Just a little while ago I boarded the first of several flights to get home.
The airport in Manado, Indonesia is quaint and provincial with a steeply soaring red metal roof. Small propeller planes park haphazardly along a runway lined with a thick forest of coconut trees. Volcanic peeks rise precipitously on either side forcing the plane into a steep right bank to avoid their jungled cliffs. Just the sort of thing you’d expect to see in a movie— lush and intense and strange enough to feel vaguely foreboding.
In the week we’ve been here I’ve fallen in love with this land. It is a place of mystery, romance, poverty, laughter, and pageantry. It is at times frightful and so entirely foreign to the ways I understand—and it is full of the most resilient and delightful people I have ever known.
Just for fun, I thought I’d interview myself… asking the questions I thought you might have as to why in the world we’ve traveled around the world to come to this land.
We came at the invitation of Andrew Palau, an international evangelist who goes to decidedly unglamorous places in order to partner with the Church to bring the message of the Cross to people who need to hear.
Our role here was to speak to the pastors and leaders, to build relationships, to get to know who they are and what they need. We came to teach at a conference for pastors— Phil taught two sessions and we taught one together. Because Andrew works thru the church, it just makes sense to bring in a pastor who understands the burdens and unique challenges every pastor faces.
Phil also spoke at a press conference, a dinner for community leaders, and at three church services. We had dinners and lunches with leaders from all over town. At one luncheon with an influential government official, we were entertained by an internationally acclaimed choir of university students. The a cappella performance was astounding.
What didn’t you like?
The smells. I have this unfortunately over-active nose and Indonesia has a plethora of unfortunately ripe odors. Fish and mold and urine and strange spices mixed with that peculiar smell of a people whose skin is seeped in humidity.
What about the people?
My absolutely favorite thing about these folks is their unending sense of humor. They giggle— a lot. And they tease— a lot. Their lives are full of serious challenges and yet they approach those problems with that gentle delight of a people with very little need to control. I loved that.
Who did you meet?
Tante Allie is a 78 year-old pastor of one of the largest churches on the island of Sulawesi. Her husband founded the church years and years ago and since he passed away last year, she has carried the leadership. Her approach is decidedly motherly, with that calmly assuring way of speaking that makes everything all right.
The tiny woman (she can’t be more than 5 feet tall) is revered by her people, and yet it is her servant’s heart that is so remarkable.
She handed me her paper fan during a particularly sweltering evening service, insisting that I keep it. I will treasure that small gift as a memory of meeting a great woman of God.
What about the food?
We ate rice and fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They aren’t afraid to see what they’re eating like we are in America. Squid has all the tentacles still attached. Fish eyes are savored. Pigs are roasted whole with the snout proudly propped open. They were kind enough to shield us from some of their personal favorites, like bat and snake and dog.
What are you craving from home?
A nice fresh, crispy salad. My friend, Echo Zelinksi, posted pictures of her trip to the Portland Farmer’s Market on Instagram and I’ve been salivating ever since.
How about the weather?
Most days were 90 degrees, dripping with sauna-like humidity. The nights cooled down to 85 degrees. But every day at some point the sky filled with fierce storm clouds and dumped buckets of rain on everything, cleaning the air and the streets and the trees to a sparkling beauty.
Do you love to travel?
I think God must have a great sense of humor in sending me to some of these far away places. I’m basically a homebody, content to curl up by my fire, with nary an adventurous bone in my body. Yet in the past 12 months I’ve traveled to Albania and Italy and Haiti and Indonesia.
The only thing that keeps me packing my bags is the people. On these trips I get to know some of the Greats in our world. Men and women who have willingly suffered and purposely denied themselves in order to follow Jesus with abandon. It is printed on their faces— a certain strength and joy that brings compelling beauty.
What do you miss when you’re gone?
My kids! My grandkids!
I miss date night with the whole crew and Scarlet’s cuddles and Jude’s lengthy, impassioned explanations. I miss Sunday’s softly affectionate caresses and Duke and Mo’s wild silliness. As soon as I get home I’m heading over to Tammy’s house for a manicure (I know, I’m spoiled!) and then I’ll meet Elizabeth for a cup of tea and a good long chat. Matt will be the one to pick us up from the airport so he can fill us in on all his doings during these last days of college.
I’m really just a mom who loves being a mom and a grandma with a delightfully wiggly fan club.
Just this— I couldn’t have and wouldn’t have planned this rich story all those years ago when we first started on this adventure of living first and foremost for Jesus. Yet God, in His kindness has dished out more delight than I ever thought possible.
I have a really, really good life.
And the part I don’t like— being deaf? It plays a part too. Because when I go to a poor country like Indonesia or an oppressed place like Haiti, the first thing the women see is a wealthy American with minimal troubles and laughable worries. But as soon as I tell them my story… I become one of them. They get it and they know I do too. I am welcomed into the fraternity of fellow sufferers with a warmth that takes my breath away.
I wish I had known that during those dark days when I was sure my life was headed for bleak aloneness. I wish I had understood this “fellowship of suffering” for those who enter in with Jesus and hold tight to Him in the midst of trouble. It’s actually one of those crazy surprises that has made my life rich.
From my heart,