Interview with Felicia Hanitio

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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.

Interview with Suparno Adijato, Chairman of the Board, Resource Global Jakarta

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Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am an Indonesian, who has been living in Jakarta for thirty years. We have a family plantation and mining business. My wife and I are educators for preschoolers to adults. But my passion is in ministry, building up and discipling young adults so they can contribute to their cities.

What gives you hope for the city of Jakarta?

The number one word that comes to mind when I think of Jakarta is vibrant. Jakarta is full of life, even traffic jams represent the city’s vibrance. Jakarta, with a population of 30 million people, is the second biggest megapolitan in the world, just short of Tokyo. Another word for Jakarta is improving. Indonesia used to be at the bottom of Transparency International. In 1998, we had one of the worst economic crisis, along with a change of government. But amidst the skepticism by many people, things are improving in the country.Many people thought Indonesia would go down the drain, but people have been praying for the country. There is a national prayer network that has millions of people covering Indonesia with prayers.

You mentioned there are five giants (problems) in the city of Jakarta, what is the first problem?

Corruption is a big problem. It breeds inefficiency. By being inefficient, you get more money. Corruption also breeds uncertainties and risks. Foreign investors will not invest if the risk is too high due to corruption. With corruption, people can be bought. There is no security when you don’t know who you can trust. People don’t need to have integrity where there is corruption. So I believe that if our society can overcome corruption, then we would be on the right path.

What is the second giant?

The second giant is inequality. Not only are there minorities in terms of race and religion, Indonesia has one of the greatest unequal distributions of wealth amongst its people. There are three classes of people:

  • the few, who have a lot of wealth,

  • the small amount, which is considered is middle class,

  • and then the class majority of Indonesians fall into, those who are near poverty.

What is the third giant?

The third giant is vulnerability. A society works well if the law works to protect the people. The law is not perfect, but so is the implementation of the law in Indonesia. There are inefficiencies in the way the law is drafted. Due to that fact, a lot of times people feel that the law is against them. As a result, the people are wary and do not know who they can trust. There should be some form of social justice.

What is the fourth giant?

The fourth giant is poverty. Unemployment is a huge issue. The government has made improvements, but there is still a lot of unemployed people. For example, people who work on a farm work for about six months and only about five hours a day. So if they get sick, there is no money. People here run into a lot of problems because of debt.

What is the fifth final giant?

The final giant is hopelessness. There is an overarching sense of hopelessness and oppression. But Jesus has come to help those that are oppressed; God has given us hope through Jesus and hope for the future. There is hope. I believe our society can and will continue to improve going forward.

Any last thoughts?

The Bible talks about David being the giant slayer. In our lives, we have Davids, but also men who can be Davids and support Davids. God can use everybody. Although we may not be a David, we can still help to bring back the kingdom. All of us can do something to slay giants.

Singapore – Christianity and the Marketplace: Part 2

Singapore's multi-ethnic and multi-religious society also has an effect on Christianity in the country. While the harmony that exists between different races and different religions is a shining example to the world of multiculturalism at its best, Pastor Murphy sees it as a double edged sword. "While this means there is a need to be extremely aware of religious sensitivities in the city's context, the tolerance for other religions actually forces a generosity of spirit and charity that is helpful as others seek to understand Christianity (and other religions)," says Pastor Murphy. "The downside is that the insistence on truth can, without proper dialogue, make Christianity seem intolerant, exclusive, and even detrimental to society."

In Singapore, as in most other Asian countries, great value is placed on the family unit, and individualism is often expected to yield to family honor, reputation, and harmony. "This can cause challenges for a Christian with unbelieving parents or a Christian trying to live by countercultural biblical principles," says Pastor Murphy. "Also, because Christianity came to Singapore through foreign missionaries of colonial powers, Christianity can still be perceived as a Western religion that is fundamentally incompatible with ethnic identity."

Pastor Huai Tze Tan of One Covenant Church uses just three words to describe Singaporean culture:  pluralistic, pragmatic, and secular. Pluralistic refers to the nation's multiculturalism, while pragmatic refers to the particular ideologies instilled in the people by their founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. A pragmatic attitude toward life means that Singaporean Christians tend to be more concerned about "the sensible thing" than actual biblical doctrine. "Oftentimes, it is what works, rather than what is true, that is of greatest concern," says Pastor Tan. While all major religions are represented in Singapore, statistics show that secularism is a rising trend. More than 18 percent of the population identifies as having "no religion.' There is also a growing view that religious institutions are ideologically regressive, disconnected from people's lifestyle and needs, and slow to engage young people. Other Singaporeans see high-profile scandals involving religious leaders as having compromised the credibility of religious groups as a moral voice.

Singaporeans work incredibly hard and are very busy, so many believers struggle to make time for church. When people perceive God as being irrelevant or inconvenient when faced with the other pressures of life, giving priority to their faith becomes a challenge. Being a pragmatic and materialistic society, Singaporeans take pride in being able to work things out for themselves and are often more preoccupied with the "here and now" than with reflecting on the meaning and purpose of their lives and their existence. Because society places so much focus on living a successful, convenient, comfortable life, Singaporean Christians are not prepared to suffer persecution and can feel like God is punishing them when tragedy strikes.

