We, as Anabaptists, should place Jesus Christ at the center of our faith, community at the center of our lives, and reconciliation at the center of our work.1
As part of the Anabaptist community in Indonesia, I want to be able to implement these three key principles in my own life, though it is often easier to say than do. Over time, I have learned that each cultural context requires different ways of applying these Anabaptist values, and I learned this most deeply when I served with the International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Though the Good News always requires translation, we are all called no matter where we are, to root our faith in Jesus, implement our faith in community, and serve as God’s peacemaking children.
I am a member of Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia (GKMI)—known in English as “United Muria Christian Churches of Indonesia.” I am sure that my faith, fostered in this Anabaptist community, is what lead me to serve with IVEP. In 2013, after I completed college, I appled for IVEP through GKMI. I sold my motorcycle to pay for my visa, and flew to the US with other Indonesian participants in August of that year.
Those first few months in the US were difficult. The culture was foreign, the language was difficult, and nothing was familiar. Even making friends and getting to know my host family took effort. The most surprising challenge was adapting to the differences in climate! Though it was a difficult time, my new friends and host family supported me through these transitions.
It was not all struggle though. I enjoyed getting to know new people and found a lot of friends through IVEP and MCC’s Service and Learning Together (SALT) program. My host family was fantastic, as was my new congregation, Greeley Mennonite Church. The work assigned to me was also deeply rewarding.
My eleven-month job was with Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains Refugee and Asylee Program, which provided services for refugees and victims of human trafficking. During the course of this time, I met many refugees who came from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Peru, Cuba, Burma, Malaysia, Thailand, and Nepal. Working these people helped me understand, even just a little, what it must be like to live as a refugee in a foreign country. These individuals left their countries of origin, and often their families, to begin a new life in a foreign land. Like me, they had to adapt to the new language, weather, food, and cultures.
Though my host family was very different from what I was familiar with, they helped me adjust, and I eventually felt that they were, in fact, family. They taught me what it means to honor, support, and care for each other. I learned that family life is difficult when there is miscommunication and conflict. It was in this context that I learned how important it is to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
Serving with IVEP taught me better how to trust in Jesus, live in community, and bring peace to others. God worked in my life that year, and the seeds sown in my heart continue to shape my faith even now.
Heri works with the human resources department at Akademi Muria of GKMI Synod of Indonesia where he supports training and seminars for pastors and congregations.
This post is part of our “Anabaptist Young Adults in Mission” blog series. To view all posts in the series, please click here.
1) This is a thesis developed by Palmer Becker in “What is an Anabaptist Christian?” https://www.mennonitemission.net/Downloads/DL.MissioDei18.E.pdf