CBF Field Personnel / Featured / Field Personnel

Weaving No One Behind: Yuliana

By Grayson Hester

In marginalized communities at home and abroad, the church isn’t simply the center of spiritual life, it’s the center of life, period.

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Brooke and Mike’s ministry in Southeast Asia bears witness to this reality, when a well-lit church (as covered in our story on pp. 22-24 about Alfons and his solar panel installations) meets religious and economic needs.

Yuliana is working by day and weaving by night in the newly-lit church. The women’s group is able to meet regularly thanks to the renewable electricity.

Yuliana, one of the villagers alongside whom Brooke and Mike minister, sees this firsthand.

Cut off from the amenities and resources that the majority of Americans would take for granted, Yuliana and her family rely on the church as a place to gather, to weave, to read—you name it. “What the people need here is clean water, lighting and for the road to be fixed,” she said. “As for water, they tried to build a water pump, but it does not work and they never come back to fix it.”

In this way, the church literally provides living water and is concretely a light to the world.

Without reliable electricity, villagers like Yuliana and her family depend on costly, finicky kerosene lamps, luxuries they cannot consistently afford. More often than not, this requires Yuliana to tie her ability to feed her family to the sun’s cycles. Once the sun sets, in effect, so must she. “My family consists of five children—three boys and two girls. Every day, my work, with my husband is cooking meals for the kids,” she said. “Then I go to the rice paddy, take care of the vegetables, get some plants to feed the pigs. By noon, I go back home and prepare for dinner.”

In particularly abundant harvests, Yuliana can sell the surplus and purchase kitchen supplies we see as staples—coffee, sugar, etc. But this, again, largely depends on factors outside her control, like rainfall, crop survival or the prevalence of pests.

This uncertainty is a phenomenon shared by impoverished people all over the globe, even when the particulars differ. “Poverty looks different in different places,” Mike said. “In a village, you wouldn’t have any infrastructure. There would be no water. You would probably have to walk sometimes 10 kilometers just to get water from the nearest water source. There’s no electricity. Food is scarce as well. And so, most of the children grow up stunted. Because the rain is less here, crops are not as productive.”

Taking her family’s survival quite literally into her own hands, Yuliana has become an adept weaver. Where crops and harvests might be unreliable, she finds comfort in the repetition of patterns and the sufficiency of crafting an economic output all her own. “I learned to weave at the age of 30. I saw a friend doing it; so I practiced, and then I wanted to join my friend. When my result was good, I sold my work to the market,” she said. “I saw what my friend did and learned from her, to know better patterns. I made flowers, horses and the things that I know.”

She weaves in a women’s night group which meets regularly at the church, a gathering as important to their social health as it is their financial health. Her children can also study and read while she weaves, providing a boon to their educational outlook. All this is made possible only by the presence of dependable electricity.

“Now, during the day, I have more opportunities to work,” Yuliana said. “And after dark, I can weave more and the kids can also study and do their homework better.”

As important as the solar panels and lights are, however, they solve but one of myriad problems facing this Southeast Asian community. A well-lit church means little if people cannot access it. The roads here are often barely passable, if not completely blocked. With the exception of Christmas and Easter, the church is rarely full.

“After the lights were installed, more people began to come to church and were staying longer; but the church is too far from where most people live, so it is also a bit hard,” Yuliana said.

Part of the process of inviting people to a banquet is ensuring that people can actually get there. It is to this work—both the setting of a banquet table and the making of a way—that Brooke and Mike remain wholly committed. “When I think of, a place at the table, it makes me think how it’s open to everybody,” Brooke said.

The filling of this table, open to everyone and capable of meeting their needs, is a goal for which Yuliana earnestly longs, as well. For her, the mandate to spread the Gospel and the need to build solid infrastructure are, shall we say, interwoven. You cannot have one in this setting without the other.

“My hopes are that the road to be fixed, for lights, and also for clean water,” she said. “I believe that God is here and helps, but I also want more of my friends to believe in God, too.”

This article first appeared in the Winter 2022-2023 issue of fellowship! magazine. Check out the issue and subscribe for free at www.cbf.net/fellowship.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s