• Carrie Sung

Are you out of your mind, headmaster?


Irene Esther is the principal of a primary school and kindergarten in Bintan Island. Her school was successful and often won various awards. The education Bureau officials knew her well, but she was not welcome because she was a Christian and her school was Christian. Muslim officials do not treat Christians fairly.


Although we met Irene in Bintan Island, it was not her first school. It turned out that a philanthropist had invited Irene and her husband to build a school on Batam Island, but a year after the school was built, philanthropist was missing, and Irene ended the school due to a severe lack of support. Only later did she know that the husband of the former philanthropist had passed away, that the property had been robbed by his loved ones, and that philanthropist was forced into bankruptcy.


But Irene's school ministry was soon relaunched, as a charity group invited her to build a school in Bintan Island. Because of her success, she quickly attracted jealousy, and radical Muslims threatened to burn the school. Irene moved out of the area to the mountains to rebuild a school for the safety of its students. No matter where the school is built, the mind of the gospel has never changed. Irene's school is clean, air-conditioned, the students are polite, and the teachers are conscientious. Irene often goes to poor villages to persuade the parents to send their children to her school, where she would be responsible for all costs, including books, uniforms, activities and all administrative expenses, merely free of charge. Irene aims to enable poor children also to receive a Christian education. In Indonesia, tuition fees are free because Muslims are funded by the government (but in October 2016, they also start to be partially charged), so most parents send their children to Muslim schools.


The problematic challenges come again, with groups funded after three years of schooling demanding that schools be financially independent. Besides, because Muslims have threatened to attack schools, the Bintan Island Church is afraid to cause trouble and dare not go to school to assist in the preparation of Evangelical ministry. In the face of difficulties inside and outside, Irene cried to God, but every time God responded to her and said: "Insist on believing, you will see!"


Because of financial difficulties, Irene reached a consensus with her teachers to pay their salary only once every three months, and every time she paid, Irene will lead each teacher to a Thanksgiving prayer of five loaves and two fish. The teachers also love the Lord, in addition to fighting alongside the headmaster, some teachers even voluntary to continue teaching after school at villages. They provide a free tutorial to those children who cannot go to school.


Irene was involved in student work and lost more than 10 kg in three years. The daughter worried about her mother and asked her why she had to work so hard. With her and her father's talents, they can definitely enjoy a better life. But Irene answers daughter, everything in the world will pass, including matter and life, only two worth staying, that is love and dedication, we can do and should continue to do.


Indeed, it is already a blessing for those who can still survive after so many hardships, can they still expect to have dreams? But Irene has a dream, and she and her teachers shared the future when the school will become more prominent, more beautiful, and receive more students, the teachers laugh and say

"Headmaster, you're out of your mind!


But will God say she's crazy, too? We probably saw some clues from her three daughters. God did not give Irene a son, need to know that Indonesia is still not in the same-sex equality. But God does not look at the standards of our world, and He is free to provide and give. God loves Irene and everything about her, so when the youngest daughter was born, she almost died, and God protected her. Now the little girl is growing up very well, good shape, healthy and beautiful. Three sisters are all excellent; regardless of academic, sports or music, all have achieved excellent results. The eldest daughter also led her classmates to the countryside to help with poverty alleviation, and the remaining two daughters would go to Irene's school to take care of the young children. The eldest daughter is more daring, not afraid of the oppression of Muslim teachers, adhere to her own Christian rights!


When we returned to the pier after visiting Irene, the scenery along the route was slowly turning to dusty from the greenery. When I think of this crazy headmaster in my mind, there is a WhatsApp message come in from my overseas friends: "If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us." (Corinthians 5:13-14a)


Yes, Lord, please tell us to be crazy about you! Amen.


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