Called Out of the Fire
Posted on April 30, 2021 by VMMissions Staff
A devastating fire in a slum community led to a call that changed Yugo’s life.
By Yugo (last name withheld for security)
Yugo (second from right) with youth in the community. He has connected with young people in various ways, including a futsal club before the pandemic hit. All photos courtesy of Yugo
I was born and raised in a Javanese family. My parents had migrated to our city from smaller rural villages. But my siblings and I were city kids. We attended public schools, were comfortable navigating megacity transportation, riding motorcycles, and constantly being surrounded by people and noise.
My parents raised me as a Christian in the Mennonite church community, and we attended faithfully. Because of my church attendance, I thought that I deserved to be called a follower of Jesus. I was extremely active with church activities: I served on the music team, I was a key part of the young adult group, and the list could go on.
In order to afford college, I had to balance work and studying. I worked full time at a Christian networking ministry helping with all sorts of multimedia. In 2010 I graduated from my university with an economics degree. After graduating, a question started forming in my mind: “What does the Lord want me to do with my life?” I kept asking God this question, but there was no clear answer.
One day, however, I met two young women from the United States; Grace and Lina were visiting my church. They were given a chance to share a bit of their stories, how the Lord had called them to come live and serve in a slum community in the city of my birth.
When I heard their life testimonies, my heart was broken—and it made me cry. The Lord had called these young people—the same age as me—from a faraway country to come and live with the poor. It was a turning point for me, for I knew the Lord wanted to do something with my life too. But I had no idea what I needed to do.
From that point on, I prayed my question more intensely: “What do you want me to do with my life, Lord?” Again there was no clear answer. However, I began to feel the Lord leading my life in a very different direction, changing my understanding and expectations about what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.
A view from a nearby highway of the community where Yugo and Grace serve.
There was a large fire in the slum community where Grace and Lina lived. I decided to skip work for a week and help with the fire response. I invited a few friends from church to help with the fire relief. I felt so energized to be helping. It was invigorating to see myself as a person with strength who could help the “weak.”
Before I came to the slum community, I had a lot of pride in my heart. But when I arrived I saw so many people who were suffering and had lost all their possessions. Again, my heart was broken. I found myself crying out for them.
This became a spiritual experience for me: the Lord Jesus gave me a clear picture that he was sitting with those that were suffering, and he was inviting me to come and sit with him.
After that experience, I prayed and fasted. I asked for signs and strength to understand what the invitation was and how I could join in following the call. I began to take courage and come by myself to the slum community.
The Lord gave me a sense of peace when I was in the slum, especially when I was interacting with the children there. Even though this was a very tiring time, I felt like I was walking on the path that the Lord wanted for my life.
Surprisingly, the Lord also opened the door for my relationship with Grace. I had not ever thought of dating or marrying a “bule” (foreigner). At first, we did not want to admit our feelings for each other; we wanted our motivation to be purified and focus only on service in the slum. However, it felt like the Lord Jesus was leading us into a more serious relationship with each other. We decided to get married and serve together as husband and wife.
Grace and Yugo serve with their sons Jeremi and Simeon.
Our wedding was a beautiful day; a mix of Muslim neighbors and Christian church friends celebrated with us. We feel unspeakable gratitude and joy that God has given us each other, and pray that the Lord uses our marriage and family as a powerful embodied message of love in the slum.
The hardest decision that I had to make was to leave my day job, to stop pursuing my dream to work at a bank and to decline good job offers with their tempting salaries.
To make matters worse, my parents did not agree or support my decision. My parents and family members thought I was crazy to leave my dreams for the future and to choose to live in a slum with poor people. In the midst of this difficult process, the Lord Jesus reminded me of a verse from 2 Timothy 2:3-4: “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”
The invitation to follow was not a comfortable invitation, but an invitation to come and suffer with Jesus. And for the past nine years, the Lord has continued to teach me to follow him in the slum. Of course, there are many hard things but there is also joy. Jesus has been faithful to me and my family.
Yugo with Rumah Harapan (House of Hope) students. House of Hope is a free kindergarten and afterschool program for children in the community.
The Lord has entrusted us with Rumah Harapan (House of Hope), the free kindergarten and after school program we opened for children in the community. Hundreds of students over the years have challenged and taught us in so many ways.
A friend from high school and I also enjoyed coaching and working with youth from our neighborhood by starting a futsal club. Sadly, after one year, we had to stop the club because COVID-19 closed the futsal courts, and my friend got a new job. The needs here are so immense. Often we feel so limited in how we can contribute. However, we remind ourselves that we are not the savior. Jesus is.
One surprising blessing during the past five years was the opportunity for me to attend seminary. The Lord led us to a Bible school that offered Masters level courses in month-long blocks. It was a gift for our whole family to retreat to the mountains two times a year. Having time and space to learn from professors, read books, and fellowship with other believers was wonderful. Now that I have graduated, this degree opens up doors for sharing with other Bible schools and churches about God’s heart for the poor.
The Lord has led our family and been faithful through many team transitions. From a team of all foreigners, for the past three and a half years the team has now shifted to being entirely local Christians. We are grateful for God’s provision and grace throughout it all.
We continue to trudge through mud, teach kids to read, and wrestle with what it means to love our neighbors and raise our family here. We stand in awe of all the Lord has done and continues to do.
Yugo and sons Jeremi and Simeon enjoying the fresh air that is not to be found in their own neighborhood.
Yugo serves with his wife Grace and their two sons in Southeast Asia with Servants, in partnership with VMMissions.