Following God’s Call to Indonesia: An Interview with Holli Moote

Holli Moote is a graduate of Trinity Christian College who did her student teaching at Sekolah Pelita Harapan (SPH; “School of Light and Hope” in English) in Indonesia. She then accepted a job there. Moote teaches at SPH’s college preparatory middle and high school during the day. Most nights she travels to the slum quarter where she teaches basic English to children of the largely Muslim population living there.

CEJ: What are the biggest differences between your birth culture and the culture you’re in now? How much of this is religious and how much is cultural? Do you see more connections between the cultures or more differences?

HM: In terms of religion, the differences are interesting because from the outside they look big, but once you know people and start talking to them, the differences are actually my greatest connection with Indonesian people. Prayer, serving God, doing good to those around you, and studying holy books are all things people can understand and connect to. Now that I live here, I read conservative “Christian” articles and hear exactly what would come out of the mouth of a Muslim (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse). Ideas about modesty, purity, and rule-following seem similar across Christianity and Islam. The goal for me as a Christian is to show that the relationship involved in Christianity far exceeds any religious rules that may make it seem the same as any other religion.

CEJ: You teach music all day at a Christian school in Indonesia, and some nights you journey to an impoverished area to teach English to children and sometimes to their parents. What is that teaching like?

HM: I teach in three areas of a place called Ciheuleut. I have one class where kids come when they want or when their parents let them or when they’re not out begging or holding umbrellas for money. That class constantly feels like we are at the beginner stage. I have three or four girls who come regularly, and I do a bit more with them, but they certainly haven’t progressed like they could if the others were more consistent. With that class my end goal is not so much that they learn good English, but that they have someone consistently encourage them to attend school and to study, and maybe that will make a difference for one of them.

I have another class that begins the year eager and tends to shrink in attendance as we go, surging back at Christmastime and then shrinking again. They have progressed further than the first class I mentioned, but each time we restart, we have to go back and review heavily.

The third class attends consistently, and it really shows. Some of those kids can have a short conversation with me about school and what they have been doing that week. They challenge me because I have to keep thinking about their next step and which topics and vocabulary to teach.

CEJ: How long do class sessions run? What do you do during them?

HM: A typical class session can run from forty-five minutes to nearly two hours, depending on student interest (I basically teach as long as they want).

Each one starts with our two welcome songs “Hello, hello, what’s your name?” (with children taking turns coming to the front so we can sing their names) and “Hello, hello, hello, how are you?” (with verses featuring answers like happy, sad, tired, hot, and thinking). We sing them each class. With a beginning class, I will leave it at that or perhaps ask the older kids the same questions in spoken format afterward to see how they do. With a middle class, I’ll go around the circle and ask each student. Over the year they’ll gradually start to go from person-to-person asking one another. My advanced class can go from person-to-person asking these and other questions they’ve learned.

Then we sing other songs they know (some with visual cues), like the ABCs, “1-2-3-4-5-jump!,” a color song, “I like to eat, eat, eat (apple, banana, pineapple),” and songs about transportation, days of the week, and months of the year. A beginner class sings fewer songs, usually focusing on a topic each class, like colors, fruits, or body parts. The advanced class will sing them all and then use the things we sang about to practice conversation.

Next I read them a book or practice flash cards with them. They like to listen to the book and supply me with the Indonesian and Sundanese words for whatever is in the book (animals or shapes, for example).

After that we have coloring time (I found awesome half-size clipboards in Singapore, and the students use those as their hard surfaces). I make the coloring pages each time. We go through the alphabet, one letter a week. Once a group has done that, we move onto topical pages (like fruits or the body). The advanced class does a word search or color-by-number.

If they still want to hang around after that, I usually bring along a vocabulary word-matching game, BINGO boards, or a puzzle we can do.

CEJ: How do you understand your calling from God? Are you called to be a music teacher? A teacher in Indonesia? A teacher in both the suburbs and the slums? [This is only part of the article. Want to read more? Subscribe to the website by choosing "Register" from the menu above. It's free!]