Indonesia, Ahok, and Freedom

I was asked today whether or not I regret moving back to Indonesia. As I pondered over this question, I found to my own surprise that my answer would not be one you would expect. I do not regret moving back to Indonesia. Instead, I would regret if I never did move back. 

Today marks an important day in history for Indonesia. If you don’t know what I am talking about, I would encourage you to Google the word “Ahok”, and you shall be showered with an abundance of articles covering this momentous day, as well as information about the man who is the center of it.

Now, for a bit of backstory. To be completely honest, before I moved to Indonesia, I never loved Indonesia. I didn’t even like it. I always had the image that it was full of pollution, traffic, racism, and corruption. I was never proud of being an Indonesian- I guess I could even go as far to say that I was embarrassed of being a citizen of this country.

So you could guess how excited I was to move back to Indonesia. Sure, I would meet all my family again, and be fattened with all the delicious foods. But that did not make up for all the negative things.

But that changed when I learned about Jakarta’s governor, Ahok. He is one of the main reasons why I came to really love Indonesia. He has shown me what it really means to love your country; to give your sweat, blood, and tears for the people; to be proud of where you came from.

Why is this happening to my country not long after I came to love it- after I felt proud to be Indonesian?

Do I regret moving back to Indonesia? No, I don’t. Because somehow, in God’s perfect and unpredictable timing, He has brought me back to Indonesia during a time of peace. He allowed me to experience Jakarta as it improved under Ahok, and and see the great potential of this nation.

Perhaps if I never moved back, I would never have experienced this kind of peace in Indonesia. I would have lived my life being a citizen of a country that I did not even love. I would never have experienced the pride I feel every August 17 (Indonesia’s independence day). I would have been embarrassed of my own country.

I would have regretted not moving back to Indonesia.

But my heart still breaks. My heart breaks when I think about all Ahok has done for this country and how he has been treated in return. My heart breaks when I think about the people who are so blinded that they do not know their right from their left. My heart breaks when I think about the future of this country.

My heart breaks when I think about the future of our children. It’s true that I’m only 17 going on 18 myself, and still (Lord willing) have a long future ahead of me. But my heart still can’t help but break when I look at the faces of little 4 year old’s and wonder what the future will hold for them.

Will they still experience justice in this country? Will they have freedom of speech? Will they still be able to worship Christ freely? Will they ever feel love and pride for this country? Or will they feel fear and shame?

I have been blessed to spend the first 17 years of my life in freedom–I do not know what kind of place my future children and grandchildren will grow up in.

Honestly, it scares me- we have been taking our freedom for granted all this time. Most people in my generation, myself included, have taken freedom for granted- the very freedom that some of our ancestors only dreamed of, the very freedom some of our ancestors fought for, and the very freedom that many people are still yearning for today. I’m afraid that instead of making the most of our freedom, we are wasting it with shallow and selfish matters.

Yes, I am afraid for the future of this country. Yes, I am afraid for my own future, my family’s future, and the future of the next generations. Yes, I am terrified when I think about the ten thousand things that may happen to turn life as we know it upside down.

But sadly, worrying will not change a thing. Being afraid will not make things any better. We should surrender everything out of our control to God, because we know that all things are still under His control. That’s not it, though. Surrendering things to God is only the first step. We should not then just sit, wait, and twiddle our thumbs, hoping that everything will work out in the end.

No, we must use what remaining time and opportunity we have left for God’s kingdom. Let us stand up and step out of our comfort zones. Let us stop being complacent and content with where we are now, but be willing to take a step further- serving and worshiping God more wholeheartedly, studying His Word more diligently, and sharing the gospel more fervently. Even though we may not be able to impact our whole country, we can make differences in those around us. It might be for another year, five years, or ten years, but if God still blesses us with the gift of freedom in our country (Indonesia or not), we must use it for Him! Do not allow the opportunity to slip past us.

 

Advertisements

3.9.17

/5:00pm/

Going to the doctor is never fun. Especially the eye doctor. Especially when you know that something is wrong with your eye.

