Interview with Felicia Hanitio

Interview with Felicia Hanitio.png

Felicia is a young marketplace leader living in Jakarta.  Having graduated from Vanderbilt University she moved back to Asia to work in Jakarta.  She was part of Resource Global’s second cohort in Jakarta.

What is your story? What do you do right now?

I live in Indonesia right now and have been living in Jakarta for two years. I am actually a Singapore citizen. My parents were born and raised in Indonesia, but I was born and have lived pretty much most of my life outside of Indonesia. I have lived in Singapore, Shanghai, and I studied in the States. Through it all, I had the privilege to interact with various cultures and to meet people with different backgrounds and life stories. For me, even today, this is something that continues to be an area of passion: interacting and building transcultural relationships with people of diverse cultures and backgrounds.

Another big part of my story is that when I was a university student in the states (at Vanderbilt), that is when I was really transformed and became a follower of Christ. For the first time, I understood my identity and purpose in life. I saw college as a time that really transformed me and set me on a solid ground. This is why today I continue to have a big burden for university students and developing them holistically at this strategic stage of life: not just in terms of spiritual foundations, or professional and leadership skills, but the whole package.

Right now, I work at Djarum Foundation on the Education Development team, developing and driving strategic initiatives to cultivate high-quality educators, school leaders, and school systems. Essentially, our goal is to help prepare the next generation of Indonesians to be as future-ready as possible, starting from the earliest ages. With my work, I also see how I can integrate my primary areas of calling in ministry - whether it is building relationships with those of different faiths and cultures, or participating in God’s work to build the next generation.

Were you involved in the Asian Christian Fellowship of intervarsity at Vanderbilt?

I was involved with AACF (Asian American Christian Fellowship) my freshman year along with Navigators. My primary ministry was AACF.  I became a member and had the option to lead a small group and coordinate new student outreach. Ultimately, these became entrypoints for different discipleship relationships.

YOU MENTIONED THAT INTERDENOMINATIONAL FAITH CONVERSATION WAS IMPORTANT TO YOU, WHY HAS THIS BECOME SUCH A PASSION FOR YOU?

That came out of personal experiences. In my senior year, interdenominational faith relations became a really big theme, an area of brokenness that was often talked about on and off campus. I befriended several Muslim Malaysian students who were really struggling to feel welcome and accepted. I remember just seeing how fellow Christians were some of the people who were most hurting our Muslim cousins. For me, it felt like this was an area we as Christians were called to show love and seek reconciliation. As I learned more about God’s heart for reconciliation for the nations, I became more and more interested in learning how I could be a part of that.

One of my most impactful experiences during my senior year was befriending a girl from my Spanish class. We started out just being partners for different conversational activities. Then we started getting meals, sharing conversations about God and what we missed about home. We even went to a basketball game together. Because of that, I became more and more interested in learning about my Muslim friends - especially those from Southeast Asia, and more specifically Malaysia and Indonesia. Many felt that they were demonized by the media, or that many people were misunderstanding them. I felt a responsibility to ask for forgiveness on behalf of the body of Christ and take the initiative to seek reconciliation. I wondered how do we(Christians) really share the love of Christ and how do we share the gospel, especially when what they(Muslims) experience from Christians is hate, not love? That was one of the reasons I wanted to move to Indonesia - to continue learning about what the relationship between Christians and Muslims looks like here. What are some of the areas of brokenness, and what’s the history behind that? To unpack some of that baggage, I knew I needed to start with being an engaged listener and observer.

You spend a lot of time in Kudus, can you please tell me about that city?

Kudus is Bahasa Indonesia for “holy”. Kudus is a small town in Central Java, and has a long history as one of the major cities for the spread of Islam. Several Islamic saints come from Kudus and the surrounding areas. However, it is also a city that has a very fascinating history of interfaith tolerance. As Islam was growing and spreading in Kudus (and surrounding areas), one step of tolerance that the Muslims decided to take was to respect their remaining Hindu neighbors by refraining from eating beef. So today you will see that Kudus is really known for local dishes that use buffalo instead of beef. A lot of people think it is just the tradition, but actually it contains this amazing story of interfaith awareness. Today, as we see certain themes of radicalism becoming more prominent, the question we should ask is, How can they remember their story as a city? and How can they reinterpret this history for today's context?.

I would love to get your feedback about your time at Resource Global. What were some of the things God taught you through the cohorts?

So a big lesson for me throughout the cohort and especially through the GCG, the Global Court Gathering, was about gospel-based risk taking. Being a part of a high-caliber cohort and a program that is all about leadership development, I think sometimes it’s easy to fall into the illusion that we always have to have things put together, and know exactly what we want to do with our lives. As I got to know the cohort and the people leading it, and saw people share their brokenness transparently, even their failures and how God guided them through that, I found that God was humbling me. I was reminded that the whole point is to be broken and be used by Him in our brokenness. To know that we can take big risks and fail, and learn and grow through failure because God is sovereign. To see other people who have gone through that, and know that they are actually okay. They are even better having gone through that process. This truth has given me a lot of additional courage to try things I don’t really feel I am necessarily good at, to take an attitude of learning through failures and successes alike, and to subject myself to God’s process and timing, rather than feeling as if I am always pressured to perform.

How was your time with your mentor? How often did you guys meet?

We met (over video call) about once a month. It has been a blessing to walk with her. She was a real encouragement, and not just with Resource Global. I went on a missions trip with HMCC, and she was one of the people who really prayed with me, for me, and for the missions trip. She encouraged me in my growth in many different areas, including professionally and spiritually. We related well on several common passions and life experiences: she works in the education sector in the US, and grew up as a third culture kid. In terms of personality and ways of thinking, though, we were really different, so that was refreshing and sharpening. The mentorship relationship was one of the best parts of the Resource Global experience.