Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Volcanoes, Dragons and Orang Tuna Runggu

Perspective. That is truly something that changes when you leave your home surroundings.

(Sometimes things can be more unique from a different angle)

This picture was from my recent ferry ride from Batam to Medan. What is that? That’s the ocean, sunset, and the sky from the reflection of the fog light on the ferryboat.
Here in Indonesia, the perception of the value of life is very low. I’m sure you heard about the recent ferry fire that killed 48 people so far. The ferry runs from Jakarta then goes to Bangka. I’m supposed to go to Bangka this month for visiting the Sign Language group. The ferry that I was on though, is from Jakarta stops in Batam, then goes to Medan a large city in northern Sumatra.
The ferry was 3 hours late, which is typical. I found out later the reason that it was late is there was a fire down below with the oil. (That’s always good and healthy) That was not on the news. The next night we stopped for 2 hours in the middle of the ocean to do a “engine cleaning.” Now I don’t know if its normal to stop in the middle of the Andaman Sea in the middle of the night to clean a boat’s engine, but it did.
We also picked up some passengers in the night. Now as you look at this photo you can understand why when there is a tragedy so many people die.

(Do you think they have life rafts for all those people?)

Anyways, I arrived in Medan after placing all of my literature, books, and tracks that I had. The boat was like a scene from photos of the depression. People sleeping on the stairs, smoke everywhere, toilets that haven’t been cleaned. It was an experience. So they took EVERY piece of literature that I had. When you arrive at the ferry dock that is an experience in itself. It’s almost as if the people don’t expect their loved ones to make it. Then theirs cops stopping people trying to steal luggage. It was something.

(We made it, were not dead, you can smile!)

Because of the boat being late, I missed my purpose of going to Medan, which was to go to the Interpreted SL assembly, help out, and then conduct the workshop. It was really nice as Monday was a holiday and was able to at least teach the workshop. Medan was the second city that received a Sign Language class back in 2004. But because of never becoming a congregation, and the friends going to two meetings, the numbers of hearing publishers has dwindled down. BUT, the deaf still come! They have the most deaf publishers in the country with 6 and 3 of those will be baptized in June. One of them will be the first deaf muslim to accept the truth here. He started attending the Bible Stories Book, and he said he enjoyed it, and knew this was different. I am confident he will not be the last to feel that way.

(The deaf attending the meetings in Medan, with their sign names)

This past weekend the 25th was the concluding class in Malang Java Indonesia. (2 hours away from Surabaya) For the 46 students this would be their first time ever interpreting. Now, I don’t know about you, but after 20 hours of learning a new language, I don’t think I would be ready to interpret a meeting!
That is our situation here though in Indonesia. You get thrown right in! Their were 121 people at the meeting. And a amazing 34 deaf came! 34! You must understand something why this number is so incredible. The first ever interpreted meeting in this city was December 17 with 5 deaf attending. Noone had ever even preached to deaf before or had deaf studies or RV’s. Now February 25th some 2 months later there are 34. Most were Muslim. They just had a local deaf organization meeting, and nearly all their came.
So what is one too do? I had conducted half of my workshop prior to the meeting, so now it was time to finish the other half. Obviously it had to be completely adapted to try and explain who we are as JW’s, and what the Bible is all about using my prepared video workshop. Perferct timing I assume.

(The men in black are back!)

So what to do next? Joice will be moving on to another city to teach a class, I of course went back to Batam. So here you are friends, welcome to SL. You have nearly 90 students who have been around SL, for 3 months, have no prior exp, no deaf brothers or sisters, no one with any deaf cultural experience, no one taking the lead as of yet, no book study, or set day for preaching, and 34 deaf coming to an interpreted meeting of people who have never interpreted!!! Does that constitute a need? Does that constitute a complete reliance of Jehovah’s holy spirit?!? Oh yeah the population of the city of Malang is 2million plus. That’s bigger then Boston, Jersey City, Newark, DesMoines, Tampa, Orlando, Raleigh, Dallas, or any other place that already has Sign Language congregations under 2mil…

One of the nice things about going to these different cities to encourage the friends, is you never know where you will sleep, what local food you will try, or what natural surroundings you might see.
For example Medan is famous for its cakes, juice drinks, and Chinese food. The duck was great, and juices were so fresh. Also the family had 9 dogs! Well I like dogs, and it was good to see some chow-chow’s.

