PERPETUALLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION
pardon the dead links and missing months


24 February 2010

Well of Lost Plots.

In which I start a lot of stories, finish a few of them, and never really arrive at any specific point anyway.

Dear People I Love,

There is a stack of letters on my desk addressed to all types of you, but I remain too poor to afford the postage. Next week.

I am no longer impressed with photojournalists and their seemingly miraculous talent of capturing intense ironies, wrenching emotion, or catalytic commentaries with the click of a shutter. At least not the ones photographing Indonesia—-because all it takes to find all of the above is to wake up and walk out your front door. Sometimes I watch the world go by from the back of an angkot and feel like I'm living a National Geographic photo spread, except actually those thigh-high floods and toppled-domino slums are just reality. Not acceptable, of course, but just reality.

Monday night I was faking Javanese, because I can usually understand what Marno and Atmi are on about but have no clue whatsoever when it comes to responding. So I just pretended there was a marble in my mouth and said a lot of omolomoolo because that's what it sounds like and we had quite the conversation, which was funny. But not as funny as Atmi rapping General Conference talks. Usually I have her read them aloud to practice English pronunciation, which is what she was doing when the phone rang and I had to pick it up and by the time my conversation was over she was on a flow about temples and moral compasses. I have not legitimately laughed like that for a while.

Sister Lily might actually be the perfect friend, because she is now the only American I know that can follow my Englonesian (Indonenglish?). She called last night to ask me to pick up a few things for her from Senopati while I'm there this weekend, and apart from the general huzzah of such an opportunity to talk—-really talk—-it was nice not to have to correct myself whenever my sentences slipped into Indo for a few words before getting back on track with real English.

Gilang is still M.I.A., with the latest news from the landlord that he hasn't returned home for four days now. I'm panicking, but Atmi is all Job. "Patience," she keeps telling me. "You have no idea the opinions and attacks and arguments he's dealing with." And, as the one who herself converted to Christianity from Islam, I suppose I should nod and be comforted and carry on with hope. But it's hard, because Gilang is not just good, he is great. Plus, all our other (2) investigators just lie to us. McDee's been avoiding us for two weeks now, with no real excuse at all, and last time I called he even pretended to be someone else. Really? Are people really this adamant about making their own misery? And, ps, McDee: I know you weren't your secretary, because your secretary's a girl.

On Sunday we went out to visit Bro HanKio, a less-active who really needs to stop reading extra-curricular religious literature and just get back to the Book of Mormon. This time his major headline was the news that the world is going to end in 2016, and also that America is populated by aliens. I don't ever really know how to respond to stuff like that, but I do learn a lot of great new vocabulary.

Monday night we had FHE with the Atmos again, but this time with a few more ward members—President Eddy came along, plus Wahyu and Unang and Chris too and it was another member highlight sort of night that just all around makes me feel better. We moved all the living room furniture into their warung (couches stacked like jenga blocks with coffee tables in between) and sat all ten of us on bamboo mats spread across the floor and taught from Mosiah 4 before sharing dinner all together, too.

A few weeks back Jamie wrote me about the thrill of creating cultural analogies to better help people outside of a Christian-rooted society understand the Gospel. I think my first reaction was something along the lines of "Shouldn't the Gospel just be relevant to everybody's life?" (Oh, silly E), but also took it as kind of a challenge I want to win. I've noticed that we lose a lot of people within the very first lesson because they don't understand the priesthood, so currently am trying to come up with a new way to teach the necessity of authority in a country where police officers merely observe illegal wildlife trafficking transactions, speed limits are regulated by fashion outlets, and public restrooms are plastered with signs asking users to please not squat on top of the toilet seats. Also, while recognizing I have been born of goodly parents and also blessed with a certain degree of common sense, how are people confused about this in the first place? How does it not make sense that there needs be One Faith, One Church, restored through priesthood power endowed by God? Because a God that says "oh yes, you Catholics can baptize babies this way, and the Pentecostals can do it this other way, and then the Mormons can do it their own way" is not a kind of God I'd want to believe in. In a world where nothing ever stays the same, aren't we all looking for a constant? God is the same Yesterday, Today, and Selamalamanya. That is what makes him God. So why does everyone insist all religions are the same? A million different ways to climb a mountain sort of thing. Yeah, but don't you want the BEST way to climb the mountain?

