One of the things Sora and I sought to do in Davao was to labor in such a way that what we did would not cease with our departure. Knowing that our term in the Philippines was likely to be limited to three years, we wanted to leverage our gifts so that they would be multiplied and continue to have effects for years after we left.
The power of missionary work is in the formation of relationships. And in the Internet age, these can continue to be effective.
One of my Greek students, Wayne Dimaano, is teaching a Greek class via his church’s Bible institute. He keeps in touch by FB messenger with questions about grammar:
As you can see from the mention of Quizlet, we also share flashcards and other teaching materials.
Pastor Wayne forwarded this photo of the large number of students who showed up for his first Greek class:
(I recall a similar huge turnout for my first Greek class. There will always be some attrition when it becomes clear that there is no royal road to the knowledge of Greek, but with that many students, Wayne will surely have a good number left.)
Wayne and I continue to share books and discuss exegetical questions and theology. Now that I’m in the same time zone (in Singapore and soon in Indonesia), I can respond quickly while we are both awake.
We’ve been in Bandung since July 29th now, and we have our plates full with language learning. That’s our main task this year: get the language down well so that we can do the things God has prepared for us to do, both those we already have planned – teaching pastors Greek and Hebrew, pastoring a church – and those we can’t know yet, but which are all already known to God.
Here is a sort of medley of photos from the first two months, with captions. They’ll give you a flavor for what our life is like here.
Here’s a panorama shot of the IMLAC (Indonesian Multi-Language Acquisition Course) campus where we spend four hours every day working on Bahasa Indonesia with several different tutors.
This shot is taken from the perspective of the ping pong table that Matt uses during our 20 minute break. As you can see, it’s a really lovely environment in which to study.
IMLAC has a sense of humor. Its classrooms are named after islands of Indonesia, and there is one called “Kalimantan” (Borneo). “Kali” also means “multiplied by” or “times” in arithmetic. So we get this label on the room:
While driving in late August, we passed any number of roadside stands selling goats for the Idul Adha sacrifice (commemorating Ibrahim’s narrowly-averted sacrifice of Ismail):
Here’s a typical view out our car’s windshield on the way to school. Our street is narrow, about 1.5 car widths across, so we have to “take turns” with other cars. But most traffic is not cars at all: motorcycles are ubiquitous in Bandung.
The number on the dashboard is our carpool pick-up number for Cahaya Bangsa Classical school, where Ezekiel is enrolled in 9th grade. He has probably made the best adjustment of any of our kids, which is a welcome surprise given how hard a time he had when we moved to the Philippines almost 4 years ago. He’s doing great in his classes and enjoying playing on the basketball team, where his height serves him well. Here’s his team at an away game at another school:
Speaking of height, here I am with Pastor Henry S., assistant pastor at St. Paul’s. This photo was taken at the reception for the wedding of another pastor in the GAI, Raphael B. Being 6’3″ is not an advantage off the basketball court: I have hit my head on low lintels and doorframes many times over the past two months.
Here’s a wider view of the huge reception room at the Grand Pasundan hotel (Sora and fellow pastor’s wife Deborah G. are at the far right):
This batik clergy shirt of mine has done duty for over a year now. I want to get some more made here, and we know a tailor who made the kids’ school uniforms for Cahaya Bangsa. But I’m shopping around for the right pattern. I liked this blue in one shop, but I’m hoping to find something even more colorful:
We have spent more than one Sunday at each of the three GAI congregations – St. Paul’s, St. Peter’s, and St. John’s. This last is located on the campus of the military police barracks in nearby Cimahi, and is the smallest of the three congregations. They have given us a very warm welcome. I have preached through a translator twice (Ibu Ridha and her husband Pastor Denny K), and administered both sacraments in halting and mispronounced Bahasa Indonesia.
Baptizing the youngest member of St. John’s:
Here I am with members of the congregation after one service, including both pastors (Pak Denny in grey jacket, Pak Yacob in suit) and the senior warden (Pak Dickie in purple and white batik):
Here are our boys receiving communion from me and Pastor Yacob:
Our family is making an effort to get out of the city once a month or so, to escape the noise and pollution and traffic and decompress in a more beautiful environment – something we didn’t do often enough in the Philippines. Most recently, that meant a trip to nearby Lembang, about 45 minutes away from Bandung proper. We passed this awesome house on the way:
We went to Maribaya, where Sora and I had lunch and enjoyed the sound of the waterfalls while monkeys played in the trees beyond:
Later, we took the kids to the hot springs, which were very relaxing:
So that’s a slice of life for us here in (and out of) Bandung.
We won’t pretend this isn’t a harder cultural adjustment for us than the Philippines was. For one, the stakes of language acquisition are much higher: without the Bahasa Indonesia, I won’t be able to help the GAI with pastoral training in the ancient languages or the Scriptures. It’s not like the Philippines, where most men with sufficient education to benefit from my instruction had sufficient English as well. Here, the language is make-or-break for our ministry. We’re working hard at it, but we need to find more ways to get out and about in the city and strike up conversations with Indonesian folks whom we haven’t met before. We appreciate your prayers for our family as we continue to live and study in Bandung, West Java.
Our family is back together in Ohio again after spending the first half of April on the road. Our first stop was All Saints REC IN Raleigh, where we were graciously hosted by Fr Ian MacGregor. He also took me on a visit to St Andrew’s mission about 90 minutes away in nearby Asheboro. From there, our family headed to Asheville for the SAMS retreat and 40th anniversary celebration at the Ridgecrest Conference Center and the ensuing New Wineskins for Global Mission conference.
We were blessed by the small group meetings at the SAMS retreat, where I benefited from the prayers and advice of Philip Mounstephen, the director of the Church Mission Society in the Church of England, and was able to give care and prayer to other missionaries in turn.
Matt with CMS director Philip Mounstephen
The main prayer request I shared with the group was my concern to do a good job of learning Bahasa Indonesia, a language that will be critical to the success of my work in Bandung.
The very next day, Sora and I had a meeting with Singapore’s Bishop for the mission deaneries, the Rt. Rev. Kuan Kim Seng and the Dean of Indonesia, the Rev. Timothy Chong. It was an immediate answer to my prayers when Bp. Kuan told us that we would have at least a year to work on language learning. Praise God!
It was a pleasure to spend time with the Singapore clergy at New Wineskins. Bp. Rennis Ponniah also prayed for us and gave us the right hand of fellowship.
From left: Assistant Bp. Kuan Kim Seng, Dean of Indonesia Timothy Chong, our family, and Bp. of Singapore Rennis Ponniah
The biggest news coming out of the New Wineskins conference is that we have a planned departure date now…and we have purchased one-way airplane tickets for us to arrive in Singapore on June 27. (From there, we’ll head to Bandung in early July.)
At New Wineskins, Sora and I enjoyed talks by Bp. Felix Orji of CANA West (ACNA) and by Bp. Rennis Ponniah of Singapore. It was also good to enjoy fellowship with other missionaries from SAMS, and to see friends from the REC and other Anglican churches.
From left: Matt, Bishop of Singapore Rennis Ponniah, REC Presiding Bishop Royal Grote, Sora, Dean of Thailand Yee Ching Wah, and Dean of Indonesia Timothy Chong
On the last day of the New Wineskins conference, Sora and I participated in workshops with Stewart Wicker, the director of SAMS-USA, discussing how we were called to go to the Philippines and then to Indonesia.
Sora on the panel for SAMS’ workshop entitled “Is God Sending Me?”
We were blessed by our time in NC, and we left feeling encouraged and eager to go to the mission field again soon. Thank you, SAMS, and especially Nita Dempsey, for arranging for our participation in these two conferences.
Thanks to Fr. Carl Lund for inviting Matt to visit Holy Trinity in Houston TX on Feb. 28, right after the Synod for the REC Diocese of Mid-America. It is a blessing to be able to combine trips, and it will be a pleasure to see Fr. Carl again.
On Monday, we will hit the road for a month long trip on which we will spend Sunday’s in five churches in NY, MD, and VA, with a stop for debriefing at the SAMS office in Ambridge, PA.
Here’s an updated schedule of visits as of January 15:
- Jan 8 – Christ Church, Ithaca, NY.
- Jan 10 – St. Stephens REC, Sykesville, MD
- Jan 12-13 – at SAMS office in Ambridge, PA
- Jan 17 – Bp. Cummins, Catonsville, MD
- Jan 24 – Holy Trinity, Fairfax, VA
- Jan 31 – St. Jude’s, Richmond, VA
- Feb 7-14 – Ash Wednesday in New Jersey: Covenant Chapel and St. Luke’s REC
- Feb 25-26 – Synod of REC Diocese of Mid-America
- Feb 28 – Holy Trinity, Houston
- March 6 – Christ Our Hope in Dayton, OH
- March 13 – St. Paul’s REC (Indiana, Fr. Daniel Sparks)
- March 27 – Easter (at TREC)
- April 3 – All Saints REC in Raleigh, NC
- April 7-10 – New Wineskins Conference in Asheville, NC
- April 12 – RE Seminary
- April 17 – St. Paul’s, Oreland with Dean of Indonesia, Timothy Chong.
- May 1 – St. Nicholas Church in Owensboro, KY (Dcn. Rob Sexton).
- May 8 – Grace Church, Circleville, OH (ACNA, Melanie Shuter)
- May 15 – Christ the King in Dayton, OH
- May 22 – St. Barnabas Anglican (ACNA) in Covington, KY.
- May 29 – St. Stephen’s REC in Flowood, MS
Before leaving STT St. Paul’s in Bandung, Indonesia, I left the students some essay questions, which were then translated into Bahasa Indonesia by the Rev. Yopie B. I reproduce them here for our readers’ enjoyment.
(Recommended sources: R. Hays, Reading Backward; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God; R. Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel.)
In 10 pages or less, answer ONE of these questions:
1. Explain how the NT epistles and the book of Revelation identify Jesus as divine while still holding to monotheism.
2. Explain how Jesus Himself and the authors of the four canonical gospels use the Old Testament to make the claim that Jesus is identified with the God of Israel.
3. List and explain five main ways that the OT asserts monotheism and show how the NT used those ways to say that Jesus is included in the identity of Israel’s God.