Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fast Forward

It all started with 4 Canadians getting off the plane in El-tari airport Kupang. One of the first things they must have gotten a hold of is our remote control, and set our pace in the “fast forward” mode! Their name tags read: Felicia Vandervelde , Dan Shulenberg, Jake…. and Anna…… Together they formed the first Canadian “Wings to Work” team! If you have not heard about these trips, they are short term mission trips where young and not so young people get the opportunity to share and be actively involved with the mission (aid) work done amongst the people of West Timor Indonesia. The main motivation behind these trips for the team is to get to know, encourage and show Christian love to fellow brothers and sisters. On the more practical side the team is also assigned to a “building job” where the team works closely together with the locals and the New Hope orphans. Working alongside the locals is such a testimony of brotherly love which is much more important and valuable than to be getting the job done! A lot of time is also spent in getting to know and hanging out with the New Hope orphans, volleyball and soccer are sure to be icebreakers! One of the biggest challenges for the teams usually is facing the cultural differences, from small things such as having rice for breakfast to spending a night (or two) in a far off village at one of the Reformed mission posts. Although very primitive a definite highlight of the trip was visiting and experiencing a bit of life with the members of the mission post in Phili. We enjoyed the always beautiful mountain views on the way there, which somehow are more beautiful seen from the back of a cattle truck. Upon arrival the congregation members were called together in no time, and introductions were made, supper was discussed and decided was that a not so happy little pig was to show up roasted for our supper! Even though the killing process (which you tend to “skip” in Canada) was a little grueling to watch, the meat did taste delicious! Our stomachs filled, tents pitched and soon we all drifted off to………………no we didn’t, the ground was VERY hard, and it was VERY cold! Dan and Jake obviously from experience had chosen the better spot and slept soundless in the car. Oh well,nothing a cup of coffee and a beautiful sunrise can’t fix in the morning! It being Sunday we had the privilege and joy of worshipping together our mighty and gracious God. The worship service was conducted in the house of our host family, because it got a little bit tight inside, some of us ended up sitting outside, but even that couldn’t take away the eagerness and expectation to hear the word of the Lord preached. After time spent in fellowship and having enjoyed so more food, decided was to start a hunt for young coconuts. On the way we made a stop at a grapefruit tree, (some of us didn’t get any further!) and enjoyed the most delicious grapefruits ever! We also discovered a cashew tree, and them being in season we were fortunate to bring home a whole sack of UN -cracked cashews, ever tried opening one? The full sack still sitting at our home would explain enough I would say! One of the items never missing on a trip into the villages is a bag with medication, there is always a shortage of simple over the counter medication in the villages, and always an over the limit amount of minor wounds and illnesses untreated. Upon our return from the village gardens, we conducted a health clinic which was well attended, a lot of vitamins, pain relief, anti biotic and de worm medication was distributed. Another item always present on such trips is a bag full of 2nd hand clothing donated from Australia to be distributed amongst the congregation members. After this, time came to say our farewells which involved a lot of nose rubbing, another interesting experience! We headed back for the city of Soe, where we enjoyed a much more restful sleep in one of the local hotels. Early next day we headed for the most beautiful and refreshing waterfalls of Timor in Oehalla. A quick lunch there, and back to Kupang, stopping on the way at the local market to get a go at the art of bargaining. A couple more hours on the road, and we were all very happy to see “home sweet home” again! A would be highlight of the trip was a night at the moonlit beach to witness turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs. This egg lying apparently happens only at specific times in the year, and that at a very irregular base. Most people here that live close to the beach have had a taste of turtle egg, it is not a delicacy, but added protein to their diet. This seemed unreal to the team members, as most westerners know that turtles are almost extinct! On the night it seemed most likely for turtles to come ashore according to the locals, we headed for the beach in the afternoon for a bbq at the beach, where after we would head out with a boat that would bring us to a small Island where turtles are known to come ashore. While we enjoyed the fish, the sand flies feasted themselves on us! But nothing small like a sand fly could take away the excitement of witnessing a real life session of “national Geographic’s”! How disappointed we were when the boat which was supposed to take us to the island failed to start! After several attempts and the now so much more annoying sand flies bugging us, it was decided to head home and have another try the following night at a different beach. The next night the team with a couple of the young people headed out again very optimistic, but to their great disappointment no turtle came within sight. To look at it from the positive side, a good reason to visit Timor again!
