Seeing God around every corner in South Philly

Ardi - 2013Summer Service Stories from Mennonite Central Committee

Last summer, Ardi Hermawan took MCC grocery bags, which are filled with non-perishable food and given to Anabaptist churches in Philadelphia to share in their communities, to the near-by Walgreen’s and handed them out to people who could use some food and appreciated talking to someone.  It went well and so over spring break this year, Hermawan arranged to do it again with a group of his fellow students from Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) who came to Philadelphia to spend their week. Hermawan is part of Philadelphia Praise Center (PPC), a multi-ethnic congregation whose members speak Indonesian, English, and Spanish.

Just a couple months ago, Hermawan returned home to Indonesia for a month-long visit. It was his first visit back since leaving for the U.S seven years ago when he was eighteen years old. Knowing there are many health needs in his home community, and that as a fourth year nursing student at EMU he has some knowledge about health issues, he set up a clinic in his house.  For four weeks, people lined up  in front of his family’s home at 6:30 in the morning to receive free screenings for things like high blood pressure and blood sugar levels. This was a service he could provide for those who didn’t have money to pay for these screenings elsewhere. In the evenings, he would give health lessons about diabetes, high blood pressure, and prenatal care.

Now, this summer Hermawan is a MCC Summer Service Worker with his church, Philadelphia Praise Center, and in his neighborhood.  You can just imagine all the different things that he is doing.  PPC recently finished their 3-week peace camp for 7-13 year-olds in the neighborhood.  Hermawan was right in the middle of it all, teaching and sharing his understanding of faith, love, and hope, in very practical terms. He is also accompanying his neighbors throughout the day and throughout the events of their lives, whether that is taking someone to the emergency room, teaching people newly arrived from Indonesian  how health insurance and hospital bills work in the U.S., or interpreting between a person and their doctor. Right now, he checks on a woman each day who recently had surgery and he is changing the bandages during this period of postoperative days.

Hermawan talks about how he is “so passionate” about connecting with other people; helping them, serving them, because he loves them. Simple as that. With a heart so wide open and a faith that follows where God leads, Hermawan is touching the lives of many people and is also being blessed by them. He watches and listens to his mentor, Pastor Aldo Siahaan of PPC, who, Hermawan shares, is so giving to the people around him, answering calls any time of day or night from people who are in need.  Siahaan teaches that “we are to be there for people 100%, not 75%, not 50%,” Hermawan says.

As Hermawan accompanies people and shares life with them, he sees how he has been accompanied by others who love and guide him.  He lost his father at an early age and years later came to the U.S. on his own.  All along the way, there have been male mentors who have fathered Hermawan, from his cousin to Pastor Siahaan to Steve Kriss, a member of the PPC community and a staff member of Franconia Mennonite Conference. He shares that God is always there when Hermawan takes a step out in faith.  This is what he is learning throughout his life and during this summer as he lives and works in his community as a MCC Summer Service Worker.

So, what is next? With four weeks left before Hermawan returns for his final year at EMU, he is helping PPC organize English classes for newly arrived refugee children in the neighborhood, making some space at PPC that is more kid-friendly, and interpreting between people and their doctors. Asked where he has seen God this summer, he replies, “Oh yes, God is around every corner.”