I love this picture. Sister Hansen sent it to me earlier. It was drawn by 9 year old Eko, the autistic son of Brother Yohanes Kobes and his wife Sister Hawi. Eko has a hard time expressing himself, and he has quite a mischievous streak, but he seemed to thoroughly enjoy the Temple experience. I think angels attended him.
Our Manila Temple trip started Sunday evening when we checked into the tiniest hotel room we have ever seen, the Ibis Hotel in the Surabaya Juanda airport domestic terminal. Seriously smaller than any cruise ship room we have ever stayed in except for perhaps the first Carnival cruise we ever took back in 1999. Wow. That's the shower and toilet area Sister Williams is standing next to. The airport taxiways are right out our window. It made getting to the check-in terminal easier, to be sure.
The journey officially started when we met the groups from Malang and Surabaya Branches at the airport on Monday morning 15 February 2016, each group having arranged their own ground transportation to the airport.
What joy and excitement we all felt as we thought back on the years of desire, planning and preparation for this moment when we could take our families to the House of the Lord. It took a year of envisioning with the District President, President Hadi, of creating enthusiasm and momentum and a sense that a Temple trip of this scale was really possible here and now, and of creating a series of simple tangible steps for this to happen.
We started last Spring by conducting some Temple Trip Open Houses in the Branches to assess the level of interest. We frequently taught the doctrine of Elijah and the Temple and of Sealing Power and of worthiness and personal purity and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We reviewed the Temple Recommend questions early on in the process. We taught them about the Church's Temple Patron Assistance Fund. This is a fund available to adult, first-time Temple goers, or to civilly-married couples who desire to be sealed in the Temple, and to parents who desire to have their children sealed to them. The fund has requirements of worthiness and a willingness to sacrifice to be able to contribute a portion of the cost themselves. We estimated the total costs of passport, airfare, ground transportation, food and housing, and garment purchase to be approximately 5,600,000 rupiahs, about $415 per person round trip. We passed out suggested timelines and taught them about their own financial obligations, loosely about 3 months family wages. Even with this Church assistance, this co-pay represented a major economic obstacle for almost all of them. Helping some of them create home businesses to save their own needed financial contribution to the journey was a big part of our effort.
We helped the Lewis's conduct an extensive series of one-on-one Family History sessions in May and June of 2015 to help the members fulfill their obligation to research their ancestors. We helped the Branch Presidents understand their roles in ensuring worthiness and filling out the Temple Patron Fund applications. Each family was required to pay for and obtain their own Passports for each member of the family. Each Branch conducted their own Temple Preparation courses, taught by a previously-endowed member of the Branch. There were many struggles and some disappointments along the way, as we knew there would be. But the Lord was merciful!
We departed Surabaya with 11 members from Malang Branch, 7 members from Surabaya 1 Branch, and 19 from Surabaya 2 Branch. Also 4 Senior Missionaries. In Singapore we met up with three members from Jakarta, Jesra and his new bride Indah going for a Temple Sealing, and Brother Gandhi, a returned missionary attending the Temple for the first time. We enjoyed their company! Altogether 44 Saints were in our group.
Below are Brother Ardi, Sister Aan and their little daughter, Brother Suryadi, Sister Novi and Sister Sumarni holding her grandson Arjuna. We departed Surabaya about 10 AM on Tiger Air. We purchased a group reservation. To save money we limited each person to 10 kg of carry-on luggage per person, with the exception that we purchased 55 kg of checked luggage for extra items, food from home, baby items, purchased garments, etc.
The group in Singapore airport. First flight segment accomplished. So far no one lost. We spent a few hours enjoying the Transit Lounge in Changi Airport.
Below is our group in Manila airport, Brother Iwan from Malang doing the happy dance. President Hadi, our District President, is on the right. We arrived about 9 PM, collected our luggage and cleared Immigration and Customs very easily. Our driver Clem was waiting for us with 4 large vans and we enjoyed a fast trip to the Temple Housing for check-in there. Housing assignments had been made previously and were accepted happily. Some families were able to be together in their own rooms, and other rooms were designated for men or women to allow our group of 44 people to accommodate the 10 rooms we were allowed. Temple Housing is very basic, bunk beds, definitely sized for Asian bodies. Elder Hansen and I are still trying to straighten up after sleeping like a comma for 5 nights. There are communal toilet and shower areas. Basic linens, fans and AC were supplied. We brought soap and towels from home.
