Togu Sihite: In the U.S. seminary classes ‘go deeper’
Togu (full name: Togu Paskaraya Apriono Sihite) has lots of responsibilities and big plans. He is already a pastor in Indonesia, but at age 30 is studying at LSTC (MA, overseas Lutheran) in hopes of returning home to be a seminary professor. He will graduate and return in spring 2021.
The region he serves at home is mountainous and forest. His “five branches,” as he calls them, are also congregations. Getting to all of them for Bible study and worship takes some doing. As the oldest in his family he is also responsible for his siblings. He is in regular contact with them and his mother.
Togu was encouraged to attend LSTC by two friends in Indonesia, both of whom studied here. His jobs at seminary are working in the Refectory and on the seminary cleaning crew, which is where international students typically work.
He calls LSTC a “small world,” because it is a small school with so much diversity, especially global students. He’s gotten to know lots of people from other countries, learn from them and get new perspectives. He believes God has things in store for him that he’s never even dreamed about.
Togu is amazed at how far he’s come, describing himself as a shy person. “Seminary changed me,” he said. Since he was young, he wanted to be a pastor. In his community the clergy are honored and respected by people. They carry the voice of God.
His first year (2019-20) he took four classes, considerably fewer than he took as a student back home at Jakarta Seminary. Here, he said the classes go deeper. The professors are even able to make theology fun. His emphasis of study is Old Testament, Peace and Reconciliation issues, Bible and culture.
“Our country needs peace and reconciliation,” he said, adding that there are few scholars in this field. “Scholars in this field are needed because it is the urgent issue nowadays,” he wrote in his first-year bio, saying LSTC would give him space to deepen diversity and pluralism as a source to theological reflection in a local and global context.
He’s learned much about racism in Marvin Wickware’s class. It exists back home, too, he says, and he’s able to apply what he’s learning here to racial issues in Indonesia, which are rarely addressed. “I realize racism is true and happening in my country, and we as the body of Christ are to fight it.” In his country, there are 100s of denominations because when there is conflict, they break off and start another ministry in another region. He wants to make things better in Indonesia, especially between Christians and Muslims.
At LSTC, he is challenged, not burdened, he said. He says his classmates have been helpful, as have the Language Resource & Writing Center and his learning partner Amber Kalina. The LRWC’s summer orientation for international students introduced him to Chicago and was crucial for his life at LSTC and this city and country.