Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas in Indonesia

 This pic from a few months ago in Florida tells how we feel about all of you.  We miss you all dearly and hope you are well and enjoying this holiday season of love and service and giving and gratitude for "The Gift".

It's the rainy season in Java.  A week ago while on missionary splits with the young missionaries, both of us, Kathy and I, had remarkable experiences.  Kathy will report on her experience in her letter home.  I was teaching with Elder Anderson and Elder Sutadiyono.  It began raining.  Indonesian rain does not start meekly.  It is not a gentle rain that begins subtly and gradually builds like nature's symphony.  There is nothing pianissimo about a Javanese rain.  It is fortissimo, cracking thunder, lightning all around, and barely a few moments to run for cover before you're drenched and your head hurts from raindrops the size of krupuk.  There is no raindrops on roses here...the roses would all be stems.

Anyway, it rained, hard.  They call it hujan deras.  Inches of rain in an hour or two.  The streets flooded.  When the streets flood, everything floods, including the lovely kali's alongside the roads where all manner of effluent runs. We waited for an hour after finishing our teaching appointment.  Had a really nice discussion with a lovely woman. After realizing this weather was not going to end soon, we put on our ponchos, turned on our meager lights, and rode off.  Tried to ride off.  I was last in line, the other two off like the Israelites crossing the Red Sea before the Egyptians.  Only my bike chain fell off...the one and only time it has ever done that...in the dark, no one around.  By the time I get my chain back in, my fingers are greasy, I am soaked to the bone, I am lost in the dark, alone, never been to this neighborhood before, and wondering about a posthumous missionary release.

I started asking the few Indonesians on the street if they had seen a couple of crazy bule's riding bikes.  They started pointing.  I followed their thumbs, eventually catching up. We rode home through puddles a foot deep.  Peddling through deep water is an adventure.  Every crank fills your shoe with water and anything else that happens to be in the water.  You can't tell where the deep holes are.  Prayer of the heart take on special meaning at those moments.  Your poncho does nothing but keep some of the mud off your back and backpack.  Enroute we found a large tree branch fallen into the road.  We got off our bikes and moved the tree off to the side.  "Service project", said Elder Sutadiyono.  We finally got home and did the only thing a missionary can do then...bought chicken sate and peanut sauce from the kaki lima next door.

Anyway, it was an adventure not soon forgotten.  I had a ball to tell you the truth.  I have never worn my church shoes into the shower before, but I did that night when I got home...Soap, water and a brush.  It took 3 days in the Indonesian sun and heat to dry those leather shoes.  I think I have broken them in now.

Elder Sutadiyono and I admiring the municipal flood control system.

Sister Williams joined in the wet fun in her own adventure.  Why pay for admission to a water park?

It rains almost every day, most days starting in the afternoon, but some days raining all day and night.  This rain began during our weekly District Training meeting with the Barat Missionaries.

Our driver Peter, Elder Anderson, Elder Setijawan.  And their favorite possession after their scriptures.

A typical small street scene.  They call this a gang.   Almost an alleyway, traversed by motorcycles, pedestrians, an occasional car, and a few missionaries on bicycles.  Hardly see any bicycles nowadays, strangely.  So sad. 

Everywhere we go, we get called "Meeeesterrrr" (Mr), or "Bule" (I am told its roots come from the Dutch days...bully, Indonesianized).  Bule is mildly pejorative, slang, but so common we don't take any offense. I am going to make a T shirt which reads, "MY NAME IS NOT BULE!"

2 weeks ago we enjoyed the Surabaya District Conference, held in conjunction with a Mission Tour and Zone training by Elder Randy Funk of the Quorum of the Seventy.  He is in the Asia Are Presidency in Hong Kong.  Elder Funk was a missionary in Indonesia from 1971-1973.  He and I overlapped just a month or so, but we never met at that time.  He and President Donald and their wives spent 3 days with us. It was wonderful.  We made home visits to members, ate together several times, had many training and conference sessions.  We even shared a can of cookies in the rear seat of our 7 passenger vehicle.  In this photo are the three outgoing members of the Surabaya District, Presidents Dwi Narko, Herry Siswoyo, and Rhama Raharja.

Our new District Presidency...President Hadi Sutanto, Rhama Raharja and Kurniawan Basuki, and their wives along with Mission and Area Leaders.  Wonderful servants of the Lord.  Their callings were inspired of the Lord, I can testify.  They were prepared and raised up to this assignment by the Lord.

A really cool segment of every Mission Tour with a General Authority like this involves all the missionaries standing in a line at the beginning of the conference and personally speaking with and greeting the GA and Mission President.  I found it to be very touching.  Really personal.  And remarkably, the visiting authority can usually remember each Elder or Sister's name after that.

 Tall white people seem to draw a crowd everywhere here.  We were teaching a young lady, a Moslem girl who met the Zone Leaders, at the City Library.  We finished, exited, and found this large group of college students taking an English class on the steps of the Library.  We spent 20 minutes talking to them, giving them all Pass-Along cards, and picture taking.  Everyone seems to want to ambil photo with us, especially Sister Williams.  Sales clerks, customers in stores, random people on the street. 

