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25 August 2010

Then Sings My Soul.

Helloooo, my dearest Fan-damily.

You know what you shouldn't name a warnet? Virus. Also, Snail. Not doing much for the PR there, Indonesia.

Anyway. It's been yet another week in Indonesia, and I have stories for you—but strangely little focus. So sorry if this comes out in ADD and if you don't mind, I'll just jump right in:

Last week we taught a referral named Mitin (not pronounced "Mitten." That's just how Elder Miller says it.), a referral we received from a former investigator almost a month ago but haven't ever been able to reach via the phone number that Mbak Mega gave us. She had introduced the referral by saying that she had an old high school friend who was interested in understanding Christianity after years of faith-hopping and maybe we could talk to her? Yes, please. But then no go. For weeks and weeks and weeks until Elder Miller started to hint that he didn't quite believe this so-called potential investigator existed.

But then we were desperate. Because our statistics are zero for zero for zero for zero and after having to hand Mas Kuncoro over to the Elders last week, things were really looking sad. Our proselyting efforts were flagging, our appointments were falling through, general levels of semangat [TranStar says: spirit, as in gusto, zeal] were at an all time low. So we just kept calling and calling and calling Mitin until, one day, she picked up. And that very afternoon we met her at her house, where we introduced ourselves and eased into the first two principles of lesson two—-the effects of Christ's Atonement and the necessity of having faith in Him. Mitin grew up Hindu, tried a few years of Buddhism, and her most recent driver's license declares her Muslim, so we took it slow. At the end of our little hour we went over the steps of prayer and invited her to church. It was a good lesson. We got a return appointment.

Which was yesterday, late evening, right smack dab in the middle of a major rainstorm. After our fair share of unfortunate events we arrived at her doorstep and hour late and soaked through—-only to discover that the entire neighborhood was in total blackout and her house was running on a generator, which meant that our previous plan of watching "Finding Faith in Christ" had just taken a somewhat fatal blow. We floundered for a second. Talked about the weather . . . um . . .I was just about to signal to Sumarno that we might as well forge on ahead with principle three when Mbak Mitin somewhat timidly asked if she might pose a question. Yes! Please! Anything, and we will answer it! She left the room for a minute and we were confused. Moreso when she returned with a Book of Mormon. "Could you tell me about this book?"

Sumarno only looked to me to indicate she'd take the first principle. I re-checked my resources to switch over to Lesson One: The Restoration. And so we taught. Really well. Far beyond any mortal ability, and with a clarity we very rarely accomplish even when teaching with the Spirit. Without any set plan beforehand our lesson somehow came together to focus specifically on the Priesthood, and every principle we taught we made sure to relate it back to God's Authority—-to the point where, when asked, Mbak Mitin rehearsed the definition perfectly. She was incredible to teach; honestly seeking truth and humbly joining in our conversation. I felt like it was one of the better lessons of my whole mission and that we'd finally reached something like the Real Deal (Although, tangent: as Marno explained the Great Apostasy, I had this sudden memory of Elders Bunker and Cowdery teaching the same story with an egg carton, candles, and uninvited moths on the floor of 80 Hill Street NZ and it was all I could do not to burst out laughing.). I testified about the Book of Mormon and re-emphasized Christ's divinity and when we'd finished and asked if Mback Mitin would like to say the closing prayer, she said yes. She prayed. The simplest, sweetest, purest little prayer. That was something she couldn't do last week. If nothing else, I felt the swelling joy of knowing that I had had such a blessed opportunity to teach a daughter of God communicate with her Father. And that would have been enough.

But then we're sitting about snacking on strange Javanese sweets, waiting for the rain to calm down, and I ask a question I should've asked right from the beginning. "Have you had a chance to read a bit from the Book of Mormon yet?" Her entire being lit up, her soul was illuminated. She picked up the blue book off the table and quite handily flipped open to Alma 49, a chapter she'd marked with a blue ribbon. "I finished this chapter just as you arrived," she explained—as Sumarno and I tried to connect just exactly what she was saying with the physical evidence she was currently displaying. "Um, s-s-sorry?" I stammered. "Do you mean you've just read that chapter, or . . . " Sumarno tried to finish my sentence. "As in, you began from the beginning and . . . " Mitin nodded, which still didn't answer either of our incomplete questions. Our perplexity must have showed. Mitin turned back to First Nephi and stuck her thumb up against verse one. "Yes. I've read from here . . . " now she was flipping back to the bookmark " . . . to here." I double-checked the page header. Alma 49. I tried to nod, but seemed incapable of even such a small movement. Mitin talked to fill our stunned silence. "But since I only borrowed the book, I couldn't ever underline all my favorite passages or mark the places I have questions, like I saw how Sister Rhondeau did in her Book. But now I have my own copy, so I'll just start all over from the beginning again! After I read 3 Nephi 11, of course."

