So, what does it mean to a thirty-two year old man to drive through the volcanic mountains of Indonesia with a car full of Orthodox Christians? Well, in a most pertinent physical sense, it meant that I had better keep my eyes on the road, become quickly reacquainted with the wheel on the right side and the car on the left side, how to turn the wipers on (and not the blinkers), and drive with the stick shift in my left hand.
However, more importantly and in a spiritual sense, it meant that whatever happened would hopefully be the will of God as interpreted through our blundering physicality. We were headed through the deep oceanic jungles, and we aspired to do His work. In life I have been able to decipher, through much trial and error, as St. Paul says, that I am simply the “clay and God is the Potter.” This metaphor has become quite evident over the years, as I peel back the layers of scales from my eyes, a much more gradual process than what happened to St. Paul on his way to Damascus. In my miniature form, I aspire by the grace of God to open my eyes towards the Light that is Christ.
This particular trip to Indonesia had a special significance for me in the spiritual realm which delved deep as the Indian Ocean. For the first time in my life I became blatantly aware of the “opposing forces” in the air, and I may have had some semblance of understanding of what it was like for St. Paul to enter Athens during pagan times. The idols and gods of Hindu culture are very prevalent on every corner of the Indonesian Island of Bali. The presence of these deities is apparent in the cities, the villages, on faces of those who worship them, and those who come with the mindset of pillaging tourists to “sin city,” Kouta Beach, Bali, Indonesia.
In Singaraja, Bali, on the exact opposite side of the island from Kouta Beach, the area is no more or less removed from the idolatrous attitude. However, one particular morning, the sound of Resurrection rang out louder than the bells of the All Saints Orthodox Church as four new Orthodox Christians were baptized. The first to be baptized very early that Saturday morning was my new godchild, beautiful baby Andrea.
“In the name of the Father!» Father Stephanos, a native to Indonesia, hollered triumphantly as he submerged her for the first of three times.
“Amen!” The small early morning congregation rang out loud as thunder.
“And the Son!”
“Amen!” Even louder this time!
“And the Holy Spirit!” Louder still! And now we were awake for sure.
For the moments of that service, the daily echoing howls from the temples and mosques across the valley were completely drowned in the waters of baptism.
The service went on like this, three times each for all the people baptized that morning.
I will never forget the shiny look on the face of the newly illumined Andrea as she sat peacefully in my arms, or rather, the new warm embrace of the Lord. So now I believe that’s what it means to a thirty-two year old man to drive through the volcanic mountains of Indonesia with a car full of Orthodox Christians, especially since one of them in the back was my new goddaughter.