Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving for Miller Time

After a day full of teaching and proselyting we had a nice Thanksgiving meal with the missionaries at Pizza Hut last Thursday.  The pizza there is surprisingly good.  Not turkey dinner, but good.  We felt blessed. American fast food has made huge in-roads here.  McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Carls Jr, Circle K, 7-11, A&W. Hugely surpassed in quantity anyway, by thousands of roadside eating stands where you can buy an unending number of food dishes, snacks, drinks.

Sister Williams is happy whenever she can hold a baby or play with a child.  She speaks "baby".

We went to a young family a few days ago, the Kurniawans, pictured below, to meet them, for dinner (goat and chicken sate, rice and peanut sauce, watermelon!) and to share a message with them. While there the electricity went out for a few minutes.  When it came back on we sang "Love at Home" with them, we in English and they in Indonesian.  It was lovely. We talked about the importance of Malam Keluarga (Family Home Evening) and read scriptures about the importance of parents training their children in the Gospel, having fun together, teaching them to work, be honest and work hard. They want us to come back some time and show them some silly little games we used to play with our kids..."Don't Eat Pete!", Hippety-Hoppety, etc.  Indonesians don't play games, generally,  It seems not to be in their nature or culture. Maybe they are too preoccupied with things like eating and a having a place to live. Not that they don't have fun in other ways, but organized games are not a tradition.  Yet many seem intrigued by the idea.  We brought UNO, Skip-Bo, Scrabbble.  We'll see how they like them.

Moslems bury their dead.  There are graveyards like this all over the country. Reminds us as members and missionaries how much work there is to be done.

Kathy has been been sending home very brief videos of all the missionaries, and WOW have the Moms loved it!  The responses have been so touching!  Missionary couples can do so many extra things in the mission field!  While visiting with locals we can share real-life experiences that younger people have not yet acquired.  We really need more missionary couples in the mission field!  We are taking the place of three couple missionaries and are spread very thin. Below are Elders Anderson and Martineau in Surabaya Barat.


Smells are everywhere.  Mostly unpleasant ones, fecal smells, or mildew smells.  Sometimes great smells…food mostly.  You learn to try to ignore the gutters/open sewer lines, except when walking over or around them.  It’s uncommon to see concrete here in decent repair.  Looks like it has been poured/repaired a thousand times in its lifetime.  A real patchwork, uneven, broken, gaping holes.  Not a good place for disabilities.   Below is a common sight here...a roadside open sewage channel.  Watch your step! 

A welcoming couple at the Surabaya cruise ship port.  They have a floor dedicated to local Javanese culture where you can learn to draw wax batik designs, listen to live Gamelan music, paint face masks and other arts. This couple received a pass-along card!

This week on "P-Day" we were able to meet one of Keith's original missionary companions (from 1973-75) at the cruise ship port in Surabaya! Kevin and Denise Miller came in on a cruise ship and spent the day with us! It was so wonderful to spend time with them!  We took them to a small authentic batik factory and watched the Indonesian women create the patterns with hot wax, dip the cloth into a dye bath, then boil the wax off in large vats over an open fire, only to repeat the process in another area of the cloth with more wax, more dye, sometimes many times, to allow for many color patterns on the cloth. In the show room Kathy bought a batik skirt (which they altered for free in 2 days) while Keith got fitted for a matching batik shirt.  The cost was very cheap.  It cost $100 for batik material that probably took 1-2 weeks to make! 

The artists work in a group of four to six or so.  The women ( infrequently also men) draw hot wax from a central melting pot, and then use a fine applicating funnel to draw fine designs onto the cloth.  The designs are free-hand drawn on the cloth first, based on the artisan's own choice or the request of the purchaser. They have a leather pad on heir laps to prevent hot wax burns. These become very heavy with built up wax over time. 
Kevin standing in front of a man boiling the wax off the batik cloth in a large vat of boiling water before giving it back to the artists to apply more wax design prior to giving it another dye application in a different color.  He is doing this over a hot open fire.  The room tends to be smoky and hot.
Kevin has not always been so sedate.  Here he is in 1974 in a skit by his District at an all-Mission talent show.  Pak Miller on the right.
Kevin again on the right in 1974 or so.  Judging from body language, do you think this General Authority visiting on a Mission Tour had the rapt attention of the missionaries?  It reminds me a little of a New Testament scene. Maybe the 12 Apostles...
We took them to see one of the two church buildings here in Surabaya, here at Timur.  We met the missionaries at the church and Kevin testified to them that even the smallest seeds sewn in Indonesia were significant.  He told them about the sweet reunion he'd recently had with some of the families he'd baptized.  We could feel the spirit as he testified to the missionaries! 