I couldn't help it, the words were beyond my control. "Mbak Mitin!" I practically shouted. "You! You are a miracle!" She shook her head, shyly looking back down at the book she was now holding in clasped reverence. "No. I'm sorry, I don't understand very much but I'm trying to learn. I have to read the same things repeatedly before I start to get it," she said. Ohmyword Sister Sumarno looked ready to cry. We jumped all over that apology, telling her that was the very joy in scriptures: being able to read the same thing over and over and over again only to learn something new every time and you know what? Even the prophets still read the scriptures! Because there are prophets! Christ's Church has been restored and you can be a part of it! Really, we were maybe too excited.

And maybe you're thinking "But Sister Rhondeau, that happens all the time in the Ensign." Yes. Those are also the same stories after reading which SisLily and I have to console ourselves by deciding that they're only fantastical fairy tales reserved for such imaginary realms as "Brazil" or "The Philippines." Just reading a book in Indonesia would be out of the ordinary—and here was Mbak Mitin, reading the Book of Mormon. And after some further storytelling, turns out she's been reading it every chance she can get—at work, at home, during lunch, on the angkot. I . . . I . . . I . . . what?! This is the single most extraordinary event I have yet to encounter in my 14 months as a missionary. Period. End of.

So of course we have yet another return appointment, and she's coming to church on Sunday, and we just love her. I mean, we loved her before and always, but you know. We LOVE her. Also, we love God. Because this was all His. He just let us in on the miracle.

Riding the angkot home last night we contacted a bapak who was ninety years old. And he was on his way home from work! WORK. Still as spry and sharp as any college kid, except for a bum knee that was only the effect of a becak accident two years ago. My word.

Also, the thing I have meant to tell you for weeks now: the new triple combination translation is out and it is wonderful, fabulous, inspiring, blessed, and also . . . confusing. Because what with the new translation we missionaries have to switch some gears. The First Vision? Totally different. Had to re-memorize. D+C 4? Same deal, although Marno and I pride ourselves on managing to memorize it before the Elders. And, um, Atonement? No longer Kurban Tebusan. The new term's Pendamaian.

I am still wrapping my head around it, and also trying to figure out what we're supposed to do with all the has been given us since the new version is significantly superior and all the more powerful and yet we've been given the mandate to hand out all our old copies before we start with the new. Given the rate Indo-Jak hands out copies of the Book of Mormon? That could be a few more years. Kidding. But probably at least long past the point I've already come home.*

Oh well. There are much more pressing problems to weigh in, given that it is the end of the month, our electricity blew last Sunday, our house flooded last night, and we are officially broke. And don't even remind me that Lala has YET to send the video we need for tomorrow night's fireside with the branch. Eeh, walawala. Harus cari ilham apa lagi makanan [Must look for inspiration, let alone food!]! Aduuuuuhaduhaduh. Hey. Maybe we'll just for reals ikut the Ramadan fast. That solves the food finances, at least.

Okay. I'm over and out and off to Klayatan for some less-active lessons. I love you, I miss you, the Church is True.

Pray, He is there. Speak, He is listening.
Sister E.

*not-so-subtle pretty-please: all I want for Christmas is the leather-bound triple in Indonesian. Really. That's all. Okay. Love you.


18 August 2010

Dirgahayu Republik Indonesia!

Kelku,

I am going to tell you something you may already know: I am in Indonesia. Mostly I am well aware of this, but occasionally quite suddenly I will remember with all the energy of first opening my mission call ohmywordholycatsforrealz! I am in Indonesia and today was one such occasion. We may not teach much and our statistics look like warung during Ramadan, but boy I love Indonesia. I love that they barbecue corn here and then roll it through sweetened condensed milk. I love that they think the English for doormat is welcome. I love that there are two little boys unashamedly watching me type this email in the warnet and that dinner is only 40 cents or that sometimes you walk so far that the only way back is a horse-drawn buggy. Yesterday was this Tanah Air's independence day, and while we got a bit shortchanged on the festivities due to the Muslim Month, here's a huzzah for this Repulik: Dirgahayu, indeed.

Anyway. On to maybe more substantial somethings. President Groberg dropped in this weekend and, in a nod to Stephen L. Richards and his Pioneers, I'll tell you What He Brought—-though maybe I should start with what he didn't bring, and that would be my new companion. President called late Friday night to tell me that the earlier plan was no more; I guess some MTC dates got switched around, there were some—ahem—unexpected transfers in Jakarta, and financially it just didn't make sense to ship out Sister Soewiono all the way to Malang when pretty shortly here she needs to be off to Manila. This was . . . a relief? A disappointment? A bit of both, and ultimately Sister Sumarno and I were both just glad we hadn't quite gotten around to moving our mattresses around. Those things are wicked heavy and (being by nature floor-bound) kind of gross so turns out, my friends, procrastination pays! Not really. But significantly enough so that I tend to fall into that trap all-too comfortably.

So we're still tea for two here in Malang, Sister Sumarno stealing my hairbrush when I'm not looking and me taking her chocolate milk without asking. Life is normal and nuanced and other such nook-and-cranny things that would be too long to even attempt in the writing. So we'll focus to one day only, the day that President came, and what he brought with him.

He brought mail. Letters from both my sisters, each so entirely their own and then both completely us; I was inspired and moved and laughing ‘til it hurt. Three months' worth of notes from Noah; enough that I could piece together his sketches from Act I, Scene I all the way to Act III, Scene II. The wonderful weekly words from Grandma. He brought my duffel bag. Because I did something smart and last September, after arriving in Jakarta and realizing I actually only needed about 1/3 of the amount of clothes I had brought with me, saved all my most favorite pieces in a special suitcase at Senopati. So now I can slip on my Sundance skirt and feel pretty again. Wear my ruffle-collared tees and pretend like I'm going someplace fancy. Finally throw out my faded, pilly, stretched-to-no-sense-of-form pajama shirt and replace it with the new. Yes. I was so, so smart. Glad I at least have that success to look back on.

So President brought his fair share of material happiness, but what I really want to talk about here is how he also managed to bring me a completely new horizon with a happy sunrise, too. Because for starters, he brought Sister Groberg. And then sent us off on splits.

By the time they arrived in Malang we actually only had one last appointment to go to, but it was the right one to show off in such a short time. We were headed out to Pak Jon's when the Grobergs arrived and it only took about five seconds for Sister Groberg to wave off President and jump in the angkot behind us. Inside, we found a Catholic family from Surabaya who wanted to know more plus an exchange student from Quebec who just wanted to speak English, so our 40 minute ride out to the village was an unexpected and extraordinary display of missionary work (it never goes that easy. never.) Once at the end of the line we had to walk another half hour, uphill, to get to Pak Jon's, which Sister Groberg took in good humor and long strides that had even me skipping a bit to catch up. Pak Jon met us at the door and with questions so we immediately got right down to the lesson (another mini-miracle, given Indonesian meet-and-greet traditions) which ended up being one of those Lessons, the Lesson that you remember not just enough to write it all down detailed-like in your journal, but the Lesson you remember long after that night, that week, that transfer, or those 18 months. We taught about the Spirit, with the Spirit. Afterwards Sister Sumarno whispered to me somewhat conspiratorially "I feel like we just lied to Sister Groberg—-we're never that smart!" Yes. We'll take Gifts of the Spirit for 500, please. Pak Jon was his usual studious, thoughtful self and, though he didn't end up coming to church the next morning, seems to be grasping more and more the things we are trying to share with him. His wife was particularly eager to listen that afternoon, and Sister Groberg bore a simple but powerful testimony (oh yeah, she speaks Indonesian. Much like any one-month-old American in Jakarta would speak Indonesian, but Indonesian nonetheless.) about how the Gospel blesses families and for one of the very rare moments my entire mission I was very much overwhelmed to Mosiah 28:3 proportions. Walking back down the mountain that night I felt a promise fulfilled: that I would find a happiness beyond anything I've ever known in this work of the Lord. I felt Isaiah 52:7 personified.

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings,
that publisheth peace;
that bringeth good tidings of good,
that publisheth salvation;
that saith unto Zion, Thy God Reigneth!


Tangent: I think what I am working on learning is that such a promise means I won't feel such joy all the time. Mostly, if I'm deadbeatdownright honest, mission is just hard. If not occasionally miserable. But that happiness is there and makes up for all the rest of it and Saturday wrote off all of the previous week's doldrums fast.

