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.|
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 naïve, 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."