I’ve been having a stye on my right eye since the beginning of this year. It hasn’t bothered me much, and it isn’t that visible, so I thought nothing of it. But weeks went by, and weeks turned to months, and the stye stays. My family and I start getting worried. So after a few weeks of delay, I finally decide to go to the eye doctor.

They’re probably just going to give me medicine and tell me to compress it with warm water.

I hope.

/5:45pm/

The word surgery causes my stomach to churn. My hands turn cold. It turns out I have to get a minor surgery to remove the stye.

I try taking a few deep breaths to calm myself.

The doctor assures me that the surgery is quick and somewhat painless. Honestly, it does not feel reassuring.

This is where I am extremely thankful that I didn’t know beforehand that I will be getting surgery. If I did, I’m sure I would have worried about it for days, and I probably would have been way too chicken to go.

/6:30pm/

My hands shake as I sign papers. My heart is going at a hundred miles an hour, and I suddenly feel a bit nauseous.

A million thoughts are running through my mind. I hurry to text my friends, cancelling plans for the next few days.

My mom reminds me to pray. I honestly want to break down into tears right then, but miraculously I don’t.

Lord, I know that this is happening for a reason. Please help me to not be afraid but know that You will be with me the whole time.

Now all that’s left is to wait for my name to be called.

/7:00pm/

 Here is the least graphic picture taken of my surgery going on:img_20170309_231118_693.jpg

First they give me a shot on my eyelid to numb my eye area. Then, they begin clearing away the stye.

The shot is painful, but it only lasts about 10 seconds, so I can still handle it.

The rest of the surgery… well, let’s just say I cry about 15 times.

I am so grateful for my mom who holds my hand throughout the whole surgery (and I’m sorry if I squeezed it a bit too hard).

After what seems like hours of torture (although it was probably only 5 minutes), they tape my eye and I’m finally free to go.

Now that is something I hope I never have to do again.

/7:45pm/

I am thankful for my parents, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends for showing such care and concern over me during this time.

But most of all, I thank God for giving me strength-I couldn’t have survived without Him.

I realize that sometimes a good scare is needed for us to fully appreciate the things we usually take for granted. So let’s be grateful for the little things. If we still have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a tongue to speak, it is only by His grace.

Until next time.

3.7.17

/7:30am/

wp-image-88839981jpg.jpeg

 

Today I am going on a field trip with my homeschool group to a flower park on the mountains called Taman Bunga Nusantara.

It’s pretty far from where we live, so we first meet up early in the morning to carpool.

 

 

/8:00am/

The car ride is much longer than I expected it to be, but listening to music (and sleeping) helps the time go by faster.

/10:30am/

We finally arrive at Taman Bunga Nusantara. It’s a nice day: not too sunny, not too cold. Plus, since we are visiting on a weekday and during working/school hours, the place is free from crowds. Homeschooling benefits!

Here are some pictures I took (please excuse my poor photography skills):

2017-03-07-10.25.35-1.jpg.jpeg

2017-03-07-10.25.37-1.jpg.jpeg

/3:00pm/

Of course, I can’t go to the mountains without buying my favorite snack.

We keep expecting it to rain but it doesn’t-until we get in the car, that is. Thank God! What perfect timing!

A while later it actually starts flooding in some places.

/4:30pm/

We stop at Cimory Riverside, a restaurant & store that specializes in milk products, and have an early dinner.

It turns out Cimory Riverside is literally by the river! Apparently everybody but me already knew, though.

wp-image-1838466348jpg.jpeg

After dinner we look around at the store a bit. Well, that was kind of a bad idea because…

So. Many. Matcha. Products.

It took great self control to not buy anything. Oh, and also:
wp-image-1054376007jpg.jpeg

 

I know I need to hurry out of the store before I want to buy everything matcha and everything fluffy and cute.

 

 

 

 

/8:45pm/

After many more hours of sitting in traffic and getting leg cramps, we at last return home.

There’s nothing like taking a hot shower, relaxing on the couch, and looking back at the freshly made memories (and tan lines sunburns) after a long day.