Below, Tuesday morning as we begin our long but joyous work for the day. Some initial instruction was provided by President Hadi and I. We divided into groups to submit Family Ordinance Records and obtain printed blue, pink or yellow Temple ordinance cards. Others purchased Temple garments. Each family was reviewed one-by-one by Temple staff to insure that their records were complete and that the Temple ordinance work could properly be performed. This took several hours. The Hansen's were a huge help with this endeavor. They also did yeoman work baby-sitting a dozen children while their parents performed their own living Temple ordinances. We had been misinformed and no Temple workers were available to provide a few hours of child care. Thank you Elder and Sister Hansen. They have been Primary Nursery leaders for several years back home. It showed!
Elder Hansen and the local FH workers did some last minute Family History Research with Sister Sumarni that somehow got missed for the Mormon Gang families and their parents.
In the Manila Temple Sister Williams and Sister Mistri of Malang noticed a woman sitting in the lobby who had a familiar face. Turns out this is the mother of Sister Antonio, one of our lovely Filipino Sister missionaries called to labor in Indonesia. She worked so hard with Sister Suyoto and us in Malang.
Below are Cindy the daughter of Susilo and Djuwariyah, and the son of Kadek and Merlin sitting so happily on her shoulders.
The Manila Temple, seen below on our second night there following a full day of living Temple ordinances and inspiring Family Sealings. It looks like a spaceship ready to lift off to heaven...
One miraculous note...while sitting in the Temple lobby waiting for others to show up, in walked Elder Russell M Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He had been quietly visiting the country of Philippines for the preceding week. We had a brief moment to meet him and shake his hand as well as members of the Philippine Area Presidency.
What follows are some photos of the family participants on our Temple trip, really the focus and sum of all this effort. For almost all of them, this was their very first Temple experience, first travel outside of the country, and first air flight. Many never imagined this trip could occur at this point in their lives. All are so very grateful for the Church's Temple Patron Fund which allows members to donate funds worldwide to assist members in locations remote from Temples to attend for the first time.
This is President Didit, Branch President of the SBY2 Branch, with his lovely wife, Anita, and son and daughter. President Didit has served faithfully in this calling for the past two years, and in the past year has developed an intense desire to go to the Temple, and just as importantly, a belief that through hard word and faith in the Lord and His promises that it can become a reality, not in some vague distant future, but soon, now. It has been inspiring to witness this transformation, and his kind and gentle leadership of his Surabaya flock during this trip. After he lost his job we helped him establish a successful food business in front of his home. He cooks a great bowl of mie ayam and ceker! He has helped his Branch understand the importance of self-reliance. Sister Anita has been the heart of her family and has yearned to bring her family to the Temple for many years. She works in the Primary.
The following two photos are of the Yohanes Kobes family of SBY1 Branch. Their son Eko is the artist who created the lead drawing of this post. Brother Yohanes makes a living as a self-employed road-side tire mechanic. He joined the Church with his wife in 2009. He is from NTT in eastern Indonesia. He is now Branch Mission Leader and has introduced many people to the Restored Gospel.
The children were marvelous. What a joy to see each of them dressed in white kneeling around the altar of the Holy Temple with their parents as sealing blessings were pronounced. Below the children of Merlin/Kadek and Peter/Vivi sitting on the front steps of the Temple.
Sister Sumarlik of SBY2, whose son, Elder Hariyadi, is an Assistant to President Donald in Jakarta right now nearing the end of his full time mission, and whose husband is a very supportive Moslem man, attended more Temple sessions than anyone else, I believe. She is so faithful. She teaches Seminary to the youth each Saturday. A member of the Church since very young, this was her first Temple experience. We helped her start a small home business selling es kacang hijau.
Below, Brother Iwan Santoso and his wife Sister Mistri. Brother Iwan has been a Branch President and District President, and is currently on the District High Council. Sister Mistri has been District Young Womens President for the past 9 years. Their daughter just left for her full time mission to Southern California, although she is still serving in Indonesia waiting for her US visa. Both have been a marvelous resource and support for members attending the Temple for the first time, as they have been a number of times before. Brother Iwan taught the Temple Preparation Course in Malang which were rich spiritual moments.
Below are Brother Momon and his wife Sister Fery, both returned missionaries and previously endowed, but returning to be sealed for time and all eternity. What a joy it was to have them and their cheery attitudes and faces with us. He serves as a Counselor in the Branch Presidency and she is Primary President in Malang.
