Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Long Ride Home

Friday night Melody and I went into town for blood tests, burgers, and new pants. On our way out of the department store, the waiting taxi drivers spotted us and we agreed to let one of them drive us home. We immediately recognized the driver who stood up to claim us as a man who had driven us before. I remembered how his face had come alive when he discovered that we had studied the Bible in University. He had some pamphlets from a certain “Watchtower Society” of Brooklyn, New York that he would love to discuss with us. Kicking myself for having already betrayed limited understanding of Indonesian, I was still able to evade his requests for a good time to come to our home for “diskusi” and “dia-log.”

We were in his cab (which was missing interior door panels, smelling of misdirected exhaust and lacking in enough room for both my knees and the dashboard) and on our way home before we knew it. Before long the conversation turned to matters religious. We discussed his church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or as it is unfortunately rendered in Indonesian: Seksi Jehovah (say it out loud). I had to try to stifle my smirk as Melody laughed in the back seat every time he would say it. He had been meeting with my boss, Mr. Vijay, an Indian Seventh day Adventist, for “diskusi” about “Alkitab,” that is, the Bible.

Soon he was offering me the same privilege. I declined, as I would not truly be able to understand the nuances of his discussion with my rudimentary Indonesian. Not to worry. He said he had a church brother who has studied at the Watchtower Seminary itself in New York and has since returned to spread the “kabar baik,” news good, bilingually. As the conversation continued he became more animated, kept his eyes on me instead of the road, spoke faster, drove more slowly, and began to yell across apparently great chasm of about arms-length between us.

My annoyance and frustration matched his mounting intensity. I told him, in Indonesian of course, that I had already discussed at length with Jehovah’s witnesses in the States, native speakers of English, and I agreed on the matters where he held similar beliefs but I could not agree on the matters where we differed. I did not see how it would be different here. He assured me (even more loudly) that they had more to tell me. I was getting angry. Not because of miscommunication, we were communicating fine, but he was not willing to take no for an answer and was yelling at me, shouting into my face with a smile. I turned to him and said, “Why do Jehovah’s witnesses always want to go into peoples homes and have discussions? Why must you come into the home?” This question thrilled him. It game him a chance to explain to me the great commission of Jesus Christ to spread the kabar baik out to… to… “all nations.” I finished his sentence. “But I already know all about that. I have Jesus, in my heart. I know him, already. Why do you want to come into my home?” “Diskussi…dialog.” Right.

I tried to remain civil. But he had just tried to explain the great commission to me. Did it really seem that I was that unaware of it? I can understand how groups like the Seksi Jehovah can promulgate their non-traditional and even non-Christian beliefs (i.e. a non-divine Christ, or their pseudo-open canon of scripture) but what I can’t understand is how they manage to maintain, cross-culturally, the homogenous consistency of their pushy, abrasive, cloying techniques for evangelism.

Had I the Indonesian to express myself properly in this, my first truly theological discussion in a language other than English, I would have told him that I understand and believe in the great commission. People do need to hear the good news. They just need to hear it from people they can trust - people who don’t take advantage of captive audiences and manipulatively steer conversations. They need to hear it from people who love them and long to gather them under the same wings within which they also seek shelter from pain, disease injustice and the great hollow emptiness of sin.

The next day I got an email from my not-so-little little brother, Andrew. He and his friend, Chris had had an encounter the day before with two Mormon missionaries who had happened upon them, alone at Chris’s house in rural Arkansas. They were a little intimidated by these two young men who seemed interested in them but also had a strange falseness to the way they tugged in certain directions on the conversation, tossing out loaded questions like spinner-bait, waiting to recite long prefabricated responses from memory. I reminded them that those “Mormon missionaries” are kids, just like they are, who are doing what their families and churches think is right. “If they make you uncomfortable or get too pushy, you don’t have to take it. But the important thing is to treat them like people,” even if they don’t return the favor.


Anonymous said...

I once got rid of some J.W.es by quoting a scripture in very bad Greek. I never was sure exactly what I said to them or if they could understand me but they left but not before I gave them a tape of a sermon from W.O. Vaught which just happened to be on the deity of Christ.
They never came back! Another time I was called as a witness in a custody hearing. I had to wait in a witness room till it was my turn. All the other people in the room were JW. They read the Watch Tower out loud for my benifit...it was an article about how God had blessed them by allowing a truck loaded with lumber to wreck right in front of their construction site. HMMM...Well that is what it said....
Well that is all I know. majmm

Anonymous said...

