Monday, January 4, 2016

We stopped and ate at the warung of our Branch President Didit in Surabaya recently.  We helped him get his business started after he was laid off from his salaried employee job. He makes pangsit mie ayam, complete with ceker, chicken feet.  I ate it only for experience and notoriety sake.  There was no meat, only skin and gravy.  I just tried not to think where those feet had been.  

President Didit is an eternally smiling and cheerful Branch President, here with his wife Sister Anita and mother Ida. They transitioned the front porch of their house into an eating establishment. 

Landscaping in some of the very well-to-do homes in Malang are quite intricate and beautiful.  They often sculpt the ground as seen, and plant golf course green grass, many flowering trees and shrubs.  

In early December we conducted a YSA activity at the Malang church involving about 6-7 youth. We spoke of our favorite Christmas verses about the Savior and then assembled and delivered a few gift baskets to deserving members in the Branch.  

District Conference was held in Surabaya in mid-December  Over 250 members attended from the 3 Branches.  The District pays for bus transportation, food and hotel lodging for the members who travel from Malang for the two-day conference. It is a large expense from the Church budget which we do not expect or receive in America. 

Below Brother Gwan-Sun meets with President Hadi for the first time in decades.  I wished I could have snapped this photo a bit faster...they embraced as brothers in Christ for a full minute, unusual here.  President Hadi knew this man from very many years ago when he served as a young full time missionary.  We met Brother Gwan a few months ago as we first arrived in Malang and started going through the Branch list visiting less-active members.  We invited he and his family back to Church, which they did.  We also referred the young missionaries to their home to meet with 3 non-member family members.  Two of them have now been baptized and are very active. Such a blessing for all. 

Brother Gwan lost his leg in an accident 20+years ago.  He still works full time, self employed selling light bulbs.  He gets around on a bicycle.  He has amazingly strong legs.  I have seen him peddle his wife and sister-in-law with him on his bike up the Malang hills, often arriving before others in their cars.  He now has a white shirt and tie

Elder Sam Wong, Quorum of the Seventy, was our visiting General Authority for this District Conference.  He is from Hong Kong and is in the Area Presidency.  Also seen with his wife, Sister and President Donald, our Mission President, Presidents Rhama, Hadi and Andi Muljono and Brother Dean Mardilan, District Clerk and member of the District Council.  

French butter has become a big staple of our cooking and diet here. It is astonishingly good. We first discovered this on the island of Martinique in the Caribbean during our voyage of 2009. Sister Williams buys it by the truckload.  We will not be checking our cholesterol for several months after our return home.  

I am a lucky man.  Sister Williams has started making more baked goods.  In the past month I have had Chocolate cake with real butter chocolate frosting, apple and pumpkin pies, and here Ginger cookies. So wonderful.  Kath is so good on editing recipes to fit local ingredients and has concocted some amazing dishes.  Who would have thought...Wishbone Italian salad dressing as a spice for beef stew.  It is wonderful!

Our driver/rat slayer, Ari.  Sister Williams has now added another chapter in her book of missionary experiences.

Sign me up for this job, whatever it is.  Another in the endless sequence of wierdly funny Indonesian attempts at speaking English. They will print anything, any phrase, any word onto anything, titles, billboards, advertisements, clothing, no matter how meaningless, non-sequiter or inapropriate it is. They are so pre-occupied with everything Western/American, at the same time trying to fit it into their Javanese and Moslem framework.  The result is usually silly, pathetic and really out of place, IMO.  It doesn't work for me, I'm afraid.  I miss the old and more traditional ways of 40 years ago.  

We enjoyed a wonderful 3 hours with our (mostly) Young Single Adults on Dec 18th as we celebrated the Christmas season. We had approximately 15 members plus 4 FTM and Ari our driver. We had 5-6 non-members present. We played some really fun games as Sister Williams has already explained in her letter.  We frosted cookies (another Sister Williams baking success), ate pizza, had a group reading of Polar Express, gave away small bells on ribbons kindly made by our daughter Cassandra, and talked about Making Time in our Lives for Christ through Private Worship and Serving Others. 

Our three Santas, the end result of one of our games.  Christmas wrapping paper, facial cotton and tape (supplemented by white cookie frosting to make the cotton stick to Elder Nggiku's face.)  I will always cherish the picture of Elder Nggiku laughing with a bowlful of jelly. 

Our little kids are growing up.  

We have had two weddings of Malang Branch members in the past 2 weeks.  Below you see the wedding of Angga and his bride Bernike.  

Mormon weddings here are complicated affairs.  The government does not recognize Temple weddings.  The government requires that both marriage partners be of the same religion. Religious conversions are very common in church members.  Due to the lop-sided religious majority here, many church members sadly pindah agama (change religion) at the time of their marriage to a non-member, and are typically never heard from again at church.  The opposite situation sometimes occurs also.  We have several, previously Moslem, now-active Church members who married active church members.  Some of these are attending the Temple with us next month.  There seems to be no rhyme-or-reason as to which partner yields and changes their faith.  It seems to devolve to whoever is the most forceful and committed.  Sadly, simply because of the mathematics of church membership, eligible Church dating partners have been limited in Indonesia.  That seems to be slowly changing, happily. 

