15 years in Debora

My days at Debora

In 2004 I resigned from several positions, studied TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), and was sent as a VIMO (Volunteer In Mission Overseas) to the Angkola Church, one of the smallest, most isolated Batak churches in Indonesia, to Debora Home.

Panti Asuhan Debora (PAD) “home of helping” is funded by Lutheran Women of Australia (LWA).

Residents are orphans, have one parent, or are very poor. Debora gives them a Christian home and a secondary schooling in nearby Sipirok.

LWA, you have greatly increased these children’s opportunities. They love you.

Each year I agonised, Is this God’s plan for me? but later I usually see he has used me.

The children learn English through high school, but it’s a minefield, e.g. weigh, hay, faint, grey … have the same sound but different spelling! My challenge is to help them relax and try. I teach to their needs, with fun, singing, and dramas. The advanced class translates songs to demonstrate that words often need to be rearranged. It’s awesome to see 14-year-olds enthusiastically translating from Batak to Indonesian to English! The phonetic code, in good dictionaries, is a secret code! Children don’t want to end these lessons which equip them to find pronunciation by themselves. Donations from Zones and friends have paid for good dictionaries. Debora children are known for good English: an important asset.

Many live far from hospitals so we learn First Aid, with much drama.

Donors have paid for five sewing courses, another asset.

People here sweep gardens clean, so we do experimental gardening, with mulching. English is learned through all activities.

Last year I was asked if I reached my goals from my visits?


First Goal to meet graduates

I meet them while travelling and make special trips – a 30-hour bus trip, several 12-hour trips to Pekan Baru, a ferry from Singapore to Battam Island. Some travel costs have been paid by donations.

In 2019 my daughter booked a flat in Jakarta. Three motherless girls, soon to be married, stayed with me. We discussed marriage.

Next, Pekan Baru, to find a girl out of contact. Martinus, now blind, found her for me! I introduced her to people who could support her.

After leaving PAD, I met two graduates in Siantar and two in Medan. I stayed in a Malaysian city with two graduates. One came seven hours by train to meet me.

Goal achieved!

Second Goal – to interest others in Debora

At a Retreat in 2018, I said I wouldn’t go again as my own children worry. Two sisters from the West Coast offered to come to mind me! They joined me in Pekan Baru.

In 2007, Ed and Beth Neumann, Kara and Matt Heinrich came; a Horsham group, and Martin Schumacher visited briefly. 

In 2014 – the Hulme family from Para Vista visited; in 2017 – Tracy Smith and Belinda Petersen and, last year, Jo Veerhuis and Chrissie Stott accompanied me. Most visits are for about two weeks. All volunteer visitors listened, loved, showed respect, and are remembered with love.

Third Goal – to listen to the children

They are taught Christian doctrine but have many personal questions. Attending church events takes time. House parents and our hosts deserve attention, and my energy is lessening, so sadly this goal was not achieved well last year.

Fourth Goal – I often have small donations to spend

In 2015, there were only two bush knives left for gardening. With the House Father, the big children and the church’s Agricultural Department, we discussed the best use of the money. I checked with the donors, Springhead church, and we bought the tools. The children wrote “thank you” letters and I reported to the donors … complicated, but demonstrating accountability.

Fifth Goal – ongoing contact with graduates

My students from the HKBP Seminary in 2009 asked me join Facebook, and it proved valuable. The children share happy things. When I get a one-word message, “Opung” (grandma), I know they have worries, and I ask questions.

In 2015, one young man was distressed. His wife left their baby in her village so she could work. He needed someone to listen.

Last year, one of my girls had a difficult birth. This year one had a marriage problem. I try to support them through crises like this.

I have spent almost three years in total in Debora – some of those times have been intense. We don’t stop worrying about our children when they leave home, or even when they become grandparents! It’s my privilege to listen, rejoice and cry with them.

LWA, your support has done much to equip these children to stand strong as Christians in a Muslim world. They love you.

Goodbye again

Children, don’t worry when I cry.
God has been so good to me.
Because of you I am full of joy, so if I cry
it’s joy overflowing.

When we are far apart
I will be sad but also glad
that God led me to you
so if I cry, don’t worryIt’s just my happy, thankful heart overflowing.

Rosemary Winderlich

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Rosemary Winderlich

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