This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Culture shock from Indonesia to Colombia

My name is Rut Arsari Christy and I am from Indonesia. In my home country, I attend a Mennonite church called GITJ Kelet, part of the Mennonite World Conference member church Gereja Injili di Tanah Jawa. The influence of the Dutch’s culture and religion are quite strong, because Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch. There are many buildings that were built by the Dutch, like houses, hospitals and churches. My church was one of the churches that was built by the Dutch. Also, because of the Dutch, there are many Mennonite churches in Indonesia.

Rut Arsari Christy stands with a group from Teusaquillo Mennonite Church, who serve food to homeless people as one of the ministries of the church.
Rut Arsari Christy stands with a group from Teusaquillo Mennonite Church, who serve food to homeless people as one of the ministries of the church.

I am currently serving with the YAMEN (Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network) program in Colombia. I work with Teusaquillo Mennonite Church in Bogotá. At my church, GITJ Kelet, I used to say “selamat pagi,” which means good morning, when I met people. Now, the situation is really different. I have to say “buenos días” and give people hugs every time I meet them at church. At first, this was quite difficult, but now I’m already used to it.

Cultural shock happens almost all the time. There is a big difference between my church and Teusaquillo Mennonite. There are some traditions from my church that I don’t find in Teusaquillo church. One example is the tradition of how to celebrate World Fellowship Sunday. In my church, we celebrate World Fellowship Sunday by bringing things to the church, like food, beverages, fruits, vegetable, electronic things, etc. First we have a Sunday service like usual, and after that we will have an auction of the things that were brought by the people. The money from the auction is used for church needs.

This year, 2014, was the first time I celebrated World Fellowship Sunday in Colombia with the people from Teusaquillo Mennonite Church. It was quite surprising because they didn’t do any special thing or activity. They had Sunday service like usual and the pastor shared with the congregation that it was World Fellowship Sunday. It was really different from my church. In Indonesia my mother used to make cakes and cookies for the auction. I and my mother used to be really busy preparing the cake the day before the auction.

This year, I didn’t even remember that the next day was World Fellowship Sunday. Until the pastor from the church, who is my host father, gave me something to read for the Sunday service. When I read the paper, it was an article about “Undhuh-undhuh,” which is the name of the auction that is held in my church on World Fellowship Sunday. I had to read the article about Undhuh-undhuh in two services at Teusaquillo church.

I was so nervous because that was the first time I spoke in front of the congregation. I felt more nervous because the article was in Spanish. At that time I still thought that my Spanish was far from good. However, after I read the article, many people said that I did a great job. They said that they understood clearly what I said, because I spoke really clearly and that my Spanish accent is good too. I was so happy to introduce the culture from my church in Indonesia to them.

Hopefully I will have another chance to talk about my church’s cultures in front of the congregation at Teusaquillo Mennonite Church. Although I will feel nervous again, I’m happy to share some information about my church, which is GITJ Kelet.

Rut Arsari Christy is serving with YAMEN! in Colombia. This first appeared on Mennonite World Conference’s blog of testimonies. Read more here:

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