On the bus (7)

February 28, 2007

Yesterday evening, I walked from my department to the bus stop, tired and ready to go home after a long day.  At the bus stop I ran into another student from the Religious Studies department, one of our international students.  Michael is from the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia and is one of several Indonesian students who study with us at ASU (our department has a unique strength in Indonesian religious studies).  Confession:  I had always assumed that Michael was Muslim as are most people from Indonesia.

I asked him how his studies are going.  He replied—in his so-so English—that he is working on his master’s thesis.  I found out that his thesis is about the effects the Dutch Reformed Church missionaries had on the Minahasan people, the ethnic group in Sulawesi of which Michael is a member.  (Note to those who didn’t know:  Indonesia was a Dutch colony until it gained independence in 1945.)

Michael, it turns out, is a Dutch Reformed Christian; he even went to seminary in Indonesia before he started this program.  I was surprised.  I told him that I was Dutch in heritage, had grown up in the Reformed Church, was now a Presbyterian, and probably had family members somewhere who were Dutch Reformed.  

He asked me if there were many Dutch traditions in our worship service.  I said I didn’t think so in the Presbyterian Church, but that there probably were in the Reformed Church (this despite the fact that I wouldn’t know a “Dutch tradition” if it bit me on the nose).  He said that in his congregation they still practice many Dutch customs, and it’s been hard for him to recover the Minahasan parts of their worship practice.  I asked him if they spoke Dutch in church.  No, he said, but his great-grandparents used to speak it.  Now they just speak their indigenous language.  I noted to him how my family history was in some ways similar—my great- and great great-grandparents had spoken Dutch, but now we all spoke the local language, English.  I said it seemed that we had a lot in common historically.  He said, Yes, but you were the colonizer.  Touché.

Anyway, some people came by and told us that the bus had changed its route temporarily and wouldn’t be stopping at the bus stop where we were waiting.  Luckily, Michael doesn’t live too far from campus, so we walked together to his house.  From there he gave me a ride in his car to where I needed to go.  So, today’s episode of “On the bus” doesn’t actually involve a bus ride.

(Dutch postcards of churches in Sulawesi.)



2 Responses to “On the bus (7)”

  1. Liz Says:

    A-Ha, Brett! There is a coincidence!

  2. Kryna Says:

    Interesting…there is a Indonesian student here at the seminary here in Scotland. It is a small world.

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