The remaining days were spent on the building site, where the New Life centre started to take shape, refreshing dips in Air Sagu and Tilong were thoroughly enjoyed, volleyball, a few day trips which included more barbecued pork and in no time the end of the trip was in sight. A huge dinner was cooked up for the farewell evening with “Beer Butt Chicken” prepared by the Canadians as “special” on the menu, and special it was! The festive mood of the farewell evening was soon replaced by the sad realization that return tickets for the team were booked for the next day. The New Hope children had a hard time to control their emotions, and more than a few shed a couple of tears! It is always so encouraging to have visitors over who are not just here to do the sightseeing, but really want to get to know the people, and be on the same level with them. We truly felt that communion of saints meeting together!
Save the Turtles……?
Things went from 5th to 4th gear for a couple of weeks, but soon we were headed to the airport again, this time to welcome Rev. Souman and his daughter Esther who planned to stay in Timor for little less than 1 month. Rev. Souman would spent most of his time teaching at the Reformed Theological College while Esther would joined in with the activities of the Australian Wings to Work team. This team of 15 Aussies aged 50+ to 4 months old stayed with us for 11 days and did loads of things! I won’t go into detail of the activities done by the Australian team, as one of their team members already wrote a beautiful summary of their time at New Hope which was published in the Australian mission news. During their stay, we also had the Harapan Baru (New Hope) family drastically extended with 8 new children arriving from Rote, Sumba and Soe! This made live go over in super fast forward for a while,trying to get them all settled in and ready for school! Just as this was sort of happening, Meldi complained about a very sore right side, and our suspicions were right……appendicitis! She had a very bad case of it, the doctor told her she should not have been a day later! She ended up staying in the hospital for a week, and is still taking it easy now. Having spent a week in Kupangs hospital I once again was made aware of how fragile life really is. On a daily bases people were brought in with all kinds of major and minor illnesses and diseases. The care was simply shocking. Children died because of diarrhea, others because there was no space for them, and most of them were turned down simply because their wallets were empty. There is no comparison to a Canadian hospital, dried blood everywhere, the supposedly “sterile” surgery room did not even have a tap to wash ones hands! One would be very unfortunate without family in the hospital for lifting the patient, bringing the patient to the surgery room, washing the patient, administering medication is all expected to be done by the family members of the patient, while the nurses hang out in the staff room! A high tolerance of pain, is also required, as this is simply “part of life” according to the hospital staff. During Meldi’s ultrasound examination the doctor told her quite bluntly that she had a tumor! This news of course both shocked Meldi and us as we expected an infected appendix. After the examination was done, and Meldi was wheeled out of the room, we asked the doctor how bad it was, oh he said, it wasn’t a tumor, that was her full bladder ! The story that really broke our hearts though is that of a lady in the ninth month of her pregnancy, being told that her baby would not survive the delivery. She told the doctor that the baby was still moving, but he simply repeated that the baby would not survive, and that he would be back the following morning to induce her, and deliver her dead baby! Apparently the cost of a caesarian section was too high for the government health plan for the poor! Sitting beside Meldi’s bed observing the hospital’s circumstances I could not prevent my mind from wandering back to the “Turtle” discussion we had. How important really is the fact that turtles, panda’s, and what all not are becoming extinct in comparison to a human life that is lost? Just recently I read a post on an internet site which seemed very right, noble and “Christian” saying the following:………………………………..Although I agree with most of it, the last part about “Saving the world” did not go down right. How deceiving it is to get caught up in trying to save the world. Daily the world warns us of the dangerous effects of global warming, thinning ozone layer, dying of the rain forests etc, and truly we have to take care of our surroundings, but as Christians we know that we can NOT save the world, for it is destined to be destroyed, to be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth where only SIN will be extinct! Instead of getting caught up and worried about a world that is dying, let us busy ourselves through our words and deeds, passing on the New Hope that is found in Him!
By the way, while we were on a short holiday in Bali together with the Soumans, we headed to the beach one day where a coca cola truck pulled a lot of interest that day. Our curious side gaining the better of us, we decided to check it out, and sure enough the beach goers could sign up to be part of the “saving the turtle” project! 140 baby turtles were about to be released into the ocean, Moses and Grace helped 2 of them make it safely into the water!

