By. Bro. Gunadi Sugiharso, BCBP Jakarta
First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting me to this amazing gathering, the 39th National Anniversary Celebration of BCBP, in Bacolod, The City of Smiles. It is a great honor for me to share in this Grand Breakfast.
I was born in a city called Pekalongan, also known as a batik city, located in Central Java. But I was brought up by my grandparents in Jakarta.
It is easy to remember my birthday, 31st of December 1944.
I am here with my wife, Julie, who is also attending this NAC39 with me. I met my dearest wife Julie in 1964, when we were both activist in a Catholic Students Organization called PMKRI Bandung.
My life story as an ordinary Catholic person was really ordinary. We seldom missed Sunday Mass, we prayed the rosary occasionally, and sent our children to the Catholic school. Until one day, I think I was in my late 50s, when a friend of mine said: “I think your aura does not look good, you must go for a retreat!” I think my last retreat was when I was a student, a very long time ago. I did not feel the necessity to go on a retreat. I felt I was fine. But somehow, I thought, “Why not?”
There is a place in the mountains near Jakarta where many Catholics like to go for a retreat. It is a famous place for people to get healing. The place is called Lembah Karmel, Cikanyere, in West Java, founded by Father Johannes Indrakusuma, CSE, who is also the founder of a congregation called Carmelitae Sancti Eliae.
I was actually reluctant to go there, because the retreats are conducted in a Charismatic way, which I did not really feel comfortable with. But, on the other hand I was also curious to know why that place is so popular and why some people like the Charismatic Renewal way of praying.
In short, I and my wife decided to attend one of the retreat programs. I tried to open up my heart and my mind and prayed, asking God to enlighten me to be able to follow and understand the sessions. I then realized and began to understand and appreciate, why the Charismatic group like to start their sessions with joyful songs and the clapping of hands. I see it as an effective way to open up yourself, a sort of ice breaker, before you go into serious prayers.
During the confession section, I was hesitant because I had not done my confession for the last 20 years. I preferred to confess and ask forgiveness directly to God. I then prayed to the Lord and said: “Lord, please guide me, if a confession is a good practice for me, please let me know.” Then slowly a thought came to my mind, why are you so proud of yourself? The Lord gave you a precious gift, a sacrament, to help you become a better person, why do you reject it? I then remembered the earlier session, where we were told that Mother Theresa confessed every week. Tears came to my eyes, since then I have been going to confession at least twice a year.
My learning from this retreat, if we are willing to open up our mind and our heart for the Lord to guide, He will guide us!
I think God did not to stop there, He wanted to shape me further. In my parish, I was then an ordinary catholic, never involved in church activities, and did not know many people from the parish. I was startled when I was asked by my parish priest to serve as the head of our catholic neighborhood community.
Every parish in Indonesia is organized into several geographical areas called ‘wilayah’ or regions and each region is divided into several ‘lingkungan’ or local neighborhood community consisting of 20 to 40 families.
The situation in Indonesia is different than the Philippines. We, Catholics, are a tiny minority, around 3% from more than the 250 million population of Indonesia. We could not freely express ourselves in public. On the other-hand the parishes in Indonesia are very active, lots of activities are held by the church and the categorial communities.Bro. Gunadi Sugiharso, BCBP Jakarta
I kept on rejecting the position as I was still actively working and almost every day I would come home late. I did not think I had the time for church activities. But then it was a fait-accompli, I had to accept the appointment. Apparently, God wanted to teach me how to serve Him through a community. Frankly, I learnt a lot during the two terms I served as head of the local community.
I was drawn even further; I joined a similar program like the Brotherhood Christian Life Program or BCLP called Kursus Evangelisasi Pribadi (Self-Evangelization course). It was a twice a week program lasting for 4 months.
I was made aware, that as a Catholic going to church every Sunday is not enough. There were so many good things about my religion that I did not know. That the Bible is a treasure with lots of valuable tips to help us live as a better person.
I became more and more involved in church activities, I was a lay-minister, secretary of the parish council etc. And around 5 years ago, bro Jimmy Alanis and Tatang Louie Morales came to Jakarta to give me the assignment to start the BCBP in Jakarta!
I will quote Psalm 23 which I think reflects my life story:
“The LORD is my Shepherd; I have everything I need; He lets me rest in pastures of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.” End of quote.
Yes, certainly there were difficult times and darkness during my life time. Let me just briefly share two cases.
That was when my youngest daughter, Karina, got dengue fever when she was 8 months pregnant! She got very high fever and her thrombocyte went down quite fast. She was put in the hospital and got infused, but her condition was not getting better. We were worried and hoped that her baby did not make strong movement, because with low thrombocyte if she bled the bleeding cannot be stopped. Then, her urine turned red, which indicated that her blood began to leak out from her blood vessel, and she began to have breathing difficulty as water began to fill in her lungs. The doctor told her husband that he might be able to save the child but not the mother! We could only rely on the Lord to help and leave everything to Him. We all prayed very hard. I did not know what happened, but slowly my daughter regained her strength, the thrombocyte and red blood count improved slowly and thank God she and her baby survived. Her son is now 11 years old, healthy, bright and strong!
Let me share another difficult time in our lives when my eldest daughter who lives in Sydney, Australia got her first baby girl after waiting for 5 years. Imagine how happy they were. The whole family were so happy hearing the great news. But, 2 weeks later, few days before I and Julie were scheduled to fly to visit them in Sydney, our daughter called and told us sadly that her baby was not healthy. Apparently, there was abnormality in her heart, which made her body lack oxygen. She needed an open-heart surgery. The baby only one month old had to go through such a major operation. But the doctor said that the survival rate is quite high, 95%! So, we were a bit relieved.
