Selamat Malam and Happy Thanksgiving—an opportune opening for an email all about gratitude. There are just about a million new things to be grateful for, and you might want to hold onto your hearts here, because we're talking miracles. Lots of them:
One. (cue celebratory trumpet call) We have a baptism. Yes, we. As in, me and my companions. The first missionaries to have a baptism in all of West Java since July! We're pretty over the moon about it, but can't do so much rejoicing now as there's still a ways to go. Florentina's preparing to be baptized December 13th here in Jaksel, so we've got a few weeks yet of teaching and reviewing and growing to do.
And now, who is Florentina, you may be asking? I've actually been teaching her from the beginning, starting with Sister Katam and even one lesson with Sister Sumarno, but she was out of town for almost three weeks in-between all that, and though we called, texted, etc., we never heard anything back and gave it up as a mystery. Then, di luar biru (that still doesn't work but I like to imagine Bro. Ross's squirmy face in the MTC), she woke us up last Thursday morning with a text that said she was back in the city and she wanted to meet us right there, right then. So we did (albeit a few hours later; we still had to finish up that service project), meeting her for an evening appointment at the Church, where I met her at the door and asked her if she'd been reading the Book of Mormon still, to which she replied, why yes, yes I have—and flipped open her copy of the Kitab Mormon to 2 Nefi 31. The entire chapter was underlined, noted, circled, cross-referenced . . . she pulled out the Restoration Pamphlet we'd given her months ago: same thing. “Can we continue to learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ?” she asked me. “The one where you said there were five principles I had to follow?” I waved her into the chapel, catching the look on Sis Mongan's face as she passed. Waduh, it said. Alhamdulillah.
We taught her Pelajaran Tiga that night, sharing scripture about Faith, Repentance, Baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost and (huzzah, my favorite) Enduring to the End as she scribbled away in her notebook, asking questions and exploring our answers and just basically approaching the Gospel like any A+ student in a top-notch University forum. We've never taught someone like this, someone so eager to know and understand, and I can really only express how much fun it was. It felt so good, seeing someone excited about it, wanting it, searching it out—plus it boosted our confidence to a level strong enough to extend the baptismal commitment, a question (Maukah anda mulai mempersiapkan diri anda sendiri untuk dibaptis?) that Florentina took only a second's silence to ponder before nodding to agree. “Mau,” she said. “Mau sekali.” I really love that the maukah questions aren't answered by a typical English yes-or-no but the Indonesian mau, which means “want.”
And then there it was. A baptism.
A baptism I won't actually get to see because (Two.) Tomorrow I leave for Bandung.
Presiden called Saturday morning, and in that soaring innocence borne of So Much Happiness I didn't even dream that a call for me from Presiden himself could only mean a transfer. I was so set in my naïveté, actually, that I was honest-to-goodness rendered speechless. Me? Bandung? Impossible. There's still so much to do here in Jakarta, so many people to meet and serve and love and . . . maybe I cried a little bit—but not until I'd faked a cheery “Yes, sir” and said goodbye to Presiden first.
I mean, here's the thing: I am in equal parts both sad and excited about the change. For one, I'm finally getting out of Jakarta and seeing the Real Indonesia, taking a three hour train up into the mountains and to Java's fourth largest city set against tea plantations and Art Deco downtown. Travel books will tell you that Bandung was once called the Paris of Java (though today their claim to fame is factory outlet shopping and a twenty-meter plaster cast of King Kong on the main shopping sprawl), that the city is still deeply immersed in the native Sunda culture, that there and there alone you find the most stunning mountainous vistas in all of Indonesia. So, excited? Pasti. But to transfer to Bandung means to leave Jakarta, and maybe leave Jakarta for good. I've served three months here, and in the usual pattern of things that means I've spent enough time in the capital to never have to come back. And despite the traffic (it took me two hours to get to the warnet tonight), despite the urban grunge, despite the lack of any really green, living thing . . . well, I'm going to miss it. I learned here, I grew here, I became here. And while there's certainly a lot more of that yet to come, wherever I may be, Jakarta will still be the first.
But Bandung will be second, and I'm up for the challenge—because “challenge” is indeed the word to use here. I have two theories about this transfer: one, that Presiden has decided I'm just as much a problem as Sisters Atmi, Christenson, and Sodjo, and so he might as well contain all the crazy sisters in one city as to not cause trouble elsewhere or, two, Presiden thinks I've worked out strength enough here in Jakarta to jump into some serious Rehabilitation Work come tomorrow, giving me the three most trying Sisters in the mission to work with in the most trying branch in all of Java. Oh yes, huzzah, Bandung has some seriously not-so-good connotations around here—but whatever above theory turns out to be true, I'm determined to live up to the latter, because I'm ready and wanting to help.
So tomorrow to Bandung, just after three. All of Java Barat meets up at Senopati for Thanksgiving Lunch. Presiden's still in Bali and left the Millecams in charge, so we've planned quite the party. I'll tell you all about it next week.
Okay, two minutes more and I'm out: Baptism, Bandung, . . . I feel like there was more (I mean, of course there is, but when is there not?). I guess this will have to do for now; I'm so glad all the letters got there safe and (somewhat) sound—-I just sent two more today, so here's to hoping for another quick flight across the sea. I love you, dearly, dearly. I miss you so very muchly. And yet time's simply flying and sebentar lagi we'll all be together again, a true Thanksgiving.
p.s. Today I got interviewed by the Church for a documentary they're making about the history of the Church in Indonesia. Only to be distributed here, but still, I answered 5/6 questions all in Indonesian, so that was happy.
p.p.s. Talked to SisLily yesterday. She says hello and love to all.