Up Close and Personal
Any well planned mission trip must be subject to change at any moment to respond to local needs if we are truly going with any level of cultural intelligence. Projects give way to people, schedules bow to spiritual discernment, and completing a task is always secondary to building relationships.
After staff devotions at the beginning of our first day we were informed that the father of the Palu Junior High Principal had passed away early that morning. Nyoman and I visited the grieving family in their home to pray with them, which was reminiscient of journeying with the same community last year as they grieved the loss of Bapak Oscar at the tale end of that mission trip. This meant that our plans to depart for Dongi Dongi to start our project the next day had to change to accommodate the funeral for Bapak Gideon.
Instead of traveling to Dongi Dongi, we set off for a two and half hour drive to Bapak Gideon's village at Langkapa with a contingent of Salvationists from the Palu School and Towua Corps. As a visiting Officer I was called upon to deliver the message at the funeral, which was considered by the family to be an honour. The truth is, it was our team that felt honoured to be up close and personal with this grieving family and to be invited to participate in such a personal occasion.
Note that I judged this occasion as personal, as in Australian culture there are certain moments during the process of grief and funeral arrangements that are for family only. However, in Indonesian culture, the whole grief process and every part of the funeral is a community affair. The body is laid out for all to see to pay their respects in the home of the grieving family and several services follow with eating and singing to celebrate the life of the deceased. For Tony and Jill, this was their first encounter with a funeral in a different cultural setting, let alone a Salvation Army funeral.
Our team observed and commented how much healthier this open communal expression of grief seemed to be compared to how we generally grieve in Australia.