by Jeff Wright, leadership minister
In the last two years, Franconia Conference has welcomed new congregations from California. Three predominantly Indonesian-speaking congregations and one predominantly Cantonese-speaking congregation have affiliated with the conference. I’m privileged to work with these churches and I’m sure the future ahead—for both the conference and these congregations—will look very different because these churches are in our midst.
To be culturally Californian is to be optimistic in general, and to look toward the Pacific for imagination. Our new California churches are from across the Pacific—young, entrepreneurial, and hard-working immigrants from many Indonesian cultures as well as well-established immigrant families with ties to the always growing, always reinventing city of Hong Kong.
As I work with these churches, they bring to mind five Indonesian words that tell a story of holy imagination: seeing God at work in our many and varied neighborhoods across the Los Angeles basin and the San Francisco Bay area.
The first of these Indonesian words, Cakrawala (cha-kra-waa-la), points to this imagination. Cakrawala means “horizon.” But more than just a fixed point out there somewhere, Cakrawala also speaks of perspective and outlook. It invites us into a story, not just an intersection of longitude and latitude. The new churches in California invite us to embrace God’s perspective and outlook – God’s Cakrawala – as we do God’s work together as Franconia Conference.
The second Indonesian word that comes to mind is, “Sahabat (sa-ha-baat).” In relational cultures, everyone is a friend. But to be a Sahabat is to take on a deeper level of friendship and relationship: a Sahabat is a best friend. Jesus describes his followers this way in John 15:12-17. No longer are disciples of Jesus servants—we now become Jesus’ best friends. Our new churches in California live with the vital exuberance of people who have discovered a new best friend in Jesus Christ.
Being best friends with Jesus means that, third, we become “Guyab (gu-ye-aab)” to one another. Jesus’ friendly embrace makes us a people that are “in togetherness”—a people committed to carrying one another’s burdens. Paul’s call to the churches in Galatia (Galatians 6:1-5) embodies the principle of Guyab; a church “in togetherness” is a loving center of God’s mission of burden bearing, forgiving, restoring, and discerning.
Jesus’ befriending of us, and our willingness to be in togetherness has the effect of “Peremajaan (pee-re-maa-ja)” —literally, “Making young again.” The promise of Revelation 21:5-7 is the promise of God making all things new (young). The ugly wreckage of sin no longer holds sway. God’s Cakrawala is to restore, renew, and refurbish that which is broken. God does not abandon us, but makes us Peremajaan—young again, full of life.
As we follow Jesus, our Sahabat, live out God’s missional call to Guyab, and wait for the great repair work of Peremajaan, we must become a Ragan (rah-gan) church – a diverse community of faithfulness. In the Franconia churches in California, the people speak several Indonesian dialects, Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish, Dutch, and English. Most Franconia Conference members in California are bilingual, even trilingual. They point the rest of us to the great event described in Revelation 7:9-12. Our Franconia Conference churches in California know that the Church cannot be focused on its mission without being more and more an expert in diversity (Ragan).
God’s outlook for the church is not much different in Indonesian than it is in English: to follow Jesus who seeks to befriend us; to embrace one another in togetherness; to let God’s transforming work make us young again; and to be a church full of diversity. May such a Cakrawala be shared and true in Souderton, Philadelphia, Southern California, San Francisco, and beyond.