And every day was a lifetime.
Really, it feels eons since I last sat down at a computer to write—or at least seven years, rather than seven days. A lot of change in these parts; a few trials, a few joys, and (as always) a whole lot of growing.
First, Sister Katam and I spent our final day together (Saturday) at the church again, from eight in the morning just about till five at night, where we proofread the final typesetter's copy of the newly re-translated Kitab Mormon. It was a blissfully relaxing exercise to me, reading aloud with a red pen in hand, glad for our packet portion that included Ether 2 right through Moroni 10, some of my most absolutely favorite passages (and so even easier to understand with my limited Indonesian). We had almost 100 people there that day, all grouped in twos to catch punctuation errors or grammar abuse, stopping only for water breaks and one lunch-hour rest. I really enjoyed the work, and even with my four months of Indonesian could really see the difference in this translation, how the language more closely matches the beauty of the English translation and even more fully conveys the glory of this Gospel. It was incredible to be a part of something that will obviously mean so much more to the Indonesian saints.
But the end of that service project meant the end of our companionship, and with weary eyes and full hearts we watched Sister Katam climb into the car and off and away. She cried! I've never seen her cry. It was an oddly stunning moment for me, realizing that we'd managed to become friends sweet enough to feel pain at parting—in the course of only six weeks, with the language barrier to boot. I'm very glad she's going home to Malang, one of the few cities where Sisters can serve here, and so that absolutely wasn't any sort of final goodbye.
Still sad. And nothing could have prepared me for what came next, either. Presiden, thus far, had only waved us away when we pestered him about new companionships. “Belum,”he'd say. “Tunggu wahyu saya.” Not yet. Await my revelation. Which, I will add, was always said with a cheeky smile that makes me quite sure there was no such divine direction—an assumption cemented in fact once I heard the verdict. Just as we were about to turn home, he called me over to reassign me to . . . Sister Lie?
Sister Lie. As in just arrived from Solo, a brand-new missionary of barely 24 hours. And brand-new here is a little different from our brand new there—the newbies in Indo haven't been to the MTC yet, either. There are only a certain number of slots available all year round, so Sister Lie won't head to the Phillipines until November, which means that for the next three weeks, I'm officially a Trainer.
Meaning: maybe Presiden is a little insane. Or a lot insane. Maybe both. I've been here six weeks, not six months—and besides not knowing the language well enough for the task, Sister Lie hasn't learned the lessons to teach, either, so we're something of a sorry pair. Not that she's anything terrible—heavens no. We get along really well, and she's a talker with a capital T so there's never want for conversation and in these last few days my Indonesian has taken a definite upswing (she also knows absolutely no English). But I'll admit, I totally panicked. To be honest, I've had a pretty hard time with Presiden Marchant since the beginning, and this just kind of compounded a lot of anxiety/annoyance/uncharitability (word?) in me and it took a real crash-course in prayer and faith to get me through it. In the end, we JakSel Sisters banded together in a glorious display of our combined intelligence and sympathy and pulled off a plan that has this week worked really well: whenever I have an appointment, I split with Mongan or Sumarno (so we have someone who can actually teach the lesson), and whenever one of them has an appointment, Sister Lie goes with them to learn the ropes. Anything else and it's up to me—which means those notes I've been scribbling this last little while have really come in handy.
So it's an adventure (as if it's ever not) and things are picking up speed, if only slightly; days literally feel like years but looking back at the last seven weeks I feel tricked as to the passage of time. Especially when things start to go really well, it's all I can do to keep up with the month and date. October? Almost over? Soon enough the next round of American Sisters (and last, for awhile, actually) will be here and we'll no longer be the newbies.
Blast. I'm on a computer with a timer this week and it's quite the race. What else? Oh. Monday. The Best Day of My Mission Ever So Far.
So the very first week we were in Jakarta, Sister Lily and I met Sister Orton in the English Branch, an expat who's been here for eight years now and was ecstatic to finally have Sisters in the Branch. She had friends, she said, and she wanted us to teach them. We called Presiden right away and he okayed the split and there was much rejoicing as SisLily and I reveled in the chance to teach together again (we're quite the power team, if we do say so ourselves. *ahem*). But Sister Orton's friends were out of town, and then Presiden had one of his wahyu-wahyu, and SisLily was swept away to Malang and so when it all finally worked out, it was me and Sister Mongan at the dinner table, sharing the message of the Restoration with a lovely little family of three.
They're Indonesian, but speak excellent English; Sister Orton met the mother (Patricia) at a Bazaar a few years ago and now helps her sell her jewelry in the USA through a daughter in Texas. The father (Ek) is a Vice-Principal at what they call a Dual-Language private school here in Jakarta, and their wee daughter Alene (barely three years old) greeted us both with the dip of a curtsy and the politest English hello. It was an incredibly casual affair—they’d mentioned to SisOrton that they wanted to know more about the Mormons and so we simply discussed Doctrine over chicken enchiladas (an added blessing of the evening—oh, Mexican food!) while also talking about life and family in general. And family, this is how real missionary work is done.
The Ortons really led the way, talking like the old friends they are but standing firm in Gospel principles (as Lutherans, the family had a hard time accepting that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are separate beings). Sister Mongan was on fire, giving all the right answers in all the right ways in beautiful Indonesian that I followed wonderfully, nearly every word. By the end of our two hours together, we'd become friends, had a fulfilling conversation with a side of actual ice cream for dessert, and a return appointment plus the promise of Church on Sunday and that they'd for sure read the Kitab Mormon and pray, too. I can't quite contain what this all means in the space of an email and especially in the sad writing I manage to spit out under a time constraint, but suffice it to say: this is a miracle in the history of missionary work as far as Indonesia's concerned. But here's the thing: we were just doing exactly what all the prophets and apostles and MiK and MTC teachers have taught us over and over again: members. Members are the key to missionary work.
Oh, you should have seen us in the taxi home. I was talking a mile a minute—me! talking! Like crazy! In Indonesian, too! Laughing for no other reason than that we were happy. It was a real feeling of strength and testimony, the boost and blessing I needed after having a rather rough time of it only the day before. In that hour's drive home, I watched the Jakarta streets rise and fall outside my window with the strangest feeling at the sight: I didn't want to leave.
And of course there will be more trials. There will be more days where I cry, where the smallest touch of color or the most obvious cultural gap will hit me right where it hurts most and I'll long for home all over again. But for right now, today, this week, this month: it's okay. And it will always (happy, happy Hope!) get better.
I am sorry that I have reached no answers to your many questions in this somewhat lengthy email, but I have only a few seconds left and I've got to use them to print out your emails so that I eventually can get to the answers. I'm getting better at managing my letter time, so hopefully I'll be sending another envelope your way soon. Until then,