I am having a hard time with problems and solutions right now. People say "This is wrong, and that is wrong, and this is why life is hard and that is why I'm unhappy," and it is all very complicated and impossible to them whereas the only complication I can figure is that they don't see the so-obvious solution. Um . . . The Gospel? Ding ding ding ding! Correct!

Sorry. I have no eloquence today, or any sort of subtlety. Kind of like the shop over in Alun-Alun that's called PUNK: Clothes for Teenage Rebellion. Indonesians like to say it like it is, which is kind of what I'm channeling in this email. Because this, my family, is how it is.

Headed to Jakarta in the morning for a weekend of District Conference and some one-on-one with Elder Russel M. Nelson. Yipes. Will return next week with (hopefully) a more elegant report on Life and Love.

I love you. All.

17 February 2010

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.

Family Dear,

Another bullet point to add to the list of Indo is the 1800s (albeit this is like the one Kenneth Grahame imagined and Walt Disney exaggerated): angkot are like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. For the most part they are to be completely trusted (and really, Indonesia wins the Defensive Driving award) but you never really ever know what's coming next—-today the Ledeng-Kelapa took a sharp turn into an empty parking lot and up through an off-road neighborhood before screaming back into streamline traffic and a series of whiplash stops and starts. Occasionally your journey is interrupted for a gas station detour, where all 2—17 passengers will idle in the back while the driver hops out to top up the tank and chat a minute with a cigarette before getting back on route. If you ride at night, after the sun's set and the roads are clear of too much traffic, they speed. I don't know exactly how fast, because I'm not really motor-smart or possessed of any inner speedometer, but sometimes I feel like we're flying. I push the windows open and stretch out my legs (because no one else is in the angkot, not this late at night) and Sister Atmi does the same, while silently praying belum menikah, Tuhan. Belum menikah (I'm not married yet, Lord!). The angkot that just got me here covered 10 minutes in 5, plus threw me a good foot along the bench when it lurched to a second's standstill to dump me out at the curb. Yes. It is a daily wild ride (though I still think the Disneyland version is even scarier).

Anyway. That is not how I intended this email to start but there wasn't going to be any dignified way to segue into it anyway because

I HELD A BABY TIGER

( !!!!!!! )

I know. I'll give you a minute to squeal/dance/sing/applaud, because I needed some recovery time, too. It was all just very unexpected, you know? Because usually there aren't baby tigers sitting at the side of a city road, and even if there were I don't think anyone would be well advised to pick it up and cuddle with it. But this is Indonesia, and sometimes that means we have entered an entirely different dimension.

It was all completely illegal, if you haven't already guessed that. They sell pets along the street outside of Bandung Indah Plaza, normal pets like Persian cats or golden retrievers and the requisite handful of hamsters and mice. Except that this week . . . could it be? The man was dressed in all black, selling his one treasure from the darkest corner along the shadowy curb. I asked him to confirm my suspicion. He growled a yes to my harimau? and picked up the little thing with one hand like so many childhood cat shows and then I was holding him, I was cradling him, I was cuddling up close to his slanted cat eyes that blinked sad and bright green right back up at me.

Granted, he was no Bengal. his captor explained that he's a forest tiger, almost more of a panther, and that he'll "only" grow to about half the weight and size of India's version. I didn't care. He is orange and black stripes and big, padded, clumsy paws and I have never in my life been more tempted to spend 50 bucks than when I was right then and there.

But that's extravagant on a missionary budget, and also Verboten (White Handbook, page 46, though I doubt they had large wild cats in mind). So instead I just held him for a very long time and cursed the day I'd left my camera home to charge and then finally, heartwrenchingly, had to say goodbye. The next vendor tried to sell me a three-week-old kus-kus (sp?) (a strange, owl-eyed creature that fit snugly in my open palm with long primate toes wrapped around my fingers) and the guy after that wanted me to take a Kalimantan squirrel for keeps (one fell asleep in my skirt pocket while the other curled up in the crook of my arm) but it just wasn't the same. A tiger! I held a baby tiger.

I feel like maybe he was my own little omen, a physical manifestation of the Chinese New Year. What could begin a more prosperous year of the Tiger than an actual tiger itself? Nothing, that's what.