Ok.  Here is a treasure.  Magnum ice cream, made here in Indonesia.  It is frozen heaven on a stick, rich vanilla ice cream coated with delicious rich dark chocolate and coated again in butterscotch cream.  One of these at 4 PM after a hot afternoon out riding a bike and teaching with the Elders and standing under the AC in the Indomart will rejuvenate even this 60 year old man.

As promised, our Grandchild of the Week...James with his favorite dinosaur.  Makes me think of the "jaws of hell"...

 Till next week, say your prayers, read your scriptures, and Be Thankful!

Monday, November 24, 2014

What a wonderful life

Hello all!  Another week under our belts, along with many plates of mie goreng (fried noodles), cap cay (sautéed veggies and seafood), fresh mango and pisang, martabak (think of a very thick pancake folded in half and filled with chocolate, butter, cheese, sweet condensed milk and chopped nuts), nasi (rice) and Diet Coke.  It's probably a good thing that our apartment does not have a bathroom scale. We have discovered the joys of fresh fruit juices here.  We just bought a Miyako blender (although it makes rather unhealthy noises for being brand new; maybe there was a reason it was on sale) to make fresh fruit shakes...watermelon, papaya, mango, honeydew, orange, strawberry, avocado, etc. Wow they are delicious.  Some fresh fruit, a little ice and sugar, maybe a little condensed milk if not lactose intolerant, and a few seconds of grinding metal sounds, and out comes pure Indonesian deliciousness. We want to try some fresh rambutan/lychee next.

Since we spend 1/3 of our life with him now, we thought we would introduce Peter, our driver.  He is from Malang, and now lives in Surabaya with his wife Vivi and son Axel.  We invited them to Family Home Evening with us.  Unfortunately we got a late start and so FHE ended up being dinner at the Solaria Asian restaurant in the mall under our apartment, followed by some cake upstairs in our apartment followed by Elder Williams mengelitik (tickling) 2 year old Axel until he threw up (Sister Williams was not happy with Elder Williams).  Peter joined the church in 2007, and is now YM Pres and Exec Secty in his Church Branch, and Vivi is Primary President.  She converted from the Islam faith when they got married.  She is wonderful.

Peter's mother, called "Sisi" in Malang joined the Church in Hong Kong a few years ago while working as a domestic there.  She is a wonderful woman who is seen here filling out her application to become a full time, live-away missionary for the church.  She also feeds us wonderfully every time we go to Malang.  This week it was a delicious coconut curry chicken, tempura eggplant, fried mashed potato patties, and my favorite drink here, es teller, which is sweetened coconut milk mixed with a little water and crushed ice and small pieces of tropical fruit like mango, pepino and lychee, and agar-agar (colored gelatin cubes).  There are innumerable varieties of banana (pisang) here.  Below are pisang awak, little sweet finger-size bananas.

Every good meal is followed by other human necessities, which here in Indonesia often takes the following form. No TP evident. Nuff said.  Many W.C.'s are like this, but not all. Sisi has a Western porcelain sit-on-top.

We went out on all-day splits with the missionaries again last week, both in Surabaya and Malang.  Kathy takes the car with Peter, and goes with the sisters, usually to far-flung places difficult to get to otherwise.  I take off on the bike with the Elders.  Last week I went with Elder Anderson and Setijawan.  Elder Anderson was sick with GI illness for a few days and was a little weak yet, but we had some nice visits.  These splits typically start at noon or so, and are usually late nights, getting home at 9:30 or 10.  Kathy and I debate over who has it best...I ride my bike in horrible traffic and heat but get exercise, and she spends much of her days riding in an air conditioned car but feels confined and gets no exercise.  Hard to say, but I'll take my bike.

