Returning to our Roots

Posted on February 4, 2013 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Down Home in Mississippi

Okay, so our roots are firmly embedded back home in Mississippi, but the roots of our missionary life will always be in Indonesia where we spent the first 14 years of fulfilling a calling that continues after more than 40 years. Flying in for a three-week visit back to places of ministry and connecting with a new generation of workers reminded us of our arrival in 1970 when we flew in over a massive sea of red-tile roof houses in Jakarta.

Our first impression was the darkness as we wound through dimly-lit, pot-holed streets to our guest house. It was a sleepless night due to the jet lag of a 12-hour time change from the U.S., excitement in anticipation of life in an exotic new culture and the food vendors who hawked their treats through the nights, each announcing his route with clanging bells, clonking bamboo or whistling steam cauldrons.

Now, 43 years later its all familiar. Commercialization has overtaken the thoroughfares with shopping centers, international hotels and American fast food restaurants. An explosive population and growing affluence has created unbelievable congestion. We had forgotten how extremely hot and humid was the tropical climate in the rainy season; to step outside is to suddenly be soaked with sweat even in the shade. How did we ever survive without air conditioning?

ReturningRoots-FoodWith the focus of our itinerary on East Java we arrived in Bali for a couple of nights of rest before proceeding to Malang where we were to meet with members of three teams serving with Antioch Ministries International from Waco, Austin and Boston. The challenge of that first day was to avoid over-indulgence and the temptation of plunging into the enticing local cuisine. We ignored meal times and stopped for nasi goreng, sate ayam, gado-gado, tempe and rujak whenever we passed a food stall. We found gorging on the abundance of tropical fruit irresistible as hawkers plied the streets with mangoes, papaya, manggis, rambutans, salak and tasty varieties of bananas and tangerines unknown in America.

The monsoon rains moved through in the afternoons, flooding the streets with thunderous torrents of water, occasions for relaxing in rattan lounge chairs on the porch and sipping hot ginger tea to accompany reflective conversation. We then flew to Central Java to Semarang, a massive industrial city on the northern coastline for several days of teaching at the Baptist Seminary.

ReturningRoots-BobbyeSpeakingSunday provided an opportunity to travel to a Javanese village for worship, where Bobbye is pictured bringing greetings. Praise God, with His help,I was able to successfully communicate a sermon in Indonesian for the first time in the language in 30 years! Okay, so it wasn’t vary fluent and actually pretty shallow, but at least it was understood. Loved being back with “our people” and filled with joy for these believers who have dared to abandon religious traditions of the masses to follow Christ.

ReturningRoots-FamilyWe were blessed by the hospitality and opportunity to encourage younger colleagues beginning the journey and facing the challenges we experienced 40 years ago. Their small children gave us the delight of getting warmed up to the grandparenting role as we anticipate the arrival of our own grandchildren from Central Asia later in the week.

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