Unfortunately that's the only real substantial story of my week, aside from what I've already written in a letter home that I posted yesterday. The rest is just a quick list, so in other news of note:

+  We are poor. I don't really know how this happened, seeing as we are only half way through the month and usually we finish out with money left over, but while grocery shopping today we had to debate whether or not we could afford milk, or if it was really necessary to buy five packages of mie instead of just three, and it was really pathetic while also being really hilarious. We are literally saving spare pennies in jars.

+  Also, two of the three umbrellas in our trio broke irreparably on the same day within the same hour during the same torrential rainstorm. Mine was such a pathetic skeleton of cloth and wire that a grown man passing by actually pointed a finger and laughed out loud. And we're poor, so we can't buy a new one (you would think, in a country that drowns for six months out of every year, they'd find a way to mass-produce umbrellas to allow for cheaper price tags), so last night we were three people to one umbrella, which was also hilarious. Sometimes struggle is really fun. 

+  When the squirrel guy kept insisting I buy one of his little friends, I posed the customs question and he said "Just put them in your coat pocket and walk through security. That's what I did with these guys in Jakarta." Again. Illegal. So illegal.

+  Gilang is M.I.A., which I fear has something to do with his (albeit) ex-girlfriend. We haven't been able to reach him all week, and finally took an angkot out to Cimahi in search of his address, which he'd written down that first day we met him on the bus. It was raining (of course) and wet, and cold, and confusing, but we finally found the apartment and then he wasn't home. But I met his landlady, who is 89 years old with bright white hair that curls to her shoulders and a tall, thin frame she dresses in floral blouses and thin solid sweaters. She was born to a Javanese mother with a French Officer father back in the (not too long ago) colonial reign and speaks Indo, Sunda, French, and Dutch. Her house is made of whitewashed, woven bamboo and I loved her.

+  I think my taste buds are changing, which is weird and is that possible? I mean, I know that's a kid to adult thing, seeing as I've learned to like asparagus, rosemary, and (sorry, dad) tomatoes, but since when did I crave rice or ginger?

+  I'm also pretty sure my internal thermometer's broken, because I've been wearing a sweater all week in weather that wouldn't even qualify more than a t-shirt back in Utah.

+  Roshen (Branch Mission Leader, Dev Patel boy) is the Colonel Brandon of Indonesia. He was contributing to our Gospel Principles class last Sunday and I literally have NO idea what he was mumbling about except that it was good and helped answer Buldan's  (Marno's investigator) question.

We taught The Fall of Adam and Eve for Sunday's lesson, and then again yesterday when we went to visit Brother Bambang (since he can't come to Church, we bring church to him). And I was again and again struck by our unique understanding of the story and how I really can't understand it any other way. Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy. How would that not ring true to every soul? So many people think this life is punishment, a direct result of Eve's "folly" and our price to pay. From things I've seen here, I can almost understand how people have come to that conclusion even without the philosophies of men mingled with scripture. The punishment theory fits in very well with the kind of burdens they're called to bear—and yet it completely discounts my understanding of God, too. Basically, Dad, you are so right. People don't understand God. I remember Anne Lamott's notes in Traveling Merices, how growing up she couldn't reconcile the Catholic God in His stained-glass glory and fickle tempers, or the Jewish God that allowed a Holocaust to happen, or her own atheistic belief accompanied by the constant pull of there being something more. I remember born-again rallies with my Girl's College friends in NZ, where God meant pulling a semi-truck from a rope between your teeth  or being at one with a drum beat to a rock-and-roll hymn. I see the world around me here, an Islamic nation in constant supplication to a God they don't believe has provided a Christ. The religious confusion goes so beyond crosses atop steeples or Darwin fish slapped across Subarus. The world's swaying from sky-high, air-thin branches because they've lost the root of it all. They do not know who God is.

