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Hopes for Empowering Local Indonesian Communities

A Letter from Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta, serving in Indonesia

December 2019

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Dear family, friends and colleagues,

Greetings from Yogyakarta.

Brother Hery Ramambasoa, the PC(USA) World Mission regional liaison, visited us in Yogyakarta from 13 to 21 November 2019. It was a wonderful visit. He attended a meeting at Duta Wacana Christian University (DWCU) with the dean of the Faculty of Business, other staff and student participants of the Samigaluh Targets of Globalization program (STG) where a Master Management student, Ella, spoke feelingly about ways to empower her home church members in Papua. She hoped to empower those members to build sustainable tourist residences that would fit in beautifully with nature and the local culture that she learned from the program, thereby blending spirituality and economic empowerment and giving the church in Papua hope.

Brother Hery also had the opportunity to visit the region of Samigaluh, located in the Menoreh mountain area that has inspired Ella. Now the government has built a highway passing this Menoreh area from the newest international airport to the UNESCO heritage, the largest Buddhist temple in the world, Borobudur. There, he met Mr. Sukahadi, who is a tea farmer and a member of the Griya Jati Rasa Co-op. Then Bernie drove him about 2.5 hours from the Menoreh mountain to the southern coast side in Imogiri, Bantul where they visited Mrs. Wahadah, a batik craftswoman, also a member of the Co-op. These visits allowed brother Hery to see, firsthand, the impact of the program funded by the grant from Presbyterian Women.

Bernie accompanied him on his visits in Yogyakarta, Java since I was on a Mission Trip with members of DWCU to Sumatra island. We visited one of the founding churches of DWCU in Lampung, southern Sumatra. While there I was able to lead workshops that encouraged and empowered the Church to face the globalization in the region and witness Jesus Christ in their creative services in the society. When I returned, I was given the good news that brother Hery had invited the Co-op to prepare the group’s product to be exported.

The cooperative spirit between religious communities is evident at the grassroot level here in Indonesia. This is shown by the way the PC(USA) supports the Indonesian people. In a joint meeting held at the Center of Studies for Development and Social Transformation (CSDST) at DWCU, brother Hery asked the lecturers involved in STG program, what they were doing to help prepare Indonesia become one of the 10 world economic powers in 2030. Globalization was impacting the economic shift of the countries in Asia. How are the people of Indonesia being empowered?

The university provides knowledge that can be used with the communities to overcome their problems. To answer the question Mr. Hendra, a lecturer at Biotechnology faculty of DWCU, also explained how his research positively impacted the farmers in the area. Mr. Hendra and his colleague, Mrs. Ratih, had received a research grant to design a method of preserving leaves so that the local Ettawa goats could have food in the dry season. First, they conducted research in the biotechnology’s laboratory at DWCU. Then they shared the positive results of their research with farmers in the village of Kebonharjo, Samigaluh.

The farmers used their research to prepare goat feed for the dry months. First, leaves were collected, sliced thinly and mixed with molasses, which ferments easily. When the fermentation process was complete, the leaves were dried. The dried, fermented leaves were stored and used to feed the goats during the dry season. The University provided training for the farmers and supported them as they learned how to master the fermentation and storage process. The Griya Jati Rasa Co-op staff also visited the farmers every week to monitor and encourage their work.

This is the way in which Co-ops and religion can aid sustainable development. We hope that other international agencies working in Indonesia will be invited to jointly reflect on their contribution in preparing Indonesian people to face globalization and meet upcoming world economic challenges. With the encouragement of brother Hery, colleagues of the Business Faculty and myself are preparing for an international seminar on development, Co-op and religion to be held next year.

We celebrated a special Thanksgiving feast with fellow lecturers and staff from the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS). Bernie and I prepared two turkeys that were bought from a village in Bantul. Rev. Gerrit Singgih, of the Theology Faculty of DWCU, offered the blessing. At the service Bernie requested prayers from friends and family so that his upcoming visit to the southern coast of Java, and his hike up Lawu mountain in Central Java, would be filled with blessings.

The night before Thanksgiving, Muslim neighbors from our own village Karanggayam in Sleman and Muslim friends from the village of Gabug, Gunung Kidul, where Bernie has spent some of his time during retirement, performed Muslim prayers at our house. The head of the neighborhood association had asked us to hold this prayer service so that the village elders could pray for Bernie. Before his departure on the walking journey, Bernie told me that whenever he wakes up in the morning he realizes that many verses from the Bible have sung to him while he has slept. “Consider the lilies, how they grow; they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Luke 12:27). On foot, he is finding his people.

As we enter the Advent season, we are eager to continue to share the gospel’s joy. This joy gives people hope that their lives can change for the better even when they live lives where change seems impossible.

You have prayed with us and have supported us so that the peace of the gospel can give hope to all citizens in Indonesia. I thank you for your generosity and hope that we will continue to walk together as we prepare ourselves for the beauty of Christmas and the excitement of welcoming the new year. I will be in the U.S. from July to August visiting churches and meeting friends. I hope to spend a lot of time on the East Coast, visiting those churches I have not been able to get to in the past.

Merry Christmas 2019 and New Year 2020.

Salam (peace)!

Farsijana and Bernie

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