SELAMAT DATANG: SELAMAT NATAL DAN TAHUN BARU
This expression in Indonesian means "Welcome: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year". These holidays of Christmas time have been very different and special for us. From December 21st to January 5th, we were in Indonesia to learn about the mission of the Oblates, to share the life and mission of the Oblate Sisters (the "suster OMI"), and to meet a girl who feels a calling to become an Oblate and with whom we had been in contact.
We went on an adventure, it was our first time in that land, how would it be? Until we got off the plane, we didn't know the heat and humidity there. From the very beginning, we felt very welcomed and like family, with the Oblates and all the laypeople from different Christian communities that we were able to meet. They were vibrant, joyful, and welcoming communities, and when the whole assembly sang, it felt like being in heaven praising God.
The first thing that struck us was the number of people and families who attended the different Christmas Masses in the two parishes where the Oblates are located: 5,000 people, 4,000 in another, 2,000... Considering that it is predominantly a Muslim country, we couldn't imagine the magnitude of the Christian communities. The temple was full and there were many chairs and screens around. It is worth noting that Indonesia has a population of approximately 250 million people, and the government recognizes 1,128 ethnic groups. They are a welcoming people who are accustomed to living with cultural and religious diversity.
The adventure began in Jakarta, then we travelled to the island of Borneo: Balikpapan, Panajam (Itci), Tarakan, Malinau, Tanjung Selor, Tarakan, and back to Jakarta. It was something like Saint Paul's journeys, but in two weeks. We traveled by plane, by boat on the river (it seemed like we were in the movie "The Mission"), or by car through the middle of the jungle, and we were able to contemplate the beauty of creation, a nature that they say is the Amazon of the East.
In each community we visited, we had encounters with the youth to get to know them and share with them. It was very amusing because they always asked us the same questions, they were very curious that there were religious sisters with habits but without veils, among other things. Despite the difficulties and material poverty, they are very generous, joyful, welcoming people who trust in God.
For us, it was a joy to experience the catholicity of the Church and the unity of the charism of Saint Eugene de Mazenod. Despite being from a different culture (or rather, from different cultures), we felt a unity in diversity, we felt like family. Sharing with the youth the difficulties and hopes, the families and the missionary challenges of the Oblates, as well as what we shared with the bishop of Tanjung Selor, opened our hearts. We were able to recognize the presence of God in the joyful hearts of the smallest and most needy.
We are grateful to all the people we have met, who have accompanied us and organized the visit. And above all, we are grateful to God for this time so full of grace, being able to contemplate the presence of the Lord, Emmanuel, who is with us to the ends of the earth. "Kami mengucap syukur kepada Tuhan" (We give thanks to the Lord).
Have a look at the video made by an oblate working in Balikpapan, Borneo: