A letter from Bernie and Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta serving in Indonesia
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Dear Family, Friends and Colleagues,
Recently Farsijana celebrated her 50th birthday. We organized a big party with guests limited to 50 people, including our household, family and friends. We chose friends to represent different stages and parts of Farsijana’s life. Everyone was requested to share a gift in the form of a story, song, poem, prayer, dance, Scripture, etc. A Muslim friend shared verses from the Qur’an while a Christian shared Bible verses related to the blessing of those who serve others, open their homes, and build true family hospitality. Farsijana, with an army of family and friends, prepared 50 different kinds of food and drink, divided into 10 courses with five types for each course. Farsijana loved it: Farsi’s (Babette’s) feast! After each course a few guests shared their creative gifts, while everyone prepared their stomachs for the next round of delicacies. The food told a story of our travels to many different countries. Everywhere we go Farsijana seeks out new tastes that she can learn to cook and share with others. Her kitchen is something of a legend among our friends. Now her love of cooking is becoming a means of ministry to the villages around our city through a new organization for village excellence called Griya Jati Rasa (House of Authentic Sense—HAS).
Eleven days after the party Farsi joined young people in a poor village to harvest cassavas from their gardens. She wanted to teach them to prepare new kinds of food from this common root plant. Rather than just sell the raw tubers at a low price, they could receive a much higher resale value if they process and cook it into saleable food. So after the harvest, all day long they cleaned, grated and cooked the cassavas. They made three kinds of Javanese cakes and four kinds of chips. The young farmers became entrepreneurs who could ask much higher prices for the product of their land. While they worked they also prepared a delicious vegetable dish for their lunch from young cassava leaves picked straight from the garden.
The village youth are led by Luki Fidiantoro, a 27-year-old Muslim man. He lives adjacent to the rice fields with two brothers, a sister and their father. His mother died of diabetes. Luki graduated from a top university and works as a junior high history teacher. His job pays little but gives him plenty of time to serve the youth in his village. Among other activities, he offers them simple leadership training. Farsijana and HAS were invited to attend the annual evaluation of the village youth organization. From the evaluation it was clear that Luki needs spirit from outside the community to encourage his voluntary service. As in many close-knit communities, there was conflict. Some of the young people were angry over the results of competitions held in celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. They thought the committee was unfair in determining the winners. After Luki and his friends learned to make cassava cakes they took them to the alienated young people so that all could eat together and make peace.
Food is not just for taste or health. Food brings people together and can stimulate new visions for cooperation, using the common materials of everyday life to reduce poverty and improve everyone’s life. Farsijana’s work with HAS focuses on five villages that have different areas of excellence that they can share with each other. In the future the young people, led by Luki,will visit the other four villages, sharing their experience of processing cassava and making peace. Conflict resolution and economic empowerment are mutually empowering. To reinforce this vision Farsijana is bringing the resources of our university to bear on the real practical problems of villagers. Dr. Singgih Santoso, the Dean of the Business School at Duta Wacana Christian University (DWCU), is holding workshops in entrepreneurship and small business development for villagers. In turn his colleagues and students can go out of their classrooms and learn about the real economic problems of villagers at their source. As the impact spreads, the Peace and Conflict Studies program at the university will also become involved in this two-way process of learning and sharing. Community economic development increases awareness of the urgency to cooperate, in spite of differences in religion, culture and experience. Working together for the common good brings a sense of justice and peace to family members in the villages.
Christians often understand Jesus’s “parable of the talents” (Matthew 25:14-30) as a story about how individuals should use the “talents” or abilities given to them. We forget that the “talent” in the story is literally money or material resources. The multiplication of the talents through investment is not for the servant’s personal wealth, but rather for the Master and the good of the whole community. Cooperation between Muslim villagers, a Christian university and the multi-religious activists in HAS is working to overcome cutthroat competition and religious exclusivism to promote peace in the Kingdom of God.
Our life in Indonesia is not all celebration and work for the community. It also includes the unexpected pains of our human frailty. Last year Farsijana faced the stunning shock of a car accident that fractured two of her vertebrae and forced her to find new creative ways of living during her recovery. Now she is back to all her normal activities. Recently Bernie followed her good example (not really!) and hurt his back after falling from his bicycle. He ended up in the hospital for a week, but is now out and making a rapid recovery. This week he was able to teach all of his classes at Universitas Gadjah Mada (History of Religions in Indonesia), Duta Wacana (Indonesian Social Ethics) and Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta (Political Ideas). He is learning to live with pain and has to wear a back brace for about a month. Bernie is thankful for this accident, because it stimulated many new and powerful ideas, changing how he thinks about his identity and place in life. Sometimes God uses pain to get our attention.
We are grateful for all of you who know us and/or follow our journey. Some of you pray for us. Some of you support us financially through the PC(USA). Some of you love us. Thank you so much. If you are interested in supporting us financially through the PC(USA), please contact us at Bernie’s email below or go to pcusa.org/adeney-risakotta-bernard-and-farsijana
Farsijana and Bernie Adeney-Risakotta
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