Notes From Indonesia: Part 1

We made it to Indonesia!

I’m on a tour bus headed out of Solo, Indonesia to our concert and destination tonight in Salatiga, Indonesia. As I’m writing, we’re cruising along curvy roads in a mix of densely, lush palm forests, city-settlements, and farm fields and paddies where rice farmers wearing conical hats are casting seed by hand, and tending to their crops in shin-deep water.

Indonesia has been the most different place from the U.S. that I’ve ever traveled. Our schedule here has been frequently adjusted and exceptionally full, so I’ve not had many opportunities to blog, but our three hour drive today is a welcome opportunity to put in my earbuds, listen to some good tunes, and write to you.

Medan, Indonesia: Our first event was at a local school. We performed a concert for an auditorium full of energetic students, and then collaborated on one song with the school’s orchestra.

That same day we were scheduled to teach a workshop to visually impaired musicians. We had spent some time brainstorming what we should focus on for our teaching that day, but when we showed up and the band played the first few bars of their first song for us, it was clear they were already very accomplished. It turned into a discussion and a jam. I asked questions about how they’d taught themselves to play the sax, drums, and keyboard, and I explained my duct tape cast, which they all asked to feel, so that they could comprehend my description more completely.

Sharing my adaptive guitar cast with a group of visually impaired musicians

I asked one particularly accomplished player “why did you decide to play the saxophone?” He said, “ I’ve only been playing for a short time, but this is the intstrument that I feel I can most bring honor and glory to God with.” This turned out to be a common thread amongst the band members… music for a higher purpose.

When we asked what songs they knew, so we could find one we were all familiar with and jam together, they suggested “You Raise Me Up,” “Amazing Grace,” “Lean On Me,” and “It Is Well.” Classic hymns and standards that I was not expecting to play on this tour, but was glad to sing and play my guitar on.

People were singing, a few tears of joy were flowing, and cameras on smart phones were rolling to capture the powerful moment. That’s church.

Medan musicians singing and playing their hearts out