The Indonesia team have been back for a while now, back to reality in its varying forms. So, what exactly did we do there?

We arrived in Palangkaraya and went on a boat trip, which was a peaceful time of resting, adjusting, and getting to know one another. The boat left the city noises behind and chugged past basic wooden houses on stilts, with toilets consisting of small wooden huts at the end of a walkway over the river. Passing the quieter villages we saw scrawny chickens wandering around, tables of fish drying out in the sun, and wonky wooden boardwalks connecting the community together. Villages were separated by bright green vegetation, big banana leaves and huge tree roots rising out of the brown water. We also saw the orang-utan conservation site; the first orang-utan we encountered started to throw things at the canoe we were in (including a glass bottle!). Although this was a hilarious, when it started breaking up larger sticks we thought we’d better not push our luck!

After the 2 day boat trip came to an end, the team were refreshed and ready to start work. We then held the first of our leaders’ refreshment gatherings. These were about the biblical importance of rest which is counter-cultural for Indonesia. The second of the two gatherings was held the following week, 8 hours away in Sampit. The conferences had times of worship, reflection, singing and praying in both Indonesian and English. With the help of translators people were able to understand the teaching, and we also had conversations in which it was clear many were facing extremely challenging and heart-breaking situations. These gatherings gave a healthy space to process these issues, and find the faith and hope to persevere. In the second conference, the choir performed a song which was particularly moving and encouraging for those in tough situations.
Here’s the chorus:
“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, Because He lives all fear is gone, Because I know He holds the future,  And life is worth the living just because He lives”  

These gatherings ended with a ceremony of giving certificates, taking LOTS of photos, and having some form of dancing/conga line around the room to the backing track on the keyboard. Maybe something we can adopt in Portswood one day!

Between the conferences we were in Banjarmasin teaching an intensive English course, conversational classes, and spending time with the Pakantas students. Banjamasin certainly hit all the senses, including the musty smell of fumes from the roaring hordes of mopeds, and the prominence of the call to prayer from the mosques as Ramadan started. The roads were busy but navigable. Pavements just disappeared, and it seemed that you just had to go for it, be sensibly confident, and try not to fall down a hole! It was a great time with the students, making friends and sharing fellowship. We helped them with their pronunciation, and as part of their assessment they performed their own dramatized version of Mark’s gospel to us. We shared meals together which gave us the opportunity to know each other better, and they made us feel so welcome. There was an amazing sense of unity, and their warmth and enthusiasm was contagious.    

And now we are back home, where we can have a normal cup of tea. There are no stubborn centipedes insistently crawling up the plug hole, no geckos crawling quietly on the ceilings, no tropical storms, no pomegranate magnums, no 15 year old girls wanting to sing Ed Sheeran with me, and no police raids in the early hours mistaking us for a gang of drug dealers (they were in the hotel room next door)!

Indonesia was fantastic, and many of the people we met on our trip will be on our hearts and in our prayers. Having the opportunity to share fellowship with people on the other side of the world was great. Everyone on the team was able to use their gifts for what we were there to do, and it was a privilege to serve with them through the ups and downs, and get to know them better.

We were so thankful for the support of people back home, for helping this happen and enabling us to support the people in Indonesia.

It was encouraging, energizing, and really exciting. An opportunity to stop, look up, catch the smallest glimpse of the bigger picture, plans and purposes that are unfolding in the world and in our lives, as we walk humbly with Him.

Something we can do, wherever we are.