We usually do these splits about two days a week, and the other days, Kathy and I go together to visit families, do leadership training, etc.  This week we will be visiting a middle school.  We met a teacher and his family and he invited us to his school to teach his students. We also received a request to administer a 3 hour math test to a young man, not a member of the church apparently, whose families has BYU contacts, who wants to apply to the Math program there.  We will also have an English class to teach at the Church this week, and some more Leadership training in one of the local Church branches.  Thursday evening we are eating with all of the Surabaya missionaries at Pizza Hut for Thanksgiving dinner.  Pizza for Thanksgiving...maybe a new tradition.  No turkeys to be found in the markets here, although I did see some frozen ones in the markets in Jakarta....they were very expensive however, about $70. 

Friday we drove 2 hours south to the mountain city of Malang.  Malang has a very special place in my heart, being a city where I spent 6 months in 1973-74.  My comps and I were the first Mormon missionaries there, and had the privilege of helping to found the church there.  We are now assigned to assist the Branch and full time missionaries there in my roles as Mission Presidency Counselor. We will be going there every few weeks.  They now have almost 300 members of the branch with an average attendance each week of 80+. 

Friday we spent with the missionaries in their periodic Zone Training meeting.  All 18 missionaries in the Zone gather for training by the Zone leaders, both 19-20ish year olds.  They did a marvelous job, great teachers, very humble and kind, very organized, fluent in the language.  They were inspiring.  I gave 17 flu vaccinations following.  Only had to chase down two missionaries who were a little needle-phobic. After this we went on some visiting and teaching appointments with Elders Panjaitan and Arthur.  We taught a lesson on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, visited an inactive member who ran a little fruit juice stand on the side of the road (the locals call then "kaki lima" ("five feet"...2 wheels, 2 stabilizing legs on the cart, and 2 human feet pushing, but only 1 foot on the ground at a time...I'll let you do the math...), and stopped by some investigator homes to make future appointments.  We invited many to visit us on Facebook "Mormon Java Timur", and to come to English class. Dinner that night at 9:30 with Kathy at the hotel where she had her most favorite chocolate/coconut milk drink, and krupuk and bumbu kacang (think a sort of airy, thick fried chip and peanut sauce). 

Saturday we spent the morning studying, then inspected the Malang Elders apartment.  Found some issues, so after suggesting some areas for improvement, went to the store and bought them a new washing machine and fan, and made arrangements for some badly needed repairs.  At 6 PM had Malang Branch Presidency training covering topics assigned by Pres Donald.  Then took all of them and their families to a wonderful Javanese restaurant just a 2 block walk away in downtown Malang. So fun to walk the same City Hall and Square (a circle really) where I was 41 years ago.  I will show before and after pictures another time. Anyway the food was delicious..I had a fresh, sweet and sour fish, fried bananas, sate, etc.  They had a music show during the meal.  See some video clips Kathy took.  It was a nice time to get to know these fellow saints in a casual way, to laugh and eat and talk about things.

Sunday in church in Malang was the Young Womens Program.  Several graduated from YW.  There were about 10 YW, plus their leaders.  The entire program after the Sacrament was presented by them.  they sang, gave talks...real talks.  Not a single person used notes.  They were beautiful...all in white blouses and different color scarfs.  Confident, sweet, sincere.  They made this old man cry. (Maybe they reminded him a little too much of his own daughters...)  Truly a role model for YW programs back home.  I have never ever seen anything like this by a youth organization.  They have wonderful leaders obviously.  It was a testimony to me of the power of the Gospel to lift and improve people, and of the power of  generations of church members.  There are now 2-3 generations of Church members here.  Many youth going on missions, attending school, a fair number attend BYU-H, attending weekly seminary (distances and means too great to allow daily seminary), working for themselves or companies, improving their own lives and livelihoods.