The pressure in society to build and maintain a certain image, reputation, or lifestyle makes the prosperity gospel appealing to many people. Singaporeans feel that their performance is being constantly assessed, and there is a prevailing mindset throughout society that what they have is what they deserve, whether good or bad. "Receiving grace and extending it therefore becomes extremely counterintuitive, countercultural, and even offensive in a culture that places so much emphasis on the idea that only the deserving are rewarded," says Pastor Murphy. Because Christianity is widely understood to be a religion based on moral values, even if the Gospel is explained and understood at the point of salvation, many Singaporeans slip into legalism because of the cultural mindset that it is only through their works, service, and behavior that they can become acceptable to God.

The nation's pastors have found that the message of God's grace is empowering to Singaporeans because it means that they can be accepted by God—not on the basis of what they have done right, but on the basis of what Christ has done right, in their place. While salvation by grace alone is countercultural, many people are attracted to a God who does not assess their worth based on their performance. Singapore's pragmatic society also leads people to hunger for deep, meaningful relationships. Through the Gospel, God promises to make us His children and we become part of His family. In a culture that is relationally cold, this promise is especially appealing.

"The harmony that exists among different races and religions is zealously guarded and ardently protected (both by the government and also by society itself)," says Pastor Murphy. The city's tolerance for religious diversity means that there is no detriment to Singaporeans for being transparent about their Christian faith. As countercultural as the Gospel and Christianity can be to the established lifestyle of Singaporeans, the nation's true believers are committed to living according to God's Word and encouraging other brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same.

Many Christian networking groups for businesspeople in the city give believers opportunities for community and accountability. Several groups use Meetup to advertise their networking meetings. The "Young Professionals in Christ" group hosts young professional networking events, Bible discussions from guest speakers, and fun hangouts. They advertise themselves as a gathering of young Christian professionals who strive to know God and make God known. The "God and the Business" group is for business owners who are passionate about building God's kingdom together. Every two weeks, members meet to support each other through the daily challenges they face in their businesses. Some Christian networking groups, like City Harvest Church's Marketplace Ministry, are run by Singaporean churches, while other groups, like GBN Marketplace Ministry and FGB Gatekeepers Singapore, operate independently from a specific church or denomination. All groups share a common goal of impacting the marketplace for Christ and are committed to creating communities of Christian marketplace leaders that are supportive of each other and of being a light in their workplaces.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/gospel-takes-root-crazy-rich-singapore/

Singapore – Christianity and the Marketplace: Part 1

The Gospel Coalition recently published an article with the heading How the Gospel Takes Root in 'Crazy Rich' Singapore. The title nods to this summer's hit movie Crazy Rich Asians, but also recognizes the amazing strides this small nation has made transforming from a Third World island to a First World country in just one generation.

In 1963, Singapore gained its independence from the United Kingdom and joined with other former British territories to form Malaysia. Due to ideological differences, Singapore separated from Malaysia just two years later to became its own sovereign nation. The first few years were turbulent for the new country, but under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding father, the nation began to stabilize and experienced rapid development. Just fifty years later, Singapore is now ranked very highly in numerous international rankings. For example, Singapore is recognized as the most "technology-ready" nation, the top international-meetings city, the city with the "best investment potential", the world's smartest city, the world's safest country, the second-most competitive country, the third-largest foreign exchange market, the third-largest financial center, the third-largest oil refining and trading center, the fifth-most innovative country, the second-busiest container port, a tax haven, and the only country in Asia with an AAA sovereign rating from all major rating agencies (one of only eleven worldwide). (Wikipedia)

This remarkable accomplishment is due, no doubt, to the determination and ingenuity of its people. But can affluence and piety coexist? Unfortunately, the same attributes needed to succeed at nation-building—self-reliance, pragmatism, and materialism, for example—also make it difficult for people to accept their need for the Gospel message.

Pastor Guana Raman of Agape Baptist Church has been open about challenges in preaching the Gospel and making disciples in Singapore. On the surface, he says, Singapore looks like a well "Christianized" nation. There are more than 800 churches in 278 square miles. While several high-profile mega-churches have gained international fame and recognition, Pastor Raman fears that there are many churches in Singapore that are theologically weak and shallow. "Many churches preach heavily moralistic sermons or, on the other hand, proclaim "hyper-grace," subtly (if not overtly) proclaiming the prosperity gospel," says Pastor Raman. "There is a great need in Singapore for more theological depth."

While Pastor Simon Murphy of Redemption Hill agrees with Pastor Raman's experience that Christianity in Singapore often exhibits the extremes of hyper-moralism or hyper-grace, he also believes that the majority of the nation's churches are preaching God's Word correctly, but that there is a disconnect in the way that it is being received by the people. "While most churches earnestly strive to preach the Word and display the love of Christ, the Gospel is merely assumed in some churches, and the way it intersects with one's life and circumstances is not clearly grasped," says Pastor Murphy. "This disconnect easily leads to Christianity being seen as either a moralistic religion, where the approval of God needs to and can be earned, or as a contract between God and man, where faith and/or works results in security and prosperity."

The culture and history of Singapore may be a major reason why many of the country's people struggle to grasp the true nature of the Gospel. Christians in Singapore are used to an easy, comfortable life. According to Pastor Raman, because the nation has not seen a major catastrophe or major economic downturn, many Christians have not experienced suffering and have come to believe that God is a god of love but not a god of wrath. Many Singaporeans are more interested in a god that heals and blesses people than the true God of the Bible because the country's culture places value on things that bring in more money, more comfort, and more convenience. "There is little understanding of the doctrine of sin and, therefore, little appreciation for the work of the cross and the grace that comes to us from the finished work of Christ," says Pastor Raman.