it’s all about relationships…

I like lists. I like the feeling of checking tasks off a list. It makes me feel like I have accomplished something. Since coming to Indonesia, though, I have learned that life is about more than simply checking tasks off of a list…it’s about building relationships with people.

The other day I had to go to the trash dump community to meet with the community leaders about our next phase of health programs. Traffic was surprisingly good and we arrived about 30 minutes early. Our hosts slowly assembled everyone who was supposed to be in the meeting, and brought us drinks and snacks, and then started to converse with us. For the next hour and forty five minutes we talked about everything under the sun—the weather, Independence day celebrations, families—everything, that is except our health programs, which is why we were there in the first place.

Though looking back, I would have expected myself to be frustrated, I actually really ended up enjoying the conversation a lot. Not only was it great to be able to finally have enough language skills to follow the conversation, but it was also great to get a glimpse into how they really live and what they value. After the chit chat started to die down, we were able to bring up our proposed health programs, and in fifteen minutes, the community leaders had approved our health plans. Because you can’t just leave abruptly after discussing business, for the next thirty minutes we continued to talk about life in their community. After about two and a half hours of talking, we finally finished our conversation and headed back home.

In previous places that I have lived, business was just business. It was all about the efficiency of the meeting. You go in, get straight to the point, and then leave right away. If you are feeling particularly friendly, you might chit-chat for a couple of minutes, but then you get right to business. It’s not that people don’t care about each other, it is just that in the West we tend to value efficiency…we get things done and check them off of a list.

In Indonesia, though, it is not about getting a task done, it is about the relationships that you form with the people through the process of accomplishing tasks…It is why a fifteen minute meeting ended up taking two and a half hours. I am discovering that I really am learning to value relationships with people over being efficient at accomplishing tasks. When you take time to really listen to people, not just about what a specific meeting is about, you give them value, you build relationships, and it is through these relationships that you can get things done. Without relationships, you may have great ideas, but they will never go anywhere. Even when things do not go according to plan, if you value the people more than the task, then the situation is much less stressful, because it was not a complete waste, because there was a relationship formed or deepened through it.

Though I have learned many things in my time in Indonesia, I think this is one of the most life changing lessons. Building relationships with people should always trump tasks.

to eastern Indonesia I go…part 3 (the return)

     The trip to Seram was amazing, I was sad to leave. After our evening service Friday night in Samasuru, we packed up, said all our goodbyes (complete with 200 photos), and headed back to Masohi, so we would already be in town for our 8am boat ride back to Ambon island.
     The best part of arriving in Masohi was catching up with the other half of the team that had gone to a different village—Nuweletetu. None of us had good cell signal in the villages, so our communication had been very limited. Though it was the middle of the night, and we had a 5:30am wake up call the next morning, we did some quick catching up before heading to bed.
     The next morning at breakfast was a hum of activity, everyone sharing the highlights of their last three days. Though breakfast was loud, when we all got on the boat we fell asleep very quickly.
     Back in Ambon, our agenda for the day was to have a final team bonding experience and debrief of the past few days. We went to buy some souvenirs, went to the beach front to eat rujak (fresh fruit covered in peanut sauce) and then a photo shoot at the beach. After dinner we had our final team meeting and went over the highlights and challenges of the past few days. It was so cool to be able to process with each other before we went back home and had to try to synthesize our experience and be able to explain it.
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     Sunday morning, our last day, I went with Korry and some of the other guys from our team to a small church about an hour and a half away, which was located one village over from Korry’s family’s house. After service she took us around to see where she grew up. We went to this really cool rocky beach, where we attempted to climb rocks. I didn’t know we would be adventuring, so I had decided to wear a long skirt. Side note – I don’t know how pioneer women did it back in the day, I was really struggling to climb being so restricted in my movement. Anyway, after the beach, we went to her family’s village and I got to see her school and the house where she grew up. We had been talking about visiting for the past two years, so it was so cool to finally see it! After the village, we ate a quick lunch and then headed back to where we were staying so we could pack up and get ready to leave for the airport.
     Before we left for the airport, we decided to do one more photo shoot in our new Maluku shirts, which were a gift from our host for coming to help them. After that we took a full team picture, loaded up, and headed to the airport for our trip home.
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     It was such an incredible experience. I was so honored to be able to be a part of such an incredible team. I ate some really weird food (which for most people would be a negative, but for me was a great challenge), had a lot of laughs, and learned a lot about myself, about the concept of team, and about God. I am excited to hopefully continue a partnership with such an amazing place and team in Seram and Ambon.

to eastern Indonesia I go…part 2 (the village)