Now, I am not saying that I do. I am nowhere near such revelation, but I am closer to it because of what I know through the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I have been flipping between Words of Mormon 1:8 and 2 Nephi 27:25-26 almost every morning this past week, because the connection makes so much sense in that full soul, pierced heart sort of way and also because Dad's thoughts in last week's email collected together a lot of my own (lest you have any remaining doubt to your calling as Bishop or the recipient of revelation as my father, Dad, your weekly emails have been almost word for word the very answers I've been looking for). He said (hope you don't mind the quoting): "The gospel was restored because God wants to be known. He desires above all things, as our Father, that we love Him as He is and understand Him as He so much wants to be understood. Moses 1:38—He wants us to return to Him, and we have to know Him to live with Him eternally. And how do we do that? By the second half of Words of Mormon 1:8: ". . .that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ." The key to the knowledge of the Father is found in the redemption of Christ."

And that is what we, as missionaries, are trying to tell the world. To publish peace, to speak the words of Christ, to read upon the housetops (click click click) the glorious news of a Full and Everlasting Gospel. Sometimes the most we can do is tell someone that they are children of God, a Heavenly Father who loves them. Occasionally we are given the incredible opportunity to tell them even more, that God loves them so much that He sent His Son, who came to do His Will—and what that Atonement really means. An Atonement we better understand because of the Book of Mormon, which we have because of the Restoration, which is a marvelous work and a wonder intended for us to know God.

I love the Book of Mormon. It testifies of my Redeemer and tells me what I must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come. I love God, and am learning to know Him, which in turn allows me to love even more. This is His Church, and it is true.  

I love you.

Sister E.

10 February 2010

I Will One Day Have a Lot of Stories to Tell.

 keluargaku,

I have just discovered the textile/ribbon/pretty possibilities district of Bandung, a direct result of my promise to create headbands for the Indo girls to glam up our style in preparation for the upcoming District Conference. Marno found the basement bazaar a few weeks ago and we immediately put it into our Future P-Day Plan list, anticipating the need for a creative outlet with so many rainy days ahead of us (who told me Rainy Season was really just Nov/Dec? What game were they playing at?) I thought yeah, hey, a few ribbons, the elastic—fifteen minutes tops and we'll be good to go. Two hours later . . .

All sorts of happiness and (they say this all the time here and it kills me in the accent of it all) sweet, sweet memory, though nothing to top the adventure of last week's day off. Last week all was quiet and well right up and past the time I emailed you, after which we went about our grocery shopping as always, with little excitement other than a few contacts and the appearance of ginormous paper dragons heralding the New Year at Bandung SuperMal (the Chinese version is bigger here than January 1st was). We were in the first of two angkot home when it began. Rain. Pretty normal. Can handle. Except when . . . it's coming down by the bucketful like it was then. Except when we realize no one bothered to bring an umbrella. Except when the above said first angkot dropped us off at the Laswi curb and the expected second angkot never came. By this time the roads are flooding and Sister Sodjo got a good dose of sewer slime right across her mouth as a motorbike jetskiied around the corner and across our path. I start walking. "Are you insane?!" Sister Christensen calls out from under the cover of a leaky tin roof. I raise an eyebrow. It's nearing nine and she's basically as wet as I am anyway. Sister Sodjo dashes out after me and Sister Christensen, left with no choice, does the same.

It is fifteen minutes more until our neighborhood boundaries even begin, and we are satched through. The apples in my grocery bag have broken loose of their individual wrappings and now bob haphazardly between the zucchini and carrots, the bag more water than groceries at this point. We turn into Kacapiring and into some sort of Disneyland nightmare ride, slum-style, our depth perception off with the lightning shadows and runoff spilling from each roof like rollercoaster waterfalls. We are laughing, and also screaming, just because we can, and also because thunder on these ocean isles is terrifying. It is enough to break bones, to melt hearts. Our screaming brings Marno and Mi out to the front porch to meet us, and they start laughing, too. It is all quite funny for a few minutes more—until Sister Christensen makes a dash for the dry indoors and ends up SMACK down on her back and head right across the corner's edge.

