Pursuing the “Hidden Paths” of Reading and Writing in Indonesia

“I hope to continue to have the courage, perseverance, and faithfulness to work on this call of God.”

For the past 22 years, Ria Agustine has served at Perkantas Foundation, a Christian publishing house in east Java, Indonesia, that is part of IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students). Her previous roles were primarily administrative and financial management. Having published only translated books for most of her time there, in 2018 God gave Ria a grander vision while she attended LittWorld 2018 in Singapore. “God opened a vision for me to develop literacy services to bless my nation,” she says. “I wanted to start publishing books by local authors.”

Having no training in writing or editing, Ria started by meeting with others who had a similar vision, first gathering in person and then expanding to social media to create a community for disciples of Christ to be more active in reading and writing on Instagram. (You can find it at @rimarilis.) Her motto was simple: Students read and students write; and her goal was equally so: invite young people to read good literature and “start writing things that bless this life so that these become a part of preaching Christ in the world.” As to her audience, her calling was clear: high school, college-age, and recent college graduates.

Ria has found others to come alongside her in this vision, and since Covid-19 began, they have formed two communities: “Pena Murid” (Disciple’s Pen), which is dedicated to helping Christians develop courage to write what’s on their hearts, and “CheeReaders” (combining the words “cheerleaders” and “readers”), which encourages readers to grow together through discussion. A part of this latter community is the Reading Habit Tracer event, which invites participants to read every day, and write short reflections and upload them on their social media.

Ria believes that all good writing begins with reading. “Reading and writing are processes that are directly proportional,” she says. “The hidden paths we find while reading we can describe and map out beautifully through writing.”

Since beginning these communities and online trainings, Ria and her team have trained hundreds of young people to learn to love to read and write. The fruits of her efforts have resulted in three books: the “Digital Discipleship” anthology book which addresses disciple-making during the pandemic; the anthology “Titik Temu,” which addresses the integration of science and faith; and “From the Carmel Mountains to the Indian Ocean,” which retells inspirational Bible stories in modern ways. This latter volume sold out in the first week of publication.

“LittWorld was one of the turning points in my life,” Ria recalls. “When God confirmed the call to help develop local literature, I was afraid to accept the vision. “But over the past four years I have seen God fulfill His promise to me, guiding me to do something I once thought impossible.” Her resources can be found at www.literaturperkantas.com.

Ria plans to continue doing the work God began four years ago: “My dream is to invite friends who have the same vision to bring young writers to Indonesia who bless Christianity in Indonesia.”

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