28 July 2010


The quicklist: I talked to American-boy-physiotherapy-kid yesterday and came off the conqueror. Sister B's back, but in Bandung; President Groberg's Miracle No. 39139 in only one month's time at the head of this mission. Man, that guy's good. This Sunday I heard one of the better (maybe best) sermons of the year—at a Lutheran church. And turns out Pak Ferdi has a legit badminton court in his house. Where we (Marno, Me, Elders, Pak Ferdi) played match after match all this morning. Afraid I took far too much pleasure in making them sing the Star Spangled Banner after my every victory*.

So, from the top down:

Joseph was back in our Bhakti Luhur classroom but this time I had the high ground. Knowing I would be speaking in English before the fact made all the difference, and not only did we hit it off and teach an A+ of a lesson together but I took the chance to share the gospel, too. Ha, take that, last Tuesday! We actually ended up having a really good conversation in between the two-hour teaching block, and while I didn't have an English BoM to send him off with, I do keep English pass-alongs in my pack so here's to hoping www.mormon.org can get him going in the right direction. And maybe most bestly of all? He asked questions. Logical, direct questions. At first it really threw me off but once I got back into the rhythm of my country's conversational style it was exhilarating. Bless the boy. Only 17 and carrying on a conversation. Remarkable.

Sister B's return happened just this week, when President reminded her that she at least needed to meet with him once more since he's the only one who can officially release her, anyway—and I guess somewhere in between that morning's flight to Jakarta and the afternoon interview, he convinced her to return. We out here in East Java were all rejoicing—but then laughing to tears seeing only the night before we'd acted on strict orders from B. herself to relegate all her left-behind belongings to Bhakti Luhur. As in her entire missionary wardrobe, including shoes. Um . . . whoops. On the bright side, she did get reassigned to Bandung—Indonesia's Shopping Capital!—and what a better way to get back underway than a little retail rehab?

As for the sermon, that would be Sunday, 5:00 p.m. at GKI Bromo—the Lutheran congregation that Pak Ferdi attends. We're still not seeing eye-to-eye on the whole Plan of Salvation thing, so when he asked us to come and see where he's coming from after Sunday's Sacrament Meeting we called to clear it with Pres and then met Pak Ferdi later that night. The preacher/pastor/pendeta/I don't know what anyone's called anymore was a woman in her late forties, a slim, classy, intelligent-looking lady who also had a very grounded sense of reverence about her. We were greeted at the door by her colleagues, serenaded by a youth chorale group until the chapel had filled to capacity, and then were edified by an hour's worth of scripture and study straight out of Christ's Sermon on the Mount. Aside from just being really grateful I could understand everything, I was also very impressed with the content, delivery, and spirit I felt there.

Lately I've been thinking about redemption or, rather, the verb to redeem. I know dad does this a lot, too, so it's not anything particularly new but it does take on a different depth when one starts to make it their own. Mostly I've just been musing on definitions, the power of a prefix, the idea behind the etymology . . . honestly I don't think I could, at this point, communicate any clear sort of conclusion at all but I will say that I am grateful for a gospel so simply complex and deeply definite. I am grateful that there is a difference between being forgiven, and being redeemed, and grateful for the Book of Mormon which leads me line upon line to better understand and internalize that difference.

Also along this line of pondering I have come to realize that my thinking is very language-driven which I think is one of the reasons I still find it hard to express my innermost feelings in Indonesian. A lot of the connections I make are linked by the English definitions, synonyms, and idioms behind them—conditions that have little or entirely zero value when making the crossover to Indonesian. Like, above? What does the idea of redemption mean when you contrast it with such daily phrases like to redeem oneself (i.e. Sister E actually talking to Joseph this week), or to have at least one redeeming quality (as in thank goodness Relief Society at least taught out of the Ensign this week), or newspaper-praise of a redemptive story (B. being one). There's a lot to be said for a native tongue, and while Indonesia's got its plus-points, too (here, for redeem, we use the verb for "to pay ransom for the release of a captive") I'm afraid my heart's already taken.