Until next time.

What I Wish I Knew Before Highschool

I’m entering my last few months of high school, so I recently have been reflecting a lot on my high school years- supposedly the “best four years” of life. To be honest, these four years were not as great as I expected it to be, and I hope that they were not my best four years. I believe that those are yet to come! But my high school years weren’t terrible either- I learned so much about myself, God, friendships, and life in general. Although I can’t go back in time and change things, I know I can learn and grow from what I know now.

Here are the 10 things I would tell myself if I could time travel back to the days before I started high school. There are, of course, many, many more things I could think of, but for the sake of the reader I limited myself to 10 here. (Side note: I attended public school in the US for 9th grade before starting homeschooling in 10th grade. Many, but not all, of the things listed here refer back to my freshmen year in public school.)

  1. It will go by quickly, so enjoy it. I remember many people telling me this before I started high school, but I didn’t really believe them. I’m the type of the person who is not good at living “in the moment”. I’m almost always looking forward to the next thing. But now that high school is almost over, I really wish I enjoyed it a lot more.
  2. Many things will not go the way you want it to. But don’t worry. I would be so much more worried, in fact, if things actually did go the way I wanted it to. Just another fact to prove that God’s plan is much better than anything I could think of.
  3. Makeup works only if you put it on the right way. High school was the time my mom finally let me wear makeup. Unfortunately I didn’t realize that slapping on makeup in any old way actually defeats the purpose of makeup. Practicing (and watching tutorials on YouTube) is clearly key.
  4. Wearing makeup is not necessary. There were three reasons I wore makeup:
    1.  I felt pressured to fit in because most girls my age were wearing makeup.
    2.  It made me feel more mature. People at school used to call me “cute”, as in cute like a little kid (sigh, these Asian genes). They probably meant it as a compliment, but it really annoyed me. (Ironically, in Indonesia people think I look a lot older than my real age. Also annoying. Sigh.)
    3. It was fun. And it still is! But it is honestly not worth waking up an hour earlier to do. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to wear makeup for fun, but I wish that I did not feel like I had to wear makeup so I could fit in with others.
  5. Mommy knows everything. No matter how much I try to deny it. It will be proven time and time again. No, she’s not psychic. It’s just some kind of sixth sense mother’s have. So it’s best if I listen to her and take her advice rather than hear the words “I told you so”.
  6. You don’t have to date in high school. I wish I never believed that I had to get a boyfriend in order to be a “normal” high school student. It really does not matter whether or not you date in high school. And here’s a secret: most high school relationships don’t make it past graduation.
  7. Your sisters are your best friends. Perhaps this has been true ever since Dongsaeng and Maknae were born, but we did not acknowledge it until we were home schooled and were together almost 24/7. My sisters are the ones who know me best, are with me even when other friends come and go, and are beside me no matter where we move. Yes, there are times I think I would be better without them. But at the end of the day, I know that I need them. They are, after all, my besties for life.
  8. It is possible to read too many books. I was addicted to reading. And I saw no problem with it- I mean, books are harmless, right? Wrong. It has been proven many times in history that books harbor ideas, and ideas can be one of, if not the most, dangerous things in the world. I wish I could have been more discerning in the books I read, and taken a break from reading from time to time to work on other things.
  9. Having a phone is overrated. I believed that I was the last person in my whole school to have a cell phone. When I finally did get one, I realized it’s actually not that big of a deal. Having a cell phone brings along problems of its own- distractions, addictions to social media, etc. Plus, real life conversation beats texting any day.
  10. Having many friends is not as important as being a good friend. I focused way too much on having friends and getting people to like me, without spending much energy on being a good friend and developing friendships. I wish I had focused more on the quality, rather than the quantity of friendships.

So there you have it. The 10 things I wish I knew before starting high school. Soon I will be moving on to the next stage of my life. I don’t know what it will bring, but I do know I will continue to make mistakes. However, I hope I will never stop reflecting on the past, because I believe the best lessons are learned from history.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

1 Corinthians 13:11

When We Get Advice We Don’t Want

I love getting advice. Whether it’s for little things such as picking out what to wear for church the next day, or more significant things like what I should major in, I enjoy getting other people’s opinions on things.