Following Church and Branch Council training and choir practice (the Branch is singing "Angels we have Heard on High" in District Conference in 3 weeks in Surabaya, and helping Sisi with her mission forms, we started out trip home. On the way we stopped in Singosari to see some old Hindu/Buddhist ruins built in the late 13th century.  I have these same photos from 1973.  I think the smiling Buddha flashing the peace sign has moved a little...his smile is looking a little tired and he switched kneeling legs, but otherwise the same.  Kath found her cat.

After the ruins we drove to visit a past Branch President and his family, pictured below, President Tjioe, in the center.  Much to our happy surprise, his wife in the white T shirt is the younger sister of Effian Kadarusman, also pictured below in the other, older photo from early 1974.  My companion Elder Hobson and I taught and baptized Effian and his wonderful wife Mary,  They had two young boys at that time, Billy and Rocky, who later served full time missions in Indonesia. The Kadarusmans were stalwarts in the young Indonesia Church, where Mary was RS President and Effian was District and later Mission President from 1985-1989.  He is a rarity among Church Mission Presidents world-wide, having been president in his own area. The Kadarusmans have since emigrated to the USA. We spent a few wonderful hours with them and many former missionary companions and friends in Farmington Utah just 2 days before we came to Indonesia in October.

Pictured below are also Pres Tjioe's daughter and grandchildren who live in Surabaya, who are also church members.  The daughter is a dentist.

It was heart-warming to meet them all, and see a bit of the harvest from seeds planted so many decades ago.
A tender mercy occurred during this impromptu visit Sunday.  As it turned out Pres Tjioe had been to his doctor a few days earlier with some jaw and chest discomfort, fatigue and some difficulty breathing. Turns out he had suffered some heart issues. OK...no HIPAA here, As is typical here, all of their medical records, lab testing, EKG, CXR, etc are given to the patients, along with a brief doctor's notation, to bring home with them.  I reviewed these.  He was now feeling fine.  I suggested a small addition to his medication to slow his heart rate.  They were comforted to have me review his medical problem, they having not much confidence in local medical care.  While it is true that in America he would have been admitted to the hospital and undergone much more testing and possibly invasive treatments, it is also true that those are exceedingly expensive, largely unavailable here, and often not proven to have compellingly different long term outcomes. And the medication treatment suggested was quite good. 

Sadly, his very elderly mother was moaning in a back room,  They asked me to see her also.  Looks like she has end stage, burned out Parkinsons.  Totally rigid, inflexible, terrible diffuse contractures, aphasic, decubitus areas.  Not much to do, so we prayed for her. They try to give her good care and kept her fed and clean in a loving environment. 

 A common sight.  Kathy and Peter in the lead at a mall.  The mall below is in Jakarta, but there are many similar malls in Surabaya.  You could easily think you were in Portland, Chicago or Los Angeles. Except here are a gazillion people around to help you. I mean like 4 or 8 times the number of sales people, wait staff, reception people there are in the States.  It's nice but also annoying at times. Imagine having a guy watch you in the bathroom while you use the facility?  A bathroom monitor?  They are there to help, to keep clean, but come on, wait outside ok?  People are very happy to help.  It is easy to meet people.  They love to try their English, often want to take photos with you, etc.  Yesterday we bought a larger refrigerator at the local Hypermart, and after the sale the clerk asked to take a photo with us.  Try that in America.  Sounds like a Reality TV show.  We also gave our business card, facebook address, cell phone numbers to our waiter at the restaurant we went to on P day yesterday.  We texted each other last night.

By the way, Kathy ended up buying another skirt or two, to accommodate the fact that we end up sitting on people's hard floors a lot on visits.  A necessity due to 1) no chairs and 2) very cramped living quarters.  She bought a red skirt covered with little black cats.  Go figure.  Looks cute on her.  And she bought some plastic red and black CROCS shoes after trashing her leather ones in the Kampung flood. 

Kathy has been missing music here.  Plus she was asked to play the piano in Primary of one of the Church branches here on Sunday.  So we spent 90 minutes and $90 on a new Yamaha keyboard a few days ago.  Not a high quality unit but does the job. We also donated a 2nd unit to a local branch who needed one for their RS room.