The Church wedding process starts with a Church "Blessing", held in the chapel and presided over and conducted by the Branch President.  "Here Comes the Bride" is played as they walk down the aisle with witness, family and children (ringbearer). There is an opening hymn and prayer.  There is a brief welcome by the bride's family, followed by a talk or two discussing the Church's teaching on eternal marriage, as well as some friendly counsel to the couple. The couple is then invited to sit in two chairs in front of the congregation.  The Branch President then lays his hands on their individual heads and blesses them with whatever he feels inspired to say. He pronounces them husband and wife through-out mortality. They are allowed to kiss (although this was a simple kiss on the forehead or cheek) and the groom places a ring on her finger.  The meeting then closes in the usual manner.  

And of course food and karaoke, both of which they adore.  

A formal Church marriage certificate is produced, signed and stamped.  They love cap (stamps) here.  Typically within a few days the couple goes to the government office where the paperwork is completed.  If you are Moslem, they simply bypass the Church proceedings above, go straight to a government-sponsored Moslem facility, are married by the imam there, and the official marriage documents are immediately made available. If Christian, it may take days to weeks for the documents to be provided.  The couple is advised they may not live together or have any relations until the marriage is legally recorded by the government.  

The families of many couples also then sponsor sometimes elaborate village or community receptions with lots of food, music, etc which may last many hours.  Sometimes both families will have their own distinct celebrations. The photos you see here are from the community celebrations.  These are typical Javanese wedding clothes.  Her hair and make-up are extremely elaborate, taking 3 hours to apply.  They wear garlands or headpieces made from melati, jasmine.  They smell wonderful. 

Lastly, if a Temple wedding is desired it must be completed within one month of the first marriage (unclear whether Church or government recording). This is according to Church Asia Area guidelines. If they delay beyond this they must wait one year before they can have a Temple Sealing. This in order to encourage Church members to prioritize a Temple Sealing.  

Much of the cooking for the occurs in the back room by other family members or neighbors.  Typically a large covered awning or tent is erected in front of the house, often blocking off all traffic.  Many times we have had to back track in our car due to these local celebrations and gatherings.  Apparently there is often very little concern for the effect of the party on local traffic, disruption to surrounding businesses, etc. There is usually loud blaring music.  They rent sound equipment with speakers sometimes taller than me, cranked up so loud that talking is difficult.  

The father and mother of the groom, Brother Ayub and Sister Hari. 

We invited the Malangissionaries to our home for Christmas day celebrations.  They Skyped with their families for 3-4 hours.  We watched 17 Miracles (ok'd with Pres Donald), and then ate delicious roast tenderloin, twice baked potates, edamame, cashew stuffing, and apple and pumpkin pies.  

Elders Lieske, Sukarno, Shaner and Nggiku.  

Sister Williams assembled stockings.  

Malang is beautiful.  This is a lovely East Java sunset right outside our front window looking out onto the local golf course. My favorite time of day here, especially in the rainy season when there are many clouds and the air is clean, although we are almost always out visiting and in traffic and can't enjoy it. 

Proof my wife loves me. 

We frequently see these signs.  Buka (open) right next to Istirahat Sholat (rest and prayers), meaning it is really closed.  Another Javanese fake-out. 

Below is an object I never saw 40 years ago. Now you see them everywhere, in every home. It took me a few minutes of fumbling when we first arrived here a year ago trying to peel the plastic lid off these plastic glasses of water to figure out they were not intended to be opened and sipped.  They come with small plastic straws meant to puncture the plastic top. You see these plastic cups and straws everywhere now, discarded.  Litter and trash is a huge problem here.  Plastic debris poisons the waterways and oceans here. 

Another guess-what-this-is kind of picture.  

Hunger is the mother of invention (or something like that).  Here a left-over taco shell (made in 1989 I think) filled with a Johnson bratwurst, Frenchs mustard and local tomatoes. It will never make it to  The Food Channel. 

Kid Time

Ephraim.  Love his happy personality and infectious smile.  And he can play the piano now!

James, equally infectious energy and such a kind disposition.

Peter in Olympic training.  Or is that Blue Steel?

Rhys.  I sure miss this guy.  You make me happy. 

So proud of our son, Sam.  He captured the Commandant's trophy for best Airman in his Air Force Leadership course.  He gains rank next month.  

Sweet Hope. What a lovely Christmas elf.  And you should hear her sing Primary songs.  She has a beautiful voice and creative personality like her Mommy. 

Lily and Chris stole the show in their Ward production of the Grinch who  stole Christmas. 

Hope had a Mary Christmas

We love our Central Point Grandkids...Holden, Kinsley, Malia and Ammi.  I want them in my stocking next year. 

Do you think they enjoyed Christmas morning!

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