What I don’t love, on the other hand, is listening to and taking that said advice. Not for the little things such as picking out what to wear (because I trust that Dongsaeng has a better fashion sense than I). I mean for the big things, like college, relationships, the future, etc.

Sure, I can nod and agree to everything someone just told me, but deep down in my heart I know that I’m still going to follow my way.

Kind of ironic, isn’t it?

This probably happens most often with my parents. My parents are usually the first people I go to for advice. I have been very blessed to have a mom and dad I can trust and be comfortable around 100%. However, this means that when I disagree with them I will immediately speak out.

The conversation usually goes something like this:

“Mom, Dad, what do you think about (…)?”

“Well, I think that it’s best if (…).”

“Hmm… No I don’t think that will work because (…). I think I should (…) instead.”

“I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“But (…) is a lot better than what you just suggested.”

“Why did you ask for my advice if you don’t even want to listen to what I have to say?”

Sigh. This has happened a countless number of times. Just ask my parents.

Yes, I do love asking for advice. But when it comes to listening and applying it…that’s a different story.

Why? Because I tend to have my own agenda that I want to stick to. And when I ask for advice, it’s because I want my own agenda to be approved and confirmed by others, not because I want to listen to what they have to say. When someone gives advice that I don’t want, I immediately reject it.

Why is this a problem? There are plenty of Bible verses that tell us God’s point of view on advice:

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14)

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. (Proverbs 19:20)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Proverbs 24:6)

Disclaimer: I am definitely not saying that we should take every single piece of advice that we get. Notice in the last verse that it says wise guidance, not just any kind of guidance. Also, Proverbs 3:6 says that we should acknowledge God in all our decisions. This means we should 1) be careful who we are taking advice from, and 2) weigh every piece of advice we get against the Word of God. Even if we get advice from someone we trust 100% (parents, pastor, etc.), we should always weigh their words against the Truth.

I lately realized another reason why we need to be willing to take advice. If we cannot take the advice of those around us, how can we take advice and direction from God? 

My mom loves to remind me, “Yovela, make sure when you are praying, you pray without bringing your own agenda to God.”

I want to share a beautiful analogy I heard a while ago: When we pray, we shouldn’t bring a notebook full of our own plans and then ask God to put His stamp of approval upon it. Instead, we hand God a blank notebook, blank except for our stamp of approval upon it. Then we can ask Him to fill it in with His plans. This is surrendering our will to God. We say, “God, here is my life. Tell me what to do. Whatever it is, I will do it.”

This is very difficult. Believe me- this is something I have and probably will continue to struggle with. But let us ask God for humbleness and a willingness to empty our agenda books and take the godly advice of others around us- even if it’s advice we don’t want.

Seeing Clearly in Blindness: Fanny Crosby

This is a speech that I recently wrote for school. Although it is in a different format than my usual blog posts, I decided to share it here anyways. Enjoy!

A blind woman was once told by a preacher that it was a pity God did not give her sight when He gave her so many other gifts. In reply, the woman said,

“It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it.”

This woman is the famous poet and songwriter Fanny Crosby. How many of us are able to thank God for the struggles and apparent disadvantages in our own lives? By examining the life of Fanny Crosby I hope to show you how she was able to do so without the slightest hesitation.

Fanny Crosby was born in 1820 in New York. While only two months old, she became ill with an eye infection, which an incompetent doctor treated by putting hot poultices on her eyes. This healed the infection, but at a cost. The hot poultices caused scars to form on her eyes, and she was blind for life.

Not long after, her father died, and her mother had to work to support her family. Thus, Fanny was mostly raised by her Christian grandmother. Her Grandmother would often read the Bible to her. And because could not see, Fanny had to depend more on her sense of hearing and memorization. Soon, she memorized many chapters of the Bible.

