Wed, April 5, 2017 | Salatiga, Jawa Tengah
Sukardi Yonatan, a 68 year-old man in Ngaduman is a common farmer whom people probably have no idea of him whatsoever. But to his village, this is the man who made their lives as they are now.
A village on the slope of Merbabu Mountain, stands tall 1800m above sea level, now has several critical facilities which a settlement needs; a school, clinic, water supply, accessible roads, and most importantly to a remote location; electricity.
Surely, all of these facilities are a result of the collective efforts. But if we were to appoint the brain, the machinist, or simply put; the man who puts it all together, it is Sukardi Yonatan.
The man was born on December 14, 1949 to Pasto Parman and Karni. He is the firstborn, along with his other two siblings. Now, Sukardi has three children, six grandchildren, and two grand-grandchildren.
Even though Sukardi didn’t finish his education in Ngaduman Elementary School, this man of vision has a lot of positive impacts in his village.
The First Christian
In 1965, government issued an order that all Indonesian citizens were to have a religion. In that village, people were confused as to what religion they should pick. Sukardi stood up and said it loud and clear, “I want to be a Christian.”
And so all of the people there followed his step and converted to Christians. Now, 99% of the population in Ngaduman consists of Christians.
This is one of the earliest examples that Sukardi has a leadership mentality in him, shown even when he was very young.
Now, the village’s access to clean water is available. Once, when Sukardi was little, clean water was hard to get. There was not any supply from PAM/PDAM (the drinking water company).
In 1994, Sukardi started an effort to build an access to the spring water just above their village. Before that, people were afraid to take water from there. The roads were too dangerous and they did not have the money to build the pipelines.
Partnering with nearby village, with funds from the organization that helped build the elementary school, an access to clean water was built. Sukardi was the one who took care of it; discussing it with the other village and negotiating about the money from the organization.
One thing that Sukardi wants to change now is to put gauge or indicator on how much each family uses the water. Because now, everybody can use the water supply as much as they want, only paying two thousand rupiah a month despite the different usage.
Tradition and Ceremony
Like most of other villages on the slope of Mount. Merbabu, this village once used to celebrate a Javanese month called “Sapar”, the celebration itself is called “Saparan”. Usually, the celebration consists of eating together in one place as a village. The word Saparan itself means “grateful” or “to be grateful”.
Some of the villages up here still celebrate this, but not Ngaduman. Most of the people here are Christians. They do not know the meaning of the celebration. Then, according to Sukardi, the villagers tried to blend it in with other Christian celebrations like Christmas and Easter. They would have a ceremony at Church, then they would celebrate it by eating together in Church or their own houses, inviting the neighbors.
One unique side of Sukardi is how he managed to mix two contradicting rituals into one.
People used to be so hesitant to go to the church to worship once. Sukardi came up with his idea to somehow ‘lure’ them in with entertainment. Each Easter, now the village celebrates it with traditional ritual called Reog.
“That, that was my idea, you know?” He said proudly while pointing his finger at himself.
Reog is a traditional dance in which it usually involves people eating fractions of glass while getting possessed by spirits.
Now, people would be excited to come to worship in Church. They would even pray before they perform Reog.
One of the professors from Faculty of Theology even interviewed Sukardi about his strange idea.
Sukardi also contributed in the road building. Now the road is made of concrete. It is wide enough so both cars and motorcycles can pass through the village. But it wasn’t always like that.
This village once was inaccessible to any kind of motor-based vehicles. Building the elementary school was hard since the workers couldn’t bring the materials up using pick up cars nor trucks.
Sukardi, as one of the first people who settled in Ngaduman, always tried to improve the road by destroying the big rocks and carving small pathways. Around that time in the early 80s, vehicles like truck needed to use chain on their wheels to pass through the dirt.
Later, there was an agreement between Christians and Moslems of the neighboring village, as Sukardi puts it, to build a proper road.
“I made the two village chiefs come together to discuss this matter, so there is no tension between the two villages.”
When Suseno, the local government in the 80s visited the school anniversary, he talked with Sukardi before giving a speech. Sukardi told him that Ngaduman must have access for cars.
“I said that it might be our mistake that cars can’t pass here, other villages can have access why can’t we?” His tone got higher as he was about to stress his next sentence. “The speech Mr. Suseno gave at the school, what he said was what I said.” A hint of pride could be seen from his face as I tried to listen.
Finally, only in 2009 was the road covered with concrete, Sukardi led the project with more than a billion rupiah of government money to spend. Three villages were involved in this project.
Other Deeds He Did
In 1974, Sukardi signed a contract with a Christian organization, Sion, to build a school, which is now Karmel 01 Elementary School. Sukardi remains active as the school committee, since he was considered one of the influential people who took part in building the school.
In 1996, Sukardi was aware of government’s project; “Listrik Masuk Desa” (Electricity for villages) and he decided to connect the village to electricity. He went to PLN (National Electricity Company) office in Ungaran asking them to connect the electricity to Ngaduman. His village was underestimated of their capability to pay the bill, but Sukardi succeeded in persuading PLN.
In 1987, he had a vision for a bigger church. The church back then was small. With patience, for over 20 years Sukardi asked for the people’s help to build the church together. In 2007 the church was finished, being as it is right now.
What Leaders Should Be Like
Sukardi undoubtedly has led his village into some both major and minor improvements. He grabs people’s hands and directs them to the right direction. Despite the problems that he has to struggle with, Sukardi has bettered the lives of the people in Ngaduman.
In the interview he said, “If a leader leads like when you lead a pack of ducks, none of this would ever happen. A leader has to be in front, giving examples to those who follow him.” I could see the confidence in him as he was saying this, as it is to show how he sees himself.