Oh dear. At this point I'm just rambling, aren't I? Ya, sudahlah. To sum it all up: I can speak English! And I also really rather adore the language, too. Badminton's top-notch, props to B. for an honorable return, and hurrah for Israel! The church is true. I love you.

Next week from August,

Sister E.

*lest you think my pride past propriety, this actually only happened maybe at most three times, and certainly not after Pak Ferdi called his Manado friends over to play and, oh yeah, MALANG'S CITY BADMINTON CHAMPION. She was fierce. She was intense. She was ah-may-zing. When I grow up I want to be her.

21 July 2010

Dear Family,

Well, Sister Lily's gone—President had promised her a ticket out of here within the week, and on Saturday morning Silalahi called with her transfer to Jakarta. She left this morning, Happy Birthday to Her. For the record, I tried to make it a bit more exciting than a trip to the Big Durian, but she herself admitted her odd-year birthdays are never the best so it was all a little half-hearted anyway. Plus my poster could never accomplish the wit of dad's work. Even if I did manage to snag a pic of Justin Bieber (I love you Lily, Lily, Lily—oh! My Lily, Lily, Lily, oh!).

We went out to the airport together. An airport the size of 1912 Yale, painted bright blue amongst the rice fields. It was peaceful there, like England. We all talked for a long while, the noontime flight notoriously late as usual, and listened to the birds and the silence. You don't hear silence very often, not in a city on Java. It was pleasant. It was poignant. It somehow felt much more significant than it actually was. Then SisLily got on a plane and we got into a taxi.

Just the two of us.

I've never been anywhere just two sisters; up until this point in this mission this situation has not existed. That big white house all to ourselves. This big wide city our assignment.

We didn't have much time to ponder that; our taxi driver was chatty and knew where Salt Lake City was, which led to an amusing hour's conversation on everything from German study to rice harvests. He took us the long way home (since from the airport every taxi's fixed price so it doesn't matter anyway) and out through the more rural outskirts of Indonesia, my favorite Indonesia. I was rapid-fire questions the entire drive through—-what is this area called? what is that school? why are they wearing that kind of uniform? what is that man carrying? what is that woman selling? are those water buffalo supposed to be in the middle of the road?—and then took careful note of four-way stops and dead-end turns so that when/if we all ever end up in Malang, I can take you there.

I think I had deep thoughts, but I'm running on empty here. A few scattered thoughts left over from the remains of my week:

In Sacrament on Sunday Oma Irawadi discovered I can sing alto and has therefore petitioned Pres Dwi to add us as a duet musical number next month. This is as scary as it sounds, and also hilarious. I'm going right along with it because why not? And also, anything for Oma.

Met with Mas Kun this afternoon and set an absolutely, positively sure date for his baptism, confirmed by Pres Dwi. August 8th. Just as soon as his sister goes back to Belgium—she's making earthquakes of epic proportions in her family, but props to Mas Kun. He's staying strong and standing up to them in testimony, keeping his commitments and moving forward no matter what. Today's appointment was particularly joyful; nothing spectacularly extraordinary but the plain, solid gospel truths which are the Extraordinary within themselves, and that felt strong and right and good. I am very glad to be a part of all this; of Mas Kuncoro, of this mission, of this Church.

Yesterday at Bhakti Luhur they had a visiting high school senior working on their physiotherapy staff who wanted to come help out with English class, too. SisLily and I were rendered incapable. Not because he was even remotely handsome, or even just a boy of the American species, but that he was American and English speaking. I felt (and we later compared notes, which turned out to be exactly the same) like a mute, unable to communicate any sort of rational small talk because, apparently, that space of my brain has been completely commandeered by the Indonesia version of conversation. Everything I said (which I think is normal, I think) sounded hideously formal, pathetically pretend, like I was play-acting a melodrama in preschool. Or an alien parading as mankind in pre-programmed English. It's just so much easier to say things in Indonesian. Forget "What are you doing here in Malang?"—ask "Di Malang ngapain?" Don't bother with "Where do you go to school?"—try "Sekolah mana?" Oh, it was a terrifying foray into my future; if I am that awkward now, what's going to stop me from being that awkward then? I am never getting married. Much less making any friends. Am apologizing now for the day I move back into your basement and only come out in the midnight hours to avoid any sort of humiliation on the social scene.

