These people are beautiful. Their skin color is of cinnamon, and eyes that are brown and big. Their smiles are warm and contagious. Their country is beautiful—mountains line up like zigzags from the mainland to the coast, so green and lush. Their border is the Caribbean Sea; beautiful, blue and unspoiled.
I must admit, I didn’t know exactly why I came to this country. I knew about the poverty and the need, and I wanted to help. Sure, if people ask me what made me want to go to Honduras to volunteer at a school, I would answer the typical “because God called me to do it.”
But the truth is; no. He didn’t’ call me to do it. I found out about the volunteer opportunity through a Facebook status and it only took me 30 seconds before I applied for the position.
I didn’t pray about it when I got accepted; I instantly say “okay I’ll go”. Just like that.
I was desperate for something that I didn’t even know what it was. There’s emptiness in me and I desire to fill it with something that’s unexpected. But I knew that I wanted to know the truth, I wanted to see what grace looks like. I wanted to know whether there are sick and hurting people out there and what would I do about it.
So here I am, volunteering with Worldwide Heart to Heart Ministry which consisted of a Children’s Village, a bi-lingual school, and a medical clinic. The Children’s Village is a home to 90 something kids who were impoverished, lived on the streets, and abused.
I came to Honduras wanting to love these “poor and hopeless kids”, to help fix their broken life. But I think God surprised my proud heart quite a bit. Because it turned out that these poor and hopeless kids have loved me and helped to fix my broken life.
Even though I’m a newcomer at the school and the Children’s Village, kids would come up to me and smile shyly as they took my hand and invited me to play with them. They have no ability to judge, only to love. I’ve only been here for 2 weeks and God is changing my life. It’s mind-blowing to me sometimes to think that I am surrounded by many kids that have stories—stories that are deep, painful and ugly.
She came to the Children’s Village at the age of 7 carrying an unspeakable pain and trauma. She had been raped and abused by her father. She trusted no one and she didn’t talk much or open up to anyone for years.
Fast forward, last week I went to the ministry’s Quinceañera; a coming of age celebration for girls who’ve reached the age of 15. I was there and I saw her. She is one of the girls who are celebrating the Quinceañera, and she was stunning in her golden dress. She is now a beautiful young lady, and her face shines with love and gentleness that are contagious. She is a princess; a daughter of God.
I talked to her recently and I asked her what she wants to do in the future.
She said;” I want to tell people about Jesus, I want everyone to know Him.”
“I want to be a lawyer, to help others,” she added.
Suddenly it just clicked; I realized that we have an amazing God. A God can do anything. If God can change an abused and unloved girl to someone who radiates God’s redemptive love, I think there’s nothing that God cannot do. It made me think, if she who had endured such a pain can have a new hope in life, why should I give up hope?
I should not.
I will not.
For the longest time since I’ve started following Jesus, I never really understand the concept of grace. I still don’t, but recently I’ve been seeing glimpses of grace in work. To be honest, I thought that I’ll never be good enough. I thought that I’m just this dirty and wretched sinner that will forever be chained to struggles and addictions of the past. I’m haunted by painful and bitter memories of my childhood that carried through my early college years.
But I’m starting to believe that I can be set free. I believe that I am redeemed, and I am capable to love and to hope. I am capable to dream and to laugh. I am able. Even when I’ve been hurt and left alone in darkness, God is still with me.
You see, love is also a strange concept for me. It’s hard for me to feel and see love in a real sense. Growing up, my dad was abusive to me physically and emotionally. I didn’t know what the love of a father was; all I know was fear, and hatred. So I believed in a lie that I’ll never be able to love others or become a father figure because of my background. But God surprised me once again.
There’s this 9-year-old little girl who has the most beautiful smile that I’ve ever seen. She is in the class that I help teaching in Honduras; a special and smart little girl she is. I spent quite a bit of time with her, both at the village and in the school. Recently, she came up to me and gave me a tight hug and looked me with sparkling eyes and a big smile and said;
”You’re my daddy.”