My time in Samasuru village was absolutely amazing!
    Before last week I had never really seen the whole process of building a house from scratch. I’m not exactly sure what I expected…but having a whole house framed, partially roofed, and part of the cement walls put finished in two days was not exactly what I expected. To see something start from a slap of stones and cement to a clear house structure in such a short time was absolutely incredible.
     When we arrived at our village the wood for construction hadn’t arrived yet, so instead of just killing time, we decided to work on finishing details on the existing church. We put plamir (kind of like plaster) on the walls, which would serve as a primer for future painting and look much better than grey cement walls.
     After a few hours, our team finished the inside walls and so we moved on to the outside walls. When I started to plamir the walls outside I had a whole group of ladies come up and started intently staring at me while I was working, which was quite disconcerting. Being quite self-conscious about my plamir technique, I made a joke that I was a little slower than the guys. One of the ladies responded in a very serious tone, “Of course, they’re men.” That was the first time I got a feeling that being one of two girls in a construction team of men might not be as smooth sailing as I thought it would be. However, I pressed on and we were able to finish all of the walls of the church both inside and outside before the start of our afternoon kid’s program.
     The second day our whole team got up and met at the construction site by 6am…even before coffee! The carpenters had been working all night to get the pieces of the house all in the right order so that it would just be a matter of pegging the pieces together and then raising the walls. I have never actually seen a barn raising in person, but I think this was probably very similar to what that would look like.
     After a little bit I saw Korry working with a guy on the edge of the construction site; she was using a machete to form pieces of wood into pegs. I decided to head over that way and see if maybe I could help too. One of the guys handed me a machete and a small piece of wood and I started on my peg. I worked for about 10 minutes and was almost done, when an old man came up to me, took away my machete and told me that he would “help” me by finishing it. I was a little disappointed, I had really wanted to at least finish my one peg, but I knew that I was a lot slower than they were, and we needed the pegs quickly so they could keep building, so I let it go.
     A couple hours in, our IES team realized that we had some free time before the carpenters would be ready for us to be able to help them with the next phase. Instead of just standing around watching, we decided to take a break and go to explore the beach a little bit. We put on our sandals and started our 15 minute walk to the beach through the woods/jungle. We had to wade through some water to get there, but it was completely worth it, the view was incredible! It was so refreshing to walk through the mini-jungle and then see the ocean and play and goof around a little bit with the rest of the team.
     After lunch we were able to start “chor-ing” on the walls. We had to nail wooden boards on both sides of where the walls would be and then pour cement inside of the boards. At first I think they only let me start mixing the cement because they thought I wanted a photo of me with the shovel, but when I didn’t give the shovel back after a few scoops, I think they realized that I really wanted to help. It felt so good to have my sleeves rolled up and finally be doing hard work…I guess my inner “farm-girl” came out and it was great! The fact that it surprised all the guys that I could keep up the mixing speed and quantity was also an added bonus. After about 15 minutes, though, they decided that I should help transport buckets of cement back and forth to the house (since I was a girl after all), so I changed jobs. I actually really ended up enjoying that too. I learned an interesting fact about myself on this trip…I don’t do well sitting still when there is a job to be done, I much prefer to get my hands dirty and be in the midst of the action.
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     Our last full day in the village we were able to finish up all the chor we could do with the supplies that we had, which lasted until right before lunch. After lunch, a bunch of the kids from the village decided to take us to the nearby river for some fun before we had to get ready for our last kids program of the week. I think playing in the river was one of the most fun things I have done in Indonesia. The kids were so unbelievably excited to play with us. Korry and I decided that we were going to sit on a log in the middle of the river and watch the kids and our other team members swim and play in the current. Well, the kids decided they would swim towards us and give us pretty stones as a “toll” for passing by. We laughed, we splashed, we got some sun…it was amazing. Definitely a great final afternoon in Samasuru.
     Not only did we get to work on construction projects, but we also got to work with children…both during our organized kids program, and throughout the week in any free time that we had. The pastor’s two children, Icha and Jael, became my best buddies. One of them was always grabbing on to me or Korry. It took me a while to earn their trust (as I don’t think they had ever seen a white person before), but once they decided they liked me, we were best friends.
     For our kids program, we had been expecting 35-50 children maximum. We were going to do music, games, a craft, and story time. By the time our first afternoon kids program started, we had 147 kids…but only supplies for 50! Thankfully Korry is great at thinking on her feet, so we were able to adapt our program, and no one but us knew that it wasn’t how we initially planned it. The kids laughed, danced, and were just full of joy. For much of the story, they were laughing so hard their eyes were watering. It was better than we could have imagined!
     The last afternoon after the story we took time to pray for each of the kids. While we were praying they were singing the most beautiful song in Indonesian. They sounded like a choir of angels, their voices were so beautiful. After spending three days with them, it was such an honor to get to pray for them.
     Though our organized kids activities were awesome, my favorite part was just hanging out with the kids after the scheduled program. We had a group of about 8-10 of them that would take us on walks, or just stay late and sing every Sunday School song they knew with us. It was so special to get to know them a little bit, to play with them, and to show them love. They are so full of joy. When I was with them, I just couldn’t help but feel full of joy too. Though I am not fluent in Indonesian, my language was good enough to be able to communicate and chat about life, about school, about what they do for fun. They told me about their culture and some of the weird things they eat, like giant snakes. I feel like they gave me a small glimpse into their world, and it was such an honor.
    After our last kids program, we had to get ready for the evening service. It was so cool to worship with everyone in their language one more time before we headed back to Ambon. After the service we took a bazzilion pictures, loaded up the ancot, and headed back to Masohi to meet the other half of the team.
     It was sad to leave them after having really connected. I learned a lot about myself, about them, about life…I will forever be grateful for the three days in Samasuru. But while I was a  little sad to leave, I was also really excited to catch up with the other half of the team and hear what had happened in their village for the past three days.
(to be continued) 

