24 November 2010

By This We Worship and are Freed.


It is one of mortality's greatest injustices, and it is epitomized in a pop song (which is injustice enough itself): don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got ‘til it's gone? How many times in my lifetime have I learned that lesson? New Zealand, Wales, Siena. My lifelong love affair with Home? And yet here I am, feeling like I'm only really learning to love this great big mess of an archipelago at the eleventh hour. Am I savoring this bowl of fried noodles and boiled sawi sufficiently? Did I smile brightly enough at that crooked old becak driver in his wrinkled SBY shirt? Have I taken enough time to take in a landscape of green on green, of palms on mountains and water buffalo on city streets? I'm afraid the answer is no, but that is not from lack of trying. It is from the simple fact that it is never enough, it cannot be enough. Not when every angkot, every rainstorm, every small child, seems to pump the very blood I bleed and need to my heart.

This hurts.

But we will stop talking about it, because I am in denial anyway. I no longer look at calendars, and I pretend I just don't understand enough Indonesian when hearing dates and times over informational loudspeakers. Time waits for no man? I am no man.

My Black Day never came; quite the contrary. We arrived in Surabaya and consequently spent some of the most Spirit-filled and meaningful moments of my mission thus engaged. I had a lot of opportunities to rely on the Lord and thereby grow, opportunities that I will count among the most refining of my mission. One of them was being called on to translate for Sister Pratt in the District Conference sessions and individual leadership training. Now. Translating for an afternoon of entrepreneurial workshops amongst my dearly beloved members of the Malang branch is something I can do. Gladly. Translating for the wife of a General Authority from the pulpit at a District Conference? Entirely other. I felt very inadequate, knowing that Sister Pratt had so thoughtfully and prayerfully prepared what she had to say—-what the Lord had to say—-to our members in Jawa Timur, and felt too heavily the weight of being the one who would then, in turn, be mouthpiece to that message. I was nervous. Which is an understatement. But I remembered how often I had called upon the Lord for his strength and solidity in such times as these, and I remembered the line from Lead Kindly Light (so long thy pow'r hath blessed me, sure it still, will lead me on), and just after the doors closed but before the opening prayer I nudged Nab and we slipped outside for a small prayer. Nothing too spectacular, just a sincere please.

I translated for Sister Pratt. No, that's not right. I opened my mouth to translate for Sister Pratt, and the Spirit gave me the words to do so. For fifteen minutes in that first session and thirty the next day, I spoke Indonesian like I'd been born and raised in Central Java*. It was still very simple—-I never used any words I didn't already know—-but I could feel the difference in my syntax, in the way a relatively grammar-less language suddenly formed itself into formal sentences on my tongue, in the way I was given to know not just what words to use, but exactly the right word to use. Which was never the direct word translation from the English, but always something slightly different in Indonesian that carried the same power. But perhaps the craziest thing of all was that I understood this, all of this, within the very exact moment I was experiencing it—-all the while simultaneously listening to Sister Pratt and speaking into my microphone. My mind is not big enough for that. Not humanly. And so I knelt that night in gratitude for not only a prayer answered, but an experience of eternal proportions.

District Conference, in all other respects, was incredible. Great speakers (President Groberg has the most beautiful way of teaching directly out of scripture), great songs (we sang my all-time Indo favorite, Kita Maju Ke Kemuliaan, right before I had to translate. That extra strength was no coincidence), great Spirit. Ibu P was there along with her son , J_ (Pak J can't travel long distances because of the side-effects of his stroke), who then both attended the special meeting for new members on Sunday afternoon. Their testimonies were strengthened and they told us so—-later Pak J told us that J_ was still talking about all that he had learned and felt in just that one weekend. He is going to be baptized, too, and is already planning on serving a mission.

On an entirely selfish level, I also loved Surabaya because I had one last huzzah with the missionaries there. Elder C was just moved there from Tangerang, so I got to say goodbye to my favorite Australian. Elder C and Elder S are now a companionship in Surabaya Timur, so we got to suss out the last-minute details of our Canadian Road Trip, complete with horse-riding a la Legolas** Elder K was there with his monster of a Canon camera so we swapped SD cards and talked photog for a while, and I said hello and goodbye to greenie Elder M who is half-German, a psychology major, and dual citizen—-all of which information he will volunteer without being asked to. We took countless photos with the young women and played hand-clap games with the primary. We ate fried duck in the parking lot and ordered iced juice through the fence. Then, after the rain and just as the sun set, we all got back onto the bus, our little Malang district and me, and headed home. With Elder Mari-*** in tow. I sat quietly alone along the back row of the bus benches and watched the world while thinking about life. Occasionally J_ would pop his head up over the seat he was sitting in next to Meek just to check if I were still there. Sister L kept me happy with cashew choki-choki while Ibu P fell asleep with her head on Sister Nab's shoulder. It all felt very whole, and also holy. These people, these places, this love.

Monday night J and P had their baptismal interviews, and Nabs and I sat with one or the other at the church while Meek interviewed and Mari picked out hymns on the piano. Pak J's was first, and forty-five minutes long. When he finally returned, Ibu P poked at his arm, laughing. "What took you so long?" she laughed. J smiled faintly, distant. He sat down in the chair next to me, a primary sized chair for a full-size man. "This is my new life," he explained. "I do not want to forget a single moment of it." They are so ready to be baptized, but the miracle is that this wasn't always so. I have been witness to a mighty change of heart. I have seen Christ working among men. This is another thing my mind is too mortal to manage, another thing that sometimes I can only very rarely catch rare glimpses of on the eternal line of things. I doubt I will ever be able to fully explore or explain this life I have lived in Indonesia. I hope you will be able to feel even the smallest sense of that while you are here to see it yourselves.

We are being blessed. I am being changed. The Gospel is true and we are a part of it. Happy, happy thanksgiving.


Sister E.

*Really. I had members come up and ask me that afterward. I could only kind of shake my head, slightly dazed, saying thank you but so obviously unable to take any credit for any of it.

**Dudley's from up-north (and yes, I have to consciously restrain myself from calling him Dudley Do-Right. But really? His name is Dudley AND he's from Canada?), has horses, and owns the official LOTR Legolas bow and arrow set.

***He's back, he's back! The Golden Era of the Malang District has been restored!

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