LAST time The Pulse caught up with the head of the Presbyterian chaplaincy team, Morris Key, he was sitting in his office at West- mead Hospital, excitedly discussing his five–year succession plan with Ian Schoonwater and planning his retirement. It seems that God, however, has other plans for him. Karen Thornton discovers how life as we know it can change with a single email . . .
To say Morris Key is incredulous at how his life and that of his beloved wife Florianna – “Flo” as he calls her – is about to change, is an understatement.
As a man who loves and trusts God, Morris knows that he should not be surprised that God has decided to overrule Morris’ own retirement plans and give him another job to do.
But when that job is in a foreign (non-Christian) country, requires him and Florianna to leave their Sydney home and almost grown children for no less than three years and will see him developing a chaplaincy program from the ground up for a major and fast growing hospital network, he admits that he is still scratching his head somewhat.
Currently long-time head of the PCNSW chaplaincy service, Morris, however, has no doubt at all that his work for the past 25 years has prepared him for what he is about to take on and that God most definitely is leading him.
Back in December, the Pulse interviewed Morris, 62, in his office at Westmead Hos- pital in Sydney and learned of his plans to hand over the reins to “much younger” chaplain Rev Ian Schoonwater in the next four to five years.
At the time, Ian recognised that Morris’ shoes would be big ones to fill. Morris is a “man of many caps”. Not only has he headed up the hospital chaplaincy program, but he has written and run chaplaincy courses for chaplains, medical personnel and po- tential chaplains – and more.
“I was so excited when I saw Robert’s email, because the job seemed to be espe- cially written for me; almost so perfect that I could not believe it.” Morris says. “I felt a bit like the verse in Esther chapter four verse 14, where uncle Mordecai says `per- haps you were made Queen for just such a time as this?’
“I thought, could it be possible that my 25 years in Chaplaincy and my 18 years in training chaplains was all so that I could be prepared for an opportunity such as this?”
Morris responded to the email and an in- terview was arranged for him with Dr Ric Cannada, the former Chancellor of RTS in the USA and then with his colleague Dr Niel Nielson former president of Cov- ent College in the USA – via a newfangled thing called “Skype”.
“Both interviews were positive and thus an invitation was suggested that my wife Florianna and I come to visit Jakarta Indo- nesia to meet and to greet and to see for ourselves the people behind this vision.”
For Florianna, an IBM logistics manager for Telstra, a potential move to Indonesia would mean losing her job and dealing with a hus- band who “doesn’t like the heat and cannot speak Indonesian”. It also meant leaving their two children behind just as they were due to finish university studies and start out in the adult working world. Something she had planned to be part of.
“It was a matter of knowing whether it was God calling, or . . .” she says. “I was concerned Morris didn‘t know what he was diving into. My husband is much more westernised than I am. I come from an Asian background – I was Hong Kong born. He was born in South Africa, has an ethnic Chinese background, but is com- pletely westernised.”
She describes the flurry of activity which has surrounded the first interviews and the subsequent trip to Jakarta as a “roller coaster ride”.
“The person who was supposed to meet us at the airport didn’t show up so I had to find our way to our hotel, then we had very intensive interviews, day after day, with so many people.
“We toured the hospitals and met many people from the Christian foundation which supports the network, people from the adjacent school of medicine…we were made aware of what a complex structure ex- ists there, with so many people in the mix.
“We had to talk about whether this was an environment we can fit into and be effec- tive within…that has been the basis of our daily prayers and discussions ever since.”
Morris said despite being overwhelmed, he became convinced that the job should be his during the trip, particularly after the couple joined some Bible studies and saw their enthusiasm.. “Our time there was
special and I saw some real people and un- limited opportunities for ministry,” he said.
“The next question was whether I felt I was up to the job…the job offer was quite definite by then. A banquet was even held in our honour.
“If I took it, I would be responsible for de- veloping and building a chaplaincy team at the Karawaci Lippo Valley hospital in Siloam in the first two years, then expanding and developing courses for the nursing and medical students and the doctors and nurses working at the hospital. After that, I would be expected to duplicate the program in all the other hospitals and given they intend to build many more in that time, it will be a big job.”
Currently, no chaplaincy services exist at all in a country which constitutionally recognises five religions – Protestant, Catho- lic, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim.
“I want to integrate the new chaplaincy team into the hospital system as part of its policy. It will be tough but also very excit- ing, I think.
“We were blown away by the Riardy family’s vision and dedication and desire to bless the nation of Indonesia through spreading the Gospel through the building of Christian schools and also wanting to set up chaplains in each of their hospitals.”
The Keys will be set apart at Strathfield Presbyterian Church on November 30 and Morris will become an associate missionary with Australian Presbyterian World Mission (APWM) which will support him while overseas.
Morris says. “A large town has been built around the hospital and university/medical school so we won’t be living in too harsh an environment. Having just signed a contract in Jakarta Morris is excited as a brand new apartment just next to the hospital has been allocated for them to live in.
“We will be doing some Indonesian language courses even though I will be teach- ing in English and English is almost a second language, widely spoken among the middle class there. But I want to be able to speak some Indonesian.”
Among his to do list when he arrives in January to start work are to meet with the lead- ers of the local seminary to find the right people to kick off the chaplaincy program.
“I have a specific training program I have redesigned, although I am yet to discuss logistics, budget, how many chaplains, etc,” he says.
“Initially I will be relying on the volunteer visitor program already in place. Getting them to undergo some training may be a challenge…usually once you begin to bring changes, it can be difficult for some…”
As far as ensuring their own worship needs are met, the couple has planned to attend a church on the local university campus.
As for what will happen back home after he has gone, Morris says Ian Schoonwater will be earmarked as the senior presbyterian chaplain but as he is finishing his Master of Ministry degree he will take a 2 year sabbatical from CPE.
But there are still a few months to go. Morris says he plans to spend that time reading as much as he can about what Muslims be- lieve in and the political situation in Indonesia, getting appropriate vaccinations and working Visas and praying.
Florianne says she will be loading a memory stick of their children’s photos, learning how to use Skype and regularly eating the foods she loves that will not be easily come by in Jakarta – like yoghurt and meat.
Morris and Florianne have asked Pulse readers to pray the following:
- For their health
- For inevitable homesickness
- For finding like-minded Christians
- For their children (who will be moving back into the family home), Samantha and Jonathan
- For the program.
MORRIS’ NEW BOSS
CEO of Lippo Group, a Pan-Asian group based in Jakarta with its International headquarters in Singapore, Dr James Riardy is also the Founder and Chairman of Pelita Harapan Educational Foundation, or the Educational Foundation of Hope and Light, a group of co-educational K1-Year 12 private, international Christian schools in Indonesia. During his term as Ambassador at Large and Special Envoy of the President from 1998-2000, Dr Riardy also acted as Special Envoy and Diplomat of the President of Indonesia to Australia. In the same period, he was also a member of the People’s Consultative Assembly, Republic of Indonesia. He received the Australian En- trepreneur of the Year Award in 2008 con- ferred by the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia for his work in Australia.