(I have a purple tounge, and its not from a lolliepop)

The family I stayed with in Malang, like to eat shrimp. For breakfast. Now, this isn’t normal shrimp. Its from Kalimantan or Borneo. It’s a freshwater shrimp, or prawn. And, well, its big. In fact it was the same size as my cellphone!!! But, like I said, you never what’s gonna happen when you travel.

(Believe it or not, these are not farm grown, and they can be 3 times that size!)

In Malang, I met a brother who was a co for over 25 years. All during the ban. He came in the truth in the 60's. Well, do you know what faith he had before he got the truth? You don't meet a former something that was a c.o.
Pretty neat huh?

(Who I am is not impotant, but who I serve)

In East Java their are the active Volcanoes on Mt. Bromo and the surrounding areas. It was beautiful to be above the clouds. The more I get a chance to see places in Indonesia, the more it amazes me. In the picture below, on the left is one volcano with the sulphur cloud coming out, then on the right is another volcano that is inactive. Then theirs the crater, and in the background is the largest volcano that erupts every 15 to 20 minutes. It really is awe inspiring to watch the sunrise from the Mt, and see the clouds change the whole landscape every few minutes. (Romans 1:20)

(“Life above the clouds”)

I only stayed do to the recommendation of a Spanish traveler and a Doctor from India who were both their own respective freelance photographers. The Doctor from India, had a nice story for me.
He is from a family of doctors (Dad, mom, his brother, and himself.) He is a specialist with kidney’s, intestines. I believe he said a Urologist.
Well, in India there was a man a (Jehovah’s Witness) whom for two years had a huge tumor/problem on his kidney. No one anywhere would operate on him, for the obvious reason that there would be a huge likelihood of needing a blood transfusion.
For two years the brother waited. The doctor mentioned that the brother was more educated then they were on the subject. He said “he brought us all of the videos, pamphlets, and information. He was extremely well informed on the issue. We as the staff studied the material.” The doctor mentioned that he, and the medical community sees that it is so much better to have the body rejuvenate itself then to have a transfusion. Also now there are so many other ways to perform bloodless surgery. He accepted the brother’s wishes and operated on him. The surgery was a success.
A bit of insight he told me is this. Many doctors are not willing to accept a situation like that due to the possibilities of a person dying. When a person dies while you are the surgeon it looks very bad on your record. When the hospital does its reviews, and you have a death on it, it affects promotions, and status in general.
At the same time, if you take a chance, and it goes successful it is highly favorable and makes you looks great. – What it means then basically is a person a conservative doctor, or more liberal. Does he care more about his name.

(A horse, a couple, a Hindu temple, and creation)

After going to the top of the mountain you really need to take the hike up the old lava flow and see the active volcano. When you walk around, and see the wilderness type surroundings it hits me. The 40 years that Moses spent in the wilderness with some sheep, a staff, and some sandals really allowed him to be molded and ready for the future. In this place you realize how small you are as your surrounded by mountain ranges, desolate land, and no water to speak of. You would have thought that the Israelites would have gotten it through their heads going through the wilderness that without Jehovah, your not making it through this land…

(Take a deep breath)

Literally 5 minutes away from this desolate wasteland is absolutely greener that you can imagine. Miles and miles of vegetables, pine trees, flowers, plants, tea, rice fields, and just pure fresh air.

Back here in Batam, service is great. This is a photo of a woman who just lost her husband in death. Well, that’s not easy considering she has 4 children aged 7, 3, 2, 4 months.

(Her humble abode)

If you look in the picture you see a huge pile of wires. She goes through the trash, and construction sites to collect all of these discarded wires. She then strips the wires down to the copper insides. Once a month someone comes to her little concrete block house and purchases the copper. This is one of the only jobs she can do as she must take her 4 month year old, 2 year, and 3 year with her. She needs to make $70 a month to survive. She usually makes around $80 US a month. That pays for the food for her and her 4 children, school fees, and electricity. It takes around 2 weeks to find that many wires.