 Sister Williams is teaching this sweet 6 year old girl, Kimbley, how to play the piano. 

 We had a unique experience today.  We are teaching a 15 year old Korean youth visiting from South Korea.  His mother and aunt and uncle are members, though have not been to Church in a long time.  As a result of his interest in the Church, they have all been coming to Church here weekly.  SeungDo speaks Korean and a little English but no Indonesian.  His aunt speaks Indonesian and Korean.  We speak English and Indonesian.  It gets very confusing, and we were not sure if this young man was fully grasping what was being taught.  As always, the Lord prepared a way.  John and Jeanne Bringhurst from the Rogue Valley just arrived in one of the Korean missions last month as the office couple.  I Facebooked John, we exchanged emails, and arranged a Skype lesson today after Church with two of the Korean Elders, along with all of us here.  It was remarkable to watch this occur.  It was such a positive experience. Seung Do has a baptismal date in February, and wants to be taught twice a week through Skype. 

We went for a follow up appointment one evening this week with two Elders.  We taught the message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the mission of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, Another Witness of Jesus Christ, and the need for continuing revelation through modern day prophets.  We were hot and sweaty and swarmed by mosquitoes, but it was an effective lesson.  They committed, both of them, to being baptized.  They are past Moslems.  They are such humble people.  He is a carpenter, can't read.  They adopted a handicapped child many years ago rather than let him become homeless.  They live very simply in the small home you see.  We sat on the floor on an old picnic table cover over concrete still wet from a flood a few hours earlier.  This is their home, but they were kind and welcoming.  They tried to come to church today on their motorcycle, but got lost.  We will stop by and bring them with us next week.  For insurance liability reasons we are not allowed to bring anyone except missionaries in the church vehicle.

 This week has been Christmas festivities in all of the Branches.  We attended Surabaya 1 (Barat...West).  It was very well-attended, remarkably planned and organized.  Attended by approx. 12 investigators.  We listened to the Christmas Devotional in the Chapel, and then all went into the Cultural Hall (which culture....???).  They re-enacted the Nativity, gave presents to all of the Mothers, presents to all of the Youth, and Santa came...aka Elder Martineau.  There were scripture quiz show games with some of the Branch Leadership.  Lots of great food.  What do Indonesians eat on Christmas?  What do they eat on the other 324 days...sate, bakso, mie, es buah, fruit, kue.  They have a habit of passing out treats, cookies, etc, during the program...seems like a good idea.  Dessert before dinner.  I like it.

This is President Cornelius Sunardi and some of his family. He has been Branch President 3 times!  Last released early this year.  He and his wife have been Pioneers here in Surabaya, joining the Church within a year or so of my leaving in 1975.  He is an interesting, faithful man.  Retired Army.  He corralled me today after Church and after the Baptismal service and brought me into the Library.  He had his small laptop open with a FOREX trading page on it, and proceeded to ask me everything I knew about FOREX trading.  It was a very brief discussion.  He had some hand-drawn profit scenarios written.  I told him it was considered very risky, and that I had never done it. I was totally blown away.  Maybe I'm provincial and na├»ve, but I could not believe that here in poverty-stricken Indonesia, I am being asked about fairly a sophisticated investment strategy by this 75 year old man.  By the way, I can sort of understand the motivation.  The Indonesian rupiah has depreciated in value against the dollar.  In 1975 one dollar bought about 415 Rupiah.  When we arrived here 2 months ago it bought 12,100, and recently it hit an all-time low at 12, 700+.  He was talking about shorting the rupiah. 

Our Mission President gave permission for all of the Zone Elders and Sisters to meet at the Timur chapel Thursday for Christmas.  Sister Williams and I decided that our gift to them would be a day of service. So we, meaning mostly Sister Williams, cooked waffles, eggs, bacon/Spam for breakfast, and beef and chicken tacos, Rice Krispy Treats, almond torts for dinner.  We brought in several Ipads and laptops so all 18 missionaries could Skype their families.  We played endless games of UNO. 

They had fun creating hundreds of these.

Today we had another convert baptism....Sister Sofi.  Her Moslem husband came and participated, and the missionaries will be meeting with him this week. Andifa is a taxi driver, and drove us home after the service. 

Grandchild(ren) of the week

Cute little Lily DeBeikes.  She loves all things Minnie Mouse, dress up, singing, and eats best when sitting on the window sill.

Also included this week is Ephraim, sneaky little Ephraim.  There is no Christmas tree that is safe from pediatric infiltration!  So happy, all the time!  We miss him!

We love you all.  We have missed being with you this holiday.  We hope you have remembered the purpose behind our celebrations. May I quote briefly from a letter I received this week from my brother John.  He wrote, "Jesus Christ lives, the Light of this world.  He is the Great Healer.  He is the Gift to this world.  My gift to Him is a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  My gift to Him is obedience."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New District Presidency for Malang and Surabaya Areas

This week we were busy with a 3-4 day district conference.  We picked up the Mission President and his wife (President and Sister Donald) at the airport on Friday and enjoyed a three day conference from Saturday through Monday.   Elder Funk, (Area Presidency and a member of the Quorum of the Seventy) and his wife also flew in for the entire conference. During the conference a new district presidency for the Malang and Surabaya area was called.  Above from left to right is President and Sister Donald, then the new district presidency, us, then Sister and Elder Funk.

