I was privileged to travel to Indonesia in May.
Over the course of two weeks, I met with hundreds of theological students in two different colleges and shared with ministers, pastors and lay leaders from different denominations on cross cultural ministry and mission.
I was also fortunate to meet and listen to leaders from the UCA’s 10 partner churches and organisations in Indonesia, Timor Leste and the Philippines who were gathered for the opening of the UnitingWorld South East Asia Regional Office in Badung, Bali.
During my travels across Java and Bali, there was one question people often asked me, “when living in a diverse community, what is the most important value or ethic we can bring cross culturally?”
My answer was very simple: grace.
This is not a new thing for Indonesian people.
Living side by side with those who are different is the reality of life in Indonesia. People need to communicate and negotiate with others in order to live together in peace and harmony. People are often changed and transformed by their relationship with others.
Take for example PESAT Theological College in Salatiga, Central Java. The interdenominational college runs a very specific program preparing students to minister in remote areas of Indonesia. Many of the students come from different islands and the campus has been built in the style found in the remote areas where the students will be working. During their three years of study, the students live on campus and are taught many skills on how to live and survive in a small village.
I am grateful to Rev. Rensius Sinaga, the Principal of PESAT, and Mr Suprapto Widodo who organised my visit and gave me the opportunity to share with students on the importance of creating a space of grace. I spoke to students about the diversity of the Uniting Church in Australia, with 26 different languages and 12 National Conferences coming together. We are all different but we are all committed to living together as parts of the Body of Christ.
I then asked the students to share their own stories about experiencing acceptance, inclusion and belonging in a diverse community. I heard many inspiring stories of how a community was transformed when they found ‘a space of grace’ for everyone.
At the opening celebration of the South East Asia Regional Office, I preached on the same theme, creating a space of grace in a diverse community. My thanks to Dr. Debora Moerty, the Regional Coordinator and Hindra Sulaksono the Program Manager for organising this.
People then openly shared on how a space of grace can lead to community transformation. Aginel Chingwaro, a Zimbabwean Consultant on HIV and AIDS who has been working in West Papua since 2009, shared how important ‘a space of grace’ was to HIV and AIDS sufferers in the life of their community.
Dr Takim Andriono from the Christian Foundation Trampil in Surabaya East Java also spoke about the need for grace in preparing leaders and leadership teams.
Throughout my trip I found the forms and challenges of creating a space of grace may be different from one place to another, but the commitment to make this space of grace is the same from one place to another. I thank God for this commitment.