flights over and back are always the worst part of the trip. A 2-hour flight to Dallas, Texas (a long layover, so got to see my brother Rick and my niece and nephew), followed by a 12-hour flight to Tokyo, then a 7-hour flight into Jakarta. Exhausting. It was made worse by the longest leg, Dallas to Tokyo, with a male flight attendant who clearly did not enjoy his job. He was rude, inconsiderate, even intimidating, to people in his section of the plane, myself included. I was never more ready to deplane a flight than that one. No wonder American Airlines gets awful customer service ratings. The far eastern airlines of Japan Air, Garuda Indonesia, and Batik Air are so far ahead of our stateside carriers in customer service, it’s ridiculous.
We spent a couple of days in Jakarta with our partner church, Getsemani Baptist, the church Dr. Ben’s father started back in 1965. These are among the most spirited, generous believers I have ever met. I taught a Saturday night Bible study, a Sunday morning class, then preached in the am service. Those folks love God’s Word, and we had a great time together.
We split up on Monday, Doc and I heading for Sumatra, Michelle and Jeanne toward several teacher training events they were doing across Java and Timor. With Getsemani’s pastor Raymond, Doni of Rebana Ministry, and David, one of Getsemani’s elders, we flew into Pekanbaru, then drove out an hour to a small, struggling orphanage we had learned about. Hope of Nations Children’s Home had been supported by the Southern Baptist Intl. Mission Board for years, but they were about to lose that support. Operated by a godly couple who lovingly cared for 12 children, they would likely have to close without help. They try to generate some income by selling crafts and clothing items done by the “mom” and the girls, while the “dad” and the boys do motorcycle repairs for the locals in a shop out back. I was sold, right there! After a day spent with these precious children and dedicated couple, we decided to do a joint support effort with our foundation, Getsemani Church, and the Rebana Ministry, coordinating a partnership with the local association of 8 Baptist churches in the area. Before leaving Sumatra, I spoke at a leadership seminar hosted by the Baptist training center in Pekanbaru.
Next, we flew to Surabaya, toward the eastern end of the island of Java. From there, we were met by pastor Royo, the VP of the Indonesian Baptist Union. He took us several hours inland to Batu, nestled up in the mountains between 3 volcanoes, one of which is active. Batu is home to a prominent Baptist hospital, that is partnering with us and Rebana Ministry to build a community clinic on the site of Rebana’s orphanage in Kupang, Timor. Upon meetings with their leadership, we discovered they were already ahead of us. They have included the clinic in their 5-year growth plan, have committed to provide the personnel for a year, and to supply the major equipment needs. That was enough to blow us away, but then we were informed a husband and wife doctor team there, leaders among the medical staff, had committed to leave their positions at the hospital to move to Kupang and run the clinic! We were floored. God has been at work, way ahead of us, moving people and events forward. Amazing.
We spent the night in a villa by the hospital, and witnessed the most incredible sunrise I have ever seen. At 5am, the light of the morning sun broke over the horizon to our east between two of the volcanoes, one of which was puffing plumes of smoke. Doc and I sat in worshipful silence, soaking in the divine display. It was beautiful beyond description.
We drove back to Surabaya, where Doc and I spoke at pastor Royo’s church Vacation Bible School. They must have had over 200 kids and teens there. What a blast that was! So much fun. We then caught a flight back to Jakarta with pastor Raymond and Doni, exhausted but with full hearts from all we had experienced over the past week.
Leaving Michelle and Jeanne behind to continue with their teaching seminars, Doc and I began the long journey home. We were separated on the long Tokyo to Chicago leg, me beside a wonderful single mom of 4 boys from Japan, Doc with a young Japanese girl coming to America to be married. My seat mate barely spoke English, but we enjoyed what little conversation we could. Doc however, was able to communicate enough to share his testimony with his seat mate, and by the time we landed in Chicago, had led her to faith in Christ! God blessing our trip, even nearly home.
I’ve spent the last couple of days fighting “jet-lag”, and getting back on Eastern time. But I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of God’s work, here and on the far side of the world. Humbled and honored.