God’s grace moves hearts to act

By Ruth Butler

“God had a plan for my life.  God listened to me deep in my heart that I needed more knowledge. Finally, God disturbed your hearts to give me help. So, I am here. God never left me alone.” (Tuti Yana) Tuti Yana is a young woman from a small village, Lawe Sigala Gala, in Aceh […]

God had a plan for my life.  God listened to me deep in my heart that I needed more knowledge. Finally, God disturbed your hearts to give me help. So, I am here. God never left me alone.” (Tuti Yana)

Tuti Yana is a young woman from a small village, Lawe Sigala Gala, in Aceh province on Sumatra, Indonesia. Aceh has a population which is 90% Muslim, with a conservative Muslim government. Mosques are a dominant feature in the towns and cities of Aceh. (By contrast, the neighbouring province of North Sumatra is about 50% Christian).

My visit to Tuti Yana’s home in 2011 made a deep impression and has remained in my heart ever since. The village of Lawe Sigala Gala is small but is home to a large Lutheran (HKBP) church and school, including kindergarten and junior and senior high schools. In addition to the older buildings which house the kindergarten and junior high school, there are several smart new buildings for the senior high school. What impressed me though on my visit was the joy and energy with which I was greeted, the obvious pride in the school and the vibrant Christian faith.

Tuti Yana comes from a very poor share-farming family. Her mother wasstricken by a stroke  and had been living bed-ridden in their small hut for eight years when I visited. But they were a family of faith. Tuti Yana had taken on the responsibility of caring for several of her younger siblings, and rode  her bike for several kilometres each day to go to school.

The headmaster of the school, Mr Gerlam, recognised Tuti Yana’s academic promise and took on the cost of her tuition fees for the school. She became the first graduate from Lawe Sigala Gala High School to go on to university. Her costs were paid for by generous members of the Lutheran church who had recently visited.

Tuti Yana entered Nommensen University, in Medan (the capital of Sumatra), enrolling in a teaching degree. Nommensen University is named in honour of the great German Lutheran missionary who founded missions, schools and hospitals in Sumatra 150 years ago.

Tuti Yana had never been to Medan before her move to university, so the transition to living in this unknown city was very difficult. But God’s grace was with her in Medan, as she was befriended by Ria.

Ria had gone to school in Sidikalang, North Sumatra but had also spent a year in Australia at Grace College (Queensland) as a scholarship student. During this time Ria had become proficient in English and also achieved very good academic results. She had been hosted by members of Living Faith Lutheran Church (Murrumba Downs). This congregation has hosted and supported many students and staff from Sumatra over the years, as well as funding university studies for several students. Ria was keen to pass on the blessing that she had been given to someone else, and she was able to support Tuti Yana in practical ways, including tutoring her in English. Ria helped Tuti Yana survive the early months, and then to thrive in the university environment.

On several occasions during her studies, Tuti Yana made the (8 hour) trip back home to Lawe Sigala Gala, to meet with Australians who were visiting her old school. She was able to welcome, support and translate for the visitors. On one occasion, she was able to join a visit to Grace College – her first visit to Australia.

Tuti Yana gained excellent results for her teaching degree and on graduation was successful in gaining an English teaching position at her home school. She has become an outstanding teacher, keenly adopting many of the newer teaching strategies she learned during her own studies in Medan. Now she is looking forward to mentoring her own student, Eremika, when she graduates from Nommensen University. Eremika has been supported Lutherans in Queensland during her studies and is very keen to give back to the community that has supported her.

Tuti Yana proudly tells us of the improving academic results at the school, and the recent prizes for singing and sport, as well as academic results. The kindergarten now has the largest enrolment in the district.

Since graduation, Tuti Yana has fallen in love and married the principal of the Junior High School, Januar. Their wedding was a joyous ceremony, attended by Australian friends. They now have two young children, and are both working full-time at Lawe Sigala Gala. Compared to colleagues working in government schools, their salaries are low but God has provided money when needed, through Australian friends. Tuti Yana recently needed an urgent operation, and last year their home and all they owned was washed away in flooding, caused by environmentally harmful farming practices in the hills. God helped supply their needs.

When I returned to Lawe Sigala Gala with the Grace College team after the Teachers’ Conference, Tuti Yana shared both her story and her goals with us and with representatives from the local church and school.  She is determined to continue at the school and help it provide the best possible education for students in her remote region.

In every conversation with Tuti Yana, her deep Christian faith and servant heart are obvious. She blesses us every time we meet her. Tuti Yana’s value to her community is beyond price, and she is a shining example of how God’s grace keeps on giving.

If your school would like to know more about how they can connect to the mission of God through a LCA International Mission service-learning and ministry partnership, you are invited to phone Erin on (08) 8267 7300 or email erin.kerber@lca.org.au. For more information, go to www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/service-learning/

Read more stories about school partnerships and school service-learning at www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/local-partners/schools/

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