Then, it is not fun. It is blood and tears and not a little bit of panic. Atmi and Marno run for a taxi, Sodjo and I get Christensen standing and stable. Presiden is in Hong Kong; the APs are at a total loss. Twenty minutes later we are back out the door, and our street is rushing river. We consider the predicament. And what else is there to do? I take off my shoes and step into the current; I land one foot on level ground and the other in knee-deep pothole; something wraps around my ankle and I decide not to imagine it any further. We are ten minutes more to the main road and by now our neighbors are gathering to watch, wishing us Selamat! and also maybe mocking us just a little tiny bit (could we have looked any more ridiculous? I'm guessing not)

Anyway, long story short (this was never meant to be the focus of my email): we made it to the hospital (our taxi creating wake worthy of a motorboat in the floodwaters), where we waited two hours more until nearly midnight, when Sister Christensen was discharged with three stitches across a four-centimeter cut across her skull and no further harm done. All's well that ends well. But boy, was it an adventure (and I'm not going to lie; that kind of late-night adrenaline in a storm to beat all was my own kind of About A Boy ambulance dream).

So, P-Day. Preparation for what, we might ask? Here, you just never know.

And now, half an hour later: the real kernel of my week's kabar, introduced in song:

Scripture Power! Keeps me safe from sin! Scripture Power! It's the power to win!

Also, is that a real song? Somehow I connect it with September Primary Programs and little arms pumping Triple Combinations over their heads on the way to the pulpit, but it's not in the Children's Hymnbook. Hm. Insanity is a possibility, given my last few days (We lost Sodjo yesterday. Another story for another time.)

Back to scriptures, and especially Ether 12:6. And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things: I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.

Because that's how it goes, folks. Even when you don't really understand that your faith is being tried in the first place. I certainly didn't. But now, looking back on my two months here in Bandung, that fact's as clear as Moroni's scripture. Even though showing that faith sometimes simply meant getting out of bed in the morning, or choosing to walk out the door. Even though occasionally I wonder if I ever really have showed any real faith at all.

But something must have proved true, because now we're experiencing a whole 'nother kind of scripture. After two months of minimal teaching opportunity, fruitless finding, one or two investigators (and none of them progressing, mind you), this last week has been one of explosive work and wonder. Mosiah 2:24, anyone? Gilang came to church, followed (um, that' s the Indo way to say it. I don't know how to verb this sentence in English anymore) all three hours and then some, staying to chat with the Branch President about what he'd learned in Priesthood that morning. He was attentive all throughout Sacrament Meeting (despite my heart at chair's edge since it was Testimony Meeting—ooh, so chancy), asked a zillion gazillion (good, intelligent!) questions during Gospel Principles, and then (oh, ps, he said) announced he'd broken up with his girlfried. She didn't want him reading the Book of Mormon or learning from us. Ya, sudah. He said. I choose the Truth.

And pretty much since then every day has felt like a new miracle entirely. Monday I can mark minute-by-minute being led by the Spirit. We've met people and taught lessons and made a difference and the Indonesia I've loved so long is all the brighter for it. There are still the million daily Hard Things to wade through (and *ahem* companionship troubles have been weighing on the work, as always but more particularly) but it's a lot easier when there's Joy to balance it out, so onward we go, rain or shine, flood or highwater.

I love you. Am really excited to introduce you to Alun-Alun one day. We'll have such the adventures.

Sister E.

03 February 2010

From Jakarta Starting I Fly Like a Bird.

Dear You (pl.)

This week I read Walt Whitman. I found him early one morning (just after prayer call and long before my alarm) while perusing a volume of American History we keep on our shelves for teaching English, a happy meeting of both joyful exclamation and the slip of a tear (old friends, especially after long absence, have a way of stretching to all spectrums my emotions) and I leapt whole-soul into every word. There were only a few squares of his free verse, but it was enough (the opening lines of Manahatta alone would have been enough) and I was open to all senses again, awake to understanding and more intent to observe—-the electrifying effect of all good poetry at the beginning of a new day. I had lately been feeling confused about my role as a missionary in Indonesia——how can I lose myself in the work when we're barely teaching 3 lessons a week? How am I supposed to forget myself when if often feels like I'm the only thing I could possibly keep track of? I've felt guilty, feeling my mission was just one long rousing chorus of "It's a song about me, It's a song about me, It's a song about me and my in-di-vi-du-aaaaal-i-ty!" and then there was my dear Mr. Whitman, reminding me that, actually, it's called a "Song of Myself," by which he means, of course, a "Song of Everybody," which also ultimately means a "Song of You." We are what makes me. And it is in accepting that relationship and giving all your glory to it that makes one sing. Or, in terms of Indonesia: if I only step outside each day intent on absorbing it all—-the chickens strut-sprinting through traffic, the schoolboys riding rooftop on the train home, the underwear hung out to dry just above the countertop you're buying lunch from—we, every one of us, become quite a chorus. And this chorus, in fact, writes my life melody.