Kidding. But really. It was pathetic.

Monday morning we helped an inactive member clear a garden space in her backyard. That sounded like a fun little morning project when SisLily first suggested it, but upon arrival and actually seeing said plot we were quickly reduced to despairing laughter in between fitful gasps of the Arabic "mustahil!" Which means impossible, out of the question—because that is what it was. My back is still sore from the manual labor, but on the plus side my arms are now a healthy tan and there's even some color on my legs. Also we got to spend the entire day with Sister Lili and her twins, which was wonderful.

I can't wait to see you in December. To see you here, and to see you there.

I miss you, but I love you more.

always. selalu.

14 July 2010

A Surabaya Synopsis.

Dear Family,

The thing I love about time and travel is that all you do is board a bus or catch a train or flag down an angkot and then, in the space of only a few hours, you are There. Somewhere, anywhere, no longer Here but suddenly and entirely Elsewhere with a whole handful of new streets and scenes and stories to handle. What a wonderful world, you know? The adventure of simply moving a few miles and into something new, the never-ending hope of knowing that This does not always have to be the Only Thing You Know.

The thing I don't like about time and travel is that sometimes you end up in Surabaya.

Which is East Java's answer to Jakarta, and it's not pretty. The concrete alone could kill me; just miles and miles of crumbling office buildings and rusted apartment complexes, riverbank walls and city sidewalks. People, everywhere and poor. Barefoot and broken like the streets they sleep on. Closer to the equator, closer to the sun. The way you swear you can hear your shoes sizzling, melting in the pavement. Arriving at your usual Novotel only to find out that Mas A forgot to make the reservation from the office—-and this place is full-up for the night. Realizing that not only do you have to go back out into the fray, but that you have to go back out searching for a place to sleep in a city you don't know beyond one LDS meetinghouse and the French patisserie just down the street. Remembering that you don't really like traffic at all. And that coarse and crude curbside men don't help much, either.

Things I like about Surabaya: Meeting Sister Bajodo's aunt, who fed us first-class tempe and kripik from her tree-lined home in the "Singapore of Surabaya" before treating us to an afternoon at the Indo-famous Surabaya Zoo which certainly won't be earning any PETA awards any time soon but was nothing short of magical. Buying peanuts by the kilo in the parking lot; being welcomed by monkeys swinging and screaming from the trees above us; stepping into an unregulated and untamed Tarzan's jungle just inside the chained entrance. Feeding peanuts to free-flight parrots, a strangely-billed bird that hopped hazardously like a throwback from the dinosaur age. Watching giant sea turtles slip silently across an open pond, learning how they breathe and what they eat and how they move by long minutes of personal observation. Tossing peanuts into black bears' open mouths. Seeing monkey babies copy-cat their monkey mothers, wee deer learning to frolic and leap, the occasional street cat sitting just as nobly beside the cage of her jungle cousins. It was an afternoon of drop-jaw delight and endless exclamation—-I've never seen animals so active and alive in captivity. Even the guinea pigs were up and doing, trotting about their jungle enclosure to tease the iguanas in the next cage over. SisLily and I were very impressed. Finding a new hotel just a few streets over and even slightly cheaper. An eighth floor view from a mod-white room in the Santika. AC and hot water. Down pillows and a comforter. Taking a power nap as the sun set over the city. Arriving at the chapel to find all 8 Surabaya Elders in a semi-circle talk session around Sister Groberg, who is testing out the Indonesian she's learned in the six months since she got her call and then the last two weeks she's been official Mission Mum to us Indo-Jak kids. Talking to Sister Groberg myself, about families and friends and the mission and the country and the food and the people and the places and the history and the everything else ever in between because my word she's a talker, and I was grateful for it. Watching as the elders went in one-by-one to be interviewed by our new president. Seeing them come back smiling. Being called in to meet the man himself. Even though my stomach was turning like a tall ship under deep-sea storms.

