Sunday, April 8, 2012

Difficult Conversations

The decision to transition back to the US has been difficult.  We plan to return to Oklahoma June 9.  There is a certain duality of emotions attached to our return to the US.  We're anxious to see family and friends and yet sad to leave the friends that we've made here.
Today, I had a conversation that I've been avoiding since we made the decision to return to the US.  I've been dreading having to tell our helpers of our departure.  Our leaving represents the loss of a job for them.  For Ibu Rah, we are her only means of support.  As I told our helpers of our plans, they couldn't keep back their emotions.  I tried to assure them that we have been pleased with their work and have enjoyed our time in Indonesia.  I also shared with them that a new family would be moving into the house.  I told them that I would write both of them good letters of recommendation and help them find jobs.
The truth is I know what they know. Jobs are hard to come by in Salatiga, especially for older women.  Foreigners can be difficult to work for and it is the helper who changes, or is changed when difficulties arise, not the foreigner.
As Dana and I look for work in the US, I'm encouraged because God has always provided for us.  Though we are getting older, I still feel like we have options.  For our helpers, I see fewer options.  Just as I hope to have work lined up before we return to the US, I hope that our helpers futures will be secured before we leave.


Spring break at Mountainview gave us an opportunity to take a quick trip to Jakarta to apply for tourist visas for our short stop in China on our way home this summer.  Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia and home to millions of people.  Our taxi driver told us that twenty-five million people call Jakarta home.  The number sounds a bit high but then it's hard for me to wrap my brain around the idea of millions of people living in one huge city.
Before our visit, friends told us to visit the Indonesian Grand Mall.  It is home to a nice theater and more importantly, western-styled restaurants.  We watched the movie John Carter with Indonesian subtitles and then went to the Pizza Hut located in the mall.  The name "grand" certainly fits the mall.  It was beautiful.  Each floor of the mall was decorated with a different theme.  Several of the floors were made to mimic sights in New York City.  The theater, which was on the top floor, had a panoramic view of the city skyline.  Truly, the Grand Mall, with all of its' marble and glass was grand.
Our stop at the mall was primarily to eat and then kill time before going to the airport for the flight back towards home.  Jakarta is an hour flight away or a twelve hour bus ride.  Time was short so we opted to fly.  Our journey from the Indonesian Grand Mall to the airport reminded us that Jakarta, like all of Indonesia is a country of contrasts.  As we wound our way towards the airport, we quickly left the beautiful part of the city.  New buildings and nice cars gave way to small trucks loaded with goods, motorcycles and bicycles.  The buildings changed also.  Clear were the signs of pollution and weather.  Buildings and houses in Indonesia require a lot of up keep.  It's as if the jungle is constantly trying to take the land back.  New buildings look old in only a matter of years.  Along these streets, we saw the poverty that enables places like the Grand Mall to exist.  Wealth in Indonesia is built on the availability of cheap labor.  This means that many live very simply, not as in choosing to, but having to do so.  As we passed areas set aside to collect trash, we saw the shacks of the poorest of the poor who use the trash to support their existence.
Indonesia is not alone in its economic contrasts.  The changes of being aware of such contrasts is deciding what to do about them.  Jesus said the poor will always be among us.  However, I don't think this statement is meant to abdicate us from seeking to do something about it.  Instead, Jesus' words should serve to remind us that there is always economic need around us if we are willing to see it.  The challenge inherent in the solution to economic contrasts is that the "haves" must share with the "have-nots" in order to see that everyone has enough.  Such a solution requires us to confess that we are only stewards and not owners.  And if we are in the category of the "haves", we will have to have less so that someone else can have a bit more, maybe even enough.