President Tatit Krisubanu and his wife Sister Titik and their son Nefi ("Dika"), from Malang Branch, below. Attending the Temple with them was absolutely one of the personal highlights for us as a couple. President Tatit was recently called to be the Malang Branch President for the 2nd time, and his wife was just released as Relief Society President. He was a missionary in Indonesia 20 years ago, but at that time local missionaries did not attend a foreign MTC or the Temple. They have looked forward to this time for many years. Nefi will himself go on a mission in 2 years. Perhaps most exciting of all, their daughter, Sister Krisubanu, is currently at the end of her 18 month full-time mission call to the Philippines San Pablo Mission. We were able to arrange with her Mission President for her to come to Manila and be sealed with her family in the Temple. How joyous it was to watch them meet and embrace. Her father hugged her and kissed her in distinctly un-Indonesian fashion over the altar at the completion of the Sealing. She then left with her companion for a few more days of mission service before her actual release date next week.
Brother Kadek (his real name is I Made Buda Laksana) is the Malang Branch Elders Quorum President, who with his wife Merlin and two children joined us on our trip to Manila. He is from Bali and converted from Hinduism a few years ago. They worked hard and overcame some obstacles to be able to attend the Temple. We have employed them both, he as our gardener and she as our housekeeper once a week to provide supplementary income so they could meet their obligation. They have two beautiful sons. Their oldest became acutely sick with fever to 104 and cough the night before we departed, prompting some frantic phone calls to me at 4 AM. We got him on Panadol and Ibupfofen and Azithromycin, allowing his temperature to drop before we had to pass the infrared fever sensors at the Singapore airport.
One of our favorite families is seen below. Brother Susilo and his wife Djuwariyah, and further below, a photo of their 3 children, Moroni, Cindy and Christopher. Brother Susilo is the SBY2 Branch Clerk, and a RM, but never had the chance to attend the Temple prior to his mission many years ago. He has anticipated this opportunity for many years. We employed Djuwariyah while still in Surabaya as a housekeeper twice a week. They are both so very faithful, happy and optimistic. I call Brother Susilo kembar tampan saya (my very handsome twin).
Cindy does not travel well. We always knew where she was by listening for the retching sounds on the plane or van. Moroni (goes by Roni) is a Priest and preparing for a full-time mission in 2 years. He attended the Temple to be sealed to his family, and along with Nefi (goes by Dika) of Malang, was able to participate in several proxy baptism sessions while in Manila. How many people can say they attended the Temple with Moroni and Nephi?
Another remarkable family overcoming many challenges to attend the Temple together for the first time is Brother Suryadi and his beautiful wife Aan, along with their two incredibly shy daughters, Nadya and Alecia. Sister Williams has made it her personal quest to be able to at least talk to the youngest without her shrieking in terror and bule shock. Brother Suryadi is also a previously un-endowed RM, the youngest brother of Sister Sumarni, Sister Sumarlik and Brother Susilo. They are the children of Brother and Sister Sumadi, now deceased, who joined the Church back in 1970's and raised many faithful children. However until now none have been blessed in the Temple. What a joy to be with them in the Sealing Room of the Manila Temple and be sealed for time and all eternity as an eternal family. Brother Suryadi was recently released as SBY2 Branch Mission Leader after 19 years, and called as the new Elders Quorum President. He and his wife also recently started a home-based food selling business.
Here is a familiar face. Peter was our driver for 10 months while we were stationed in Surabaya. Peter joined the Church in 2007. He married Vivi who changed faith from Islam and they now have two children, Axelle and Alecia. Sadly they lost their gate-checked stroller and baggage in Singapore, but stayed positive and enjoyed the week. They got some new clothes care of the Surabaya District. Plus we found their belongings on the return trip. Now another eternal family!
Sister Sumarni is the single older Sister of the Mormon Gang families. What a privilege and joy to attend the Temple with her and her family. In the course of the week we were able to witness the sealing of 4 generations of Indonesian Saints to one another, including this sister. Sister Sumarni was sealed to her mother and father Sumadi, to 3 of her siblings...Sumarlik, Susilo and Suryadi, to her daughter Novi and her son-in-law Ardi, and to her grandson, Arjuna. What a miracle.
Brother Ardi Atmaja is a returned missionary, an employee of a pest-control company, and a wonderful cheerful man always willing to serve. He is equally matched by a kind and optimistic wife, Sister Novi who also works full time in an office. They have dreamed of being sealed together as a family for years. Their son Arjuna loves his parents and doting Grandma, Sumarni. What a blessing for us to be able to enjoy their companionship over the past 17 months and of attending the Temple together. They are a vital link in the 4 generations welded together during this Temple excursion.
