And so begins the second half of my experience here in Indonesia: with a heavy dose of radical hospitality, and the complete immersion into a Muslim community.
First, the radical hospitality:
Coming to Indonesia, I had primarily one contact on the ground – Joas. I had met a few other individuals from my time in Tanzania (some of whom I have been able to meet up with again on my trip here), but Joas was the one I entrusted to connect me with organizations and people that would help expand my understanding of interfaith dialogue.
So, one person. One connection.
Joas came up with the idea of having me stay at a pesantren, in order to truly immerse myself in a Muslim community and learn about the daily routine and rituals of students studying Islam. He then reached out to a colleague of his named Mungki, who is also a Presbyterian pastor here.
Mungki lives in Solo, an area of Central Java that has many moderate pesantrens (aka, ones that teach tolerance of other faiths, and also ones that would be willing to host an American Christian Pastor).
Mungki agreed to help Joas find a pesantren for me to stay at.
One connection becomes two.
Mungki reached out to a Muslim Imam he is friends with, who runs a pesantren in Solo, named Mr. Nafie. Mr. Nafie would be happy to host me at his pesantren, and has been to the US several times to learn about interfaith relations.
Two connections become three.
But then, there is a problem – Mr. Nafie’s pesantren is currently under construction as they renovate their boarding house area. Therefore, it wouldn’t be easy for me to stay there with them. Not to worry, though – Mr. Nafie is friends with a different Imam, named Mr. Hafidzi.
Mr. Hafidzi leads a pesantren a couple hour’s drive from Solo, in a small village on top of a mountain. Mr. Nafie contacts Mr. Hafidzi, and arranges for me to stay there instead.
Three connections become four.
And, suddenly, I find myself here today – at Tawangmangu pesantren, in a very small village, on top of a very tall mountain; essentially in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by picturesque rice fields that took my breath away on the drive up here.
I began this morning with a flight from Jakarta to Jogjakarta, another city on the island of Java. I was met at the airport by Mungki, holding a sign with my name written on it. Our first stop was for lunch, consisting of fried frog legs, which tasted surprisingly like chicken (that experience alone could be a whole blog post!).
Mungki then drove me the 1.5hrs from Jogjakarta to Solo, where we met up with his friend, Mr. Nafie.
Mr. Nafie then drove me, with several of his pesantren students accompanying, the 2hrs to the village where the pesantren is. On the way there, we stopped at an old sugar plant/factory turned museum to take a tour.
While there, he bought me not one, but TWO scarves, insisting that I get one for myself, and also one for my mother (sorry to ruin the surprise, mom!).
Finally, we arrived at the pesantren, where I was greeted by Mr. Hafidzi and his wife, with fruit and tea waiting for us.
Radical hospitality. With even more small details than I can write here. Like how Mr. Nafie had bottled water waiting for me in the car when he collected me from Mungki in solo.
Or how, when we were leaving the sugar factory museum, it started to rain – so Mr. Nafie sent one of his students running to the car to get the single umbrella out for me, and only me, to use.
Or even how, after worship tonight in the mosque, I came up to my room to discover a tray of snacks and bottled water, left there for me and my roommates (yes, I have roommates – more on that later).
Kindness after kindness after kindness. Done to me by people who have never met me before, who have no connection to me, just to one another.
I have so much more to write about – especially since I am now here, at the pesantren, and have a better idea of what the next few days will consist of. However, it is after 9:00pm here, and I have to be awake for morning prayers which begin at 4:00am!
So, that post will have to wait until tomorrow. Until then, just know that this pesantren is amazing, completely immersive, and….very rustic. This will be an adventure for sure!