A world away ... Family trades Nikiski for Indonesia

Posted: Monday, June 14, 2004

Five years ago, the Linegar family was doing well in Nikiski, living pretty much an ordinary life with Ron in a banking position, Kim teaching and helping with children's programs at a Christian church and their 8-year-old son, Clayton, and 7-year-old daughter, Kelsey, moving along through the primary grades.

Something was missing, however.

Ron and Kim Linegar felt they needed to be doing more.

They prayed, asking the Lord what that meant. What could they do to better serve their heavenly Father and his people on Earth, they asked.

Almost in an instant, the answer came an answer that has taken them to the other side of the world, to the Republic of Indonesia, an archipelagic nation not far below the equator.

They've traded snowstorms for tropical breezes, a Christian culture for a country that claims 90 percent of its inhabitants are Muslim and a population density that puts more moose per square mile than people to island cities where heavy traffic and overcrowding are the norm.

"I was a bank manager in Kenai, and I felt I needed to do something more meaningful," Ron said.

He had been in the banking business for about 20 years, moving from Oregon to Juneau and Palmer before coming to Kenai.

Ron and Kim had been members of the First Baptist Church of Kenai from 1994 to 1995 and were active in the Nikiski Church of the Nazarene from 1996 to 1999.

Kim was the director of children's ministries at the Nikiski church and taught Sunday school.

Ron helped with the midweek children's program and assisted the church in starting its AWANA Club, a youth program offering Bible verse learning, games and story time for kids.

They began an Internet search for possibilities.

With little effort at all, the couple found job listings for Mountain View International Christian School in central Java, one of the island provinces of Indonesia.

Off went their resumes, and both were accepted for positions at the school, which offers K-12 education for children of expatriate American, Korean and Indian families living and working in Indonesia.

"Because of the heavy Muslim influence, the country requires that the man be accepted for a teaching position before the family is allowed to move there," Ron said.

He was hired as a teacher, as the business administrator for the school and as a dorm parent. Kim teaches Bible lessons and U.S. history.

The Muslim-oriented government prohibits Christian missionary work in Indonesia, but the school is allowed to teach biblical lessons as long as the students are not purely Indonesian children.

"If the kids are Americans or Indians, or half Indonesian, it's OK to teach the Bible lessons," Ron said.

The school has 135 students this year and has had as many as 180. It employs 30 expatriates and 70 Indonesian people who mostly work in the business and immigrations office or as dormitory cooks and housekeepers. According to the Linegars, four or five of the Indonesians are teachers.

The Christian school, which is one of the largest employers on Java, was founded 24 years ago by two international church groups the Bethany Fellowship and the Church of Christ.

Ron worked as the school's business administrator for more than four years and taught personal finance, but as of the first of this year, he resigned the managerial position realizing his love was as a dorm parent.

"The Lord has given us the heart for hospitality," said Kim.

She said some former dorm parents have been too strict with the students, insisting on one right way and one wrong way to do things.

"We run a loose household as far as rules, but we're strict as far as how the kids treat each other. They must treat one another with respect," Kim said.

Learning as much as possible about the political history and the government of their new home, the Linegars are happy to see the republic on the verge of its first true democratic election and find the Indonesians to be a friendly, welcoming people.

Finding that teens in the village in which they lived had little to do in their spare time, the Linegars spearheaded a move to convert a vacant lot into a volleyball and badminton court for the neighborhood kids.

Although they find themselves in a country with a history of political unrest, Kim said they have never felt they were unwanted.

After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the Indonesian government posted uniformed guards at the school, but Kim said she and others in the school never actually felt unsafe.

The school eventually asked the government to remove the guards, Ron said.

"'Our God is stronger than that,' we told them," he said.

Kim said the teachers at the school are allowed to be openly Christian at the school and help meet the humanitarian needs of the community where they can.

"By providing beds and clothing to show God's love, we are showing a part of what it means to be Christian," she said.

"But we can't say that out loud."

Asked what they miss the most about not being in the United States, Ron instantly said, "Hamburgers."

Indonesia does have McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut, but the food, he said, is not quite the same.

"Most of the meat even the chicken is pretty chewy," he said.

Also, many of their favorite foods are expensive, if they can get them.

"We buy cereal for the kids for Christmas," Ron said.

"What we really miss the most, though, are the people our family and friends," Ron said more seriously.

They also miss what they call the "space freedom," afforded them by life in Alaska.

"The traffic there is horrible," Ron said.

And, they're not accustomed to the pinching that goes on in the crowded streets of Jakarta, the nation's capital and the largest city on Java.

"Supposedly pinching a white person is good luck, and people are always trying to pinch the kids," Ron said of the Indonesians who have a strong belief in the spirit world.

He said expatriates do get an Asian version of CNN, CNBC and BBC television news, but he added that Indonesian news is not kind to the United States or England.

"The people don't get to see the whole story. They don't see what the Taliban do (to people). They don't understand why America does what it does," Ron said.

As for entertainment TV, the Linegars said they get most major network programs, but they usually come about a year late.

"When we told friends here that we got the second series of 'Survivor,' they laughed and said there are already nine," Kim said.

One thing the couple does enjoy about being in a Muslim country is that when movies are shown, they already are edited and contain no nudity or foul language.

The Linegars are staying with friends in Nikiski, visiting and trying to recruit more churches to support the Christian school. People wishing to help may contact the school at www.mountainviewics.org.

They plan to return to Java in July for two more years of teaching and being dorm parents.

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