Fanny found her passion at a young age- poetry. By the age of eight, she had written her first poem. Soon, she was writing many poems based on the parts of the Bible she had memorized. These poems were then put to music, and they have now become some of the most universally loved hymns. You may have heard of “Blessed Assurance”, “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”, and “Near the Cross”, to name a few.

Fanny Crosby had many reasons to be angry with God, but she never was. How could this be? Fanny realized that because of her blindness, she was able to serve God wholeheartedly through her songwriting and music. Throughout her life, she wrote over 8,000 hymns, sharing God’s love to people across nations and generations. Fanny comments, “I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.” Instead of viewing her blindness as a hindrance, she saw it as a blessing.

Fanny understood that there was something far more important and greater than any of her struggles. Although her physical eyes were unable to see, her spiritual eyes were open and clear.

“If I had a choice, I would still choose to remain blind…for when I die, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”

Fanny Crosby

2.23.17

/5:20pm/

Today is Yeye’s (my grandpa) birthday.

Unfortunately, my sisters and I did not have time to buy him a present this year. Thankfully we can combine our skills to make a homemade gift. After all, the best gifts are the ones that come from the heart, right?

Dongsaeng is the artistic one of the family, so she is automatically tasked to do the card designing. Ask me to do the card designing and- no, let’s just not talk about my lack of artistic skills, okay?

 

Maknae gets assigned to cake buying (notice is says buying, not making. Lack of oven problems), and I write the card.

Isn’t great how we three have different skills that can be combined for times like this?

/6:30pm/

We are all dressed up and ready for the birthday dinner. Being the girly girls we are (mostly me, I admit), we have to stop to take a few wefies.

pomelo_20170223184027_fast.jpg

Hooray, we manage to look decent at the same time in one picture! This is a big accomplishment for non-photogenic people like us.

/7:30pm/

img-20170225-wa0001.jpg

After a delicious dinner, we cut the cake and give Yeye the card.

I may be wrong, but I think he gets a bit teary-eyed while reading it.

Being the jokester that he is, my grandpa at first refuses to have his picture taken because he says we got his age wrong.

“You need to switch the numbers. They’re in the wrong order,” he says (in Indonesian). We all groan. My grandpa laughs, obviously amusing himself.

He really insists to have the numbers switched around for more pictures though, so I relent. It is his birthday, after all.

 

Happy sweet seventeen birthday, Yeye. It’s good to know that we are the same age now.

Thank you for buying me all those journals when I was younger, for encouraging me to write, and for loving me unconditionally. May God continue to pour His love upon you all the days of your life.

 

Until next time.

2.21.17 (Through the Storm)

/7:20am/

“It’s flooding!”

I groan as Maknae shakes me awake. “It’s flooding,” she repeats. “We need your help.”

It turns out that the roof is leaking even more, and so the rain water is pouring in the house through the ceiling. While other neighborhoods had floodwater coming in from the front door, our floodwater was coming in from the top. In order for our house to not turn into an indoor swimming pool (as fun as that sounds), we must mop up the water.

The problem is, the water is coming in almost as fast as we can mop it up.

Here we are, at 8:00 am, getting our morning exercise by mopping up rainwater. It’s tiring, mundane work. I get splashed by the water rolling in from the ceiling multiple times.

20170221_213345.jpg

I’m tired. I just woke up. Do I really have to do this right now?, I think. I mean, I like rain storms, but not like this.

It seems like our mopping is an endless cycle of aching work, and my heart is weighed down with anger and complaints.

Don’t we all experience our own storms in our lives? Sometimes we have storms where we can’t see anything except the harsh waters in front of us. We struggle through the winds, but we can’t take these Sisyphean tasks for much longer. We long for any kind of hope that will save us from choking in our own misery, our pain, our hopelessness. The clouds darken our heart until we forget what it once felt like to be bathed in sunlight. We’re alone on this boat, and there is nothing left to do but drown.

We cry out, our last hope that someone, anyone, will be able to hear us. Save us. Does anyone care that we are perishing?

Suddenly, our clouded eyes catch a glimpse of sunlight. We squint, not sure if it’s just a trick of the eyes.

