Back and Still Around

Posted on March 6, 2012


I’ve just returned from seventeen days of traveling throughout Indonesia. This was a trip for work, and it really was a lot of work. Out of 17 days we were able to sneak in one afternoon of relaxing on the beach, the rest of the time spent traveling around the country. In a nation of 15,000 mountainous islands this is no easy feat. Our travels included planes, buses, and miles and miles in vans over rocky roads. The trip was still (relatively) smooth even while being incredibly long. No one got seriously sick, nor were there any traffic accidents, which if you have ever traveling in Indonesia, is remarkable.

A part of me approached this trip as a journey of self-discovery. I would be away from all things familiar: family, home, friends, work-place, and all the other accouterments of my life. I would be in a new and different place, surrounded by new and different people, language, and customs. It would be a good time to do some meditation and introspection. Secretly I was hoping for some kind of illumination. Or at least insight into myself.

Did I find it?


I can say definitively that I am more appreciative of my wife and kids and extended family. I appreciate being able to pull familiar food from my pantry and prepare it myself. I have a renewed love for all the people who normally surround me with their presence and love.

But was my world rocked in a way that left me changed forever? No. Not really. And it probably wasn’t a realistic expectation that it would.

However, I was left with the redoubled conviction that people are more the same than they are different. Circumstances like geography might change, but the human condition is basically the same: people care about their friends and family and want the freedom to live their lives in peace.

Beyond this there is a single image that I will hold in my heart. It is of a small, open-air church that we visited high in the mountains on the island of Bali. It was a congregation of maybe 50 people, with maybe half that attending our mid-week visit. What struck me was not the numbers, glamor, or the charisma of any individual. Rather it was that these people attended because they love Jesus Christ.

In a largely Hindu context, it would be much easier for any of them to simply follow in the local traditions. These people might get a small sense of community, but not like most North American churches who offer a complete menu of services to their members: small groups, professional musicians, youth programs, educational opportunities, and a significant ego boost by being identified as a “member” of a congregation.

I got to see the essentials of the church on display for a little while. Nothing else had been added. It was a community of believers. While many North American churches struggle to return to the beliefs “of the early church” I wonder if they would be willing to return to the context of the early church? Would I? While there is something romantic about attending a church like that, I don’t know if I could do it.

And that is the question with which I wrestle today.

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