27 October 2010

Green Letter.

Dear Family,

I have fifteen minutes to write you and I am sorry but I got sidetracked by sister emails and my weekly report to President and also finding carvable pumpkins in Malang takes a lot more adventuring than one would think. Also more money. But at this point we were desperate so biarin.

A few things: President sent Sisters Lie and Langi to join us and so I have now learned a valuable lesson in the consecration of companionships . . . Sister Nababan and I are readjusting. Mostly it is just very loud. Before we were very quiet.

Sister Langi is a Salt Laker of Tongan descent and Highland High grad of 2006 (shout out to Jordan Hill), We have a lot of friends in common and she is all aspects of wonderful Polynesian. Yesterday at Bhakti Luhur she taught a slap-dance-rhythm sort of game and the look on their faces was I'm sure identical to mine: she is so cool. Throw in the Disney princess eyes and corkscrew hair and it's pretty legitimate envy.

Elder Marijanto leaves for the MTC this Friday morning, right before the Halloween party. We're crossing our fingers that President will send him right back to Malang after his three-week sojourn in Manila. We like him.

We had a few good lessons, two truly great lessons, and one downright awful lesson this week. No time for details, but the good outweighed the bad and we're still semangat so nggak apa-apa ya? We'll make it, and I'll make it, and then you'll make it all the way over here and that will Make My Day.

I'm throwing in my email to President this week just so you can get some idea of what we've been up to and then I've got to peace out (or, as Sis Langi would say, damai luar . . . which is just as wrong as our di luar biru from MTC days):

One remarkable lesson this week was with the P__ family, who have been investigating for ages now and making progress in only the babiest steps—-but progress nonetheless. Their oldest son, Jordan, was baptized last April, and right now we're focusing on his sister Anjelin who would like to be baptized but is worried about setting a date and having a hard time interacting with the Young Women here in the Malang Branch. We are trying to understand more of her concerns but she is shy and very closed (especially when her dad is around) so as of right now we're not sure of our next step. For now we are just being a friend and a help where we can, and grateful that Jordan's always there to step in when we need him, too. This last Friday we reiterated to them our purpose as missionaries and explained in force and in depth our desire for them to turn their faith into action and be baptized. I broke it down into yes or no questions so we could get to the point (Pak P likes to cerita, so while we are aware of the need to understand feelings this was necessary for clarity) and when he said "no" to "Do you want to be baptized?" I didn't even have a second's time to answer before Jordan stepped in with verses 32-34 of Alma 34. He had his dad read the first verse, Anjelin read the second, and he himself follow up with the last, which he then transitioned into his own explanation of what these scriptures meant and his testimony of baptism and how he wants to see his whole family follow Christ, too.

We were, to say the least, dumbfounded. Jordan's not just a missionary-in-the-making, he was THE missionary that night. It was incredibly soul-filling to witness and a truly humbling moment for me as I have seen him grow these last seven months in Malang. Pak Pur didn't exactly change his mind right then and there, but I know he was moved by this witness from his son and oldest child. [Jordan's been going out a lot with Meek and Marijanto lately so we called them right away with the news of their efforts and example]

Sister Nababan and I are getting better at contacting and have moved our weekly goal up to two people per angkot. Still failing occasionally, but definitely better than the last week, so we're counting our blessings. She is such a humble and dedicated person and I feel blessed to be serving and learning with her. This past month with her has taught me more than I feel I've learned my entire mission. She has great potential and is helping me to reach my own potential, too. I love her.

We continue to do most of our teaching in less-active situations, which is showing some real results in their return. It's so exciting to see these members choose to return and be welcomed back so whole-heartedly. We're working hard to get the Effendi family back and learning to love them all the more in the process. It is the greatest blessing of my mission to be given the privilege to feel God's love for His children through our service here.

I'm sorry but this is over and out I love you I miss you Oh yeah mum the Halloween packages came yesterday thankyouthankyouthankyou hearts and happiness,

Sister E.

20 October 2010

La De Da.

