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Telling the story from different points of view

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Connecting in Indonesia and around the world

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 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace.  Romans 15:13

One congregation in the rural village of Srumbung Gunung and another in the city of Ungaran. The two Mennonite churches in Indonesia are probably not 20 miles apart, but in other ways, the distance seems much greater. 
     There are almost 110,000 Mennonites in Indonesia in three different synods (denominations). One originated in a Javanese context (GITF), and another began among the Chinese in Indonesia (GKMI). The third (JKI), younger, more pentecostal and urban, is also more connected to Mennonites on the West Coast of the United States.
     On the first Sunday of Advent at 7 a.m., you could see the members and families of the Srumbung Gunung (GKMI) congregation (left above) walk up the road to the church at the top of the hill. They are a minority here because most of their neighbors are Muslim. But neighbors are neighbors and this community appears to be living together in peace.
During worship, I am sitting besid…

Our help comes from the Lord

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I will lift up my eyes to the hills - from where will my help come? 
My help comes from the Lord. Psalm 121:1, 2
     Indonesia is a Muslim majority culture. The proportions vary, but whether you are part of the 10 or 20% minority or almost half of the population, it means something extra to be a Christian in this country. 

     I traveled up into the Muria area, a mountainous region where Mennonite Christians originated in the 1850s, on my way to stay with a family for a week in the village of Sukodono. I was with Pak Jimmy and Pak Lilik, MCC national staff, and we visited Mennonite churches, schools and hospitals on the way. 

     Pak Lilik told me his parents were Muslim. His sister took him to Sunday school as a young child and he eventually became a Christian. Of his six siblings, only he and his sister are Christians. He said, in the end, his parents were able to honor his choice. 

     We met Jonathan Gravelle (above), a SALTer from British Columbia teaching English in several school…

Go and do likewise

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And who is my neighbor . . .  the one who showed him mercy. (Luke 10)
In the Gospel of Luke, when the lawyer asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life, Jesus tells him to love the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind and strength and love his neighbor as himself.  Still not satisfied, the lawyer asks Jesus who his neighbor is?

     Jesus responds by telling the parable of the good Samaritan and concludes by asking the lawyer which of the three who passed by the man who was robbed was a neighbor tohim. The lawyer responds by saying that the neighbor to the man was the one who showed him mercy. 

     Jesus responds: Go and do likewise. 

     What does it mean to go and do likewise in our world today? I am thinking of that today as I sit in Indonesia and watch the violence unfold in Gaza. What does it mean to be a neighbor to people when violence, poverty and unemployment are constant threats to families and 80 percent of the population is dependent on aid? What does it mean to be a neighbor to…

City of Peace

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Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. - Psalm 146: 3 Solo, Indonesia
     There are more Muslims in Indonesia than in any other country in the world. And while the large majority of Indonesia's Muslims are moderate and opposed to violence, fundamentalist Islam and terrorism also exist. In fact, there is a history of violence in Solo. Every terrorist act in Indonesia since 1999, including a bombing of a church last month, can be linked to Islamic teachers in this city. There is a fear among many in the Muslim community that Solo is a recruiting grounds for terrorism. 
     The Forum for Peace Across Religions and Groups (FPLAG) has been working for peace for more than a dozen years. Mennonite Central Committee, through its connection with the Mennonite churches in Indonesia, has been partnering with FPLAG since its beginning. The Forum began when Mennonites and other Protestant groups, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, followers of Confucius and…

Sharers in the promise of Christ Jesus

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. . . members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.(Eph 3:6)

"In Indonesia, MCC is salt so that the church can be the light," long-time MCC Indonesia worker Jeanne Zimmerly Jantzi told me in the MCC office in Salatiga. There are good reasons why MCC has a long record of working in this country, she told me. 

There's a history of violence here and Indonesia is in a part of the world that experiences natural disasters regularly. The largest Islamic population in the world is here. And one of the largest populations of Mennonites outside of North America is also in this country. In fact, Jeanne said, every partner MCC has in Indonesia and every placement it makes is with the blessing of the three Mennonite Church synods.

Later that week, we gathered in Semarang, Indonesia. Eighteen candidates. A leadership team from the three Mennonite synods. And Mennonite Central Committee workers. Our purpose was the same - to determine which six y…

May God bless your hand

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Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. (Isaiah 40:31)

In northern Iraq, 300 miles from Baghdad and 60 miles from Mosul, the informal headquarters for what's left of Al Qaeda, the city of Erbil feels safe.

Christians are a small minority here, many displaced by the overwhelming violence from Baghdad or other parts of the country. The Mennonite Central Committee Iraq office also moved here from Baghdad.

Much of MCC's work here is about accompanying the church. One of its largest partners is the Chaldean Catholic Church. Archbishop Bashar says one of his priorities is creating a climate where Iraqi Christians know they can stay, where they can find jobs and make a better life for their children. Building institutions that are are effective in transferring mission and values can make a difference in this community.

One MCC partner is the Kids House pre-school, a Global Family project. Five years ago, MCC helped by purchasin…

Christ at the checkpoint

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Do you want to be made well? (John 5:6)

I sat in the quiet of St. Anne's Basilica in in the old city of Jerusalem and remembered the story about Jesus in John 5. It was here, outside by the pools of Bethesda, that Jesus healed the paralyzed man.

"Do you want to be made well," Jesus asked the man? The man was incredulous. Of course, he wanted to be made well. He'd been waiting by the side of the pool for years but no one had been willing to help him in.

"Then stand up, take your mat and walk," Jesus told the man. And immediately the man was made well.

In this land where Jesus once walked, the geopolitical issues are complex. Caught in a web of conflict and violence, both the Jews and Palestinians think this land is theirs. Some Jews, fearful of the rest of the world and supported by American Christians, treat unjustly Palestinians who have also lived in this land for many centuries. And some Palestinians respond in kind.

And these dynamics spill ove…

Breaking down the dividing walls

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For Christ is our peace . . . he has brought both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility. (Ephesians 2:14)

I stood on the hill in the twilight in Nogales, Arizona looking down over the U.S./Mexico border wall into Mexico. How broken our relationships must be in order to make a wall like this one, 20 feet high for hundreds of miles, necessary.

I was with a group of staff from Mennonite Central Committee from all over the Americas who had gathered in Tucson to strategize our future work together to help tear down this wall.

Tearing down this wall will mean caring for people in need on both sides of the border, whether or not they have the right papers.

Tearing down this wall will mean working with communities throughout Mexico and Central America to be help people develop sustainable livelihoods so that people are not so desperate to go North to provide for their families.

Tearing down this wall will mean working in the United States for faire…