A letter from Rebecca Young in Indonesia
Dear Friends in Christ,
Greetings from Jakarta Theological Seminary!
We are now halfway through our semester. I teach five undergraduate courses. Each class serves to keep me motivated about teaching and about learning new ways to express God’s love. The courses are:
(1) Current issues affecting the church
(2) The Lord’s Supper
(3) Modern theology
(4) Women in theology
(5) Creation care
The class on current issues has provided some great discussions, such as: whether the church’s mission is only evangelism; how Christian education should focus on families as well as teaching by age groups; the phenomenon of people leaving mainstream churches to join nondenominational ones; and whether or not the church is welcoming to people with special needs.
I am team-teaching the class on the Lord’s Supper with Dr. Ester Pudjo, who is our professor of liturgy. I asked her if we could teach a class together so that the students would learn how the theology and church teachings they learn from me will be an integral part of the liturgies that they will lead on Sunday in their churches after they graduate. It has been a wonderful experience as we study together about the theology behind worship rituals, the history of the sacrament of Communion, and how we can make it more meaningful today.
In the modern theology class we are reading from the works of famous theologians: Hegel, Schleiermacher, Bultmann, Tillich, Barth, Rahner, Reinhold Niebuhr, Bonhoeffer, Moltmann and Gutiérrez. If you have managed to read works by any of these theologians, I salute you, because it is tough going! My students and I struggle to figure out their main points and what contributions they can make to contemporary theology.
The fourth class covers theology from women in the U.S., South America, Africa and Asia, where women have made lots of contributions in the past few decades. I described those contributions during the first half of the semester. Now the students lead the classes as we discuss women’s issues in Indonesia.
Last week a group of five students made a class presentation that focused on public facilities for women. The buses and trains in Jakarta offer train cars or sections of bus seating that are exclusively for women. The student presenters spoke of how women are often either sexually harassed or raped by male passengers, transportation workers and security guards. Some of the class members responded by saying that the women who get harassed or raped have caused it themselves by what they were wearing or how they were acting. This led some of the other students to argue that it is never the woman’s fault.
The group making the presentation quoted from the Bible passage about Jesus and the adulterous woman, saying that we cannot blame the women as sinners while the men go free. It was quite a lively class. At the end of our time I asked them to think about ways that the church can help teach people to protect their own bodies as precious gifts from God so that they aren’t abused by other people, and how we should teach that lesson to girls and boys as well as men and women.
While all those four classes are terrific, the most exciting class is the one on the environment (“Creation Care”). I offered this class because students have asked me how they can take a more active role in caring for God’s world. I am team-teaching this class with a pastor named Evangeline Pua, who had the opportunity a few years ago to come to the U.S. and study environmental issues.
We have divided the students into six groups. Five of the six groups are doing activities on our Jakarta campus: each one is focusing on a different aspect of campus life and how to reduce wastefulness and overuse of resources. Two groups are raising awareness about the use of plastic, one group is looking at how much paper the seminary uses, another is looking at water usage, and the fifth is studying transportation and how people come to campus.
The fifth group has come up with an idea of having a “walk to campus” day every week, and also encouraging people to switch from private vehicles to public transport. One of the students, inspired by the class, has started riding his bike to campus every day instead of driving his car. I’m very proud of this student and his commitment to the environment, especially considering that a student with a car enjoys elevated status on campus.
The sixth group has developed a Sunday school program for elementary school children in a local congregation. They decided to follow the existing curriculum plan of the congregation. Then after each lesson on Sunday by the regular teachers, my students provide an activity related to that day’s Bible verse or theme. For example, one week the children were learning that when they do something wrong, they need to admit what they did and act better in the future. In my students’ activity with the children, they did a role play in which someone threw trash on the ground, then realized their mistake and picked it up and put it where it belonged.
Considering that my students are undergraduates, I am proud of how they are tackling many tough topics and theological ideas. It is a joint effort in which we learn together.
Thank you for being the vital link that provides support to let me focus on teaching and help my students to learn and grow in their faith. I am so grateful to be able to be part of these students’ lives as they prepare for a lifetime of service. I look forward to the future knowing that your support will continue through your prayers, your willingness to learn about Indonesia, and your sharing my stories with your friends, as well as your financial support. With your generous help, we are making a difference!
In Christ’s peace,
The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 227
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