At the end of this New Hope update I like to request your prayers for Meldi who is still recovering, and also for the New Life project that has just taken shape, which hopes to provide a safe haven for unwed mothers to deliver their babies who have no other way to turn to.
Until next time,
Femmy Dethan

“Lost generation”…..?

This heading in the Monday newspaper caught my attention. The article was about a couple of junior high school girls being caught naked in a rented room together with a bemo (public bus) driver! Based on this one incident it might be a bit much to refer to a whole generation, but sadly I must admit that we also have seen signs of a lost, or perhaps a more appropriate word “confused” generation. In a previous New Hope update I have mentioned about the rapidly widening of a culture gap between the older generation build on the foundations of modesty and respect and the young generation quickly adopting to western lifestyle exposed by the media. Instead of demanding respect from their young ones, the parents tend to give in to all the wills and wants under the mum of “loving them”. Another popular response to the misbehavior of their children is : It’s just a phase, we all went through that! There is some truth to the last statement, but as parents we have to be there to guide them through this difficult phase. Unfortunately in Timor there is not much support from the churches and media on how to deal with teenagers in an appropriate and biblical manner.

What triggered me to write about this topic, is that one of the New Hope girls Santi, was
a victim of this “lost generation” phenomenon. On her daily walks to the market Santi met this
handsome guy who had begun to take an interest in her. Karlos is his name, he works and lives at
the rice mill right behind our house. Without our knowledge the two of them started dating, and
he would walk with her to do the daily groceries, accompany her on trips into town, and meet
over the fence when we were not around. One of New Hope’s household rules is that the
children are not allowed to date for as long as they are still in the school benches. Once they are
allowed to date, they have to be open about their boy/girl friends and bring them home to be
introduced to us.

Since Santhi is not in school any more, but works full time at new hope in the kitchen
and office she was allowed to date, but she should have informed us about her relationship. I often sit down with the girls and talk together about the danger of dating in secret, it would not be the first time if a girl get’s raped and then left pregnant without the father taking responsibility. It appeared that Karlos also had a hidden agenda. One evening Pastor Ed made a comment on a new ring Santhi was wearing, just joking around we did not think anything of it, but when she got all flustered and red in her face, we had our suspicions. Upon further prodding, she opened up about her relation ship with Karlos. She said she had wanted to talk to us sooner, but was too embarrassed to do so, since Karlos was a member of the Roman Catholic church. Naturally this was a concern to us, and asked her how she thought to go about this, she responded by saying that she had already told him that she would not leave our church, but that he would have to join her. He put her at ease by saying that all churches are the same to him, and he would not have a problem with going to a protestant church. Well, we said, if that is the case he should show that he is serious about that, and we would like to see him in church this Sunday.

The following Sunday proved that Karlos was not at all of the opinion that “ all churches are the same” for he had answered Santhi that he would go to his church, and she could go to hers! We expressed our concerns towards Santi and asked her to make a prayerful decision regarding Karlos. At this time we did not forcefully want to end the relationship without her involvement in the decision. In most such cases the parents would use their power to end such a relation by imposing threats, often resulting in an elope. We really wanted Santhi to understand the difficulties of such a relationship and be aware of the impact it would have for her future. And so we left the decision up to her so far, but would watch her and make sure she would not meet Karlos unaccompanied.

