Thursday, July 24, 2014

Launching out from Lake Toba, Indonesia

After a several month hiatus, Marathonangel returns with this guest post from Dr. Wayne L. Nieminen (a.k.a. my husband) returning to Hong Kong from an LTS faculty trip to Indonesia:


Have you toiled all night near the shore in vain?
Push away from the shore, launch out:
Where the flood is deep cast your nets again.
Push away from the shore, launch out;
There a blessing waits your soul to take,
Haste away from the barren strand;
Toil no more where the surges break;
“Launch out’ is your Lord’s command. 

After June 2014 graduation celebrations, members of the Lutheran Theological Seminary (LTS) faculty journeyed to Northern Sumatra, Indonesia for our annual retreat.   We visited church leaders and LTS alumni who now serve a marvelous array of institutions within the Gereja Kristen Protestant Indonesia Church (GKPI – 355,000 members ) and Huria Kristen Batak Protestant (HKBP – with over 4.1 million members).  We were moved by these church ministries to the blind, orphans, Moslems and schools for teaching and preaching, training pastors and deaconesses.   A vibrant holistic ministry of Word, Sacrament, Service, Education and Song was evident to all.  

 One early evening we found ourselves on a passenger ferry crossing Lake Toba on our way to Samosir Island.   Lake Toba is the result of the eruption of a “super volcano” which took place about 75,000 years.  It is said to have been the greatest volcanic eruption within the last 25 million years of the earth’s history.  Samosir island formed from the cone of the volcano and is surrounded by a lake that is nearly 100 kilometers long, 30 kilometers wide and 500 meters deep.  This extraordinary geological event is said to have been responsible for changing the climate of the earth. 

 The sun was about to set when we boarded the ferry.  We faced a warm but growing headwind.  Our HKBP guides sung hymns as the captain navigated the choppy waters and the Southern Cross constellation seemed to travel with us above our heads.  I later read that the “crux” constellation was “circumpolar” – always above the horizon in the southern hemisphere.  Sailors used it as navigational aid – a guidepost.

I remembered an old hymn, “Launch Out.” written by Rev. James Bruce Mackay (author of some 60 hymns) who lived from 1861-1940.   It is one of the many nautical hymns composed in the missionary era.  Those hymn writers knew about capricious seas, rogue waves, incoming swells, gusts of winds, typhoons, as well as the sea’s calmness - The sea was a metaphor for the unpredictability and arbitrariness of life.

Nevertheless, MacKay believed that the Savior continually called his disciples to “push away from the shore, launch out.”  We, the LTS Hong Kong faculty, were witnesses to the Indonesian churches “launching out” through its many ministries.  The kingdom of God is emerging across the globe with men and women dreaming big dreams - reimagining the world.  And we, as teachers, felt privileged and grateful to have a (small) role in God’s movement in these churches and in this country.

The refrain for MacKay’s hymn is:  “Launch out, launch out; Push away from the shore, launch out;  God’s grace flows free, like a might sea, And the Master calls, “Launch out!”  May we as the Lutheran Theological Seminary – faculty, students and staff  together -  continue to “launch out” !!!