So we are walking/flying down the mountain, and to top off the joy of all Joy Sister Groberg is not only a gifted talker and a fast walker but the Queen of Compliments, too—and you know how I love words. I will say that her acclamations were exceedingly generous and altogether far too good, but it helps to hear Hope out loud sometimes. Plus once down the hill we met up with the Elders + President at Pres. Iwan's for dinner, where Sister Groberg gave the good report. And President actually asked us how the appointment went, who the investigator was, what we'd like to do next in order to better prepare him to accept the Gospel. They just . . . care so much. They bring with them a sense of security in this service, that mission is, in fact, possible, and that they are here not only to hear and help and hope but to work alongside us, too. President brought with him this weekend his usual careful wisdom and thoughtful counsel and it gave me a much-needed boost in the Keep Calm and Carry On category. I like President because he gets it. He understands what we're experiencing because he gets out there and experiences it, too. . . . [He said,] "I used to think that the Church here is a drop in the bucket. Then I got here and realized that we are 1/100th of that one drop in the bucket. We've done good work here these past 40 years, but we're still in the beginning stages. The best possible thing you could do right now is do all you can to leave a good impression of who you are and who you represent. That is how we'll move forward. If you feel the Spirit and love the people, you have had a successful mission." Hallelujah, amen.

The Elders just came searching for us in the warnet because we need to get going on a special District Meeting to address our upcoming fireside activities. I am at this moment very grateful Dad mentioned to me the necessity for patience and understanding when called to act under orders from nineteen-year-old boys. He is a wise, wise man. So okay over and out I love you all, miss you all, pray for you all and goodness gracious Daniel is safe (I will tell you a story about that from my side of things some other time)—pray always! The church is true.

maju terus,

E.

11 August 2010

Lahir Bathin.

Keluarga,

Mohon Maaf dan Lahir Bathin! This year's Fast is now officially 9 hours underway and while I myself am currently contentedly full after a leftovers lunch of nasi kuning and the requisite cup of coconut gel, most of Malang's Muslim world has closed up shop. The roads are still plenty full of the usual traffic-sans-regulation havoc, but the streetsides are uncharacteristically empty; warung folded down to bare bamboo trappings and full-on restaurants boarded up against the noonday sun. It is strange, but also familiar; I arrived in Indonesia almost a year ago smack dab in the middle of Ramadan and so to me it has the feel of returning to something and that is something my sentimental soul can appreciate. I have also decided to take the second half of that opening salutation to heart and join with my Muslim brethren in making a concerted effort for lahir bathin this month—a spiritual rebirth. These last few weeks haven't been anything too fatal, but I can't deny a distinct flagging of the spirit this last little while that was only compounded by Mas Kuncoro not showing up at church on Sunday. I think of home too much and rely on the future far too often. I dwell on the past, fingering each failure and filing alphabetically mistakes and missed opportunities. I feel like I could have been better, could be better, should be better—-I need a jump start, and fast. So let's see what a little extra scripture study can do, plus some Ramadan re-dedication.

Enough about that. I'm sorry. Indonesia itself is still seru! and four months more of this kind of scenery can't kill me. In the Department of Travel way of things, I have found a new favorite form of transportation, and that would be: military convoy. Because when your whole branch wants to trip it out to Balekambang, that's the only way to go and after yesterday's there and back again I am a full-fledged fan. Sure, it's a bit bumpy and you can't count on any amenities beyond Martoyo's makeshift snack services (eeeewww vienna sausage no thank you) but you just cannot beat those views. I got a prime spot on the last inches of the back bench and enjoyed three full hours of sightseeing all to myself (esp. since sometimes branch activities just really mean everyone speaks to each other in Javanese so I am exempt from being social anyway).

Upon arriving, Oma Irawadi threw her hands to the air and announced “I am a child of the sea!” Which she then promptly proved by leaping (I use this word appropriately, even if she is 78 years old) out across the sand and headfirst into the waves. Later, as the two of us climbed out to the Amertha Jati temple together, she recited and recalled her various and venerable adventures as a scalawag seventeen year old living along the coasts of southern Sulawesi. I am almost entirely sure Oma Irawadi is the happiest person I have ever met.

All afternoon we missionaries led a discussion/lesson/activity on member missionary work, hoping to get somebody somewhere in here excited about inviting their friends to church because if we don't get some inside help real quick here we're just treading water—something we've been doing so long now that drowning's only a matter of time. I've been talking a lot with Pres Iwan lately and we're really going to try to get this branch up and going again; we have a few firesides in the works and tomorrow night we're

And . . . this email* just went out the window with my HP ringing and President's name on the screen. He's coming this weekend—something we already knew since Sister Groberg spilled that secret in a text yesterday afternoon (tangent: one of the many things I love about Sister Groberg is that the very first week she was here she went out and bought herself a cell phone, “khusus sisters.” It's our very own little land line to sanity whenever we need her.)—but this call today was to tell me that he'd be bringing presents, too. Khusus untuk saya. Namely, a new name. A new face. A new companion. My trainee.

