Crown’s Team Indonesia Explains 3 Things to Know When Traveling Abroad
Posted August 10th, 2017
By Michaela Svoboda
Growing up, you may have been told to travel while you are young. Once you graduate from college, you might be tied down paying bills or loans, starting a life with a spouse or child, or working in a job so you won’t have the same opportunities to explore the world.
On May 24th, Crown College sent four students and a professor to Indonesia for 14 days. While there, the team encountered new people, experiences, and different cultures. The goal of the trip was to experience a different culture in the world’s most populous predominantly-Muslim nation while fellowshipping with local Christians and each other.
If you’ve thought about making a similar trip, here are three basic things you should know before traveling to a place like Indonesia…
1. Embrace the similarities and the differences
The team arrived on May 26th, running on just two hours of sleep. They participated in a peace camp with the goal of connecting people from Islam and Christianity to bring peace between them. They had breakfast, then spent four hours in training and preparing for different cultural expectations. Around lunch time participants started to show up to start classroom sessions to learn about different cultures which led into an entire afternoon and evening of workshops.
The team’s second day in the country marked the start of Ramadan — this meant the team would be fasting from food and drinks during the day as a way to show respect to the culture around them. Starting at 3AM, the team woke up and had breakfast, then abstained from food and drink the rest of the day until sunset. In the evening the team broke the fast together and repeated this cycle on Sunday.
Unlike some peace initiatives, this camp did not try to pretend that the differences do not matter. Instead, they embraced those differences and even let them define the trip.
“The peace camp is bringing people from different religions together,” says Stephen Jones, the Assistant Professor of International Studies at Crown. “The camp is doing the important work by highlighting both the religions’ differences and their points of contact. They don’t ignore those differences but try to see the differences and treat each other well because of a belief that this is the right thing to do.”
Before the camp, most students did not have friends from or a basic understanding of other religions. By the end, they were working together to share the “principles of peace” out in the city.
2. Your education may be applicable in unexpected ways
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school,” says Albert Einstein. That’s a lesson you learn on any mission trip.
For example, in the spring semester of 2017, Taylor Moyer — one of the four team members who is an International Studies and Bible and Theology major — took Greek 1. She knew the importance of her classes and education but she never realized how applicable the class would be to the entire trip.
In Islam, the Arabic language is holy. Most Muslims have an ability to read or recite in Arabic. When the team arrived to the peace camp, the people invited the team to sit with them and read excerpts from the New Testament in the original Greek. As the team began to read the scripture, the camp leader asked if anyone could read it, and Moyer could.
“No matter what I thought I read in Greek everyday,” says Moyer. “I read it as fast as possible and butchered it every time.”
This realization was interesting to her because in that culture, the pronunciation and beauty of the words can sometimes be more important than understanding the original meaning.
This struck Moyer deeply. She realized that when facing a choice between reading the Greek beautifully or understanding it, she prefers to focus on the deeper meaning of the Scripture and what it is saying to her. But what was really striking was the surprise that Greek would come in handy for interactions with Indonesians on her trip.
3. Care can come from unexpected places
Kirsten Medvec — one of the four team members and a Psychology major — got sick only two days into her home stay, halfway through the trip. Oddly enough, her favorite memory happened on the day she got sick.
She woke up like any normal day but when the team got back from the bazaar, she started throwing up and had a fever.
Her host mother, Ibu Titi, took care of Medvec the entire time she was sick. Titi laid next to her and held her hand, while rubbing her back and massaging her head. She talked with Medvec even though neither one of them could understand each other.
In her most desperate moment, Titi came and comforted her. Medvec couldn’t believe what she was seeing. This woman she had only known for a couple of days was taking care of her as if she were her own daughter.
Medvec’s sickness exposed her to a part of Indonesian culture she would have never seen otherwise. Every member of the family constantly checked up on Medvec by taking her temperature, blood pressure, or bringing her food. They welcomed a stranger into their home, gave her their bed, and took care of her when she was sick.
“It was such a humbling experience,” Medvec said.
Traveling doesn’t just give a person fun memories. It can expand a person’s perspective to see the world in a new way. The Indonesia team got to learn three basic things you should know before traveling to a place — even if they learned much more than that.