Not the village people you were probably thinking of. While on sabbatical in another country one of the best things you can do is get out there and meet people. Lots of people!
We had a unique opportunity to meet some villagers from an area near Bandung called Cimahi. The event was sponsored by our local Church Gereja Kalam Kudus in Kopo Permai.
The villagers from this area work as farmers, angkot drivers or have their own small businesses and would generally be considered lower income. But as we discovered after gathering with them they have hearts that overcome any obstacle in their way.
As Christians they must worship at various members houses as they have been unable to build a Church because the local village elders have not permitted it. It’s quite common in Indonesia to have religious tension in small villages like this. If you didn’t know, Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation.
This gathering was arranged by our Church in order to have some Christmas celebrations and provide the villagers with necessities like cooking oil, rice and clothing.
While we would have loved to have gone to their village we ended up meeting in-between at another Church. We were so glad that we were able to attend.
While we waited for the villagers to arrive some of the kids practiced their Christmas songs that they would perform.
Finally the villagers arrived and we began the celebrations. First, the pastor from the village made a few comments and then the music and singing began. All of the songs were in Sundanese language and they were beautiful. I have no idea what the meanings of the lyrics were but I really enjoyed the voices.
After the singing we got to eat. We had brought some boxed meals to hand out to everyone and the villagers had brought some home-cooked food.
One lady in particular had made these skewers of meat and she took a particular liking to me and had me take quite a few skewers. I think she thought I was too thin and wanted to fatten me up a bit.
After we ate we mingled a bit and I tried out some of my rudimentary bahasa Indonesia on them. There was definitely a curiosity around us as we were the only “bule” or white people there and the kids took a particular liking to us and wanted to take lots of photos.
Then we started the gift exchange and handed out Christmas gift bags for all the kids, food items like cooking oil, rice and flour and clothing. It was just a very special time to connect with everyone.
At the very end we took a group photo and said our goodbyes. It was a little sad because over the course of a few hours we had made these connections with people. They felt a little like family.
I like to think we all went home changed. I know I did. It’s easy for me to forget how good I really have it. Here were people who didn’t have much, were unable to build a place of worship and yet they were some of the happiest people I’ve met.
Their voices were lifted up in beautiful music, they were thankful for what they did have and they were gracious and welcoming in offering us delicious food they had made.
And really happiness comes down to a simple choice: we can either choose to be happy or choose to not be happy. We can see beauty in the world or we can see ugliness. We can pursue happiness or we can choose happiness.
From my experience these beautiful people from Cimahi have chosen to be happy and see blessings every single day. That one decision coupled with their strong faith carries them through any adversity.
If you want to listen to the beautiful music they performed check out the video below. It’s about 30 minutes long.