Another rule at New Hope is that the children are not allowed to posses
handphones. When Santhi came home from the Kupang a week later, Albina ran to the front to
meet her, to find out what was so important for Albina to greet Santhi I followed her to the front,
just in time to intercept a handphone exchange! Santhi confessed that it was Karlos handphone
who had lent it to her to call her friend. The phone was kept for safe keeping, and as we went
through the files, we discovered just what this young man had on his agenda, for the phone had
at least 6 pornography videos saved on it. As I was going through the files, a text message came
in from Karlos asking his sweetheart to please not delete the video’s! Obviously he had wanted
her to watch these, and get attracted to the idea he had in mind. Thankfully the Lord in His time,
opened up Karlos deceptive true identity to us, preventing lots of possible harm done to Santhi.

That afternoon we sat down with Santhi and showed her what exactly Karlos was about,
and how dangerous this kind of a relation ship was. Santhi was devastated and in tears, not being able to stand the sight of him she decided it better to go back to her village for a few months. She has been in her village for about a month now, and has opened a small kiosk (store) to keep her busy during the days. As for Karlos, we have not seen or heard from him at all, he is one of the many young men not being guided and monitored by his parents. They are being deceived by the media, influenced by friends, no spiritual guidance they have become addicted to smoking, drinking, drugs and pornography. Yes it does seem as if this generation is lost, but before we “write them off” as lost there is still hope. Hope through our Lord Jesus Christ with whom nothing is impossible.

What can we do?

Spread the good news, reform, educate! Even though there are some positive elements in the
change of society in Indonesia today such as transparency, openness and room for discussion
people have to be taught the biblical bases of this. At the same time do we have to make parents
aware of the dangers of today’s society. We are very thankful that the Lord has opened the way
of media for us to use to work out our calling. Through our radio station Sahabat FM we have
direct access to peoples living rooms and work floors. People in all levels of society are reached
with the good news, Sahabat FM also hosts dialogs with health experts to educate the people on
important health issues, and raise awareness of the dangers of transmittable diseases,
opportunity is also given for the local people to express their thoughts and opinions on
government issues, church issues and the likes.

The latter has already resulted in several cases of corruption being brought to light. To
approach this “lost generation” the Sahabat team is working on a new program/call in show where our Reformed pastors will speak on different aspects regarding changes in the culture nowadays, and give room for parents and teenagers to call in and discuss and ask questions about the problems they face. Please pray for this new generation and their parents to receive wisdom to deal with all these changes. Please pray as well for the New Hope children that they may receive courage to stand out as children with Hope. Please remember also the work of Sahabat FM, that despite the challenges they face from the secular media, they will not be ashamed of the gospel!

