Hear from Febri Kristiani, an IWF 2017 recipient and student at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana.
I was born in a small village called Karang Gumul. This little village is located in Klaten, Central Java, Indonesia. Indonesia is a very diverse country with different religions, language, and culture. I am part of the minority, I was raised in a Catholic family and was in a lower socio-economic class. Growing up as the minority in a poor family was hard. I was surrounded by people who always said, “Never dream a big dream, you will fall apart and get hurt badly if it does not come true.” They said, “Just finish high school, get a job, help your parents, get married and then stay home to take care of your children. Don’t try to do more than that; no one does that; it’s too impossible for us.” Growing up in this kind of society, I became a little girl who had no confidence and always felt that I was not enough. I was so scared and intimidated: what if what they said is true – is it impossible for a little girl like me to get a good education and make a difference? My parents told me the same thing, because they knew they would not be able to send me to college and they just did not want me to be disappointed. As a little girl, I was quite stubborn. When I was 10 years old, I kept telling my parents that I wanted to go to school out of the village. I was scared, but I could not resist my desire to dream a big dream and make a difference.
While I was growing up, my family experienced a lot of difficult circumstances. One of my sisters had cancer for a number of years. My family had to go back and forth to the hospital and send her for treatments, which caused financial hardship. This sister died when I was 8 years old. Because of the financial issue, my parents were not sure if they could send me to a school outside of the village. With all the prayers and hard work of my parents, they finally sent me out of the village for middle and high school. I was the first person in my village who went out from our village to get a better education.
As a village girl, going to town was not easy, especially because I was a minority and poor. I had a hard time building friendships because of the socioeconomic gap between me and my friends. My self-image was not developing well. I barely had self-confidence. When I was 17 years old, my parents sent me to live with my uncle’s family. My parents expected them to help me find a college and pay for it, because that is what my uncle had promised to my mom. Unfortunately, they didn’t help me but instead forced me to work for them. During that time, I thought of God as an unloving God, because God took away my sister and because no one wanted or loved me. My dream fell apart; I could not see the future, and I was so desperate.
I went back home and decided to live with my oldest sister. At that time, I started to attend a Mennonite church. It was not my first time to hear about Jesus because I grew up Catholic, but it was my first time to hear and understand that Jesus loves me and never leaves me alone. I had my personal encounter with Jesus, and not long after that, I decided to be baptized. Six months later, I decided to go to seminary because the feeling of God’s call was so strong. My parents were not sure about my decision because they did not have the funds to support me financially. They were also wondering what kind of future I would have by pursuing seminary program. By the grace of God, I got a full scholarship for my seminary program. This brought such a comfort to my parents and a confirmation that this decision was in the will of God. Again, I was the first person from my village and my family who went to seminary.
During my seminary program, I did children’s ministries inside and outside of the church. I went to some villages and an orphanage to teach an after-school program. I chose to start this ministry because there are so many children in those villages and in the orphanage who lack hope for the future and are afraid to dream big dreams because of the fact that they came from poor families. My passion was and is to empower and encourage them so they have hope for the future and see that there is nothing wrong with dreaming a big dream. On the weekends, I served in the church children’s ministry as a mentor and a teacher.
During that time, I had an opportunity to serve God and others in another country, the United States. The International Volunteer Exchange Program with Mennonite Central Committee placed me in South Hutchinson, Kansas. There I served at a retirement community, Mennonite Friendship Communities, as part of the pastoral team and as an assistant to the chaplain. I also was a children’s pastor assistant at Journey Mennonite Church. Through this opportunity, I learned more about God and experienced God’s presence in another context and culture. I also learned more about myself and my passion. This opportunity strengthened my calling, especially by doing some chaplaincy work in the nursing home. God has called me to those who are in need of love and hope, to share God’s compassion and salvation through Jesus Christ.
Through the hardship that I have experienced and through the opportunities that God has given to me, God had affirmed my calling to serve God and others, to do his mission in this world, to share his love and compassion through the salvation of Jesus. After I finished my seminary program with a Bachelor of Theology, I decided to pursue a Master’s program in seminary for pastoral care and counseling. Since Indonesia does not have a Mennonite seminary with this program, I did some research about Mennonite seminaries. I found Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, which has a chaplaincy program. By the grace of God and with the support of local churches and organizations here in the USA, I became an AMBS student. I am pursuing the Master of Divinity in chaplaincy. The focus of this program is restoring personal and corporate health in spiritual, relational, emotional, and physical aspects. This program will certainly shape my calling and help me to engage with ministry fields inside and outside the church. This is my first year at AMBS, and I am still in the process of discerning where God wants me to serve. However, I know that my heart is eager to serve God outside the church doing chaplaincy work. I am willing to serve God wherever he sends me, either in an organization, school, or hospital. Once again, I am the first person from my little village who pursuing education out of the little village and out of my country. I’m on the other side of the world in response to God’s calling. This calling involves inviting others toward the reign and the kingdom of God – to make this world a better place by sharing God’s love and compassion, working for peace and justice, and empowering and encouraging those who are hopeless and lost.
“What God wants first of me is myself. That means to say that His will for me points to one thing: the realization, the discovery, and fulfillment of myself, my true self in Christ …. Not in the absorption and disappearance of my own personality, but its affirmation and perfection … We do not give up the idea of seeking our own good, we simply seek it where it can really be found: in a good that is beyond and above ourselves.” – Thomas Merton