These 3 words might sounds corny to most people, but to me it’s a life changing words. Waves of emotions came at me. These words of affirmation from a little girl are a testimony from God that he has redeemed me. Through this little girl, God has told me that I am capable to love. I’m not a wretched and evil man that I believed I was for so long. God told me that I have been redeemed, through Jesus Christ.
These last two weeks have been challenging, but rewarding in every way. I am dependent on God each day, He is all that I got. I must say that things aren’t always comfortable here in Honduras; electricity that goes on and off, no running water for days, and waking up at 5 in the morning every day to get ready for school. But in the midst all of this, God is still good to me and I’m thankful.
Each day is like a unique piece of glass that is a part of a big, beautiful mosaic. Each day, I’ve come to a closer understanding of what redemption looks like in a bigger picture. I don’t know when it will be complete or when I will fully understand the redemption of Christ. But I know that in the end the result will be beautiful.
God can do great things, He never fails. Truly, there’s nothing that God cannot do and I’ve never been as convinced of that as I am now.
Love. I think it’s an expensive word to say. I think people say it too easily without even meaning it. It has become a courtesy to say that quick ‘I love you!’ to your friends. Maybe it’s the right thing to do: maybe you really do love your friends. If that’s the case, you’re doing it better than I do.
I say it too. So cheaply that sometimes I don’t even think about it. Sometimes I say it because I want people to know that I’m a nice person, that I’m caring and loving. But my concept of love has changed. I don’t just simply say ‘I love you’ anymore, not for the sake of courtesy at least. I have learned what it means to love on a whole new level.
After two and a half years of being away from home and not being able to see my parents, I decided to go back home to Indonesia for winter break. I must admit that I was a bit nervous and I asked bunch of my friends to pray for me during my stay at home.
I was welcomed with the hot and humid air of Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. My dad picked me up at the airport and we embraced each other. It was sincere and loving- after all, we hadn’t seen each other for a while. The beginning of my journey home was stress-free.
I gazed out of the window from my seat. It’s not good-looking houses with mowed lawns anymore that I’m looking at, but small unsteady structures that they call “houses” with roofs made from leaves. It’s not flat and wide roads that we’re driving on, but narrow and bumpy roads. I could smell it in the coarse wind that was blowing in the van— poverty.
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant, and I was sitting near the outer part of the restaurant sipping my favorite ice tea when I saw her. She was carrying a baby in her fragile arms and she looked so malnourished and tired from the heat. Sweat poured down from her forehead, she didn’t have shoes on and her baby was silent. She approached me and raised up her right hand and said “tolong,” which means help.
Then the owner of the restaurant shooed her away with annoyance and complaints. I didn’t really know what to do. Nobody in the restaurant cared either: they continued with their meals. I stopped eating. When we were about to get back into the van, I approached the lady and gave her a roll of paper. There was some money in it and a note that said ‘Tuhan Yesus mengasihi kamu’ which translated means; Jesus loves you.
I hoped she knew how to read, because I wanted her to know the truth; that Jesus loves her. I started to feel numb and guilty. I felt like I should have done something more for the woman. It was a five-hour drive back to my home town, and everywhere I looked along the way there was poverty in all shapes and forms.
Finally I arrived at home, my mother and brother greeted me and we embraced each other. It’s a good feeling, to be able to be with your family again. That night I was thankful in my prayers, thankful that I’d arrived home safely and that I got to be with my family again. I prayed for strength for the next 30 days with my family. I felt like I was in a boat with no paddle in the middle of the ocean—and I hoped that there would be no storm.
The first few days were good, there weren’t any of the dramas or conflicts that I had feared would happen. But I guess good things don’t always last very long, because on the fourth day that I was at home, the much-feared conflict begun.