Hey guys!! So how long are you going to stay in Indonesia? Anda sukah Indonesia? I know Josh and Stacia! Have you met Sylvia (is that her name)? Sonia... Sonia is the mother of Lydia... I think. And Stacia... who was Stacia. Who's boy is Josh? I think Lydia was a little girl that stayed with us when we stayed with Pendeta Joubert Sumanti? How are the Sumantis? Baik? Have you eaten angin yet?? Saya SUKAH angin! Angin enak!!!

Wow, I am so jealous of you guys!!! But in a good way. I hope the Lord will provide me and Kara a way to come back to Indonesia one day. That experience has affected me in so many ways. Seldom a day goes by that I don't think of it at least once. I just now found your blog again, and I'm hoping to catch up on all your Indonesian news.

Have you gotten called "bulay" yet?? I got called bulay by some kids. it was funny. They pointed at me and yelled "Bulay!!" I said repeated what Dr. Richards told us that he said one day... "Mana? Mana bulay?" "Anda bulay". "Huh? Oh!!"

Tuhan berkhati!

Adam Langley (sorry if my bahasa Indonesia is not baik!)

M. Lumpkin said...

Kami suka Manado, tetapi kami belum melihat banyak lain. Kami punya kontrak untuk dua tahun dan kami ingin tingal kalau bisa.

We like Manado, but we've not yet seen much else (of Indonesia). We have a contract for two years and we want to stay if we can.

How are things with you guys? I heard you were trying for American Idol... If you get a chance you should come visit. We have an empty bedroom and a standing invitation to anyone who can survive the trip (which isn't so bad on Singapore air). Where are you living now?

We hear "Bule" at least twice every tiem we go out. My usual response is either "Eyo, saya bule." or lately I've been enjoying claiming that I'm an albino from Manado.

Kami belum rasa anging tetapi saya akan sebeulm lama. Kalau anda bisa mengerti ini bahasa anda baik sekali.

Anonymous said...

Boy, I need to work on my bahasa Indonesia!!! Well, that is so incredibly exciting that you guys are there! When you come back to the States, on that rare occasion that you meet an Indonesian all you have to do is say "Selamat siang" and they will be inviting you over for supper the next day. Haha, they are such an amiable people, well... except for the whole jihad thing. We do want to go back. If you are there next summer, we may just have to take you up on that invitation! I'm talking to my church about possibly being an international summer missions coordinator. We are wanting to sponsor a church overseas... and guess which country I would want to work with???

No American Idol for me, man. I did some online karaoke kind of thing, and it was fun for a while. But the whole American Idol thing is so fake. Collier Moore was turned away because he was TOO good, and then on every episode you hear from Simon, "It's sad to see that this is the best America has to offer." That is so stupid. I have no desire to waste three days of my life auditioning for a talent competition, only to be told "You are too good." I'll just let it happen the old fashioned way, if at all.

Until then, I'm here in Austin, TX working in the film industry. It's been fun. I'll have to fill you in more about it sometime. I'm trying to keep a blog. I'm currently on Xanga, but I might be switching to some other blog place. Xanga's cool because you can put pictures in your posts (link to pics already on the net).

Anyway...Sampai jumpa lagi!


Viator said...

For several weeks I've been content
(and with me my keyboard)
To loll about with naught to say--
But sudd'nly, thank the Lord

(and p'rhaps the cup or two of joe
I slurped while here en route)
I'm roused to give your blog not just
A look but more, a hoot.

Thoreau said (roughly) "Should I spy
Approaching doers of good
I'd saunter sprinting out the back--
Bet your Chick Tracts I would."

Along the tower's watching lengths
Are folks who wish us well
But too much talk of Heaven brings
Its own peculiar Hell.

[And finally, awkardly, and with profoundest apologies to Edwin Arlington Robinson:]

And we who delve in Biblish lore
See going on what's gone before.
We've handed off the churchish cheeping
To boys more zealous in their reaping.