A guest sermon by Debora Murthy, SE Asia Coordinator for UnitingWorld

Luke 5:17-26

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ,

This is an honour for me to be allowed to talk here. I will not deliver the sermon, but convey about the context of this verse in the experience of my life. The Bible text as reference of my sharing today is taken from Luke 5:17-26.

I am Luh Debora Murthy from Indonesia. Luh is a Balinese name, which indicates I am a woman, the first daughter of Sudra cast family (the lowest caste in Bali). I am a physician and advocate with more than 20 years’ experience working with Maha Bhorga Marga, or MBM, a community development organization in Bali. I am a mother of a son, he is 22 years old.

Last week, it was Tuesday, my son rang me from hospital and in panic told me that he was impaled the needle of the patient. My son is a medical student in Bali, he is doing internship in Surgical Clinic in one of Public Hospital in Bali. the hospital protocol asked him to take ARV for 28 days to prevent him from HIV until he find HIV’s status of his patient.

HIV is not a new thing for me. Since 2006 I worked about HIV education and prevention program for Bali Church Congregations and community in Bali, I have looked after more than 200 people living with HIV. Support them; make sure that they have ARV and take one pill everyday in the same time. I know ARV will make the one who take it feel really unpleasant. But I just know how bad it is when I saw it in my son. The 1st pill made him conscious and couldn’t continue his day in hospital. But the second one made him has disorientation. So, I have to know hiv’s status of his patient. He and I did investigation of the name, the address, how to contact her and it was not easy to make her agree to have HIV test because there was stigma about it. It took me about 2 hours explain properly about what is HIV test, what the result mean, make her comfortable about having the test and ensure her confidential before she take decision to have the test. Her face was so sad and moody. It took a lot of effort, energy, time and money. What did make me willing to do such troublesome work for my son? Because I love my son so much, I will feel hurt when he were in terrible condition.

Let we read Luke 5 verse 18 to 20. The Holly Bible said: 18. some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20. When Jesus saw their faith, He said, friend, your sins are forgiven.

What did make those men willing to do such troublesome work for a paralytic man? Yes, maybe they are his father, his brother, his friend. They were willing to do such troublesome work for him because they love him so much. Love will give you so much idea, energy, time and sincerity to support, help, release, assist and fund a person, family, group, community and nation.

I can’t forget how happy the face of the women, my son’s patient when her blood test said the she has no HIV in her blood. She was still have her cervix cancer but she was so happy, because she has released from oppressed of stigma. I can imagine what the feeling of a paralytic man after Jesus said, friend, your sins are forgiven. It is about dignity.

The Christian Protestant Church in Bali, shortened to Bali Church established MBM, acronym of Maha Bhoga Marga is “a noble way to prosperity” MBM is arm of Bali Church for doing diaconal work in community. The vision is to release the weak, oppressed, underdeveloped to love God’s creatures and all creation to become a dignified, healthy, prosperous and sustainable Community in Bali. The focus of the work is poverty alleviation through economic, health and social empowerment.

When I started joint MBM in 1998, my family and peers could not understand my decision to work with a community development institution. I graduated in 1993 and the government sent me to work in a small clinic in Tamblang Village, 150 km from Denpasar, the main city in Bali for 3 years. I was the only doctor for a district with population around 10.000 people.The poverty rate in this area was so high and it created severe health problems for people, mostly women and children, such as Diarrhea, Pneumonia, Tuberculosis, Malnutrition, maternal death, neonatal death, and Suicides.. Mostly they were caused by lack of health knowledge, unhealthy behaviour, lack of health access, or were left too late to be treated . I decided to focus on doing promotion and prevention for women and children’s health rather than curative. It was not only because lack of human resources, but also lack of medical equipment. But the system did not support this idea.

I was interested in working with MBM, because it met my desire to improve women and children’s health in Bali. Working with MBM meant that I could have access to reach people in 72 villages of the Bali Church congregation. The journey has taught me that community health is not only about health knowledge, but is very much impacted by social and economic context of family, culture, religious background, and the government policy on health systems and poverty alleviation.

I am from Bali. Bali is one island among 16.700 islands in Indonesia, a small island, only 5.600 km2, famous as a tourist destination in Indonesia and in the world. People come to Bali to enjoy the unique Hindu culture, temples, beaches, rice paddy landscape and the friendly people. The tourism destinations are mostly in the south of Bali. The investors create exclusive and western taste environments. The truth is that most people live in traditional Bali culture, very strongly influenced by the Hindu belief system, the majority religion in Bali. Statistics Indonesia released the projection of population in Bali in 2017 as about 4,2 million, income per capita Rp. 46.000.000 or AUD 4.600 and 5% of population or about 200.000 people are very poor with average income per capita less than Rp. 6.000.000 or AUD 600 or AUD 2 per day.

Patriarchal society. Balinese culture is communal and also patriarchal. Land may belong to a family, but it is held in the man’s name. When a couple gets married, they typically move into the compound of the husband’s family and it is his social status the wife assumes and that passes to their descendants. Although the domestic and social duties she takes on are vital to the family and to the community are valued accordingly, it is her husband who has the voting power in their banjar or village. Women have no right to take part in decision making process in Banjar or village. In the unlikely event they later divorce, (something still shunned in Bali), the wife must leave her home in her husband’s compound and her children, if any, will remain with their father. For me this was ok for a long time, but I realized it was not fair after I visited Brisbane on 1998. That time, i cannot check in hotel on my name because I have no credit card. Once I was back to Bali, I tried to negotiate it and other of my rights toward my husband, family, church and community. It is not easy, and takes a lot of energy and time. I am proud of my achievements today, I have my own bank account, credit card, land, space for working and I am involved in decision making processes in my family.

