Reading Budiman Hakim’s article on his fears of living in Jakarta, suddenly I am reminded of my old unfulfilled promise to a friend of mine in Singapore, Rev. Ayub Yahya, to write a story about how I finally decided to return to Indonesia after a one year and a half stay at Singapore, and how I managed to reintegrate myself and cope with living in Indonesia once more after having a totally different and *arguably* somehow better life in Singapore.
By the end of my first year there, when I just finished my Master of Business studies, I started to look for job vacancies in the newspapers and online job search websites. There were only a small handful of jobs offered to non-Singaporeans and non-PRs during that time, so I knew that competition was going to be tough, yet I braced myself for anything that might happen, even preparing myself to accept reality should I have to take a job with a salary below the norm. After all, for a fresh graduate like me at that time, experience was something that I considered more valuable than money, especially in a country like Singapore.
I sent my resume and application letter to each and every job vacancy available out there to non-Singaporeans and non-PRs. Yet, after a few weeks of waiting and waiting, I did not receive even one job interview. And then the finishing blow came when the apartment room I was staying at was no longer available for rent. In this apartment, I was staying only with the apartment owner, a 60-70 year old uncle. His family would come about once a week to have a family dinner with him. During my stay, his health seemed to got progressively worse and he started coughing a lot during my final months there. Finally, his family decided that one of them would stay there to take care of this uncle, and thus my room was no longer available for rent as they would be using it.
This situation left me with no choice other than to return to Indonesia. The only other option was to look for a temporary apartment while waiting for a job, then move to a permanent one near my workplace once I got accepted into a job. But this option is a high-cost one and a risky one. After some considerations with my family and friends, I finally decided to leave Singapore for good and return to Indonesia in July 2007.
Readjusting myself to the Indonesian culture was quite difficult at first. I had to learn to drive again after not driving a car for almost two years, and then I also have to face people who have no regards to the traffic laws, i.e. people coming your direction in a one-way street, or even some coming your direction in a TWO-WAY street, taking your lane when they should have taken the opposite lane! Didn’t they have exams on how to take their own proper lanes when they were applying for a driving license?! Patience was a virtue I had to learn fast when driving here, especially after last year, when a huge shopping mall, Ciputra World Surabaya, opened near my house, practically multiplying the traffic jam by about three or four-fold, making it very difficult for me to leave home or return home from the city.
But more than the daily culture shock, the more difficult thing for me was finding a new church that I could really call home. The first two years were long and difficult. I changed churches twice due to conflicts with my work schedule and disagreements with some of their teachings and beliefs, and during those times I always looked back longingly to my old times in Singapore with my old church friends there. It was not until September 2009 that I found my current church, a place I that I can finally call my new home, that I was able to move on from the past and carry on with the present. And just like the miraculous way God led me to my church in Singapore, He did the same again for me in Surabaya. Although this time, the process was longer, with a lot of twists and turns in the way, to make myself more spiritually mature, closer to Him and more dependant upon Him.
I learned a lot of things from God during my stay in Singapore. Get practical and move into action; look to the people around you and don’t get stuck in doing activities only inside the church. Get out there and do something to spread the Good News and reach the lost. After a few months of staying in this church, I felt that this was the church where I could really practice what God has taught me. So I stayed, for almost three years now, the longest I’ve been in one place since I went back from Singapore, and started doing works that were in line with what God has started with me during my days in Singapore. But there was still another twist to come in this story.
In early 2012, the youth pastor of my church that has been serving here for I think almost 16 years or so, suddenly decided to return to the United States to start a new ministry after receiving God’s call to do so. He has been a good friend of me, so it was quite shocking to see him go and for a while it was quite jarring not seeing him in the church every time I’m going there. But the most shocking news of them all was to come during the Easter Sunday. The lead pastor – the one who literally founded this church about 15 years ago – received a call from the international Assembly of God organization and received a promotion. From here on, he was to take care of missions in the entire world. Yes, no longer just Surabaya, no longer just Indonesia, but now the entire world…
While it might sound amazing at first, many of us in the church never thought this day would come. Well, maybe some of us did think one day it will come, but in the end, when the day finally came, every single one of us can’t help to think that it was “too soon”. Every one of us expected that the lead pastor would still be here with us for still many years to come. Yet, soon, he will be no longer with us, as in the second week of July 2012, he will be leaving back to the United States for good.
These things happened so quickly and I just can’t help to think that eventually, everything shall pass. But despite that, God will still remain. It all just happens for a purpose, for God’s purpose. By taking care of worldwide missions, we know that our lead pastor will be doing greater things for God than ever before. By leaving us, he has actually opened a way for the next generation to step forward and take their place in doing God’s work. (On the contrary, how many long-serving pastors in some churches has held on so dearly to his position, that he effectively halts progress and regeneration in the church?) – We know that every single one of these things happens for a purpose, and not by accident. Our role is just to believe and follow in wherever God is leading us.
I am suddenly reminded by the words of Hartono Kasman – my brother in Christ who was the youth leader of my church in Singapore when I was there – about the vision and mission of the youth. He said that Singapore was a world hub. Many people would only remain there for a while, and then leave. Many youths would come into the church as students for several years, and once they have finished their education, it is very likely that they will move on someplace else or move back to Indonesia. But while they were there, he would like to make an impact in the lives of those youths, letting them know more of Jesus and get them involved in His works, making disciples of them and filling them spiritually in the time they are in Singapore, no matter how long or short that might be. Thus again: nothing is permanent, everything shall pass, but only God and His purposes will remain.
Looking back, it was the knowlege of this truth that have made it easier for me to leave Singapore and return to Indonesia. And wherever God might send me next in my life, I know that it will be for a purpose. And even though my surroundings might change, my circumstances might change and everything might change, I know that He will remain, His purposes will stay true, and that He will be there to accompany me through the journey to the end.