Dear You, All of You:

Last Thursday for our English class at the church I taught family vocabulary using family photos taped up to the board in a sort of visual family tree—which was pretty and happy and maybe made me slightly homesick, but also incomplete because our family stops at us four unmarried children. No room for in-laws or grands, right? Right. Not helping with the learning, then. But with a little help from a seventy-cent teen tabloid and my handy-dandy pocket scissors, voila! Naomi was married to Justin Bieber. I had Selena Gomez for a sister-in-law and Joe Jonas as my fiancé! It was the very height of Hollywood magic which the kids loved to no end, and actually believed. Believed! For a split-second of wide-eyed hilarity. They only stopped the jaw-drop when I taped Joe's face next to mine. Only then was it a yeah right, Sister Rhondeau. (Slightly demoralizing. My sister can marry Justin Bieber but no way josé is Joe my beau? Do you think we're sad, Georgia?)

On Sunday we woke up early to walk down into Boldy Bawah with a wee-sized cake for a wee-sized girl; it was Femi's sixth birthday and so we all shared a small slice of chocolate in the celebration before walking back with their whole family to church. Femi is the youngest child of three in the P- family, a name you may remember from an email months back when we had our last baptism in Malang, her older brother Jordan's. Now the whole family is learning with the missionaries; sometimes the sisters teach, next week the elders. Last week when we stopped in to pick them up for English class the girls hadn't taken their afternoon shower yet* so we followed them down through the gangways and alleyways and sidestreets and sidesteps to the riverside well, where we pulled up bucket after bucket of cool, clear water to haul back up to the shower spaces in their little neighborhood baths. It was an Experience. Femi running circles around us in only her smallest shorts and tiny singlet. Towel swung like a frenzied lasso around her cheeky pixie cut. Non-stop energy. Unlimited dance moves. Real happiness. Living enthusiasm. Even as we are pulling water up a crumbling well in plastic paint buckets along a muddy shore on the banks of a Malang river in Indonesia.

Hmm. Life.

A lot of it, actually. Sister Lili's dog had puppies and cat had kittens and then Sister Tina's Corgie had little teeny tiny Corgies and it is just almost too, too much. Last Wednesday after emailing we were out at Sister Lili's for a lesson, which I taught with two small pups curled up on my lap and another snuggled into the crook of my arm, wee head lolling over my elbow in deep dreaming, whimpering . At Sister Tina's Sunday night the little things were just learning to walk, stumbling over each other in desperate stands to prove their self-sufficiency. Have I just never been around truly tiny animals before? Did none of my PetVet childhood prepare me for such arresting adorability? Apparently not. My cute quotient is about to explode.

Because that was just the baby puppies and baby kittens, but what about baby people? Indonesia has those, too, and they are perfection (as I suppose most babies are). One of our investigators just had a little girl last week, and yesterday, once home from the hospital, we stopped in for a visit and ended up staying quite a while. The whole family greeted us at the door saying "are you brave? are you brave?" and I was confused and thinking "brave what?" when suddenly yes, I guess I am brave enough because I am sitting on their floor with a six-day-old life in my arms. Sister Nab was not brave. I don't think I am, either, it just happened so fast and so it happened, you know, but the entire next hour as little Nafranda Adinda Melina Regina Novidewa** slept right there in my arms I was thinking my goodness this is a life, a real little life! Am I brave? Plus a lot of other mind-stretching things like pre-mortal existence and eternal identities and purposes of life, etc. Such a lot a lot of thought from such a very small, small thing.

Sunday Sister N came to church. Read: miracle. That's the second non-active I've taught that's made the return, and absolutely made my day. Just swept into Sacrament Meeting as if she's been doing it for the last four years too, nothing doing. Gobsmacked (me). Grateful (us). If the E family comes this week like they promised, I will build a monument to miracles.

One last thing before I go: I read the Gospel According to Mark this week, and according to me it was most marvelous. I was going to try to describe why in my own words but turns out the Bible Dictionary did it better: "The Gospel contains a living picture of a living Man. Energy and humility are the characteristics of his portrait. It is full of descriptive touches that help us to realize the impression made upon the bystanders." Yes. I loved it for all of that, the real and raw humanity of it all while documenting Divine Life. I loved how crazy-fast it was, how the hurried chronology accentuated Christ's energy and undivided attention to the work and His purpose—and then the small asides that set everything back for just a second to remind you that Jairus' daughter should be brought something to eat, and the disciples worried that He is beside himself, always so busy, and Christ walked to the fig tree if haply he might find anything thereon. It is a living picture of a living Man. And as I read I am learning to be living, too, to exclaim with all the multitudes, He hath done all things well.