Actually with Lala in the office this is something I've been steeling myself for a while now; there's only one new sister coming in the rest of the year and word on the street was I'd be her trainer. So really, I should be ready for this, right? No. This is the exactly absolutely last moment I feel capable of teaching anybody else how to be a missionary . . . which I guess is why I've been called to do it. I've juggled enough curve balls this past year to know that's usually the way the Lord works and so I'm ready and willing to accept the assignment—but just because I'm used to change doesn't mean I like it. There's also that minor detail of my greenie never having been to the MTC so . . . square one, anybody?

Though President's call came with a disclaimer: this could, potentially, not happen. It was just his initial feeling and decision so he called me to see how I'd feel about it too and after some back and forth it looks like a go but we won't know for sure until Friday night. Thank goodness for a few deep breaths. I will also still have Sumarno here with me for a while longer, so I am grateful for that. Am also grateful for SisLily being online at the exact same moment I logged in, and for an email from Ren to make me feel loved. I like my friends. And I really like my family. Hope all's well at home; I missed hearing the Yale Daily News this week, but hope President will bring glad tidings of good joy with my post on Saturday. Be blessed and be a blessing.

Selalu,
Sister E.

*we'll just have to pretend I already told you about speaking in Sacrament on Sunday and teaching Sis Lili on Saturday and riding an empty military truck back into Malang as the sun set. And wasn't it just such a good story?

04 August 2010

Tour de Desa.

Wednesday, the 4th of August 2010 and my turn to choose the P-Day play. So yesterday it was to the bike shop to get our cycles serviced and then early this morning we took to the hills, in search of sawah (rice fields) perfection. Which isn't all that too hard to find, Indonesia-speaking, but what we came home with today goes above and beyond the mark.

First, there was the ride out. Out past the city streets and into two hours of mountain climbing, passing houses and homes and markets and mosques until pretty soon there wasn't anything to pass anymore but wide, open spaces. I kept most of the Phil Liggett commentary to myself, but just couldn't quite keep it in once we hit L'Alpe d'Tumpang and Miller was playing the perfect draft to Martoyo's climb. Something maybe they didn't appreciate? It was rough and it was ruthless, but right past the summit we knew it had been worth it—this was it. This was sawah at its most spectacular.


So we took a sharp left and down into the dirt, balancing our two-wheels along the foot paths between the padi until we hit a sound patch of good ground and then left our bikes locked up against a bamboo bay for further exploring. The boys had already pulled out the kites (the favorite of any village kid, twenty cents at your local warung) and Marno and I set to trekking, picking our way out past the palms and chatting with the farmers along the way. And then, suddenly, what ho? Who's this? Mas Sumariono?

A former investigator I hadn't seen in the last three months, way back when Clancy and Miller had to stop visiting him since he wasn't progressing much and his house was far too far away to justify the weekly ride. But then here he was now, knee-deep in a newly-sown sawah and more than happy to see us. He remembered my name and asked after the Elders and when we told him they were just around the corner and a little bit to the East, he jumped right up to join us—and within the hour had become our de facto tour guide extraordinaire. Because isn't God funny like that sometimes?

With Sumariono at our side we saw a whole new side of sawah we could have never managed on our lonesome; we hiked ravines and crossed rivers and drank coconut milk fresh off the palm tree and chewed on sugar cane right out of the field. We discovered a natural mountain-water swimming pool resort long overgrown from years of disuse and abuse, hitch-hiked in the back of a cow truck, and sat pretty atop an age-old Hindu temple with panoramic views out to the mountains beyond. Spectacular much? We were on top of the world.


And also two hours from home with only one hour to get back there. But here's the happy thing about going up a mountain: heading home is all downhill. And so head home we did, our flying shadows long across the open fields, Elder Martoyo in time-trial mode as he crouched low along the long runs and off into the sunset. E voila! One hour and fifteen minutes later we were back within city limits and with a quick shower out on the streets again. In the kind of rush that leaves you wondering wait—did that just happen?

Though I'm sure we'll have no doubt of the reality come tomorrow morning—all said we did a good fifty miles today, and I can already feel my upper thighs protesting. Ya, sudahlah. Would do it all over again.

love you lots—

E.

*We took this photo with the intent of showing off our rehydration techniques a la coconut milk, but missed the actual coconuts. Oh well. My hat's still cool. I stole it from Mas Sumariono after he asked me to hold it while he climbed the palm tree to retrieve said coconuts with his handy-dandy hand machete.