Easter Sunday is a day that believers all around the world wake up to celebrate the greatest news of all—He is risen! Although we’re not quite sure all believers wake up quite as early as Raya and her friends in Indonesia. For them, Easter Sunday is full of joy and starts at dawn. This is because her Compassion centre has a few very special traditions to remind their community of the true meaning of Easter…
Raya couldn’t sleep. She was buzzing with excitement for Easter morning to arrive. More than once, she slipped out of bed to check on the special bamboo torch she and her father had spent the day preparing, sneaking peeks outside to see if it was nearing dawn. At 3:30 in the morning, she was finally pulled from her restless sleep by the sound of her mother’s soft voice. Easter Sunday had finally arrived!
She washed her face and then pulled on the clothes she had laid out the night before, stumbling outside to join her friends. She gripped her bamboo torch as they marched around the village. The torch relay became even more lively when Raya and her friends sang the songs they know from Sunday school. Accompanied by her parents and tutors from Compassion centre in the celebration, Raya’s smile felt as bright as the flame of her special torch.
“I’m always excited to have a time with my friends when we celebrate Easter together, especially when we walk around our village and the bring the torches which we prepared at home,” says Raya, 9.
The torch relay at dawn has a special meaning to Raya and her friends as they celebrate Easter. “Walking at dawn was like the morning when Jesus’ disciples found the empty tomb,” says Hermin, director of Raya’s Compassion centre. “We want to teach the children that Jesus has risen, and He is no longer buried in the grave—He is resurrected and lives!”
Remembering the day’s true meaning is something Raya’s whole family participates in. “My father went to the forest to find bamboo to make a torch for me,” says Raya, proudly. Rasid, Raya’s father, works as a cocoa farmer. As a cocoa farmer, he can easily find bamboo because this plant grows quickly and abundantly in the area around the village. The torches used by Raya and her friends are made of bamboo, with coconut-fiber wicks soaked with kerosene to burn brighter and longer. Alongside the torches, the other common Easter ornaments in the village are painted wooden crosses. Many children carry them as they walk, bright-eyed despite the early hour.
The pandemic, with its many restrictions, hasn’t stopped Raya and her friends from remembering and celebrating Easter. In the weeks leading up to the big day, they’ve been learning Easter stories at the Compassion centre. “The part that always reminds me of God’s love is when Jesus was flogged many times, but He didn’t try to fight back. He was willing to suffer so I could live. He paid for my sins,” Raya shares.
Hermin and tutors at the Compassion centre make sure that Raya and her friends understand the true meaning of Easter. “We wanted the children to celebrate this year though the pandemic hasn’t ended yet. We made a home visit to explain the meaning of Easter to the children,” says Hermin.
So, what does Easter mean to Raya? “Easter means Jesus has risen from the dead; He wins over death,” she says. “He died because He loves me. He is risen for me and for those who believe in Him.”
As the morning sun rises higher in the sky, Raya and her friends at the Compassion centre chatter enthusiastically and look forward to all that the day brings. For Raya—a budding artist—the next event is the most exciting. “To make this year’s celebration more fun, we created a competition of painting boiled eggs. We explained to the children that the meaning of egg is a symbol of the new life we have because Jesus has risen,” Hermin explained.
Through all the activities, stories, lessons and simply the ways in which they live their own lives, Hermin and his team at the Compassion centre have helped little Raya understand the true meaning of Easter and build a faith of her own. Even though she is still young, Raya has the right understanding of Easter. “Easter is a moment to remember the meaning of Christ’s resurrection,” says Raya. “Why did He have to die on the cross? Because He wants me to be saved.”
Jesus is alive for us.
Jesus is risen for you.
Today is a day to celebrate.
Photos by Vera Aurima. Words by Vera Aurima with Rebekah Malbrecht.