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The Great Community

A Letter from Bernie and Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta, serving in Indonesia

April 2018

Write to Bernie Adeney-Risakotta (or to Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta 

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Dear Family, Friends and Colleagues,

What are the boundaries of our community? In Indonesia it includes the barely born and the long-ago dead. It includes children and old people, and everyone in between. The community includes Muslims, Christians and people of all religious and cultural traditions. Nature and unseen beings are also part of the community. Recently I spent a day at a remote Muslim village, playing with the children. We used traditional music, dance and drama to convey modern meanings.

Kids love to receive prizes. Here a little girl receives a prize that will encourage her and her friends to read.

A young Muslim woman had just given birth. She still felt very weak, so I gave her hands a massage to perk her up.

These are our community, our people; they are not objects of ministry, but family and friends, beloved of God.

My father and Javanese grandparents died and were buried many years ago in the crowded city of Jakarta. My grandpa was born in an old teak house built by his parents in 1822 in Prambanan, Central Java, near a famous, one-thousand-year-old Hindu temple. We bought the house from my uncle and moved it to some beautiful land on the cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean. Bernie does most of his writing there and recently finished his major book, Living in a Sacred Cosmos: Indonesia and the Future of Islam (Yale University, forthcoming in 2018). When my grandpa died, he asked to be buried near his old family home. At the time it was impractical. Many years later, there was no one to tend his grave in Jakarta. The family decided to move the bones of my father and grandparents from Jakarta to a beautiful family graveyard near our old teak house on the cliffs in central Java. The reburial services included Muslim and Christian family and neighbors. Our ancestors are part of our community and now we can visit their graves. We hope they enjoy the beautiful view! The monkeys chattering in the trees are also part of our community.

The young and the old depend on their families to support them. Globalization brings massive changes that sometimes undermine traditional farmers. Yogyakarta is building a huge international airport and satellite city, displacing many poor villagers. The Center for Study of Development and Social Transformation, which works with our ministry, the House of Authentic Sense (HAS), applied for a grant from Presbyterian Women (PW) to mobilize faculty and students from the Christian university to train Muslim and Christian villagers to make use of new opportunities to escape poverty through responding creatively to globalization. We are grateful that PW chose to fund our proposal from the many applications.

We recently held an open house to celebrate the partnership of the Christian university with Muslim villagers. Here is a picture of a young Muslim leader, Benny, leading prayers at the open house, alongside Henry, the president of our Christian university. Benny is the head of a Muslim school and is working to combat narrow, intolerant interpretations of Islam.

We formed a feasibility study team from the university to explore economic opportunities for villagers in the area of the new airport. The team includes lecturers from the faculties of business, biotechnology, architecture and product design. They will use their expertise to strengthen the marketing of Menoreh tea, Etawa goat milk, processed foods, coconut, wood and bamboo crafts, and village homestays for tourists visiting the world heritage site of Borobudur temple. The team visited a village leader, mother Rahminingsih, who gathered 35 women farmers in her home. She is a member of the HAS co-op and is learning to earn more money through processing, packaging and marketing the snacks she makes from eggplants, herbs, bananas and potatoes. The women farmers were excited by her speech telling how she recently earned two million rupiahs from selling her products at an exhibition set up by HAS. Now she has agreed to help her friends set up their businesses.

We are committed to sharing small rays of what we believe is a glorious light: that in Jesus Christ we see how God loves the world. Our Muslim neighbors in the largest Muslim country in the world also share their light with us. We bring reconciliation into places that have known conflict and violence. We do that, not by talking about dialogue, but by working together with our Muslim friends to achieve common goals. Bernie and I work to help people, especially women and children, escape from poverty. They are part of our community. You are also part of our community. Your friendship, prayers and financial support make our work possible. Please consider making a one-time or ongoing contribution to our work through the Presbyterian Church USA.

We will be visiting friends and churches in the USA between June and December 2018. Please write to us at if you would like us to visit you or share with your group.

Salam hangat (warm peace),

Farsijana and Bernie

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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