I love you. I miss you. Have salt in yourselves [Mark 9:50].
Sister E.

*everyone in Indonesia showers twice a day. without fail. one year in and I still don't much understand it, especially in breezy beautiful Malang. oh well. anyway.

**really. Indonesians like names, except for last ones. It's not the least bit confusing.

Note: The Celebrity Siblings applied to dad, as well—since Mont and Julia were Brad and Angelina, since Maddie could be Maddox and Nathaniel was Zahara. Or the other way around. Whatever.

13 October 2010

Biasa Aja.

Heroo there,

I am waiting for BYU to load and inspiration to hit but so far it's a fail on both counts and I'm afraid I can't promise y'all much of anything this week, anyway. The past seven days were remarkably remarkable but not entirely writable, in the sort of sense that a James Joyce stream of consciousness might be best—but the trick to that kind of typing is that the seemingly effortless result is in reality the result of especial effort and so I'm afraid I'm not really up to much of that, either. The whole internet/time restraint/once-a-week thing has been a nice experiment in the instant-essay, but I will be glad to return to a life of more thoughtful prose and editor's prerogative come December.

Which, by the way, is only two months away. Two months. As in I just bought the small tube of toothpaste at the grocery store. Because that's all I'll need. Right now I'm feeling okay about that; Malang has been wickedly hot and humid and I miss real seasons. In maybe a little bit more major news:

Pak J and Ibu P came to Conference this weekend, and left saying they'd be back for more. I like people that keep our commitments and then make their own, too. Also, on Saturday night after we'd taught and talked about living prophets and modern scripture, they bought us the absolute best tahu lontong I have ever ever had, period. End of.

Conference was beautiful and Salt Lake was, too. Goodness how I love those mountains, that temple, this Church! My most favoritest talks were a) President Uchtdorf, b) Elder Christofferson, and strangely enough c) Elder Ballard, plus of course all of them and most especially seeing Clark in the Choir. Did not appreciate our little Malang congregration casually chatting throughout the sessions [which] made my Indonesian listening skills suffer and so I feel I didn't fully internalize what was taught but the English version will be printed soon enough and I am working on Charity.

Really. Because this week Sister Nab and I took the Christlike Attributes Quiz in the back of the samely-named chapter in MiK/PMG and that was where I was decidedly, so obviously, lacking. Despite last week's email all about love, love, love. This was a little startling, but I will work on it, and also rejoice in the realization that Patience, my previous inadequacy, has increased dramatically.

Taught District Meeting on Friday, which is stressful because I am silly and would rather speak publicly to 300 people rather than 3, but I survived. Learned a lot in the studying for it, too. Remembered that one of the (many) fabulous things about scripture and especially the Book of Mormon is that it still applies. Today. Right now. Even though Ammon lived forever and a day ago. He's still a top-notch missionary and can teach us what we need to know.

Am experimenting in organic eating. Or at least that's how we say it to make it sound more exotic and en vogue. Mostly this just means that we do all our food shopping at the main market here in Malang now; fresh fruits and vegetables and chickens killed right then and there just for you. It is quite exciting, and a lot cheaper. Plus you avoid all the junk-food aisles and general supermarket sins because, well, they don't exist. At Pasar Besar it's just food the way God gave it to us, in all its bountiful glory. One day I will brave the crowds there with my camera; it's an assault to all the senses, but the colors are particularly punchy and demand to be photographed.

Okay, there are signs of life from MyMAP at BYU so I'm going to take it while I can and catch you next week. Miss you muchly, love you even more.

Sister E.

06 October 2010

The Key for Holding World.

Dear Family Rhondeau,

That subject's the tagline to a local English Club we pass by on our way to the church every day. It makes me smile and I fully support it and wish them the best but this is not an email about English, or Clubs, or even English Clubs. This is an email about Love.

