Twenty volunteers living in South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria joined together from five Christian denominations to serve the STT Abdi Sabda Seminary conversational English program overseas in 2023. Each weekday for four weeks, these servants demonstrated the love of Jesus to the young people who are beginning their theological studies to become […]
Twenty volunteers living in South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria joined together from five Christian denominations to serve the STT Abdi Sabda Seminary conversational English program overseas in 2023. Each weekday for four weeks, these servants demonstrated the love of Jesus to the young people who are beginning their theological studies to become pastors, teachers and to strengthen their knowledge of God’s Word.
Ev, Janine and Barbara joined the program this year. Here, they share their experience.
For the last few years in July/August, LCA International Mission has recruited a band of trusty helpers from various Christian denominations across Australia to teach conversational English to Indonesian seminary students. The students (about 120) are based in Medan, the capital of Indonesia’s largest island Sumatra. Sumatra and surrounding islands like Nias are the heartland of Indonesia’s Christian population, with around 8 million Christians in the region. These students were beginning their studies at Abdi Sabda Theological College.
This four-week English course has been delivered online but in 2023 we had amazing help from Australians Michael and Debbie Borgas and Lee and Grace Cook, who travelled to Medan. They worked face to face with the students, supporting us as we worked online.
Each lesson lasted 90 minutes. The students split into four class groups and met at the start of each lesson for worship, greetings and singing. The classes then broke into small groups (6 or 7) to work intensively on conversational practice with a mentor teacher in Australia. There were about 20 volunteers in Australia. I worked with a small group based in Adelaide, Brisbane, the Barossa and Victor Harbor.
The 18–24 year-old students worked hard. They were expected to wake at 5 am for prayer and meditation before breakfast, and had little free time on the weekends. They were from many different areas and islands so were still getting to know each other as well as us, their teachers. On top of that, there was the issue of poor network coverage at times. Most of the students came from poor farming backgrounds. They had learnt English at school but struggled with pronunciation.
Their faith and trust in a loving and caring heavenly Father carried them through. It was such a blessing for us to share their worship times and listen to their readings. It was particularly moving to hear them give a testimony about their faith in Jesus. They also liked to hear about our faith journeys and family life in Australia.
This course was a blessing for all of us, students and mentors alike. Some mentors were retired teachers, like me, and we loved connecting with students and enjoying interaction with teenagers again. But it wasn’t all beer and skittles! Working online has its challenges. Although the lesson was only 90 minutes, we needed to prepare as a small group beforehand and then debrief afterwards. Fortunately, some of the volunteers had worked hard to develop an excellent course so this gave us lots of confidence.
If I was to sum up my experience of working with these Indonesian Christian young people, I would turn to St. Paul’s words In Galatians, chapter 3.26-28: So, in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- Ev Leske
I chose to be involved as I was very excited when I read the advertisement in my church newsletter. I enjoy meeting people from different cultures, and this was a great opportunity to meet seminary students from Indonesia and pass on the gift of speaking English, which will ultimately help them in their vocations to spread God’s Word.
Being a first-time volunteer on the program, I didn’t entirely know what to expect, but was happy to be God’s vessel and let him do the leading. During the program, it was wonderful to have the support of other voluntary team members, such as debriefing after each session. We also received encouragement from the Australian volunteers who were based in Indonesia, such as Debbie Borgas who mentioned she was ‘thrilled with you all’, and that we ‘brilliantly draw out’ the students. It was such a blessing to be able to encourage the students and watch their English speaking skills improve. During lessons, it was very special to have group prayer time, knowing God was supporting each volunteer and student. At times, challenges included technical issues and a lack of student engagement due to tiredness, but all in all this was a very positive experience, and I enjoyed meeting both the students and other volunteers.
For anyone who is thinking about being involved in a similar program in the future, I would say give it a prayerful go! The rewards are many, to the glory of God.
- Janine Guy
My husband and I are retired teachers. When we saw a notice in our church bulletin asking for volunteers to be conversation partners with seminary students in Indonesia, we thought that this could be another opportunity for us to use our time and skills to help others.
We were not sure what would be involved but had some idea about using Zoom. The students were doing an intensive English course prior to starting their seminary studies. Even though they were graded as ‘similar’ on their written English skills, their oral skills varied considerably.
The program was very well organised with PowerPoints prepared by our leader for each day, including discussion starters and opportunities for the students to practice their English. We had some whole group time and breakout groups for more individual support. The students’ strong faith was evident throughout the program.
Over the four weeks it was pleasing to see how the students improved in their confidence, fluency and pronunciation. Their testimonials on the last day were quite moving.
I would recommend this as an opportunity for anyone who likes encouraging others and can spare 2 – 3 hours in the middle of the day over 4 weeks. You will be blessed as you share Christ’s love and support the students.
- Barbara Matthews
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 LCA International Mission on (08) 8267 7317 or email email@example.com. For more information, go to https://www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/volunteer/
Read more stories about volunteering at https://www.lcamission.org.au/category/join-gods-mission/volunteers/