“Our people worship the spirits of our ancestors and gods that live in the clouds,” said my dad. “Why did you choose to become a Christian? You are too young, too easily influenced by what people told you to believe. You’re my oldest son, it’s such a shame for you to be like this. What have I done to you?! Why do you disobey my commands and go on your own ways?”
“You should focused on your career, be successful and well-off. Don’t be like us,” said my mom. “We had no education and no money, life was hard for me and your dad. We sent you to America so you can have a good life, don’t waste it for the sake of religion. Don’t break our hope for you. You have to focus on your future career, not your faith.”
“Religion is for the weak,” said my dad. “I’ve always known that you’re weak and have no ambition or strength. You choose to believe some white foreigners over your parents. Your God is everything for you, and I know you think that we’re lower than dogs in your eyes. I curse you! How dare you treat us like this?!”
And it went on and on.
Finally I decided that I didn’t want to listen to all of this anymore. I went upstairs, my dad followed me—yelling and cursing louder. My mother followed too and with teary eyes she kept trying to convince me that I should listen to my dad and abandon my faith. I told her that I loved her and dad, that I would never abandon them, and that Jesus told me to honor and love them.
My dad was still yelling and getting more furious. Memories started to flow back to me, I remembered how I hated this feeling, how I was so scared of him. I remembered all the times that he had beaten me, abused me, embarrassed me, neglected me. I had forgiven him—or so I thought. And now I was looking at his eyes, they were red and fiery. I kept repeating the word “Jesus” in my heart. I just wanted all of this to stop.
“Renounce your faith! Make an oath right now that you will not believe in Jesus and do as I say”, said my dad. “Renounce your faith!”
It took only a second for me to whisper softly this one word; “No.” That word was like a trigger to a bomb or something, because as soon as I said that, my dad exploded in anger and he started throwing things at me. His curses didn’t end when I decided to get away from the scene. Tears didn’t matter anymore—I had told myself that I was stronger than this, but the truth is, my heart was wounded.
I didn’t talk with my dad for a week after that. I didn’t talk much with my mom either. I couldn’t go to church, and I tried to read my Bible when they couldn’t see me. It was a strange circumstance. I’ve had all the freedom that I could possibly think of in the United States when it comes to expressing my faith. I never thought that my own family would think that I was a disgrace to them and their society because I’m a Christian.
My dad had to leave town for a business trip for a couple of days. By this time, every day when I went on the internet, I would receive 5-6 emails from my friends in the US, sometimes I would even get emails from people that I didn’t know. They all sent me encouraging messages and scriptures, they told me that they were praying for me. I appreciated their efforts. It was what kept my faith in order.
While my dad was gone, I had the opportunity to show the JESUS film to my mother and my younger brother. I shared the Gospel with them, hoping that they would receive Christ. I was hoping that with the absence of my dad, things would be easier, but maybe I was too hopeful. My mom didn’t become a Christian and she thought the movie was lame.
My dad came home with my sister. It was a joyous moment to be able to see my older sister. I had missed her. We instantly connected and shared stories about our lives, she felt sorry for the way my dad treated me. My sister is a Catholic and although she hasn’t been supportive with my evangelical faith in the past, somehow she had learned to accept me. There was one morning when we went upstairs and we prayed for our parents so that God would soften their callous heart and they would receive Christ as their Savior.
I spent the rest of my time at home wandering around the town. Everywhere I went, I saw brokenness. There were people who prayed five times a day to a god who doesn’t love back. There were people who burn incense and offer animal sacrifices to countless gods. My house was filled with idol statues and I felt so heavy every time I entered it. The spiritual warfare in places that I’ve been at home was very real. I got tired of all of this, and I didn’t know what to do. It was overwhelming and all I wanted was to get out.
I said my goodbyes to my family early in the morning, got into the car and left. I didn’t look back, I didn’t say anything. I was glad that I was on my way to the U.S.
Months passed, but I was not the same anymore. I still lead Bible studies even though my heart was not in it. I barely went to church or read my Bible. Everything seemed meaningless and empty.
I was mad. Mad at God.