So in my last letter home I promised I would send home a picture of  what I think is the current appearance of the old Jalan Semeru house/church building.  The old address was Jl Semeru 49.  This house is now Jl Semeru 53, but some think they renumbered the addresses.  The adjacent structure, the NEW 49, is new, concrete, ugly.  The neighborhood has totally changed, very busy.  I miss the old place.  When we get some time we will stop by again and knock on a few doors to try to find out what happened to the old church. 



The front of our home/Church on Jl Semeru.  We had many dozens of young people and adults come each week to our Mutual meetings and English classes.

Elder Manning Moyes from Ogden in front of the Church on Jl Semeru.  He and I arrived and departed from Indonesia at the same time.  Would like to find him again.

Just another blast from the past.  My companion, Elder Jeff Allen with a family we taught and baptized in Jakarta in 1975. 

Yesterday was P day (Preparation Day...a time for full time missionaries to prepare for the coming week...shopping, cleaning, sight-seeing, letters home, etc).  We exercised, wrote some letters, did some missionary/Counselor work, and then went to Ciputra Mall in a taxi ( we give Peter one day off each week)...7 days of work a week would be called slavery...and went to a movie, restaurant, shopping.  Now this was not just any theater.  This was without a doubt the fanciest, most plush theater I have ever been in. For $6 per person, we were led to a sit-down ornate desk, where we ordered our ticket in a reserved private theater, only about 40 seats, ordered food, drinks, popcorn, etc, and were then escorted to our seats, seen below.  Comfy leather recliners with blankets.  They brought our food to us. Watched an amazing premier movie, rhymes with "Talking Pray".  The popcorn was the best I have ever had, ever...warm, uniformly buttered and salted down to the very last piece in the bottom of the plastic bucket.  I think they must have hand buttered each popped kernel.  Of course you can do that when you have 10 employees for every customer.  And the guy making the popcorn was not the same one watching me pee. 

After the movie we went to a sort of Japanese eatery where pick the food you want...shrimp, beef, mushrooms, veggies, noodles, and the type of broth you want.  They then bring it to your table, and you cook it in a hot kettle on your table, use a spoon to ladle it out into your bowl with rice.  It's good!

Life is hard.  We are mortal and full of human weakness. Temptations are many. Yet the Lord wants us to be perfect, even as He and our Father in Heaven are perfect.  I have many faults, but I can honestly say I am perfect in this one thing.  I have never smooked, ever.  Never will. 

Last of all, I am going to start adding a Grandchild of the Week picture.  Isn't this adorable?  No way you can beat this one.  Little Hope walking the road less traveled, visiting us in Oregon in September 2014. 

We love and miss you all.  Somehow, although we try to be as descriptive and expansive as we can in our letters home and this blog, we feel we somehow still miss the real, true essence of our purpose here as missionaries of Christ in Indonesia.  It's just not possible to take pictures, or to capture the Spirit of our discussions with these wonderful people as we speak of holy things, of God's love for us, of the purpose of the Gospel, and of the importance of having faith in Christ and then showing that faith by living lives of Christian charity and service and obedience to God's commandments.

Till next week, lift your vision and lengthen your stride!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Feeling Like Real Missionaries

Hello Friends and Family!                                          

I want to apologize for the fuzzy pictures.  My cell phone defaults off HDR and I have to think to reset it each time...Hey I'm busy trying to speak the language and don't remember! 

This week I finally felt like a real missionary though, because I got sick for a couple of days.  I try to be careful what I eat, but there is always some acclimatization that needs to take place when you live in any new country.  Most of the missionaries I've spoken with experience some type of gastrointestinal problems off and on through-out their mission.  Most missionaries eat at the warungs (street vendors) because they are cheap and convenient.  (We suggest that they try to avoid them.)  It is also the culture here to serve food and drink every time you visit.  Last Tuesday we ate lunch before tracting and went directly into another home that served a very large lunch. I teased Sister Sperry all the way through the meal, "Are you sure you don't want another helping of this chicken, Sister?...How about more of this delicious Nasi Goreng?"  (Later she just about killed me!)

