I have been a friend of iCare and CHARIS for three years now, and it all started with the thought “why not do some volunteer work?” The ways that God has for us can be really funny – as an impatient man who only went to the countryside on holidays, I applied at the Mission Etrangeres de Paris, and they decided to send me from France all the way to an unknown town in Indonesia to help in a household of 40 underprivileged boys (11 to 18 years old).
At the front of the household: The boys with the priest, the director, my colleague volunteer and I
With that I spent one year on mission in Tanjung Pinang, and as I was vain enough to think that I was going to give and receive not so much, as most of you would imagine, I was wrong! Reflecting back, I remember three main things that for me, defined a mission.
Firstly, I initially thought my main role was to ‘help’ – to be a ‘big brother’ for the boys, take care of the household, help the boys with schoolwork, wake up at 2am when they were sick, go to the market, and in general just trying to make everything work. When we leave for mission, we initially bring along many dreams and ideals to be a ‘saviour’ who brings ‘change’ to the place we serve in. However, I realised that it was more of adapting to the language, culture and daily tasks – where changes were very much pushed back!
I realised that mission was more linked to my faith than expected. Sometime into the year, I realised that these boys had much more faith than me, and that faith was allowing me to “survive”. The morning masses were a reboot for my spirit, giving me the “extra step” for my day.
Secondly, I realised that mission was more linked to my faith than expected. I was never a regular church-goer, and only went to Church when I needed to go with my grandmothers or during big celebrations. Sometime into the year, I realised that these boys had much more faith than me, and that faith was allowing me to “survive”. The morning masses were a reboot for my spirit, giving me the “extra step” for my day. This boost helped me to fulfil whatever changes I wanted to create and helped me realised that young children should be encouraged to do their best for them to progress. It is He who helped us to recognise that “poor” people should not have a “poor” place, and this led to changes in nutrition and hygiene, creating a better environment for all.
Thirdly, I will never forget the many unexpected surprises during this mission. I will always remember the day we put some cheap plastic carpet in the boys’ bedrooms over hard concrete floors. Then, for the first time, I got yelled at by the boys, after I entered their room with my flip-flops. Sometimes a little thing like adding a carpet can change attitudes drastically – we didn’t need to force them to clean up once they considered the rooms as “their place”.
Working on renovation
It has been three years, but I am still connected with the boys and started my own association “Cahaya Masa Depan” to support and fund education costs for the boys after high school. These missions helped me to realise who I am, and to always bring joy. Thank you iCare and CHARIS for giving me the opportunity to go on missions, to help, develop my faith, and to get surprised!