This has, I think, doctrinal foundation in our Gospel (my poets and prose-smiths are only minor prophets, after all) because we believe the more we give of ourselves to others (and esp. God), we become more ourselves than ever. It doesn't make a lot of sense, not to our mortality, but it's true. I will bear your burden, I will sing your song, I will do Thy will—-what we give up returns to us a hundred-fold more. As for always, Christ is the greatest example of this. Who could be more Christ than Christ himself? You cannot imagine anyone more fully himself, right? And yet he is who he is because he gave up everything he was, to do the Will of the Father. This is something I know but have a hard time doing, plus it's also a lot more than what I've pathetically attempted to put in a sentence from what I feel in my soul, so there's much left to ponder, as well.

Anyways. That is what I have been thinking (though that was the first time I translated it into writing so I'm not sure if it quite captured a mind's meandering), but I suppose you'd also like to know what I've been doing. Well.

I have been working on Charity. I had a really good 27.5 hours of it, until this afternoon when all was broken in an instant. Oh well. Build anyway. Try again tomorrow. Am also working on Patience.

Next. On Sunday I spoke in Sacrament, taught Gospel Doctrine, and presided over Primary Sharing Time, which consisted of piano-playing, white board drawing, and the requisite sugar break to get us through. All of the above assignments were last minute additions to my day's schedule except for the talk—but even then I was only minutes from the pulpit when Pres. Santoso announced I was the only speaker that showed up so my original assignment of 10 minutes could now be stretched to 15, or 30, or maybe even the whole hour if I'd like. My Indonesian wasn't quite up for the latter, but I did add a few minutes to what I'd already prepared and then Brother HanKing (architect, self-taught painter and currently writing a graphic novel for young adults. Love the man) took on the rest. Bless him. Still. Missions teach you to be flexible.

Last Friday I met a boy on a bus. He was wearing rocker-black in studded silver, with long hair across his eyes and a cigarette lingering into ashes at his fingertips. He stared a long time at my name tag from several rows ahead of me until I called out a hello—at which point he switched seats to move closer, and asked "You know Christ?" I said yes, as this is a common way here to ask if one is Christian, but before I could go on he continued: "Will you introduce me to Him?"

Pause: Thank you for any and all prayers that there be people prepared for the Everlasting Gospel in Indonesia. It works.

Resume.

It was a long drive out to Padalarang so we got to talk to him for quite some time before he got off at Cimahi, sharing a bit of the Gospel but mostly listening to his side of the story. The facts were these: His name is Gilang, 25 yrs old and completely independent. His father died a few months ago, and he moved to Bandung in order to find work and be closer to his girlfriend, who is Christian. He is not. He is Muslim. Not a single one between the three of us had brought a Plan of Salvation pamphlet, our usual go-to if an interested contact is of the Islamic faith. We gave him the one on the Restoration instead, along with our card and the church's address, plus plans to meet again. Except that he doesn't have a cell phone. He gave us his girlfriend's instead, saying that she would forward any messages so that we could keep in touch. He was sweet and sincere and astonishingly, intensively, interested.

His girlfriend, however, was not. When we rang that night she was already on a roll, incensed that her boyfriend would need anybody else's help to understand Christianity. "Just who are you, anyway?" she kept on saying. "Why am I not adequate enough to teach him about Christ?" We didn't mention what he had mentioned: that he'd asked her several times for answers with no result, that she never invited him to church, and consistently told him she was embarrassed to be dating a Muslim and was worried about her family's reaction. No. We just said we were missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and representatives of our Savior, and would she please mention to Gilang that we'd called? She didn't answer, saying instead that she was calling her Pastor about this, and hung up. Sister Atmi and I were a little more than devastated. You can tell when a contact's different. And this one was.

I prayed a lot that night. I prayed a lot that next morning, too. And then, just as I got up off my knees, the phone rang. At 6:15 in the morning. And yeah, Indonesians are early risers (outside of Indonesian missionaries, ahem), but that was weird. I picked it up not bothering to switch my brain into Indonesian quite yet, expecting it to be a trick of electricity of an overly efficient office Elder.