The light is coming from someone, a man, sitting right there on the boat. We did not realize someone was in the boat with us all this time. We vaguely recall someone who was there when the waters were calm- Someone we then forgot about when we were overwhelmed by the storm.

He was there the whole time. Why are you so afraid? He asks. Did you not know that I have been with you? Do you have so little faith? All we needed to do was look away from the clouds and rain for once, and look into His face.

And so I do.

And that’s when everything changes.

Though the clouds are still dark, sunlight breaks through, illuminating the crashing sea. Though the rain still hits against my cheek, my misery and pain are gone. Though the wind still chills my bones, there is hope that warms my heart. A peace that persists against all odds. A Friend who is always there beside us.

So as I mop and wipe yet another drop of rain off my face, I can sing a new melody in my heart.

With Christ in the vessel we can smile at the storm, smile at the storm, smile at the storm.

2.20.17

/12:00am/

Rain. A crash of thunder. Wait no, that wasn’t thunder.

It has been raining so much lately that part of the roof started leaking. Apparently, the leaking was severe enough (and our house old enough) for the ceiling to eventually break.

Thankfully, it’s only a small portion.

/8:30am/

I wake up to rain. Lots of rain. And more crashing. I peek downstairs to see…

It does not look good at all.

But thank God nobody got hurt and nothing else got damaged!

All we need to do is get it fixed as soon as it stops raining for a few days. But it seems like that won’t be happening anytime soon…

Until next time.

Where I Belong (part II). 

Belonging. As human beings, we all want to belong. We all long to be accepted and feel the sense of belonging, whether it’s with our family, our church, or a group of friends. It is an essential part of being human; our sense of belonging is tightly knit with our sense of identity.

For me, I have specifically wrestled with the idea of belonging to a certain country. If you read part (I) of this post, you will know that I have lived in two countries. Let me give a little more background on that.

I am a Chinese-Indonesian born in Indonesia. My ancestors were originally from China, but the majority of my great-grandparents’ generation migrated to Indonesia. When I was 3 years old, I moved to America. I lived there for almost my entire childhood, before moving back to Indonesia 13 years later.

Whenever people ask me “where are you from?” I always get confused on how to answer this question. Do they mean where I was born? where I grew up? where my ancestors were from?

But back to the idea of belonging. When I think about which country I belong to, these thoughts roll in my mind: In America, people viewed me as Asian. In Indonesia, people view me as “that girl from America”.

In order for us to feel that we belong, the people/group/country that we want to belong to must accept us. Now, in my case, both countries see me as a sort of “foreigner”, if I must.

Technically I am an Indonesian citizen because I was born here. And I really came to love Indonesia, which I hope to post about in further detail sometime. But at the same time, I have lived in America for much longer. So here’s my million dollar question: To which country do I belong to?

I recently heard the term “Third-Culture Kid”, which is defined as “a child who was raised in a culture other than the culture that is of the country given on the passport”. Yep. Definitely me. After researching more on the “Third-Culture Kid” (there’s even an official website), I discovered that there are many others out there just like me, and they go through the same struggles and questions. It is nice to know that I am not the only one.

But I still ask myself this question once in a while. Where do I belong? And maybe I’ll never be able to tell for sure. America or Indonesia?

However, I recently realized that I don’t have to worry. You may ask “why?”. Isn’t a sense of belonging essential to identity? Yes, of course it is. But my identity does not have to lie in a certain country. There is somewhere, Someone, to be more exact, far greater than any country on this earth to place my identity in (Philippians 3:20).

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…

Philippians 3:20

I’m not saying that I will completely disregard any sense of belonging to a country. As I mentioned, I love Indonesia, and I love America. I feel I can belong to one or the other, or both. As for my identity, I can be a “Chinese-Indonesian”, “Indonesian”, or “Indonesian-raised-American”. All of these are true. But I have found that there is a sense of belonging and identity that trumps all those earthly ones. And that is the identity I have in Jesus Christ my Lord.

Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to be the children of God…

John 1:1