Elder and Sister Hansen worked tirelessly and selflessly to help prepare all of the Surabaya members to have a fruitful and enjoyable trip. They helped the members prepare many names for Temple work, as well as help in very tangible ways during the trip itself. They helped with child care, verifying ordinances and herding us through airports. We should add that Sister Ike in Surabaya and Brother Ari in Malang also magnified their callings in humble but dramatic ways. Thank you to them and all of the Family History consultants! Lastly, a word of thanks to Elder and Sister Lewis, former full time Senior couple Family History missionaries who returned back home to Utah last summer, for all of their faith and hard work in helping East Java members learn and apply Family History principles. Well done, good and faithful servants.
Below are the four siblings sealed together during this trip. All live in Mormon Gang, in a subdivided home previously owned by their parents.
This felt like a culmination of our mission. All paths lead to the Temple, which leads us Home to our Father. To be able to experience this with so many faithful members of the Church in Surabaya District before we come home is a tender mercy from Heavenly Father, made possible by His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Sister Williams, Sister Hansen, Anita and Djuwariyah enjoying the Temple grounds.
A cute local Filipino couple engaged to be married visiting the Temple with another wedding party. Heber served a mission in Utah.
Sister Titik and Sister Fery of Malang with the local colorful means of public transportation, a Jeepney. Each one is unique, hand crafted, often a shiny aluminum or painted brightly (the cars I mean, not the sisters).
Angels in white
An interesting local custom. Aluminum foil strips placed inside water bottles intended to scare flies off. They reportedly see their magnified reflection off the foil and fly away.
Our last group photo Saturday morning after 5 days at the Temple. What wonderful shared memories we now have together. President Hadi with his hand up leading the way!
The Hansen's arranged for a group of us to visit the Manila Missionary Training Center, where some nice local teachers took us on a tour. It is currently undergoing expansion which will double its capacity to 500 missionaries. This MTC currently receives missionaries from all over SE Asia where they learn their mission language and PMG lessons, as well as provide a place for missionaries awaiting visas to enter SE Asia countries and also a recuperation spot for missionaries recovering from a variety of maladies.
Moroni may well be a full-time missionary in this MTC in 2 years.
Below is Moroni's father, Susilo and his little brother, Christopher, in the Singapore airport between flights. It's the middle of the night. Many of us caught a few hours of light sleep curled up on the floor of Changi airport waiting for our 8 AM flight back to Surabaya. Between airport security waking us up to ask for ID and boarding passes and Arjuna who decided 3 AM was a good time to suddenly get his second wind, it made for very light sleep however. Here Christopher is all tuckered out. Kids can sleep anywhere, even on a luggage cart.
Following are approximations of the Temple Ordinances completed by the 40 Surabaya District members plus 4 Senior missionaries who recently attended the Manila Temple from 16 Feb to 20 Feb 2016.
Family Ordinance Records for approximately 1.200 ordinances were brought to the Temple on behalf of our kindred dead.
Of these, approximately 1.000 ordinances were completed, including approximately 240 Baptisms and 240 Confirmations, 240 Initiatories, 193 Endowments, and at least 79 Sealings.
In addition many other Proxy baptisms were performed by Brother Nefi Mahardika and Brother Moroni.
19 District members received their own living Temple ordinances including Washing and Anointing, and Endowment. There were 20 District members Sealed to their living Spouse, and at least 21 Sealing to Parents for living members of the District.
Following are some Williams and Rutter family members we were able to represent in the Temple.
We were very blessed by the Spirit of Elijah and by the Lord to be able to attend His house in Manila and participate in these ordinances of salvation for ourselves and our kindred dead.
Back home after 1-2 days of rest we resumed our usual missionary work. Above I am holding little Alma, the 2 year old daughter of Brother Coko Sasongko and his wife Kiki. We visited them on his Army base in Kepanjen where he is a Lt in the Engineering Corps. We took the young Sisters with us, Sister Jatmiko and Solomon, who will continue teaching after we go home soon. Kiki is not yet a member of the Church. We taught about eternal families and Temple blessings, and how they can have these blessings for themselves. Alma is a chubby little baby, well fed, full of milk and smiles.
Lily and James in Primary. Love them!
Our son Chris and our Grandkids, Ella, Eli, Rhys and Ephraim, at the building site of the Tuscon Temple near their home. We thought this was an interesting counter-point to our concurrent Manila Temple trip.
Above and below precious Hope with her Daddy in El Paso.
Amalie is to be baptized in April. How excited we are to be able to share this moment with her. So glad your neck wasn't seriously hurt, Ami! Be careful on that high beam!