(The 4 month year old had white skin???)

On a personal note, I mentioned before I have a house now here in Batam. Well, the other day while coming home, I noticed a big animal, that wasn't a dog. It was leftover from the Jurassic period! A Komodo Dragon, in my front yard. Well, its in the Komodo family, but its the smaller version. It was only about 4 feet long so no worries right?!?!

Today, I was just informed by the school I work at that they are not renewing my contract. So, this afternoon I just lost my job, my visa, and must leave the country tommorow. The say all in a day's work right? I'm really sad though as they did not forwarn me in advance so I was not even able to say goodbye to the children. It's amazing how much kids teach you about life, responsibility, paitence, and how Jehovah views us. The kids really grow on you. Their favorite class was for Reading. We were reading the Bible Stories Book and got all the way up to Isreal's last Good King. (Josiah)
I shed a few tears today thinking of them, and left them a message to not forget Jehovah and to remember him.
That's a real powerful book!
I would assume by the next blog you will know what will happen to me. Because as of right now, I personally do not know.
I do know 1 thing.
A good sunset.
Theirs nothing like it.
No matter where you go in the world, theirs always a beautiful sunset to put things in perspective. (Lamentations 3:22,23)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Floods, Zone Overseers, Scams, and a House


Here’s a new word for you. Ban like van, then jeer like deer. It means flood, or floods. Welcome to Indonesia: Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, mudslides, plane crashes, ferry sinkings, malaria, TB, dengue fever, tigers, snakes, komodo dragons, corruption, bribery, theft, terrorists, bombings, and yes… Floods.

Jakarta was like a disaster zone in some areas. Our flight was delayed 2 hours, which wasn’t bad we found out later. Many people were stranded at the airport. Reason was once they land you couldn’t leave because the highways were flooded. Cars and buses in some places would try and go through, but got stuck and then that completely shuts the road down.

(this is low water, it was over 9feet in some places)
So it was bad. 3 days of straight rain, and a 4th day off and on. The Indonesian people were extremely mad at the government. In 2002 (last time their were floods) the government was given over 400 million dollars according to news report to build a canal to avoid flooding. Where did the money go? Not to build a canal. In either event, due to greed and corruption you now have over 30 dead (and climbing) 300,000 homeless and sickness spreading like wildfire.
Would you like to come and visit?
My dad just did, and we had the wonderful opportunity to attend the first-ever national zone overseer’s visit in Jakarta, Indonesia. Last time there was a national convention was when the ban was lifted back in 2001 for a district assembly. This time, it was for 2 zone overseers visiting. One from the U.S. (Harold.C) then from Australia (Viv.M)

(smile were your interpreters! (you can trust us!)

The branch was hoping for around 20,000 people. There are 19,000 publishers in the country. BUT, many friends;
A. Can’t afford the plane fare to Jakarta.
B. The ocean waves were very big and didn’t feel safe traveling.
C. Weren’t expecting one of the worst floods in over 10 years in Indonesia.

The greater Jakarta area has nearly half the publishers of the country. Many of them were affected. One of our dear brothers in SL who was going to interpret the WT completely lost his first floor of his home. That means his printing business and his car are completely under water. He had to move anything he could to the 2nd floor. In fact we were surprised to see him attend the convention! In adverse situations Indonesians create new businesses. They built rafts, or use inflatable boats and then charged an exorbitant fee for you to hop in their raft to leave your house. Basically a [disaster taxi]. Our brother had to put his meeting clothes in a bag and anything else he could carry to get to the assembly. After the program he couldn’t go back to his home (what for) so his family now will move in with his sister.
Other parts of the city were shut down. No getting in, no getting out. To let you know, were talking a city twice the size of NYC. There is no known exact number of the population of Jakarta due to slums and mismanagement. But if you take in the suburbs attached to Jakarta were talking around 20,000,000 people affected. I have not been able to get on the internet at my job for over a week due to the floods some 1000 miles from here.
That didn’t stop the brothers from helping to prepare on Saturday for a Sunday program.