Last week we visited a mathematics teacher that works at the local SMP (Middle School).  We were invited into his home and drank fresh avocado drinks and a plate of martabak telor and martabak manis from the street vendor; Peter...you had avocado shakes in Brazil...I think you liked them?--I tried to avoid drinking it, but they made a special one without milk (susu) just for me.  I actually don't care for them, but managed to get 1/2 of it down AND eat some of the food.  While getting into the car Keith leaned over and said, "Good job Kath!"  It was the next day that I got sick.  Oh well, it was worth it.  We will be visiting this same teacher next week at his school.  He is the contact that Keith made in the grocery store our first day here!  Agus is a wonderful kind Muslim man we met with his family.

When I tract with the Sisters they tell everyone that I am an English teacher from America and invite them to the English classes at the church.  (I help teach the classes in Barat and Timur branches in Surabaya.)  Being from America (and being an English teacher) is quite a novelty to the Indonesians.  They are very interested in what we have to say.  In general the Indonesians are a polite, quiet, and soft-spoken people.  They are easy to speak to and easy to love.

These are Sisters Sarwono and L. Fisher in Malang.  We spent the night in Malang to attend a district meeting.  Malang is a beautiful city with fruit stands and lots of colleges.  This is one of the major areas that Keith lived in during his 1973 mission.  We located his previous house which was also the chapel at that time.  He took pictures of it and he will discuss it in next weeks' blog.  (We go back up to Malang again next week.)  The sisters and I visited several female investigators who were college students.  While walking to the investigator's apartment, the sky let loose with a major rain storm!  We were almost "carried away" down a tiny alley with a flood!  We crossed over the local sewer that was flowing over the bridge (ankle deep) and into a Muslim "gang" (pronounced: "gong"... a tiny alley with many connecting apartments).  It was actually a cool experience!  (Although I hope there are no open cuts on my feet after wading in sewage.)  The "gang" was really interesting and quaint (reminded me of Italy?).  There was beautiful music streaming from several homes and the homes were very small and neat.  (I've noticed that most Muslim homes are neat, tidy, and organized.) 
We sat down with 2 investigators, but were soon joined by 6 more college girls.  Religion is of great interest here in Indonesia; there is not much apathy.  Some of the girls were majoring in English and wanted to speak with me. (They had about 3 years of college and still could not speak English.)  I discussed Jesus Christ with them and bore my testimony to them.  There were several girls that were interested so we will go back again next week.  BTW: These were not Muslim girls; they were just living in the community.  In general the Muslims and Christians are pretty tolerant of each other here.

 I had to laugh out loud when I saw this picture in my phone!  I asked Elders Will and Arthur (from Utah and Australia) to take a picture of me with the Sisters and they must have taken a "selfie" beforehand!  Keith worked with the Elders on his bike all day.  They later told me that Keith had "kicked their rear-ends" on all of the hills! (Ha-ha...I'm sure all of the Elders that tracted with Keith found out that this 60-year-old man is an animal when it comes to bicycling!  Terry and Mark, you would be proud!)   Keith and I have now visited with all the missionary companionships in our District!

This is a bunch of kids that I fell in love with while visiting a member's home in Gresik (a town outside of Surabaya).  The middle boy (laki-laki) reminded me of Holden for some reason.  You can't tell from the picture because he is being goofy, but he had the same cute smile as one of our grandsons.  I gave them each stickers from America (I brought a lot of them with me)!  I just love all of the little kids here; they are so cute and polite!

 The above picture is a cool invention that America needs.  It distributes measured amounts of rice into the bottom tray, then you just pull it out with the exact quantity!  Cool, huh?  The only thing I would change is all the pink, blue, and green plastic colors...this country does love their colorful plastic!

 These are steamed Chinese buns called "bak-pao".  (It's like going into a Chinese "Harry and David" store here!)  They are very popular, and are available in a large distribution store on the way to or from Malang.  We stopped on the way back from Malang and bought a lot of them for our Branch meeting today.  They are filled with either strawberry, cheese, chicken, lemon custard, or another unidentifiable fruit.

Oh, BTW, you have not had a mango until you've had one here!  They are very aromatic with a slight hint of sweet tomato.  I know that may sound unpleasant, but it is really incredibly good!  Speaking of tomatoes, they classify them as fruits here.  Its unheard of to put salt on them!  They frequently use them for tomato floats.

