Sunday, June 15, 2014

One Question: Advice from Java, Indonesia

Recently, I wrote to many friends who are nationals of countries that receive missionaries. All of these friends have worked with westerners and many of them have served as missionaries themselves. I asked my friends to respond to one question, “What advice would you give a western missionary coming to serve in your country?” 

Every Monday, internet access permitting, I post their responses. Last week we heard from Soro here in Papua. If you missed it, you can read Soro's letter here.
Advice from Sugi on serving in Java, Indonesia

Bio: Sugi, together with his wife Elva, serve with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) in Taiwan. Sugi and Elva travel throughout South East Asia working alongside local churches to provide in depth bible teaching to local pastors, church workers, and Christian fellowships. You can read more about the ministry of YWAM here:    

Q: What advice would you give to a western missionary coming to serve in Indonesia? 

I think this is not a simple question to answer, because the culture in Indonesia is really diverse. You live and serve among the people of Papua, which I don't really understand their culture. Honestly in my thought Papua still mostly jungle, people eat sagu (papeda), and eat silk worm. While I grew up eat rice as my main staple, from Chinese descendant, went to Catholic school from kindergarten up to high school in the Island of Java which predominantly Muslim.

I've met YWAMers from Papua in 2012 during National staff conference in Makassar (South Sulawesi) and I feel there are many things I need to know and learn from their culture. We might speak the same language though honestly I found it not easy to understand their Bahasa.

If one day I have the opportunity to visit and stay in Papua I would (and this could be my advice to westerners too):

·         Learn their language. Because when you learn their language, you learn their culture. 

·         Easterner mostly don't speak what in their mind, need to understand what we try to say between the lines. I sometimes find it hard to understand it too. Often I will rephrase what someone is trying to say just to make sure I understand what they are saying or if that's really what they mean to say. 

·         Don't be afraid to make mistakes (because you will) and learn from your mistakes. Better to learn from someone else's mistakes. Less painful. 

·         Can't learn anyone’s culture in a day, or a month. It takes sometime; so give yourselves some grace.
·         Watch and learn from the locals, don't be embarrassed to ask and learn. In general, I believe Indonesia is really hospitable.

What about you? Are you from a country that typically receives western missionaries and charity workers? What are we doing wrong? What are we doing right? E-mail me your thoughts on

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