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Indonesians declare their love in local ceremony

A traditional Indonesian engagement ceremony will transport the exotic culture of the south seas into the stained glass and brick structure of Wadena's Immanuel Lutheran Church at 8:30 and 10 a.m. on Sunday.

The Rev. Dan DeBlock and the Rev. Warner Luoma will lead the ceremony announcing the engagement of the Rev. Andar Gomos Parlindungan and Reyni Lasmida Panjaitan, natives of Jakarta, Indonesia. Toba Barak culture requires the ceremony to make their marriage official.

The engagement ceremony will form something of a parallel universe between Indonesia and Immanuel. Parlindungan and Panjaitan's families will hold an identical ceremony to the one at Immanuel on the same day.

"Here we are in Wadena and what we are doing is being mirrored in Jarkarta," Luoma said. "This is a world where we are closer to each other than we usually realize."

The ceremony is a significant part of the marriage ritual in the Indonesian church, according to Parlindungan. The wedding cannot take place without the "martumpol." The ceremony also makes sure that there are no impediments to the marriage from others.

"Wadena has been an inspiring and beautiful place for me to have this ceremony," he wrote in an e-mail. "I want to have a very special event in my lifetime. Getting married in the USA will give me the most interesting and exciting experience in my life."

DeBlock will perform the role of Pendata, which is Indonesian for protestant pastor, for the ceremony, Luoma said. Luoma will share a brief history of Parlindungan's relationship with Immanuel.

Luoma, a retired minister, served as a missionary in Indonesia from 1972-1984 and he is familiar with the culture. Toba Barak is a tribal ethnic group that is 95 percent Christian, he said. There are more than three million Barak Lutherans.

Parlindungan is an ordained pastor of the Barak Protestant Christian Church. He received his master's degree in Islamic studies from Luther seminary in St. Paul this spring, Luoma said.

Immanuel has welcomed Parlindungan as a guest preacher several times over his two-and-a-half-year stay in America. One of his visits took place near the time of the tsunami that devastated Indonesia. Parlindungan hosted an adult forum informing the congregation about the situation in his home country, Luoma said. The visit inspired Immanuel to donate more than $5,000 to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America World Disaster Fund.

Parlindungan appreciates Immanuel's relief efforts for Indonesia and Wadena's small town atmosphere, Luoma said.

"He's a city boy so he likes the quiet of the country," he said. "You don't get that in Jakarta."

Parlindungan enjoys the front porch on his Leaf River home, Luoma said. Parlindungan even spent time at Luoma's home working out details of the marriage agreement with his and Panjaitan's clans.

The engagement ceremony takes place in the context of the Sunday worship service, he said. The ceremony usually includes representatives from the two families, but Luoma said Parlindungan asked his wife and himself to represent the families. The betrothal is a family event between the two clans involved. Family is very important to the people of Indonesia, he said.

The bride's family are the bride-giving-clan and the groom's family are the bride-receiving-clan, Luoma said. The clans have to meet and arrange the bride price because the bride's family experiences a loss and the groom's family gains. A water buffalo is typically involved in the dowry. The groom's family also must prepare the food and they do the cleanup at all of the bride's family's festivals, he said. Some marriages are still arranged by the family members.

The intimate involvement the clans have in the marriage planning establishes an ongoing relationship between the two families, Luoma said. He only heard of one divorce during the 12 years he was a missionary in the country, he said.

"Divorce is so rare it makes the front page of the newspapers when it happens," Luoma said.

The Panjaitan and Parlindungan wedding will take place on Aug. 27 at Christ Lutheran Church in St. Paul. The couple will return to Jakarta in September and have their wedding feast in October. They will make their home in Northern Sumatra where Parlindungan will assume the position of assistant to the bishop of the church. Panjaitan will be employed by the government as a medical doctor.

Immanuel's congregation is curious to see the foreign ceremony before the couple returns to their home country, DeBlock said. The engagement ceremony is an opportunity to appreciate cultural differences.

"We're not one nation," DeBlock said. "We're part of a global community."

Parlindungan is eager to bring his fiancee to Wadena, he said.

"My heart has been touched by the kindness of our church members at Immanuel," Parlindungan wrote in an e-mail. "I think it's so important to bring my fiancee to see the kindness of our church members and the beauty of this place."