This feature article first appeared in the October/November 2012 issue of The Link & Visitor (now live magazine)

Growing up takes more than words

The man tucked the money in his pocket, picked up his load of rattan mats, and continued down the street.
“You bargained up,” I told my husband Johnny as we walked away. “He said you could have it for 10,000 rupiah. You misunderstood and paid him more than twice that.”

“I didn’t misunderstand.” Johnny looked at me and blinked.  “I pretended to misunderstand. Read his eyes. He hasn’t eaten today, or even yesterday. I know what that feels like. You will learn to see that living here . . . if you pay attention and you want to learn. It’s not automatic.”

He blinked at me again, squishing his eyes shut with a grin on his face as if he had just won a world championship. “Now he will eat.”

Sometimes Johnny’s kindness, patience, and generosity with people shames me as I am forced to confront the greed in myself.

So it was when a friend of a friend of a friend, came to our door in Balikpapan, and asked if Johnny would visit a man in the hospital who was suffering from heart troubles. “It’s not only his heart,” said the man. “It’s his mind. He is confused and suffers from depression.” So Johnny spent many hours at this stranger’s bedside talking through the confusion that had vice-gripped this man’s mind. Hours that I would not have given a stranger, and I begrudged Johnny giving.

At the time of his hospitalization, this man was part of an ethnic Christian group that had defined light as the world would: power, success, financial wealth, health, happiness, security, independence, opportunity, ease and comfort. He had been taught that there was no more worldly darkness when you believe, that you would have a good life, and that when you prayed, all your prayers would be answered.

“I was taught there [was] some unresolved sin in my life leading to my hardships; that I was not yet good enough for God’s blessing,” he later testified to our church family.  “I believed that if I had financial trouble, relationship trouble, health problems, then I was not living in the light.” Like many of us, this man thought that somehow as a believer, he was being given power to control challenges, conflict, sickness, poverty, dependence, insecurity, doubt, failure and struggle. This is not true.

How we understand and claim Christ’s promise of light when we trust in Him (John 12:46) is one thing. How we reflect Christ’s light is another. Our actions are important.  Many times, Johnny and I would leave meetings or discussions with specific Christians and Johnny would say,  “Tong kosong berbunyi nyaring. An empty drum makes a more piercing noise.”

Johnny and I knew that all those words exchanged in those meetings and discussions would not be followed up with actions.
Those Christians were like empty drums, not ready to back up words of love and care, promises of actions to come, encouragement, apologies, even flattery, with actions. They didn’t live in the light.

What I understand today is that living in the light means wanting to and learning how to read the secret character of hunger; choosing to bargain up, not down with a rattan mat vendor who hasn’t eaten in who knows how long. Living in the light means choosing to spend time counselling a stranger in danger of losing his battle with depression.

The man from the hospital experienced a revival in his faith, led his wife and sons to Christ, was baptized by Johnny, and at the time of this writing, worships at the First Baptist Church in Balikpapan. He is part of the church’s leadership and has brought others to experience the light of Christ.

By Paige Byrne-Mamhit
For 11 years, Paige and her family were former global field staff with Canadian Baptist Ministries. They were based in Indonesia.