My father used to be a missionary, spreading the words of God through different avenues, particularly through radio station as an announcer. He has never led a wealthy life, accepting the reality that working for God means having just enough, as long as he could send his three children to university.
Being the youngest of three boys and still single, I live in the same house as my parents. On the weekends, I opt to stay home, listening to their stories – their health condition, the situation around the kampong, their complaints about price hikes, whether they should increase the house that they rent out, endless wedding invitations, their grandchildren, and their disappointment over my brother’s decision to marry a widow, etc.
They are simple people. They don’t catch up with the latest technology, and they often give me irrelevant advices. To this day they still believe that the best social interaction is with church friends. This way when you get married, many would sing at your wedding. A simple wish that none of their sons had been able to realize.
I don’t mind that, actually, but I find social life at church so dull. The activities revolve around church and whenever we go, we carry the “burden” as children of God who are different from people in general.
I served in church for nearly two years. But the more I got involved, the more I found out that the work wasn’t as noble as I thought it was. There were internal politics, power struggle in which people try to topple each other. They vie for for positions, they waste congregation’s money, they don’t really reach out to their congregation, and so on.
My parents could not do anything when I decided to quit church service. From time to time, they still ask me to go back and serve God, but I tell them that I’m tired of working with those people. Ever since I did the service, I felt that I became further from God. I came to hate Sundays because then I had to work, not for God, but for humans. I chose to quit, and use Sundays to listen to His words quietly.
I always think that doing service can be anywhere. Being God’s child is not necessary limited to church service. I was once involved in a garbage cleaning activity, campaigning for public behavior change to stop people from littering. Is that not a service? Does serving God only mean getting busy inside the church? I don’t think so.
Church youth or community seldom responded enthusiastically when I asked them to get involve in social activities. They would only go for fun things, such as playing futsal, badminton or jogging. What is so special about being in the service of God then if they only want to have fun? Not to mention that it was so difficult to get people to cover for my duty at church whenever I couldn’t do it. It raised doubts in me, as I thought, “Am I on the right track?”
I pondered the question. Serving indeed means suffering. Back in 1997, my father was assigned to the Philippines and brought us along with him. He received monthly payment of US$1,000 from South African philanthropists. But then the 1998 monetary crisis hit the region and his office in Indonesia cut his payment in half on account that his salary was bigger than the office director. It was really upsetting, becasue the office never even gave a cent to finance my father’s assignment in the Philippines.
We could not do anything about it. Working in the service of God often put us in a difficult situation to decide what’s right and wrong. We thought, “I work in a community of one faith, an environment that knows the examples set by Jesus.” But as it turned out, the behavior and attitude of people within the community did not reflect Jesus’ ideals.
I always believe that God will pay it back in the afterlife, as no one is as loyal as God. My parents turned out OK. They were able to meet our needs, build another house that they rent out for income, are given good health and are able to send us to university.
However, from time to time, I often heard my father still lamenting the decision of his office director to cut his salary in half. He swears that he would come to the director’s funeral, telling everybody how evil he was for taking what was rightfully my father’s.
My father often asked the director to return the money, but the latter said that it all has been used for building construction. We don’t know if it’s true or not, there has never been any proof of it.
I feel my father’s disappointment. Maybe I will come with him at the funeral and take back what is ours. But will Jesus be happy about it? Maybe He would be sad.
My father is no longer a missionary. He is still human, a God’s child. But the director’s crime must be disclosed. The day when people mourn and tell stories about the director’s good deed, my father will reveal his crime. We know that our action will not please many people, but we are fighting for our rights.
*This article is originally written in Indonesian.
**Photo by Fusion of Horizons
Ardhie Han works as financial business controller at a foreign company. He writes to deal with his anxieties. Follow him on Twitter @ardhiehan.