For the first time in our lives we had the experience of participating in a service which we did not at all understand. And what is more, Rev. Hanko and I both had the experience of preaching through an interpreter. At 6:30 on Sunday morning our chauffeur, Cornelius Kuswanto, was at the hotel to pick us up for the first service of the day, which began at 7 o’clock. The services are conducted early in the morning because of the heat and humidity. Before the services began, we were treated to some weak tea and rice cakes: for our hosts at this church gave every evidence of outdoing themselves in an effort to be kind and hospitable. All three of us were present at the prayer before the service (which we did not understand); and then we went to the auditorium, where there was a congregation numbering about 150 present. It was my turn to preach at this fast service, and I went to the pulpit accompanied by my interpreter, Evangelist Cornelius Kuswanto. I preached in the English language on John 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” I had to deliver my sermon in simple and deliberate English, waiting after each sentence for my interpreter to translate into the Indonesian language. That was indeed a new experience! After the service we had the opportunity to meet all the people of the congregation as they left the building. As I mentioned earlier, we had no idea how well we were communicating with the congregation; we were told, however, that the messages were greatly enjoyed and gladly received.
Between services we were again treated to refreshments, and we also had the opportunity to visit the homes of Mrs. Mangindaan and of Mr. and Mrs. Sudargo and to get some idea of the way these people lived.
Rev. Hanko was scheduled to preach at the 10 o’clock service. But he had been informed on Saturday evening, shortly after our arrival, that the elder who would serve as his translator was more at home in the Dutch language than in the English language. The result was that Rev. Hanko spent a long time on Saturday night preparing to preach in the Dutch language—something which he had not done in about twenty years. Talk about a catholic church service! Rev. Hanko was preaching in Dutch on Psalm 91:1, 2. His interpreter was translating into the Indonesian language. My wife and I followed the Scripture reading in our English Bibles. There were others with Bibles in the Indonesian language. But in the pew in which we sat there was also a young lady following in her Bible in the Chinese language. English, Dutch, Indonesian, and Chinese—all in the same church service! Incidentally, we sang from Indonesian hymn books, with many of the American hymn tunes familiar to us being used. Although we did not know what we were singing, Rev. Hanko and Mrs. Hoeksema and I sang along in Indonesian, because the language is very phonetic.
After the service we were treated to an Indonesian dinner in the courtyard of the church, a dinner which was shared with the various leading people of the congregation. But soon after dinner we went back to our hotel for some rest and some relief from the stifling heat and humidity.
At 5:30 in the afternoon Mr. Kuswanto again called for us and brought us to the church for a meeting of various of the leaders of the congregation for Bible study. Again, this entire meeting was conducted by us in the English language, with Mr. Kuswanto translating our remarks into the Indonesian language; besides, except for a few questions from the people which were asked in broken English, our interpreter also had to translate the Indonesian questions into English for us. The reader can well understand that this served to make a meeting rather tedious. On one occasion I forgot about the language problem and about my interpreter, until several in the audience began to laugh and to point to Cornelius standing at my side. Fortunately, he was able to catch up on the several sentences which I had spoken without a pause. This was a very interesting meeting from the point of view of the fact that the questions from the audience served to reveal their thinking, and also served to show ‘that my remarks were getting across even through the process of translation. I took this occasion to tell this gathering something about our Protestant Reformed Churches, and, in connection with Ephesians 2, gave them a simple lesson about the Five Points of Calvinism. There were several intelligent questions about predestination and about free will, as well as questions which arose concerning the denial of the authority of Scripture. The subject of the Five Points of Calvinism seemed new to these people. For after the meeting, during some of the informal discussion which followed, there were those who expressed that they would like to know more about the subject of the Five Points of Calvinism; and Evangelist Kuswanto asked if I would be able to send him a book about this subject, which I promised to do.
Thus ended a Sunday full of new and strange experiences, but also a day at the end of which it behooved us to give thanks to our God for this opportunity to make known His Word in that distant land.
Monday, July 21, was a day partly devoted to work and partly devoted to a whirlwind shopping and sight seeing tour. Even in Indonesia we could not escape the influence of Mri van Rij; and this was a good thing. He had made arrangements for one of his business associates in Jakarta, Mr. Cornelius Marinus, to help us find our way in those foreign circumstances and to show us some of the sights. Our first item of business was to confirm our air reservations for that evening. We had been unable to succeed in this on Saturday when we arrived; and it seems as though even a little routine item such as this is quite an accomplishment in Indonesia. At any rate, we were somewhat relieved to have that taken care of. Next, we had to find the Emmanuel “Toko Buku (Book Store)”, the headquarters of the mission which distributes our literature in Indonesia for the Foreign Mission Committee. All we had was the name and a post office box number. But Mr. Marinus knew where to go, and also knew how to get us through the tangled morning traffic of Jakarta. At the mission we inquired for Mr. Sam Daniels, who, we had been informed, was in charge of the work. Incidentally, the people in charge of this mission are of Indian nationality, not Indonesian. This mission is engaged in translating, printing, and distributing some of the Bible Lessons prepared by Rev. Woudenberg. Our mandate was to find out about this work and its progress. I will not weary you with the details of what we learned, except to report that we found out that the response to these lessons is rather small. This, however, is not due to the lessons themselves, but rather due to the fact that in this land of inefficiency and poverty you can hardly expect to find many who will complete a correspondence course. However, we have made our report on this matter to the Foreign Mission Committee, and they will undoubtedly have recommendations concerning future action to our next synod. I may add that at this mission we were asked concerning the possibility of sending other tracts and pamphlets which might be translated and printed. They also requested samples of our books that might be placed in their bookstore.
After this business was taken care of, we all had some shopping to do in Jakarta; and in this, too, we were assisted by Mr. Marinus, who knew the best places to shop and who took care that we were not cheated. In the course of our shopping tour, we also had the opportunity to see some of the sights of Jakarta. Just to furnish another glimpse of the social and economic conditions, I may mention that we visited a batik factory, where Indonesian workers were busy in a dark and dingy cellar stamping designs on and dyeing the beautiful batik fabric. We were told that the women who were working there earned the equivalent of 35¢ per day. It was a relief to get out of the city of Jakarta for awhile and into the countryside of the Island of Java. We had been told that a lack of food and agricultural productivity is not one of the problems of Indonesia; and when we traveled through the lush, tropical countryside, we could believe this. Everything grows luxuriantly and abundantly. None of the land is wasted. And although our trip was somewhat spoiled by torrential downpours, we enjoyed traveling through the country and seeing the rice paddies, the banana groves, and later, at the higher elevation, acre after acre of tea. We passed through the city of Bogor, where, we were told, the Dutch government officials formerly lived; and we went on as far as a low mountain pass, called Puncak Pass, where we had noon lunch rather belatedly. However, we had really extended our tour too long. And although our guide was virtually certain that our flight would not leave the airport on time (for it seems to be proverbial that no one is on time in Indonesia), we could not depend on this. The result was that we had a breakneck trip back through the traffic of Jakarta to the airport, with our chauffeur playing “chicken” all the way. And sure enough, though we got back to the airport just in time to check in for our scheduled departure, our plane was delayed for an hour, and we could have made our return trip at a more leisurely pace. Our friends from the church were at the airport to bid us good-by, and at 6 P.M. we left by Thai International Airlines for Singapore, more than 500 miles to the north. When we reached Singapore, we were back in the Northern Hemisphere, just a little north of the equator.