Saturday, October 24, 2015

Take me back to the "city"

It was around this time in 2012 when I was in an event held at my last church in Singapore. That weekday evening "Table for One" was a talk about relationships and singleness. But I came home with something not quite about it at all. 

The word "city" began to haunt me for weeks since. 

Struggling with visa issues in my stay here in Berlin, this week I learned new words in German law. Fiktionsbescheinigung. Rechtsbehelfsbelehrung. And some others that, I'm telling you, are not simpler than those two. But the word "city" is definitely not a new word for me. So, I felt it unusual when I just couldn't stop thinking about it back then. 

That year there was already a lot of talk in the church about the city vision -- our strategic presence in the city state, the location of the church, the multinational environment and diverse culture, and our calling as a church in the midst of those unique settings.
So, it wasn't at all the first time I heard the word being mentioned in the church.

Not until that night a different revelation was given to me, of the word 'city'. That night started all of my rethinking about the cities I've lived in. 

I was born in Indonesia's second largest city, Surabaya. Was there only until I was six years old, before our family moved to Jakarta where I spent practically my entire education until university, I don't really have much emotional attachment to Surabaya, apart from a place to spend school holidays in.
Just a few months after my graduation ceremony in 2004, I moved to Singapore, after spending few months flying back and forth to see doctors. They said it would be ideal for me to be near them, for a closer monitoring (It would be another beautiful testimony to share about a miracle He did to make my move to Singapore permanent.)

That night also started my rethinking about my role, what I do, in those cities. My job at that time, the concept I learned from the Tentmaking theology course came back in mind, the marketplace I was in, my colleagues at work... The thoughts were overwhelming as I was reaching to the point of looking to go to grad school. The idea of a graduate degree in business then came as I see it as a means to improve myself, positioning myself for God to be able to use me in wider, higher, increased capacities. 

Appointments I made for face-to-face meetings with one of our pastors to help me in my train of thoughts were not as easy as I thought. Our pastor asked me tough questions, questions I have no answer for, questions I was still looking an answer for. Why an MBA. Why the UK. Why business school. Why now. Why 'city'. What's about 'city'.
Until now, as I look back, I'm not sure I now have the answers of those tough questions he asked me, that he meant to sharpen my thinking, my decision, as he prayed with and for me.

September 2013 may have marked my move to another city (Glasgow, Scotland, UK), and now I'm here in Berlin; but these European cities added even richer thoughts and aspects to the revelations of the word. At least to me.

Yet again, the same word 'city' spoke to me in tonight's prayer meeting. It was the second time this week and each time I learn a new aspect about it. Tonight was about cities that are ruined, destroyed and abandoned.  

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations. (Isaiah 61:4)

Surabaya and Jakarta may not as advanced and modern as Singapore. Most European cities I visited are typically much more quiet, laid back, and more relaxed. But I've never lived in a ruined city, never saw one either. 

Little that I knew, I'm afraid, that cities I've lived in, in all their hectic lifestyle, modern infrastructure, their majestic architecture and history, good transportation system, have one thing in common: people, souls, that are not just distant from their Creator, but also people who are broken, hurt and lost. And by now living in this part of the world, I somehow see the 'ruin' and 'devastation' in a different light. 
The western world that's become more and more secular has long left its faith and belief in God is giving the alarming high divorce rate, the decades low birth rate, the stagnant European economy among others a new definition of the cities that God is calling us to rebuild and restore.

I'm grateful to see His present work in the continent where the gospel first brought into (Paul's second missionary journey) outside Asia Minor. Church attendance on Sundays or congregation size may not be anywhere near where I came from in Asia. But it warms my heart, every time, to see how God preserves His people in churches here. 

As you take me back to the "city" I see Your hands working beyond limitations of culture, people and situation, and I see Your heart, that You long for souls, for people to come to You.   

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