President Groberg. I should probably write an ode here, if not the entirety of an Homeric epic. He's humble and soft-spoken, the very picture of pediatrician in his rimless glasses and concerned eyes. He's on top of not only this entire mission, but my own personal story. He came to our interview with a list of questions prepared for me. He opened that interview with a prayer. He prayed for me. He listened to me. He spoke to me. He makes you want to be a better missionary—-and then provides the training to get you there. He teaches. He shares. He challenges you and then corrects you and then challenges you again.

PLD, too, was stellar. It was solid. It was real. Even though I was called to speak again (four times and counting) and then asked to represent the missionary part to our training role play (teaching the Atonement, no less). Even that was okay. But best of all was President's training itself: a full hour of direct advice and teaching and application, followed by a group activity and personal examples to strengthen the specifics he'd just added to our Mission's mission.

The quick notes from the rest of my week:

We taught Ferdi again last Thursday, he called me Sunday morning to ask if he should wear blue or black slacks, and then showed up at church looking like any other member all over the world. "No," Sister Lily corrected me, "He looked like a leader of the members." And it was true. He'd even gone out to buy a tie for the occasion. In other miracles, Sacrament Meeting was stellar, even after a panicked moment of wide-eyed terror shared across the pews from Rhondeau to Liljenquist when Oma Irawadi was announced as the next speaker. Even the Asas-Asas Injil lesson on Eternal Marriage went like gangbusters, and as Pak Ferdi stood with Pres Tatik in the branch library perusing pictures of temples from all the world he just kept saying how he was "very, very interested. I will be back next week and all the weeks after."

Mas K, however, won't be getting baptized this week. Which is sad but a little bit expected since his family's been hard so I guess we'll just keep hacking at it and hope we'll get there eventually. The Rifais are doing well and tonight we're off to Oma Irawadi's to teach her non-member son. I'm happy, too, though SisLily's time is limited and she'll be off to Bandung by next week at the earliest. It's about time, I guess (she's been here nine months—-all the Elders kept on teasing her, asking when the baby's due, what she's going to name it, etc. Yeah. They're just hilaaarious) but it still feels sad so we're concentrating on just enjoying our last few rounds of badminton and reveling in the joy that has now been (almost exactly) half of our 18 months of mission together. Yes. It's a wonderful world, and a lucky one too.

The Church is true. I love you all and for always.

Sister E.

07 July 2010

Beginilah Indonesiaku.


I think the rainy season might be over. There have been some thunder warnings that come up on us all sneaky-like, but so far that's just a grumbly-rumbling from the mountaintops with no follow-through, so I'm going to call it here and now: we are officially into our Indonesian summer. And I like it.

The mornings, anyway. It starts out all lazy-slow and slightly chill, like overcast mornings on T-Street /San Clemente except that we don't wake up to USA Today and a box of donuts but that's okay because with all the doors wide open and the sun starting to rise it's quite pleasant on its own. By evening we've cooled down, too; the palm trees along the railroad lit in a turquoise sunset with the slightest hint of a coastal breeze. Last night, while waiting for an appointment at the Church, SisLily and I sat along the parking lot curb and it almost felt like home. But then there's the afternoon. When the sun is out and you are, too: walking, walking, walking terus and that at-least-okay hair you managed to pull up into a ponytail is suddenly not so fashionable and your bangs are curling around your cheekbones and your shirt is more soaked-through than haute-chic and goodness gracious can we get an es jeruk? For a long time now I've been thinking what's all this fuss about equator living? August in Utah's got more sun-muscle than I've ever felt! And then, this. Oh, this.

