Alright, a thirty-something Australian in Bali – what’s new about that? The place is full of them!
However, I went to Indonesia for the first time in August 2019 not to get sunburnt on beautiful Kuta beach, but to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our mission trip consisted of another Missionaries of God’s Love sister, Katherine, and two young women volunteers, Johana and Elizabeth.
It was the first time to the “Emerald of the Equator” for all of us, and so there were a few nerves involved, especially as we knew it was a largely non-Catholic country that was prone to volcanic action, earthquakes and the odd terrorist attack that we were heading into.
The first week we spent in Bali, however, put us at ease.
Escorted by local Catholics, we were warmly received at an orphanage, a Catholic school, some local Catholic parishes and a school for physically disabled children.
I was struck by the pride that each institution expressed in accommodating all religions. The Catholic school, for instance, boasted proudly of their religious education course having five streams: Catholic, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and a local religion.
The priority of nearly everyone we spoke to was building harmony in a country that has had a turbulent history of interfaith dynamics, and yet they were still happy to hear about our personal experience of the Catholic faith and to unite in prayer with us.
Another highlight was visiting the disability centre, where the director took great pride in naming many of his students’ triumphs in the light of their limitations. These were all the more astounding because of the very simple resources the centre had to support the progress of their students.
We were fortunate enough to be able to supply some educational and nutritional necessities with donations from a generous youth group in Tamworth who raised $3,000 for these young Indonesians that they’ve never met. We also provided a KFC feast, and were delighted when they sang and danced for us.
The second week we journeyed to the island of Flores and stayed in the “Catholic” region of Maumere. We were woken every morning at 4am by a call to prayer from the PA system of the neighbouring Muslim mosque and then again at 6am by the sounds of the nearby Catholic Mass. There was no doubt that we were still in a melting pot of religions!
Our time there was spent in visiting parish families, youth groups and schools and sharing our love for our Catholic faith in order to encourage the local Catholics in their journey of faith.
Let me just take a moment to say how hard it is to share your faith when you don’t speak the same language as your audience! We relied on a translator, facial expressions and hand gestures with differing levels of success. Watching young people laugh when you didn’t make a joke, or cry at your story but you can’t ask them why was quite challenging!
It was towards the end of our stay there that I realised how much I ordinarily try to control most aspects of my life.
This trip was an exercise in letting go of the reins: we needed a driver and an interpreter, and someone to explain currency, maps, and even the daily plan (which changed hourly anyway!).
I prayed with people without knowing what their need was and watched God move anyway.
I somehow connected with people without communicating verbally.
I ate food without knowing what it was (perhaps that was a blessing!).
It was a wonderful exercise in trust in God and I strongly encourage anyone to head off on any mission opportunity they get!
Rosie Drum mgl is Assistant Director of Catholic Youth Parramatta.