Albrecht and Hiltraut Link have been working for EMS in Indonesia since January 2010. Here they describe their experiences.
It is a very strange feeling to think of travelling to the Tropics when Germany is in the grip of snow and ice. It seems unreal when we imagine flying out to Indonesia in ten to fourteen days, but that will be the case.
Setting off to a known, unknown country
After 30 years we are going back to a country and region that has become our second home and where we have always kept in contact with its people. Yet a lot has changed since then. Back then we lived in the southeast of the island, in the hinterland; now we will become city-slickers in Makassar, on the other side of Sulawesi. Back then we worked in rural development and now we are training theological students. Hiltraut and I have teaching posts at the Makassar Theological College. We are afraid of the hustle and bustle of the city and hope to live in a comparatively peaceful area in our house on the college grounds.
Hiltraut will work in the college in the area of Communication and Conflict Management, and in continuing education for pastors. That is the plan, at least, and Hiltraut is looking forward to seeing what things will look like on the spot. I will teach Homiletics and Pastoral Care.
Since we have some familiarity with Sulawesi the cultural background is not unknown and perhaps earlier experiences will still be useful. Yet on the other hand, Indonesia has changed more profoundly in the last 30 years than Europe/Germany. In many respects the present infrastructure is no less excellent than that in Europe. Back then, there was no telephone in the whole town, whereas now it is easy to contact anyone all over the world, even from the backblocks. Today students also surf the internet, post their photos on Facebook etc. just like their fellow students in Europe. The political system has changed. The social change has not stopped at the church. In the past, there was deep respect for older people and those in authority, but nowadays both people and structures are critically questioned.
We will need to keep learning
This all means we shall be listening once again and carefully noting what changes there have been, and we expect to keep on learning, precisely because we are supposed to be teaching! The dean of the practical theology department comes from GEPSULTRA, the Protestant Church in South-East Sulawesi, where we used to work. His father was the General Secretary of the church and we have known him since he was a child. He will be our boss and we are very excited about the form our working together will take. We are lucky to have the privilege, on one hand, of being able to take a new direction in our professional lives and, on the other hand, we are delighted to be allowed to contribute our broad and varied experience to this challenging work. Hiltraut is giving up her free-lance work as a supervisor. I am a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Wuerttemberg and have been given three year’s leave so that I can work in Makassar. We are being sent there by the Association of Churches and Missions in South Western Germany (EMS).
Wanderers between different worlds
We are breaking camp here and moving on to put up our tents again on the other side of the world. There have been many moves in our life together: the last was from Erkensbrechtsweiler to Stuttgart, and then the winding up of our temporary home, Christmas and New Year in Ohlendorf with Hiltraut’s parents, and then to Eppingen and Hiltraut’s sister until it is time to fly out. Of recent years we have kept on asking ourselves where our roots are, where our home is. We have somehow remained wanderers; there have been many stations on our journey; we move on; we put down new roots. In this we see a great abundance of chances which have kept on opening up for us. This time we are travelling without much luggage. It will only be 200 kilograms. It has done us good to throw off ballast and it is good to travel light. We often ask ourselves, “Do we still need this or that? What would really change if we didn’t have it any longer?”
There was a lot to see to: from our new banking arrangements and a ‘living will’ (if we lose legal capacity) to newly made last wills and testaments – we know a lot about our mortality. Apart from the work they made, all these arrangements had a liberating effect. “What counts on our journey through life?” is what we have been asking ourselves. One of the most important things that matters in our lives are the people who love and appreciate us and vice versa. So before leaving we have made time to visit a large number of friends and relatives. How does the timetable look at the moment? On leaving we will go first of all to Makassar to meet and talk to the rector and colleagues at the theological college about what we will be doing exactly and everything that is expected of us when the new semester begins. Then, for two months at least, we will be going to Java to polish up our language skills. Maybe we will still have to time to visit some other theological colleges to get a picture of what is going on locally. We think we will move into our house in Makassar in April/May and then get down to the teaching business. We go into the New Year 2010 with the words of the New Year text. “Set your troubled hearts at rest and banish your fears. Believe in God and believe in me!” Jesus spoke these words to his disciples at a time of change. We take his words with us into our changed situation, wishing that this text may give us and you courage and composure.