On the way home from Malang we also stopped at Peter's mom's house (our driver).  She made us an authentic Indonesian dinner with a catfish, coconut stew.  She has two large catfish tanks on her back porch as a part of the Church's recommendation to have a food supply!  They buy tiny, live catfish from the market, and then feed them and raise them in tanks in their back porch until larger. (What a great idea!!!)  I want to have a catfish tank when I get home, although the weather would probably make it difficult in Oregon.  Her name is "Sisi" and she is saving up to go on a Senior Sister mission.  Her home was really awesome!!! She had a flare for design and art and had hand painted her walls.  She kept everything very neat, clean, and orderly.  (A woman after my own heart!)  I'm thinking of having her teach me to cook Indonesian food next week when I return.  If they ever wanted to sell there house I would want to buy it.  It was built by her father out of cement and the back porch looked onto a CLEAN creek!  (The only clean water-way I've seen here so far.)

As far as the language goes, I am slowly improving.  It is very slow, but as I look back there is some improvement.  I think my progress will be slower than the young missionaries, because I am not able to speak with the locals as much as they are.  Also, some of them have Indonesian companions that speak very little English.  All in all, I am feeling more comfortable with the language and I am able to speak some basic sentences.  I understand a lot more than I can speak. 

We hope to take more pictures for the next blog.  We love you and miss you!  Thanks for praying for us and supporting us!  We appreciate all of your communications.  (Keith is supposed to write the letter home this week, so I hope he has time!  We need about four more of each of us to get everything done!) 

With love,
Kathy (and Keith)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

McDonalds, Our New Home in Surabaya

Selamat Malam from Indonesia.

Well, we have discovered that housing in Indonesia has changed considerably in the past 40 years for some, although certainly not many.

For that matter, so has transportation.  After a very comfortable 75 minute flight from Jakarta to Surabaya last Tuesday on a newer Airbus 320 on Asia Air, we arrived in a brand new terminal (they actually have drinking fountains there you can drink from!) in Surabaya to be met by our new best friend, driver, translator, confidant, and keep-Elder Williams-out-of-trouble buddy, Peter Prahari.  He drove us home in our virtually new Toyota SUV, stopping at our request on the way in Sidoarjo at McDonalds for a double cheeseburger lunch.  Great burger, great fries.  Peter told us he had just downloaded some new music...turned out to be the BeeGees album from the early 70's.  What is so weird is that in 1973 when I was here the first time, the BeeGees were popular in Indonesia, and the youth loved "Massachusetts".  Being from Massachusetts at that time, they all thought I should know Barry and Robin and Andy.  Now I'm listening to it again.

So there I am sitting in a new, air conditioned car eating a Big Mac after flying across Java on a jet, rather than a hot and crowded railroad car on a 10 hour, red-eye train trip eating boxed nasi goring 40 years ago, yet still listening to the same music.  Wow.  Back to the future.

Here's a tour of our new home in Surabaya...

We are housed on the 18th floor of a high rise Condo building in the southern-central portion of Surabaya.  Surabaya is a large, growing, modernizing city on the northeast coast of Java.  The island of Madura is a just a bridge away.  It is hot and very crowded.  It sometimes takes us two hours to cross town in our car during rush hour.  Where did that name come from...there is nothing rushing about it.  More like a crawl.  I have never seen so many motorcycles in one place.  They are like nyamuk's...mosquitoes.  Except DEET doesn't repel them and they don't take kindly to swatting with your car. Motorcycles all around you, on the sidewalks, darting, cutting lanes. 2-4 on a bike, but at least they all have helmets!  There are probably 10 times the vehicles on the road now from decades ago, but most of the roads are still built for horse carts.  And before there were traffic police at many intersections. Now infrequently seen.  The rule of law here is the rule of the horn, or klaxon, as they call it.

I say Surabaya is a modernizing city.  It certainly is in some respects, as is every growing city here. Yet what a paradoxical juxtaposition...wi-fi, blue tooth, high speed connections in a place that still cannot control its human waste. I say plumbing before Facebook.

I think this pic is photo-shopped; you can see pavement, and you cannot see any motorcycles.

