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.



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