I didn’t know why God let all these things happened to me. I was mad at myself too, mad that I thought this was the end of the world while being sure that others had suffered more than I did.
I felt weak, and hopeless.
It took months before I finally let God come into my life again. There was a moment where I came to the realization that God is worth it all. I realized that God wanted me to see and to feel those things at home- poverty, brokenness, and persecution- because He wants me to do something about it. He wants me to be bothered by it, to be broken by it. So that He can use me to make some changes. To bring light and tell the world about Christ.
It’s not easy to follow Jesus. It’s not easy to love your enemies. It’s not easy to trust God in all situations. I thought that going home was going to be wonderful and filled with laughter. But it didn’t ended up quite like that. Actually it was more of a disaster. But there’s something beautiful in it.
My faith and dependency on God has grown to a whole new level. My character is shaped and my armor thickens. In the midst of darkness I saw light and hope. I still believe that God can do the impossible. And already, I’ve felt glimpses of hope in my family.
I called my mom last month asking how she’s doing. She said she’s doing well, although she said she had a strange experience while visiting my sister in Singapore. She told me that she had a dream. In her dream, she was bothered by demonic spirits. She told me that these spirits wouldn’t leave her alone and they’d begun to hurt her physically. Then out of nowhere, she found herself repeating one word: Jesus.
The demons continued to bother her and finally my mom said these words in her dream: “In the name of the Lord Jesus, go away.” Immediately the demonic spirits vanished and my mom awakened from her sleep.
I was speechless.
How could this be even possible?? After that, I told my mom that God is real and He is protecting her even in her dreams. I sent my mom a copy of my Indonesian Bible for her to read. It’s my prayer that she would accept Christ one day.
The fact that my mom encountered the power of God in her dream when she didn’t believe in God is a miracle. When we had thought that our prayers went unheard, God is working in amazing way to reveal himself to the lost.
When Jesus called us to love our neighbor as ourselves, it seems easy at first to do it. But I still find it really heard to follow that call. I mean it should be easy to forgive and love your own family right? I confess that it’s hard, because things that they have said and done are hurtful and it’s only through the grace of Jesus that I can forgive and love them.
To say I love you is still hard for me, but perhaps one day it’ll change.
I’m not exactly sure what I’m trying to convey or what advice that I’m trying to tell you through this story. But I wanted to share it in hope that even though you’ve had bitter encounters in your life, you’ll know that God is working mightily to change even the worst disaster into something that’s beautiful. Praise be to God!
So I graduated from college, and I thought I had it all figured out—not quite. When you’re expected to have a nice job and a stable income, you chose to fundraise and intern at a nonprofit organization. When you thought that nonprofit world could be your next thing to do for a while, you found yourself working at a camp up in the mountains.
Actually, it’s much needed.
I came to this place not knowing where else to go. All I know is that my ears are shut and my soul is asleep, not wanting to hear from Him who whispers. I tangled myself up in webs of struggles, brokenness, loneliness, doubts, fears, and all the other kinds of junk that you can think of.
I woke up really early one morning. It’s my third day working at this place, and I’ve had hard time sleeping. So I get myself ready and head out to walk around. It is a beautifully crafted morning. Pines trees surround the rugged-looking cabins, furls of clouds resting not far above the trees, the grass and leaves are wet from the mist, all around is quietness. So quiet that you fear that your own breathing could wake up the nature.
I walked around, and I prayed—talking to God. A few words into my prayers, I found myself stopping my walk. My mind couldn’t form a single word and my soul was silenced. Then I felt it. “I am here,” He said. I know this feeling, when all brokenness is put aside and you welcome His solid presence, how I had missed it. I stood there in silence for a while, looking at the beauty of His creation, and I came to an understanding.
I have quenched the Spirit all these times. I have let the loudness of my own problems and the business of the world get in the way of hearing from God. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19 it says “Do not quench the Spirit,” and I want to learn how to obey that command.