Yeah, you're seeing correctly.  There is another McDonalds about 200 yards away at the other end of the Mall.  Lots of food court stalls, and primarily electronica sold here. In between is a water park. 

"Just put me in summer and I'll be a........happy snowman."

Below is another mall in town called Central Point Mall.  Like we never left home, right? In a way it seems like we haven't.  Virtually every day we have gone shopping, filling up our pantry and buying household stuff; you know, brooms, mops, copy paper, Diet Coke, bananas, mangoes, papayas, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, ice cream, cookies, cereal, tuna, Diet Coke.  I know it's hard to see why we need to buy food when we are a five minute walk from a Quarter Pounder with cheese, but there you go.   

So Tuesday night we met 11/13 of all the young missionaries in Surabaya.  Transfers (to new assignments in Indonesia) was the next day.  Told them we would take them out to dinner, thinking they would like a nice Indo meal.  Wrong.  Guess where they wanted to eat?  Yep. 13 Happy Meals and two dozen Dunkin Donuts please.  Tax deductible, right?

So we have a great view out our balcony, right?  It really is pretty on a clear day.  Unfortunately, not too many clear days so far. Lots of haze, clouds, smoke.  The surrounding neighborhoods tend to burn their trash, yard debris, etc.  Cheaper than paying to haul away, and the smoke ??? keeps nyamuks away.  But the air tends to be smoky and heavy, even up 18 stories.  The exhaust from 20 million internal combustion engines don't help.

It's hot.  I like it but it can be a little oppressive at times.  93 degrees today and about 80-90% water saturated. Even the Indo's are complaining.  Surabaya tends to be a hot place anyway.  The rainy season is late starting.  I'm excited to experience it again.  Loud, long thunderstorms sometimes with local flooding. I might not be as excited for it if I were still on a bike all day long. 

So it hasn't been all shopping and eating this week.  We have been so blessed to meet so many wonderful and kind people here.  The Church members have been friendly and generous.  The taxi drivers, front desk and security people, store clerks, all have been warm and helpful. 

Below is a cute little family we met playing badminton, a national passion here, in front of the Barat chapel yesterday. 

We are enjoying learning Indonesian, and God is blessing us with spiritual gifts to speak and understand.  As the scriptures say, it is right that every man and woman hear the gospel in his own tongue and her own language. They do speak fast as a rule, but are patient and seem to appreciate that we are trying.  Kath has made good progress and is gaining some confidence.  She has great faith.   

Kathy taught English class Saturday night, while I played volleyball with the guys. We met the Presidents of both Surabaya branches this week along with the Branch Mission Leaders.  We attended Church today in Timur (East) Branch.  A wonderful unit.  We will enjoy it here.  We felt uplifted by their faith. Each unit has its own chapels...very nice, newer structures, two stories, with AC and lots of space and parking. Beautiful grounds. The east chapel has nice public exposure. The west building is pretty hidden from general view. 

Tonight we were invited "in" for dinner.  A couple brought us dinner to our home.  Wonderful Bak Mie and a fruit gelatin dessert. Sangat enak!  Very delicious.  Thank you to the B.....

Tomorrow is a partial free day, which means we can shop twice as long and eat both breakfast and lunch at McD's.   Just kidding.  I am going to swim in the pool in the morning, and then go buy a bike, if possible.  Tuesday and Wednesday we are splitting with the FTM's.  Kathy will take the car with the Sisters, and I will try and avoid SDBM (sudden death by motorcycle) with the Elders on bicycles.

Have done some doctoring as well...GI illness, migraines, URI stuff mostly so far.  Trying to track down some influenza vaccine right now. 

We are generally well and very happy in our singleness of purpose right now.  So nice to not have all the many distractions of "our other life" right now. We are still praying to know with more specificity what would be of most worth for us to do with our (really God's) time. What does the Lord want us to do this year, this month, this week, this hour?  What would be not good, not better, but the best use of time and energy? In the meanwhile we put our heads down and plow forward trying to serve people and God and invite all to come unto Christ.

We thank you for your prayers and faith in our behalf. Please also remember the Indonesian people in general, who we are growing to love and appreciate more every day.