It was Gilang. And he was on his way. "I'm sorry," I said, "on your way to where?" "To the church!" he said. "You are going to teach me about Christ."

And so, an hour and fifteen minutes later (he was coming in from Cimahi, so we had at least time to shower and come up with more of a plan—Alhamdulillah), that is exactly what we did, though of course we didn't do much of anything at all—-when testifying of Christ, it is no mortal doing the teaching or the learning. We are just mouths, given words. We are but flesh and bones, to pump the blood that makes more tangible what we feel. And there we were, in the still-early morning light of our empty chapel, alight in the Spirit.

We started from the beginning, because as far as Jesus Christ goes for Gilang, it is only a name. I really had no idea how to approach such an awesome task but luckily (ha. is there luck in the Lord's work? I think not) my two companions also happen to be the only two sisters in the mission who were converted from a Muslim background, only a few years ago now. They know what it feels like to want to know. They remembered what they wanted to learn when they met with the missionaries. They taught with a power and conviction I had not before seen in their service. It was, on the missionary side of things, an incredible thing to be a part of.

But then there was Gilang, who honestly? Just made it easy. We had a bit of a tricky moment when it came to the Book of Mormon—-it is the book,  that will tell you more and bring you closer to Christ than any other literature on earth, and yet we hadn't taught the Restoration. I began an attempt at an overview, but Gilang nodded me into silence. "Yes, I remember. It is the Book from the pamphlet you gave me to read on the bus. I did not understand all of it, but I know you can explain it to me, and I know this Book is important, even if I don't know yet that it is true."

We watched Finding Faith in Christ together, and afterwards asked how he felt or what he wanted to ask. He launched into a sermon, quoting lines right out of the script and linking them to the emotions he was feeling. He was particularly struck by the words of Christ himself, scripture that promised an end to hunger in the Bread of Life and the end of thirst out of the Living Water. "It was just a movie," he said, shaking his head. "But my heart. . ."

When, after an hour and a bit more, it was time to leave and await our next appointment, I asked him where he was headed for the day. He held up the BoM. "Actually, I have a lot of studying to do."

Alright then.

I know I cannot jump to conclusions, I cannot set my heart on silver-lined success across a golden sunset to the end of this happy beginning. I have been here five months. I know better than that. But it sure has a way of lighting up my life these days. Here is someone wanting, here is someone willing. I guess there's some truth to Ultimate Happiness in missionary work, after all.

Will keep you posted. For now, my hour's up and my leg is dead asleep from sitting here on the floor so long. That's the other thing about Indonesia: they don't really believe in chairs, esp not at internet cafes. Oh well. Church is still true, and I love you.

selalu,
E

From Jakarta starting I fly like a bird,
Around and around to soar to sing the idea of all,
to the south betaking myself to sing there mountain songs,
to Bandung atill I absorb Bandung in myself, to Malang then . . .

A Note on Language.

Because it doesn't really fit in with the rest of my real email, so it will go here:

One of Indonesian's great ironies is that, as a language, it is built to be succinct and snappy—whole phrases fit in one verb (membonceng: to ride with someone else on a 2-wheeled vehicle), one adjective can cover an entire state of situation (ngeres: unpleasant or irritating sensation due to sand or dust), etc—but most often takes twice as long to say half as much when compared to the English. This is quite obvious when seen in familiar writings, i.e. scripture and hymns, where chapters take up extra pages and verses meanings are shortchanged due to music meter and Indonesian's syllabic space. But what really kills me is the jump to speaking the language, where more often than not the point of an entire conversation is lost due to absence of articles, the lack of "to be" in their verb dictionary, and the ambiguous 3rd person singular. Indonesians have to repeat themselves a lot* which, again, kind of defeats the whole purpose of shortening sentences and cutting out words in the first place. This can, of course, be frustrating, but has been good practice too, since I can focus on different ways to say one thing while they re-explain something I understood the first time through.

Still. I've always been a fan of evocatively precise explanation, so sometimes Indo hurts my soul.

Okay. Onward.

E

*Originally I suspected this was my own fault, that I just wasn't understanding because of my own language skills and so they were being helpful and saying it all over again. Nope.