Elder and sister Funk with us outside of the Timur Surabaya Chapel.

It was a very busy three days.  We made visits to local members, distributed Christmas packages to members, and held many training and general meetings. I sang in three or four choirs and played piano for the primary children's chorus.  The meetings and visits were wonderful, but I think we wore our driver out!  Our driver, Peter, transported us to and from the meetings, airport, member's homes, to and from our home, and to and from President and Elder Funk's hotel early in the morning until late and night!  Many times he would have to wait outside or in a classroom for hours at a time for us to finish our meetings. (Yep, I believe he deserved a little rest here!)

This visit was with a wonderful family! This is the Elder's Quorum President and his family in the Timur Surabaya Branch.  During this visit I gave out "Choose the Right" stickers to all of the kids and talked with them about making good choices. (Every time I say "good choices" I now think about our grandchild James' discussion with his dad one night about how Laman and Lemuel need to visit grandma and grandma in Indonesia so they can learn how to make better choices! :) 

I also posted this picture on my Facebook.  I just love this family! (Her husband is actual sick and asleep in back on the mattress.)  The mother will be baptized in two weeks and I really admire her for setting such a good example for her children.  The anak perempuan (girl) speaks some English and tutors me in Indonesian every time the sister missionaries and I visit. I brought them over a Christmas package with a few toys, canned milk, cookies, rice, etc, and the first thing this little girl reached for was the canned milk (susu)! 

After the last meeting, on the last day of the conference, we gave our driver the rest of the afternoon off and took a taxi home.  I actually "kind of" captured a bit of what it is like to drive here in Indonesia. These pictures (below and above) are direct shots out the back and side windows without me zooming in on the camera.  These motor cycles are actually this close to us.  Sometimes they hit our side mirrors or rest on the sides of our car. Once Keith and I opened up our window, talked with the three passengers on one of the motorcycle while waiting for a train to go buy, and invited them to our "gratis" (free) English class at church.  (I alternate teaching English class every month between Timur and Barat branches as a public service with the missionaries.)  There ARE traffic lanes on the roads, but no one EVER uses them...I guess they are more like "suggestions". 

 This is a picture of Keith going on splits with two elders in the rain. 
(After seeing how bad the traffic is (above) you may want to include him in yours prayers for safety.)  I don't know how Keith did it with the rain poncho on, but he managed to literally trash his shirt with muddy back-splash off the back tire of his bike.  I figure we will now just designate that particular shirt for all of his rainy day bike splits.  We sure have some awesome missionaries here though; they are hard working and self-sacrificing!  We love them!!

Above is a Korean pastry machine. We watched this man hand load each little circle pan and then fill each pastry with chocolate of vanilla after they finished baking.  We bought this dessert for one of the families we visited. (I don't have much time to cook anymore and there are very few ovens in Indonesia.) 

Back after much demand: MORE SAFARI PICTURES!!!  In our last Blog we did not have time to share all of our nifty safari pictures (We took the elders out on their P-day to a safari two hours away.)  Above, Keith and I are standing in the middle of a rice patty. (It looks the Indonesia that I imagined seeing initially.) Below are some really interesting statues in the safari area. 

Below Keith is standing by Jack-Fruit (Nangka).  We have yet to try it, but when it comes into season we will and let you know what it is like.  We have heard that it is good.  Anyone out there tried it?

Ok, so never tease a live elephant with carrots!  This one would have climbed into our car if we'd let him. It would have been really fun if his trunk wasn't so wet and full of mud!  I spent the next 20 minutes wiping the mud off inside the car!  I have to say that the Indonesian safari parks are really awesome, because there aren't a whole lot of rules.  It felt a like our trip to Africa in the safari trucks. We got to feed and touch most animals!

The park had several Komodo Dragons and they looked really tough.  I wished that Kevin Miller (Keith's previous missionary companion) was with us to teach us everything in the world about these cool reptiles.  I find them fascinating!

I kept waiting for the camels and llamas to spit at us, but they never did, even when I teased them with the carrots.  Keith had fun teasing peter, our driver, AND the llamas by trying to feed a llama on top of peter's head.

We got fairly close to the lions, cheetahs, and bears.  Our car probably looked like just another animal to them. 

These two pictures are just for Keith.  I don't know why he likes monkeys so much, but he does. The top picture is one very large orangutan (Indonesian for "people of the forest".)  I kept wondering what he was thinking...the orangutan, not Keith...

This picture was taken on a swinging rope bridge over a river filled with very large crocodiles.  Guess no one worries too much about liability here in Indonesia...

Ok, now for our weekly grandchild--or grandchildren in this case--of the week.  (These are Chris and Malinda's kids in Tucson, Arizona.) 
May your week be filled with good family traditions and the true meaning of Christmas.  The picture of Ephraim reminds me that the most important Christmas gift is not purchased in a store. 
We love you and are grateful for your support.  Merry Christmas!
Love, Keith and Kathy