I am Balinese, and I am Christianity, it is a minority religion, less than 2 % of population in Bali, in 2007 is about 4,2 million, 83% are Hindus, and 13% Moslem. Most members of the Bali Church are originally Balinese, consistently preserving the Balinese naming norm, recognising our roots, speaking good Balinese, and adhering to traditional Balinese values, which are not so different from Christian values.

We incorporate Balinese architecture, both in appearance in philosophy, into our churches. We incorporate Balinese gamelans, or music, into our worship and liturgy. We dance Balinese dances and translate hymns into Balinese.

Sadly, there are those who are not as tolerant. Due to the intertwined nature of Balinese identity and the Hindu religion, some interpret those who abandon the Hindu faith as no longer Balinese. For them our practice of Balinese culture seems like a copy cat practice. At best they say we are misguided in our attempt to preserve something no longer ours. At worst, we are impostors who deliberately blur Hindu and Christian identity in order to evangelism.

MBM as an arm of Bali Church has been able to develop the work since 1982. MBM invited stakeholder on its Strategic Planning Workshop on 2008. The main issue was why the number of the poor and the Gini Index (helps define the gap between the rich and the poor, with 0 representing perfect equality and 1 representing perfect inequality) was increasing while budget for poverty alleviation was also increasing every year. The Government program on poverty alleviation was mostly been about charity, such as money or rice for the poor, seed for the poor, fertilizer for the poor.. The poor were never been invited to be heard and have a chance to be involved in the decision making process. Because the government always implied that the poor are stupid, don’t have capacity, are lazy, and have bad character.

So MBM’s strategic plan in 2008 decided that MBM would develop a poverty alleviation policy advocacy program and it was approved in 2008 at the Bali Church Synod assembly.. UnitingWorld agreed to support this program. The objectives are: improve the welfare of the poor through empowering them to be involved in decision making processes, and to access village development programs and budgets.

The main challenge was the trust from the stakeholders (village government, local government and state) and the poor as the main target group. Why does MBM, a Christian Institution intensively want to work with the poor? Mostly people were suspicious about evangelism, and converting the Hindus to become Christians. The government also has a very strong paternalistic attitude, so all of the village governments rejected MBM’s request to attend MUSRENBANG, a community meeting about program and budget because they did not want civil society to intervene in government programs and budget.

I was the program manager. I am women, and I am Balinese Christian. So I have two sins for community in Bali. But I am a medical doctor, MBM have medical team, and Economic empowerment team. We started program through approach the poor of the poorest listed by Indonesia Statistic in of 10 villages in Jembrana. We invited them for focus group discussion. What are your dreams and what will you may do to make your dream become true. So we focus on their strength. After 3 years, Villages, District and Province Government in Bali invited MBM for Musrenbang. And MBM has opportunity to do policy advocacy for the poor and women to be involved in decision making process.

MBM was able to overcome these challenges, now, MBM have been successful in inviting 1.174 poor people in 18 villages; 322 men and 852 women to develop micro entrepreneurship for income generating. And now, officially MBM are part of the poverty alleviation team of 4 local governments to establish policies on village development which is about gender equality and is pro poor , and they have assisted in the capacity building of 28 village governments in Bali. They have also ensured 114.360 of the poor people listed by Statistics Indonesia in those villages have been able to access development programs at the national, local and village level. For those achievements MBM was awarded “The 3rd ASEAN Leadership Award on Rural Development & Poverty Eradication 2017”

Today when looked at back of my journey, I have no regret of my choice working in community development sector.
a. On 1998, Uniting Church Australia in cooperation with DR. Cheryl Hirst, Director of Wesley Breast Clinic in Brisbane gave me the scholarship to learn about women’s health. I was so grateful and learned about dignity and equality.
b. After 20 years, more than 10.000 women already had pap smear test to prevent cervical cancer, one of the main causes of death for women in Bali. It was less than 1% of women in Indonesia had access to the test, but now the government had a budget for it and women were ready for it. MBM together with about 10 women organization in Indonesia did an assessment, publication and advocacy about this service which is already in the list of services provided by The Indonesia National Health Insurance since 2014. The people and health providers needed to understand this, so women could benefit. .
c. I am so blessed that God had given me chance to meet a young man, name Alvonso Novika, he was very sick as a person living with AIDS, CD4, only 7. CD4 is a type of white blood cell, called T-Cell, to find and destry any bacteria, viruses and germs, a normal CD4 count is from 500 – 1.400 cells per cubic millimiter of blood. when I met him, has no body, no education. He gave MBM and I the best and original knowledge about how we should work to overcome about HIV and AIDS in community. He is one of the best MBM staff, smart, confident and has now graduated with a law degree. Bali Church and MBM are one of the most developed churches in Indonesia when it comes to working to overcome HIV in the community, not only for Christians, but for all.
d. I am so proud to walk together with hundreds of victims of the Bali Blast between 2002-2005 They overcame the conflict and recovered from the pain and economic situation of the family. Some of them even become MBM volunteers to motivate the poor, People Living With AIDS , even they have visited the victims of natural disasters in Jogjakarta and Aceh to motivate them.
e. Since 2010, since we have worked for poverty alleviation policy advocacy, I am motivated to see more than 500 poor families who have been able to break out of poverty; women with confidence to be part of decision making processes and even become leaders. The community, the government and religious leaders have learned and practiced participatory, inclusion and respect the dignity of all.

Two days ago we had Interesting question from one of Unitingworld donor, why we should take risk providing loan for the poor of the poorest?

Yes it is because of love. You, Unitingworld, all partners and project staff side by side, supporting each other to empower the poorest of the poor, the most marginalised people and or neglected for enjoying the love of God and gain dignity.

If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together