I came to this place to find answers, to be healed and to be loved. I came here begging for mercy and to learn how to trust God in everything. I came to find quietness so I can hear Him speak. I might get some of these things, and I might not. And that’s okay.
You don’t have to live in the mountains to find solitude in God. Wherever you are, there’s always time and space that you should set aside to be quiet in fellowship with God. I would encourage you to find your moment with God, because nothing is more assuring than feeling the presence of our living God and hearing from Him.
Let go of your “noises” and welcome Him who says “Here I Am”, and let your soul find refuge in God.
“The voice of the Spirit of God is as gentle as summer breeze- so gentle that unless you are living in complete fellowship and oneness with God, you will never hear it. “—Oswald Chambers – My Utmost for His Highest.
I never really put much thought into sheep. I mean, who thinks about sheep unless you’re a shepherd or live on a sheep farm? However, the other day I was thinking about sheep—a lot. Before you start to think that I’m odd (which most of the time I must admit I am), I want to give you some background on why this has become a topic of my blog.
It started from a sermon by David Platt. He did a while he was in the Middle East entitled “Follow Me.” For those of you who don’t know, I love Platt’s teaching on the Bible. I think he is bold and truthful when it comes to preaching the Word. Anyway, he talked about what it really means to follow Jesus. He pulled out several scriptures from the book of Matthew: (The calling of the first disciples) and (The cost of following Jesus) are the ones that stuck out to me.
Platt further outlined that there are four common threads on Jesus’ “follow me” words. These words intend to tell Christians that “follow me” is a merciful, purposeful, costly, and rewarding invitation. (How is this supposed to tie in with the sheep thing? Hang on, we’ll get there soon!)
I won’t share in detail about all four threads that Platt talked about, but I do want to talk about one of them—a costly invitation. I must agree that it’s not easy to follow Jesus. In fact, it’s very costly and dangerous sometimes to do the things that He has called us to do.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”—Matthew 10:16
There. That’s the sheep story! Seriously, if you think about it this totally makes sense. If you are a follower of Jesus, then you are a sheep—figuratively. As a sheep, walking into the wolves means that you’re walking into your own grave. So why did Jesus call us to do that? What’s in there for me?
Have you ever felt that it’s so hard to share the love of Christ to your friends or family members? They think you’re weird, a “religious freak” that hold up hands in worship services. You’ll be ridiculed and mocked for being a Christian. You’ll be persecuted, your parents will disown you, and you’ll get killed. You might think I’m speaking nonsense, but it’s the reality.
Have you heard the news lately? around Egypt have been stormed and torched. In the span of 24-hours in Cairo alone—54 churches. Do you know that you could be by being a Christian in some restricted nations? Maybe you can’t really relate with all these because of where you live.
But let’s pretend that you’re a college student living in a dorm, trying to reach out to the people in your floor. Imagine walking into a room full of freshmen binge drinking in a party with a Bible in your hands and say: “Repent of your sins now! Or else y’all will end up in HELL!” Okay nobody does that…
But on a serious note, reaching out to guys in your floor can be tough. It takes so much effort and requires unconditional love. It’s uncomfortable to face non-Christians, there’s going to be all kinds of challenges coming at you.
Your life as a “sheep” is not easy. Following Jesus is a costly step to take in our lives. If you’re not careful, you can get “killed,” burned-out, and discouraged with life. But sheep, don’t forget the Shepherd! He said:”…I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I think that even as we walk into the wolves, the Shepherd will be watching us and He’ll not leave us astray.
It’s going to be rewarding, too. Jesus assured us that those who have sacrificed much for His sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. It’s not all for nothing. We do what we’re called to do because Jesus compels us to—for his glory, so others can be redeemed as we are, and so others can live in freedom from sins, a gift that is freely given to us.
So there you go, my story about sheep. I hope you can think about sheep today, and what it means to be a sheep among the wolves. It can be scary and crazy, but it’s going to be gloriously rewarding at the end.