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.