Because I love training. Being responsible for the happiness of another person's mission, being in charge, being made strong. I have been scared and shy-shy-cat* but I find that as I simply (yes) gird up my loins and Do the things I Know everything else follows. I study, I teach, I listen, I learn, I talk to everyone we meet and I even call people on the phone. I feel like maybe I've become more in this last week than I have my entire mission; I feel like I am giving heart might and mind to the work; I feel like I am the missionary I have always wanted to be. Still of course no where near perfect and will remain, I'm afraid (but human), far from it, but just what I suppose I mean to say is that I go to bed every night content. Knowing I did my best. And that feels good.

I love Sister Nab. Not just because she cooks exotic curry dishes or obsessively tidies the house or took over the little kids' English class with expert ease. Not just because she is a classy sister with an eye for accessories or even because she occasionally tells me HK stories. She is all of that, and I love her for it, but she is also hardworking, thoughtful, and teachable. Together we talk about the work, how we want to do it and how we're going to do it that way. We talk about our investigators and how we feel about them and what more we can do to help them. She likes to think and then share her thoughts. She likes to study and then learn together. She is dynamic.

I love the Elders. Elder Meek is deeply thoughtful of everything from batik ties to gospel principles, could be the MTC's poster child for their Quiet Dignity battle cry, and does the dishes when we cook Sunday lunch for them (someone thank his parents for me). Elder Mari talks to me about blogs and tech and photo-shopping, translates everything Meek says in English to Indo, and is currently buried in some secret project involving world maps and temple locations that we're not allowed to know anything about (though he promised me it's not some secret combination so I've lessened my attempts to sneak his notes away when he's not looking). They are good missionaries and they help us to be better.

I love the members. Sister L stood on Sunday to bear one of the single most beautiful testimonies of our Savior I have yet to hear. Sunday School following the testimony meeting was a riot of good-hearted gospel sharing and our fair share of laughs. And Sister M gets the gold star for member missionary work with her A+ referral this week. We taught her friend Nila last night and have a return appointment for Friday afternoon. She is searching for the truth and ready to receive it.

I love our investigators. Ibu N is reading the Book of Mormon line by line and praying to better understand it. Pak J was hospitalized last week for a minor stroke that shook him into prioritizing his life and the realization that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints needed to be a part of it. He's stopped smoking, drinking tea and coffee, and is coming to church. With his whole family. Who now holds regular family prayer and scripture study. Our lesson with them Saturday night came just on the heel of the previous day's break-down (a heartbreaking lesson with Mas D and the overwhelming weight of the world; Sister Nababan cried but I told her Things Work Out because I am 15 mission months old and stronger now) and so rather caused our souls to sing bright praises to the lyrics of Ether 12:6. Dispute not because ye see not. For ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. Don't you love living scripture? I do.

So while English is good, Love is better and my mission week's key for holding world. In just a few minutes now we're off to the church to meet up with the Elders, who have promised to try fixing the oven if we bring the cookie dough. Which I made last night, sifting the flour together with the baking soda through leftover mosquito netting, because that is how much happiness living in Indonesia is. I just feel like smiling, a lot a lot. And not just because friends have been telling me I look pretty lately, though that helps. Hilariously. . . . the everyday acquaintances we pass regularly in our daily routines have exclaimed aloud "Sister Rhondeau! Kok, tambah cantik ya?" Indonesian shock for something like "you've gained beauty, haven't you?" Not that I think it's true, but I certainly don't mind the compliment.** Then there was Beke, my favorite lost boy in the hodge-podge group I teach at Bhakti Luhur, who yesterday suddenly stood mid-lesson to exclaim Terpujilah engkau di antara semua wanita!*** Which is maybe sacrilegious? but I laughed and laughed and laughed til I cried.

I love being a missionary. I love being a missionary in Indonesia. I love the Gospel. I know it's true and the manner of happiness—this overwhelming, overflowing, overarching happiness I am living right now.

And I love you.


Sister E.

*that's an Indonesian phrase they like to say in English. It's actually malu-malu kucing, in reference to how cats approach food so freely offered them. You know, as if it's going to bite them back and they have to take high-tension tip-toe steps to reach the bowl in the first place only to run away? Yeah. That's shy-shy-cat.

**While on the subject of my own vanities, I think it will be a big shock to come home and discover I'm short again. So many people per day tell me I'm tall that I've come to believe it.

***hint: Luke 1:28. Or Luke 1:42.