I had only a couple of hours left the work in the store before it would be time to go home. I had sent my papers in exactly six days before, not expecting an answer for at least another week.
“Ray, answer the telephone please.” Vera’s voice sounded over the public address speakers in the store, interrupting the soft music.
It was Mam. “There is a large envelope which just came in the mail, “she said. “It’s from the church headquarters.”She knew what it was and I knew what it was, but to find out the exact contents I would have to wait until I went home.
The next couple of hours passed quickly and soon I was at home carefully opening the envelope, trying to hide my real excitement.
Many young men in my church are given to the opportunity to serve for two weeks as missionaries in different parts of the world. One by one they are called by their church leaders and recommended to the church President for an assignment. Altogether there are now over 22.000 missionaries of our church throughout the world. Now it was my turn.
The content of envelops would inform me where I would go to for the next two years of my life. My heart beat faster as I read the word “Indonesia.” Now I was really excited. But where was Indonesia? I had of Indonesia and of Bali, Jakarta and java, but I was not yet sure of the exact location. A map gave me the information I was looking for. Further study showed that, through Indonesia wasn’t too well known, it had the fifth largest population in the world. That oneletter opened to me a life which, before then, I would never have dreamed of.
I had two months to prepare. I shopped for books, clothes, shoes, and anything else I could get into one suitcase. After several different vaccinations, I was ready to setoff. I said good-bye to my family.
Hawaii was the first stop. I went there together with six other missionaries from all over the United States; I had never met them before. For two months we had an intensive study course in the Indonesian language. Other who had been there and returned taught us not only the language but also many of customs and activities of the Indonesian people. The excitement to leave continued to grow daily. Just think, half way around the world, about as far home as is possible.
Well, I‘ve been in Indonesia for ten months now and I love it. People always ask me how Indonesia compares with America. The obvious answer is to point out the friendliness and the warmth of the people here -- that’s the difference. “Ringan Tangan,” is an Indonesian term which means sincere readiness to help other people. Questions from a stranger such as, “ Where’s this street?’ or” Where’s the house?” would receive a cold look and no reply from the usual American. But almost any Indonesian will not only stop to tell you where, but will often take you there himself. Upon arrival, instead of closed door and the words “Who are you?” you find a wide open door and the words “Please come in.” The feeling is beautiful, to say the least.
Then too, thank goodness for Bahasa Indonesia. Many foreigners have come and gone without having learned the national language. As a result they have never discovered the real beauty of the country and its people, especially the children. Toothless smiles and big brown eyes never fail to win the heart of newcomers to Indonesia.
Of course I can’t ignore Indonesian culture, customs and traditions. A life-long study of these would give one only a small understanding of centuries of history, especially considering the hundreds of different cultures found among the thousands of different islands and ethnic regions. America has been called a “Melting pot” because of many different nationalists living there, but it doesn’ t compare with the “gado-gado” characteristic of mosaic diversity found here.
Indonesia is known for its rice. Having been used always to eating potatoes. I found eating rice was different though not difficult. Indonesian always say that if they don’t eat rice daily they aren’t as strong as usual. Well, ten months of eating rice has done the same thing to me, without it I’m always hungry. Then again, Americans don’t have nearly as many ways of preparing potatoes as Indonesian do rice.
I know that I’ll go back to the United States sooner or leter, and I may never have the change to return to Indonesia. When I leave Indonesia, I won’t be saying good-bye for only two by ears, but possibly forever. Again the people, my friends make it hard to leave. It’s like saying good-bye to a part of your life, keeping only the memories!
A book wouldn’t be enough to contain my impressions of this country. A short article certainly isn’t enough. The people, the culture, the customs, the children, the scenery, the food, the language….all part of the beauty that is Indonesia.
God has blessed this people and this land. I hope that each of us can appreciate . His many rich blessings.