Sumatra Part 1: Tarutung

Sumatra was amazing. In my previous two visits to Indonesia, I had only been to Bali and Lombok, so getting to explore a new island was awesome. Last Tuesday we made the long trip up to Medan in North Sumatra. It took about 4 hours of flying to get there, so you can get a sense of how far away it is from Bali. When we arrived in the afternoon, we just hung out with our friends who live and do ministry there. On Wednesday, we took a trip to a place called Tarutung. It’s a very small town inhabited by the Batak people. The Bataks are a “Christian tribe” located in North Sumatra near Lake Toba. They have their own language (which doesn’t really sound at all like Indonesian) and actually, in the Batak language “tarutung” means “durian,” since that area of Sumatra is widely known for it’s supposedly delicious durian. (I’m not a fan, though haha) The Batak people that we met very very outgoing and friendly. And they are very passionate about their Christianity. Even their architecture reflects their religion.

Here are a few photos of the traditional Batak architecture. Notice the roof–it looks like a canoe. Our host and friend Chris explained to us that there are three reasons for the structure of the roofs. The front section with decorations represents Christianity:

The roof, shaped like a canoe, represents the canoes the Bataks used to escape during a war (I don’t remember when that was):

And as you’ll notice, the back of the roof is slightly higher than the front. This is because the Bataks hope that their children and future generations achieve higher success than previous generations. Isn’t that cool?








While in Tarutung we also ate at a local restaurant and on the wall they had a picture of one of the first missionary families that came to the area to preach the gospel. The Bataks are very passionate about their appreciate of missionaries, so there are pictures of them everywhere.

And here’s me with our friends in Medan outside the restaurant. (Left to right: Isaiah, Savannah, me, and Jordan.)

That night, we went to a revival service in which my dad preached about the love of God and how God will use us to do great things as long as we are willing to let Him do so. AMEN!

After the service, we stood around and greeted everyone and chatted for a while. People kept commenting on how my dad looks like George Clooney and how Isaiah looks like Justin Bieber. To give you an example of how forward and open the people here were: Someone even slipped Isaiah a love note in English. We surmised she must have not paid any attention to the sermon and just used the entire time to write out a detailed introduction of herself and invitation for Isaiah to call her. Props to her for her boldness (even if it did mean she didn’t hear the sermon haha).

That night, we stayed at the Glory Hotel, which we labeled as a half-star hotel. Why? Well, for fear of bed bugs, we slept on sarongs that we brought for sheets, we did not take off our shoes for fear of whatever could be living on the floor, and it smelled like sewage. However, it earned a half-star for the hot water showers. At least we had that🙂

The next morning, we had breakfast at a Chinese restaurant. After a year of eating real Chinese food, I can’t really say it was super authentic, but it was decent. Except for the fact that when we went to pay, they ripped us off and charged a ridiculous amount of money for our meal….oh well.

 Some shots from walking around town…

After breakfast, we made our way over to the monument the Bataks made for the very first missionaries that came to their village in 1834. Their names were Henry Lyman and Samuel Munson. (There’s actually a cool book written in memory of the two: More Than Conquerors) When they went to the Batak village, they knew very little of the Batak language and the leader thought that they were spies. So the Bataks took the missionaries and beheaded them and ate them. (In Batak culture the only way to make sure that the influence of a person is completely removed from this earth, you have to eat them after they die.) Yet, despite the fact that Lyman and Munson were killed and didn’t get to do the ministry they had set out to do, they planted the seeds for salvation that paved the way for other missionaries to witness to the Batak people. So now, these two missionaries are revered highly among the Bataks.

The memorial relief is pretty cool and it was built right by the rock where the missionaries were beheaded


And here’s us just chilling out at the monument. Don’t we look like a band?🙂

The way back to Medan was pretty exciting. Mainly because Chris’s car was running very low on diesel and we could NOT find a gas station that still had diesel. We must have stopped at about 10 gas stations along the way…NONE. Finally, we found a lady on the side of the road that was selling some, so the rest of the way we were able to enjoy the ride and take in the scenery.

On the way back, we also stopped again at Lake Toba to take in the view and have some lunch. Lake Toba is HUGE and it’s actually the crater of a volcano. AND, there’s a huge island in the middle of the lake. It’s pretty awesome. Pictures can’t really capture how beautiful it is, but I’ll try to give you a sense…

You can see the island–huge, right?!

The little place we stopped at for lunch had such a great view, as you can see, but also some precarious supports for the building itself. The restaurant was literally built on sticks. But no matter. To distract from the structural unsoundness of the building, there were tons of monkeys hanging around. We started feeding them and there were TONS coming by to join us for lunch!🙂

All in all, it was a great trip to Tarutung. We all learned a lot and saw some cool things. And that’s just part one of Medan!

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