to eastern Indonesia I go…part 1 (the journey)

     Since coming to Indonesia two years ago I have been talking with Korry (my housemate and my Indonesian sister) about visiting the Maluku Islands, where she is originally from. When the opportunity to take a team from IES there for a building and kids outreach trip, we both jumped at the chance to join! The trip went above and beyond anything I could have expected.
     The trip can be broken up into roughly three parts – the journey, the village, and the return. Over the next three posts I will share each part of the experience.
Seram 2015 – Part 1: The Journey
     The journey to Seram began at 11pm when our team met at the airport to check in and then  board our midnight flight to Ambon island. One thing I learned very quickly about our team, is that they were definitely a photo-friendly crowd…we stopped for pictures about every 10 minutes through the airport, hahaha.
     After a four hour flight (which surprisingly left early from Jakarta), we landed bright and early in Ambon, where we ate a quick breakfast and boarded a speed boat for our 2 hour ride across the water to Seram Island, where we would be serving for the next week.
IMG_4456     Having gotten very little sleep the night before due to the crazy plane schedule, the whole team fell asleep almost the moment we sat down in our seats on the boat…with a short wake-up time to go to the deck in the front of the ship and get some good pictures and fresh sea air.
     When the boat docked in Amahai, Seram, we piled ourselves and all our luggage into three vehicles and made our way to the guest house, where we would stay for the next two nights. After settling in a little, we went to get lunch and then proceeded directly to our afternoon kids program.
     One of the first signs that we were far from Jakarta came that first afternoon after the kids program. In Jakarta people are much more used to seeing bules (white people), so I was a little surprised when after our program, all 130 kids rushed towards me and wanted a selfie with the “bule”.
     I figured I had two options, either say no, or get fully into character and embrace the moment. Since I was their guest, I figured it would be best to just go for it. It ended up being a blast taking pictures, getting into it with them and making funny faces and the peace sign. While it was quite fun, I must say, I am glad that it is not a regular part of life and just an occasional experience.
     After the kids program, we went back the house, changed, and proceeded to our evening service. It turned out that at the church we went to, they had the same type of dance team that I was in when I was growing up in Mexico and Spain. It was so cool to watch!
     The second day in Masohi, started quite abruptly. At 5am very loud music started playing. I awoke quite startled and a little confused. At first I thought it was someone’s alarm…but it kept playing over and over and over for over an hour. I tried everything to block it out, plugging my ears, putting a pillow over my head, playing my own music, but nothing could drown out the sound. At 6am I finally gave up and decided to get up and get ready for the day. I learned later that the sound is from one of the churches in the valley that plays it to call people to come and pray before they start their day…very interesting.
     After breakfast, we split up into two smaller teams—one to train Sunday School teachers, and the other half to do a seminar on family and leadership in the morning (which was my team). We had about 45 people attend each seminar, which I think was pretty good attendance.
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     Once the seminar was done, my group went back to the guest house to rest up before we had our evening service. Instead of resting like we probably should have, some of us decided to hike up the ridge across the street from the guest house where we were staying. We wanted to see if we could get a better view of the ocean. We got to hike up through beautiful greenery and we did end up with a great view. When we got back to the house we sat and chatted and then took a short rest before leaving for the service.
     During the evening service I was able to share my testimony, and then help pray for people after the sermon. It was so cool to be able to share how God had been faithful in my life through healing me, and then challenge them to believe God for the impossible too.
     After service, I got to chat and take selfies with the girls who were on the dancing team, which was a blast! They even invited me to join them next time I came back. I thanked them, but know that I am no longer any where close to as good as they are, and probably couldn’t even keep up anymore…but it was still sweet of them to offer.
     After that, we had a snack with the Pastor, and then met up with the other half of the team for dinner. By the time we finished and got back to guest house it was almost 11pm. We had just a few hours to sleep before we made our journey in to the villages where we would be spending the next three days.
     Bright and early the next morning I was up and ready to go. After a quick group photo, we loaded our vehicle, piled in, and began our two hour ride to the village we would be staying in for the next three days, Samasuru…
(to be continued)