Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared on Rebecca Hopkins’ blog, Borneo Wife, when she and her husband served in Indonesia. She now blogs from her new American home at rebeccahopkins.org .
A window in my kitchen faces our backyard. Much of my days are spent cooking and watching, washing dishes and listening, making granola and checking. The kids are often dangling or running or whooping outside, playing on our mini-playground with the zipline.
Soon after I moved here, I started asking my questions, listening to the stories of friends, neighbors. And somewhere in the middle of living my own life of homeschooling and reading and learning and friend-making and writing and cooking a mediocre dinner, I found a dream.
It’s a small dream. Don’t laugh. And please don’t roll your eyes.
My dream is this: to have both Christian and Muslim kids playing in my yard at the same time.
Politeness Isn’t Enough
It’s nothing that’s not already happening somewhere in this town. While there are a couple Christian and Catholic-specific schools and several Muslim-specific schools, there are also public schools where both kinds of kids attend. There are parks and arcades where all kids are welcome. While some streets are mostly Muslim or mostly Christian, some have a mix.
And kids? They just like to ride bikes and look for rocks and chase each other.
It’s almost too easy where I live.
Indonesia is a country where tolerance is not only valued, but drilled daily into kids’ heads at school through the daily recitation of the five-principle Pancasila, designed to harmonize and unite. This 17,000-island, 700-ethnic-group strong country depends on tolerance for its very survival.
With so many cultures and languages, tolerance is a treasured value that is integrated into the various belief systems themselves. How many times here I have heard the polite phrase, “All roads lead to the same God?”
But still. I ask my questions, listen for the answers, and sometimes hear fears and worries about the “other.”
What about the Muslims moving into town who are probably terrorists? I’ve heard people say.
Let’s make a law—no newcomers allowed.
How do we keep our beliefs from being tainted by non-Muslim values? We have to be careful.
And then there’s local history. The times of ethnic clashing, of violence. No one wants that again, I hear from both sides. Can we just live in peace? Make lives for ourselves and our kids without fear?
So how do we do this?
How do we live in a world of terrorism and retribution and differences and misunderstandings and really, truly live?
The Small Dream. The Big Dream
This is where my small and big dream come into play.
The small dream? Watch kids play in my backyard.
Big dream with a big word: reconciliation.
It’s a big dream I want for this town with the long name, in small ways and big. We (being two American families, five Indonesian families) here at Mission Aviation Fellowship in Palangkaraya like to call MAF a bridge.
Not only do we bridge the supplies with the needs through our floatplanes, but we desire to bridge church groups that are divided, ethnic groups that fear each other, religions that are on opposite sides of the fence. MAF is looking for ways to build bridges between the groups, provide a neutral ground for conversations, for voices, for listening, for grace.
We want to see people of different ethnicities and beliefs not simply living beside each other. We want to see them do life together–forgiving, sharing, eating, trusting, believing, and playing.
(That right there? That’s a picture of the Gospel: of accepting each other as Christ accepts us.)
And a Step Further
But my even bigger dream is that this would happen in other places, too. That’s why I feel compelled to tell you my dream.
I’ve spent twelve years in this Muslim-majority country learning. Besides learning language and culture and how to drive on the other side of the world, I’ve learned about different perspectives.
I’ve learned many of my Muslim friends want to find a good school for their kids, want to feed their families healthy meals, want to do a craft they can sell to pay for a haircut.
They want deeper things, too. Love, purpose, faith, acceptance, community, answered prayers.
And they give. A great recipe. Time over tea. Gifts when I have a baby. They’ve offered me deeper things, too. Patience, vulnerability, friendship, grace.
They have so much to offer this world.
I see the same things in my Christian friends here—the ones who are from tiny villages, who pray to God like they actually believe He still does miracles. They’re trying to figure out how to pay for their kids’ school, how to take care of their autistic relative or the child orphaned by their deceased brother and wife. They’ve cooked me meals, welcomed me into their lives, shown me their deep faith and their sacrificial generosity.
They have so much to offer this world.
The Big Dream, and The View from My Window
I see a lot of hard things here, and if not here, then on the news. But I’m always looking for the good things. I desperately want to watch stories of life unfold in front of me.
But I’m small. My world is small.
There are dishes to wash and dinner to make and kids to keep track of. Who has time to make world peace when you just realized you’re out of eggs?
So, do you see now why I want to watch Muslim and Christians playing in my backyard while I sauté the vegetables?
Opening my home and yard is one thing I can do, right here, right now.
Ideas to Get You Started on the Big Dream
For some help embracing life with Muslims, read Pillars: How Muslim Friends Led Me Closer to Jesus by Rachel Pieh Jones.
What spaces do you have in your life right now? Is it a window of time before picking kids up from school? Or perhaps is it your living room? Is it your own story of loneliness or pain? Can you offer this “space” as a gift to a new friend or neighbor?
Look for divisions around you. Then look for people bridging those gaps and see if you can join them.
Join me in small, big dreams? What’s the dream from your window?
Editor’s Note: More Resources on Diversity
Hungry for more perspective on building bridges? Though Go. Serve. Love can’t vouch for all the resources in this list, try these as you start having discussions.
- The creators of IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory) recommend these resources for cultural learning
- Resources from Cru on oneness and diversity
- The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures
- FamilyLife’s free download “Starting the Conversation about Racial Reconciliation in Your Home”, includes ways to train your kids toward diversity
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