Sweetry Noverlindra hopes LSTC studies help her grow Indonesian church
Sweetry Noverlindra, first-year MA student, first heard about LSTC in 2020 through a webinar LSTC alumni organized. Noverlindra was looking into the possibility of studying abroad but did not know how likely this would be given the context of the pandemic at the time. Still, LSTC alum and friend Hesron Sihombing talked with Noverlindra about his experiences at LSTC, and Noverlindra was added to a WhatsApp group chat with other prospective students. After talking with these students about their struggles with theology, Noverlindra knew LSTC was the right choice for her.
Noverlindra describes LSTC as a much different situation that anything she has experienced before. She is from Bengkulu, Indonesia, where radical Muslims have burned her local congregation, Huria Kristem Indonesia, three times. Bengkulu is rare in even having a local congregation: most neighborhoods in Indonesia are not granted permission by the government to have a church.
Christians are the minority in Indonesia, making up only a fraction of the population while most Indonesians are Muslim. This context piqued Noverlindra’s curiosity in her faith and led her to obtain a bachelor’s degree from Sttabdi Sabda Medan, a theological school.
Following her graduation from Sttabdi Sabda Medan in 2017, Noverlindra realized she felt called to ministry. The candidacy process in Indonesia begins after one obtains a degree, so Noverlindra decided then to register with her home congregation to officially start the process. This training lasted nearly three years, at which point Noverlindra decided she wanted to further her studies.
Now at LSTC, Noverlindra is taking a variety of classes, hoping to learn more about history and pastoral care especially. “I have a new perspective here,” Noverlindra says, comparing her studies to the Eastern culture in which she grew up.
Noverlindra appreciates many things about LSTC, including the faculty for their availability and willingness to meet with students—she says this is very different from the Indonesian context. In the fall semester, Noverlindra took a course called Luther and Modern Society with Candace Kohli and said Kohli was “really helpful” with her and other international students in the class. Kohli made an effort to get to know each student on a personal level, which Noverlindra said made her feel close to Kohli. Noverlindra often sought out Kohli’s office hours.
Noverlindra also describes LSTC’s Learning, Reading, and Writing Center (LRWC) as supportive in her first semester. The LRWC, in partnership with McCormick Theological Seminary, is a lively center that assists students in writing and editing papers, reading comprehension, and other coursework. Given that Noverlindra’s first language is not English, this additional resource outside of the classroom has been abundantly helpful. Within her first semester she was paired with a learning partner, McCormick student Stephen Apollo, who assisted with various assignments.
Noverlindra believes LSTC’s curriculum is preparing her well for her future ministry, which she hopes involves expanding the Indonesian church. “What I learn here I have to bring to Indonesia,” Noverlindra says. She is specifically hoping to bring the ministry of pastoral care to Indonesia, as this is something the Indonesian church has not seen much of before. She plans to graduate from LSTC in 2024.
Overall, Noverlindra is hoping to bring new and fresh ideas to her church in Indonesia to help it grow. Given the religious context of her home country, her church has always been very small. Noverlindra loved growing up in the church and hopes her ministry, aided by LSTC, will help it to grow and thrive for many generations to come.
Noverlindra misses her home context of Indonesia sometimes but also loves the city of Chicago. “I like Chicago, I like this city. But I want to explore more,” she says, excited about the possibility of exploring other parts of the country during her time here. This winter will also be Noverlindra’s first time experiencing snow, which she is looking forward to.
Outside of enjoying Chicago and taking a full courseload, Noverlindra has taken advantage of LSTC’s vast student employment opportunities through an on-campus job in the janitorial department. “I like this job because I don’t have to think about anything,” she says. “I just clean.” The financial resource is helpful for Noverlindra to be able to depend on, as is the case for many other LSTC students. Noverlindra also enjoys playing music, spending time with her roommates, and playing ping-pong in the LRWC.
Overall, Noverlindra is greatly appreciating her time at LSTC so far. “I really like this campus and I really like this school,” she says. “I’m really thankful to come here to LSTC because LSTC provided us with everything we need.” Noverlindra is deeply passionate about studying abroad, saying that it allows her to enrich her mind not only about theology, but also life.