Sometimes our Lord does not grant our prayers, but it does not mean that He does not love us, or He ignores us. God always loves us, but He will grant our prayers in His own way and in His own time.Bro. Gunadi Sugiharso, BCBP Jakarta
We flew to Sydney and accompanied our daughter and her husband. For 3 whole weeks we were in the ICU waiting room. Watching our tiny granddaughter with tubes and machines, struggling to recover. We prayed the Novenas day and night. We went to church every morning and prayed intensely. But God did not listen to our prayers. Our sweet tiny granddaughter passed away.
It was a big blow especially for my daughter, Arty, and her husband. Luckily my daughter did not lose her faith, although she had to go through a healing consultation for quite some time. To help overcome their grief my daughter and her husband decided to go for a tour of Europe, to Lourdes. A strange coincidence happened in Lourdes, as when Arty was walking alone in Lourdes. Some strangers called her to join them to see a chapel on the hill. Arty went there and saw the priest who helped her with the funeral of her daughter in Sydney in that chapel in Lourdes. The priest then prayed together with her.
A year later, Arty got pregnant again and delivered a healthy boy. And today she has two healthy and bright sons, 3 and 6 years old.
Sometimes our Lord does not grant our prayers, but it does not mean that He does not love us, or He ignores us. God always loves us, but He will grant our prayers in His own way and in His own time. I think if Arty’s daughter survived, she will have lots of health problems after going through such a heavy medication during the major operation. Arty may have to concentrate on her daughter and will not want to have more children. But today she is very happy with her two healthy and loving sons. And as a bonus, because of that incident, Philip, Arty’s husband, decided to be baptized and became a Catholic.
The first time I was introduced to the BCBP was when my old friend, Jimmy Alanis from Alabang, who used to work in one of the big TV stations in Jakarta, came back for a visit to Jakarta. He asked me to organize a small reunion with old friends.
Jimmy was accompanied by Tatang Louie Morales, and we had breakfast in one coffee shop in South Jakarta with few friends, that was almost 5 years ago.
Today we have more than 100 members in our BCBP Jakarta Whatsapp group, we have had 2 BCLPs, but our breakfast in Central Jakarta, is usually attended by only 15 members. I felt ashamed with my brothers from Cebu who persistently come traveling from Cebu with our sharers, sacrificing their valuable time with us.
I must tell you about our 2nd BCLP. The event was conducted in a hotel in a town about 60 kilometers from Jakarta, called Bogor. The committee from Jakarta was very worried because we had managed to get only 4 participants. But our brothers from Cebu did not want to give up and we decided to continue. Jay and Docks from Cebu came to the hotel in Bogor earlier to check the location and met with the manager of the hotel. The manager asked what kind of activity was it? She was told that this is a kind of retreat. She was interested and asked whether she could ask her friends to join. Jay and Docks said, yes why not. Great Lord, around 15 participants joined from Bogor, but all of them are Christian priests from different denominations.
I was shocked. How could we conduct a BCLP for them? But we could not back off, and we proceeded with the program. What I found amazing is that the BCLP was an eye opener for our friends from the different churches in that group. Their perception about Catholicism was changed. One of the ‘shepherds’ from a Pentecostal church who attended the baptism of the Holy Spirit said: “I am from a Pentecostal church who always pray to the Holy Spirit, I did not know that you are actually better than me.” The Holy Spirit really helped us. BCBP is truly the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals.
Since then we have a new mission in Bogor and this group now has new members who are Catholic and we now have a breakfast also in Bogor, attended by around 20 members and first timers.
I was really amazed and touched when I and a few friends from the Jakarta core team visited Cebu for the first time on August 26, 2015. I witnessed a great friendship, a real brotherhood and the touching hospitality of the BCBP members. And today I witness the amazing gathering of so many brothers and sisters, members of BCBP. This really is a boost to my spirit to continue driving BCBP in Jakarta.
The situation in Indonesia is different than the Philippines. We, Catholics, are a tiny minority, around 3% from more than the 250 million population of Indonesia. We could not freely express ourselves in public. On the other-hand the parishes in Indonesia are very active, lots of activities are held by the church and the categorial communities. We have 2 similar organization like BCBP. We have 2 charismatic groups and many more small categorial groups.
The vision and mission of BCBP is very relevant for Indonesia and the Archbishop and the Vicar of the Jakarta Archdiocese are very supportive. The Archbishop encouraged us and said: “Starting BCBP in Indonesia is a great job, but the beginning will not be easy. Do not give up, keep on trying.”
The Vicar is very excited with our “Be Honest” slogan. The “Be Honest” table-stand is put on the front desk at the secretariat office. He likes to talk about our small group and the “Be Honest” mission in many different occasions.
Therefore, we will and must continue pushing this mission in Jakarta. With the help of our brothers and sisters from BCBP Philippines and your prayers, we believe that one day we will make it!
Our Great Lord has blessed you for having such a wonderful community; and may God help the BCBP spread out to other parts of the world.
I will end up my sharing with this quote from Proverb 3: 5-6: “Have confidence in the Lord with all your heart, and do not depend upon your own prudence. In all your ways, consider Him, and He himself will direct your steps”.
The key I think is, to open your heart for Him to come in and guide and protect you.
Thank you. May God bless all of us and bless this anniversary celebration.