This month Living Lutheran is speaking with Lutherans who are and identify as Asian, Asian American and/or people of Pacific Island (AAPI) heritage. We are honored to share the stories of our AAPI siblings in Christ. Today we are speaking with Petra Limbong.

How are you connected to the ELCA?

I have been connected to the ELCA all my life. My father, Rev. Dr. Bimen Limbong, was initially called to serve in Alaska but now we’re in Kentucky. Being a pastor’s kid, I attended church every Sunday as well as occasional midweek and Saturday services. I contributed in various ways at my church, such as playing the drums during services, streaming them and visiting homebound members. If you can think of it, I’ve probably done something similar. However, the first time I felt connected to the ELCA was when I attended the National Youth Leadership Summit in 2022. Though I participated as an attendee, it showed me the sheer magnitude of the things the ELCA does. While at first I only saw the ELCA through my local church and occasional synodwide events, the summit provided a larger perspective, giving me newfound knowledge of the ELCA. After this experience I became more connected by joining the Youth Core Leadership Team and other ELCA event planning teams.

Who has been an inspiration for your spiritual journey?

I would say my biggest inspiration for my spiritual journey would be my dad. My dad always told me stories of his life growing up. My dad was born into poverty in Indonesia, and he worked his hardest to ensure that my siblings and I didn’t have to live the life that he had to endure. He sacrificed everything he had—his family, his friends and his home—to move to America to give me the opportunities that he didn’t have. God had a plan for my dad, and my dad accepted his calling. I look up to my dad, especially in regard to his faith. To me my dad has proven that God will fill your life with blessings, and the more you give to God, the more you will be given. My dad reminds me of this every day, always reminding me to be thankful for the blessings that God has given me, and I continue to do so.

When do you feel most connected to yourself and your culture in a worship experience?

I would say I feel most connected to my culture in a worship environment when I’m with other Indonesians during service. However, this is very infrequent, considering there aren’t a lot of Indonesians in Louisville, and most of them are busy studying in seminars. Even so, the times that we have Indonesians come to our church, it’s always fun. Also, at my church there is one song that the whole congregation sings but in different languages, and my dad incorporated Bahasa Indonesia into one of the translations, so it’s the little things that make my worship experience connect better to my culture.

In what ways could the ELCA better support your community and those whom you love? 

I believe the ELCA should tap into the younger API generation when it comes to decision-making processes. People like older high school students, college students or young adults are essential when making decisions for the future because they are the future. These positions could be either big or small, but whatever the size of the position, providing those opportunities to express views and ideas on decisions, especially for someone trying to grow in faith as an API, will strengthen progression and representation. I would also say to just spread love. It is so easy for API Lutherans to get tangled up in stereotypes or discrimination that will ultimately lead them to withdraw from church or even become afraid of joining congregations. We need to spread the idea that all Lutherans believe the same thing. Regardless of accents, regardless of race, regardless of social status, regardless of language, we all believe in the same thing, and we need to spread that idea of acceptance.

What would you share as an encouragement to other API Lutherans?

All I would say is, keep your head up, spirit up and faith up. I know it’s hard to fit in, especially if there are people around you who aren’t the same as you. Regardless, have that optimistic view of people; give them compassion and positivity and, in return, they will give it back to you. Even if they don’t reciprocate those feelings, it’s OK. Don’t lose hope, because at the end of the day it’s the relationship between you and God. A verse I like to look back to when I experience those instances is Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” So don’t fret, feel proud of who you are, and remember to love your neighbors even if they don’t love you back. Spread the love!

Kelly Wilkerson
Kelly Wilkerson is a content strategist for the ELCA. She is a former Worship Minister, Creative Arts Director, Youth and Family Director, and has been working in full-time ministry for her entire professional career. Kelly is using her passion for storytelling, art, design, and social media to serve in the office of the presiding bishop on the strategic communications team. She is also an ELCA coach and currently resides in Columbus, OH with her fiancee and their 80 lb bernedoodle.

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