Femmy Dethan - nee Bouwman


A gang of robber’s n thieves have been roaming the neighborhood for the last few months, leaving the Noelbaki’s residents feel rather unsafe especially at night. Somehow this gang must be working together with some of the locals, for in almost all incidents, government funds had just been received by the schools or offices, the injured had just received his wage, or had other funds stored temporarily at his home. While the residents were dreaming sweet dreams in a peaceful sleep, the robbers turned cupboards and desks upside down and inside out, taking with them any money found, hand pones electronics etc. Others were rudely awakened staring at a machete or gun pointed at their throat, not able to move, they lamely watched their house turn into a disaster. Even though both are traumatic, worse is that in some cases women and young girls were raped, leaving them scarred for life. Even though my husbands’ foster dad (who lives with us) is the “ kepala dusun” head of the village, the New Hope residence also got “visitors”. At about 3 o clock midnight, JIthro one of the New Hope boy’s woke up, cast a look at the clock, and through sleepy eyes figured it was already 5 o clock in the morning. NO use going back to sleep, he figured he would start early with his morning chore, leaving him some time to study yet before going to school. First a trip to the washroom for a splash of cold water on his face, on his way back, he saw 2 guys wandering around in a relaxed manner, inspecting the wash machine. Because they seemed so at ease, and thinking it was already 5 o clock, Jithro was not alarmed at all. He guessed that they were early morning visitors, waiting for Pastor Ed to get up as often happen. When he looked more closely however, he saw another guy trying to break into the New Hope office! That set the alarm bless ringing, and he called out;” Pencuri, Pencuri!!!” (thieves). I tell you, it works better than an alarm clock! In no time the New Hope household was on the chase! The burglars not wanting to be caught, took off their sandals and made a run for it, one of them even threw a huge stone at our boy’s missing their heads by a hair! Unfortunately they got away, but we are thankful that no one got hurt. In the following weeks many more cases were reported, and drastic measurements had to be taken. A schedule for night patrol was made and thanks to their alertness, four robbers were caught in the act. Through rigid investigation their network was uncovered, and safely locked away behind the bars. Millions of Rupiahs, hundreds of hand phones and a large amount of other electronics were found and restored to their rightful owners.
What is the cause of this wave of violence? Some say it is the time of the year, just before the harvest is ready, people are running out of rice, and therefore take to robbing. Others say it is a “gang” of people who are copying the ways of life in the big cities like Jakarta and expecially Surabaya where violence is a normal day to day occurrence. Either way, ultimately we know that it is human sinful nature going against God’s commandments. When the burglars were caught, they were locked up in the prison cell just across from the New Hope residence, at the local police station. They attracted a huge crowd of very angry Noelbaki residents, who would have loved to get a go at them with sticks and machetes. Our New hope children were also caught up in the excitement, and the boys were all talking about how they would teach them a lesson “IF” they got a change. Considering the terror that these gangsters have caused, it is understandable for this kind of emotion to be brought to the surface; does this however show a Christian attitude? When we sat down with the New Hope children to have a talk about revenge, they were all quiet when this question was asked. They knew the answer but….. it seems so right to “teach them a lesson”. Pastor Ed explained that indeed those kinds of things cannot go unpunished, and that it is the function of law and order to give place to that. This was the beginning of a long discussion we had, and from criminals we ended up talking about their upcoming exams. Jack and Domi will the Lord willing graduate from Senior and Junior high school this year, and have been preparing themselves for the upcoming national exams. In Indonesia, unless the school is certified, teachers from other schools will come in to take the examinations. The latter being the case at the school the New Hope kids attend. On the evening of the first day of their exams, I asked them how the exams went. Surprisingly I got all very optimistic answers such as : Oh, no problem, great, easy!! The reason I was so surprised was that predictions had it that only 40% would be able to pass the exams. Just jokingly I said: “you must have been cheating”! At this comment, the self assured look on their faces dropped, and they started to feel rather uncomfortable. I pressed a little further, and then they acknowledged that the teachers had been giving them the answers!! Obviously the no. 1 rule during examinations anywhere is: “no cheating” needless to say that I was surprised with their admit ion. Talking about this with their older “siblings’ who had gone through the examinations previous years, they all admitted that this is indeed very common. They also warned them that sometimes the teachers from other schools will purposely give the wrong answers, so that the school will have very low accreditation. When we explained to them that in this way they could never be proud of themselves whether they passed the exams, since the answers came from someone else, and the other way around, if they failed the exams, they would never know whether this is due to the wrong answers given or not? With tears in their eyes they promised that for the rest of the exams they would find the answers themselves!
We often hear people say; “little children, little problems, big children, big problems”. With 20 teenagers under our roof, we can identify with the feeling, it is definitely challenging at times for both children and the parents. It is so easy to let our emotions take control of our actions or to not take the time to explain problems and solutions from a biblical perspective with the excuse that: “We don’t have time” or “don’t know what to say”. We should however be aware that this is no valuable excuse for the Lord, who has given parents the task and responsibility to “train up our children in the ways of the Lord”. He also knows that we are limited in this task through our weaknesses and shortcomings, but that does not provide way for not talking and explaining to our children of how the Lord wants us to live a life pleasing to Him. It is a challenge, but at the same time realize how beautiful it is to see a child grow in the Lord. Please pray for the New Hope children that the Lord will continue to work in their hearts, please pray also for us parents, that we may receive wisdom, strength and patience to continue our task of raising children to His glory!