My husband Michael and I were very surprised to read an email from Abdi Sabda Seminary in Indonesia, requesting that ‘Michael and Debbie Borgas help us with our English Program online’. We had no idea how our names were chosen, aside from the fact that prior to COVID-19, we had been in some discussion to […]
My husband Michael and I were very surprised to read an email from Abdi Sabda Seminary in Indonesia, requesting that ‘Michael and Debbie Borgas help us with our English Program online’. We had no idea how our names were chosen, aside from the fact that prior to COVID-19, we had been in some discussion to go for ten days to Biblefrau, Indonesia to help teach English to the girls studying there. So this invitation came out of the blue. We became involved because Michael is very keen on talking to people from other cultures. It excites him to learn about other people. Since we were unable to go to Indonesia, we thought we should investigate what this request may involve.
The program was to deliver conversational English lessons, (online due to COVID-19) to pre-seminary students of Abdi Sabda Seminary, each weekday morning, for four weeks duration. The lessons were to be an hour and ten minutes long. The sessions were to have students engage in both a larger group setting of approximately 30 students and small ‘break out groups’, where five to seven students would be with one native English speaker.
The request from Indonesia was to endeavour to encourage the students to speak, as it was indicated they may initially be reluctant to do so. The aim initially was to have 7 groups of students ability ranked, led by a group of English speaking volunteers. Since COVID-19 also prohibited the Seminary from being open last year, there were two classes of students who needed to do the English Intensive, so there were just over 200 students.
Michael is skilled at encouraging others to get involved – including me! We had previously been to Kangaroo Ground, the Wycliffe Centre in Melbourne, for some training in preparation for going to Indonesia. Michael thought contacts from Wycliffe Bible Translators could support us, and they joined the project. Michael became the overseer of the endeavour, coordinated team meetings, wrote curriculum and disseminated information about requests from Indonesia.
The initial invitation read something like ‘spend an hour a day talking to students in Indonesia to encourage them in their language learning, and faith life’. Sounded simple and charming. For us, the reality was spending most of our waking hours of each day (except Sundays- we did joyfully ‘keep the Sabbath’) either meeting with our own team of seven volunteer teachers, both before and after each lesson, attending group leaders meetings (an hour a day initially), writing curriculum, refining curriculum others wrote so that it would suit our group, collecting resources to deliver the lessons effectively online, or actually delivering the lessons.
God’s generosity in providing willing volunteers was inspiring. Marg (from Wycliffe) said ‘God used two fish and five loaves, fed 5,000 people and there were 12 baskets left over.’ She believed ‘the little’ we had to offer could be used by God for great things. We hoped for 40 volunteers and God provided more!
The volunteers’ dedication in giving their time was inspiring. Some worked against significant obstacles to continue. Many of us learnt Zoom internet conferencing skills we didn’t have before.
There was wonderful camaraderie. Praying together as the students joined for the day, was delightful. Volunteers included members of the LCANZ and other denominations who joined us via Wycliffe connections. The joy of working with Christian brothers and sisters outside our denomination was a great experience of the family of God serving other parts of the family.
The love we felt toward the students still inspires me. I am moved as I recall hearing them pray, seeing their enthusiasm and observing their growth in confidence. Initially when we heard it was pre-seminary students, I thought it would be young men. In fact, many were women and we were told the class was 100 strong each year. We can get caught up in our own backyard and feel the church is dying, but in other countries of the world, the church is alive and strong.
We saw God do the impossible. We didn’t know how the students’ village internet connections would hold up. The time frame to prepare for the course seemed unrealistic. A suitable curriculum didn’t exist in complete form. Young people living apart from one another in crowded village homes had to apply themselves to instruction in another language, via Zoom.
If he decides to honour bumbling attempts to do something, it will work! From seeing the students grow from non-comprehending faces on Day 1 to speaking prayers and testimonies in English at the course conclusion- absolutely Jesus was at work!
I now don’t think of my brothers and sisters in Indonesia as a vague group of fellow believers, but as brothers and sisters whose names I know and who I can pray for by name.
This story was also published in the November 2021 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.
If you would like to consider the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in mission, serving in practical ways, teaching English, teaching in the seminaries and institutions of our partner churches, or in local churches, you are invited to phone Nevin on (08) 8267 7300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to https://www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/volunteer/
Read more stories about volunteering at www.lcamission.org.au/category/join-gods-mission/volunteers/