I guess that's what P-Days are for. Because on P-Days, you can go out into the foggy morning for your fun, walking pleasantly through the leafy Alun-Alun, pushing through Pasar Besar, fingering batik, sharing es coklat when noon's coming around the corner. And then, then you go home. You go home to your cool, quiet house and switch out your skirt for some shorts, flicking the fan onto top speed as you toss off your shoes and collapse next to SisLily on her mattress, and you laugh and laugh and laugh because you are wearing matching pajama shorts, and they are made of Indonesian school uniform fabric, and wouldn't Olivia just be mortified? Because maybe no one else in the whole wide world would really ever recognize the cleverness of us, and maybe, actually, they are ugly. Except they can't be, no. They are far too cool to be ugly. Keren banget. Also, why has it taken us an entire year of friendship to realize we should take a badminton class at BYU next semester? And we lie there and laugh there and let the hottest and highest part of the day pass us by because we can! And it is wonderful! And we are happy.

Or at least that's what we did today. Between all the funerals. Because when you're following the Javanese calendar, as I've mentioned, there's not just one celebration of a passing life. So today, early morning, we began at Sister Hamid's for an actual funeral. This afternoon, we were out at Sister Yuni's for a 100 day. Then just now, we came from Sister Hamid's yet again, since coincidentally she passed away while visiting friends in Solo so her first funeral also coincided with the three-day commemoration. On Sunday we'll go back for her seven-day. It is all very exhausting, but also fascinating, while at the same time being a lovely way to spend a few hours with my favorite of the Indonesian people—-the members. Thank goodness for their goodness. Because sometimes just sitting cross-legged in the corner of a lime-green room on a bamboo mat with 8-year-old Bianca curled up into my lap, drawing pictures across my email notes is actually the definition of happiness.

Though my personal dictionary is being logged full of that word these days—-it's been a good week. I'll send a few pictures in a minute to fill you in on it all (Happy One Year! Sparklers! Fourth of July! Oma Irawadi!), but to close up this email here's a quick scan of the week's lessons and investigators so that we all remember that also, actually and oh, yes: I am a missionary.

Kel. Rifai: Mum, dad, four girls from 21 to 10 years old. Live out in Sukon, where we help them string badminton rackets and then learn about the gospel. They are a happy, humble family and it has been a really good experience to learn with them; this week it was the Plan of Salvation.

Mas Kuncoro: Has a baptismal date! July 18th, if all goes to plan and his mum doesn't shut it all down last minute. Monday we taught eternal marriage with him and Sister Maria (aaaww!) plus had a long, lovely chat with his older sister who was in town visiting from Antwerp. Goodness, she was a laugh. And hey, if we're ever in Belgium next year, her door is open.

Pak Bobby: a former investigator returned! A hysterical blend of Belanda/Manado who likes to throw in some English for good measure, too. Plus, he really likes introducing us to all of his friends, like

Pak Ferdi: a middle-aged Lutheran from Manado currently earning his PhD at Brawijaya University here in Malang. We only just barely met him/taught him for the very first time yesterday (completely unplanned, too—-Bobby was walking us out to the angkot and randomly ushered us into a neighbor-house with a "Ayo you mengajar prayer di house sini" and then suddenly there we were, eating salak at a courtyard table and telling the Joseph Smith story. Mission is such a ride. But anyway, Pak Ferdi wasn’t (for some reason my apostrophe key has stopped working, so bear with me here on out) entirely receptive but nowhere near rejecting us, either, and we have a return appointment for tomorrow afternoon, the interim of which I will spend madly studying to be ready for whatever he throws at us next. I think I was able to hold my ground through the entire Trinity talk yesterday but wahduh this guy knows his Bible and I’ve got to keep up. He’s by far the most educated of persons I’ve ever taught here in Indonesia, and the difference is remarkable—-and a real stretch for me as a missionary, since I haven’t been used to this sort of speed for almost a whole year now. But it will be good, and we’ve at least got one guarantee: this guy will read the Book of Mormon. Which is a far leap from any other investigator we’ve ever worked with.

So that’s the line-up and this is the end; I have a few minutes more here but am going to write some individual emails in lieu of this weeks questions and epics from home, so family-wise this is over and out! I love you.


Sister E.