(Yes, our house is flooded but were going to come early and help prepare anyways!)

So our attendance was 11,768. That’s great considering even one of the speaker’s interpreters for Indonesian couldn’t make it! One of the highlights was meeting some of the friends from Papua or Irian Jaya Indonesia. They are the furthest away, and although are Indonesian, are truly in a different world out their in Papua. Some reports state that in the interior of Irian Jaya there are still remote tribes and villages living off the land whom have never been ‘discovered’ by the outside world. So it was really nice to meet these Indonesian brothers and sisters!

(Indonesians are as varied in looks, tribes, and dialects as colors of crayons)

(In Indonesian Sign Language the sign for Papua is the act of throwing a spear, and moving your hand back and forth over your mouth!)

Meeting new friends in many of the provinces opened up opportunities to hear new stories from the brothers. (1 Peter 5:2)
One of the stories that really stood out was from these 2 brothers and sisters from Ambon, Indonesia. In 1999 a civil war or religious war broke out between Muslim and Christian factions in the province. Many of the friends fled, but not all could or did. The sister below still remained regular in preaching and going to meetings. She relates the following: “When we would go in service or meetings fighting would sometimes break out. We would get down and hide and listen to the shots. We had memorized how many bullets were in each magazine. When we counted all bullets were gone, then we would get up and return preaching or continue on to the meeting.” I asked about how the witnesses who did stay ended up in relation to safety. The brother who was and continues to serve as a special pioneer answers: “At one particular time the brothers knew we all had to leave that particular area of Ambon and go to another area of the province. One sister refused to leave. After sometime of talking to her, she still would not go. We all left, and found out later she was killed by beheading. Other times when fighting was severe the brothers left their home and would stay in the Kingdom Hall. They felt safer their, and when returning to their homes later could see the bullet-holes where they would have been if they stayed in their home.

(Wow, I think you might be ready for greater tribulations)

How about Sign Language? We had over 300 in our Sign Language section representing some 25 different classes of Sign. We had over 30 deaf which again was good considering many were stuck due to the floods.

(Special Sign Language Section)

We were a little scared after preparation on Saturday. Daniel who brought all of the video equipment from the Jakarta group, and his own personal computer, got stuck in the flood. At 11 am on Sunday morning for a 3oclock program he couldn’t leave his house due to the floods. He has EVERYTHING for SL. Well an hour later things had changed and he could successfully make the assembly.
It was of course good to see the friends back from 2004 when we formed the first group, started interpreting and had the classes start moving along. Joice has spearheaded the teaching of the classes. We could not have had the growth we have had if it hadn’t been for the Indonesian Branch Committee. In Feb 2004 Tagor H. had a talk in Jakarta which was interpreted into SL. Now this was only the second time a talk had ever been interpreted into SL in Indonesia. Tagor saw the deaf, watched them sing, watched their comments and was really impressed. He definitely helped move things along as Joice and I were focused more on the teaching.

(Thanks T, say hi to Milly)

We got some good news as well. Plans will now be made to have a 3 day district convention done all in Sign Langauge! Yes, I don’t know what to say either. Also other brothers and sisters will teach more classes. These will be official society classes done ALL OVER the country. So we have A LOT of stuff to get ready for here.

How about the program?
Nothing dealing new light dealing with Bible Prophecy, or when the GT will break out, or when to be ready for Armageddon, or who is the King of the North, or be ready to go under ban here again. Nope, nothing like that.
Put on the Mind of Christ, and Continue Seeing the One who is Invisible…
Two fundamental aspects we need to apply.
SEE JEHOVAH with our minds eye. BE like Jesus in all we do. Don’t be a forgetful hearer like the Israelites. Don’t lose your relationship with Jehovah because of Satan’s tactics of wasting hours on the Internet, sending pointless emails, involved in higher education, or bigger-better-faster.
Nice reminders.
It was brought out during the last talk about the Great Tribulation and 2 Peter 3 about the elements being dissolved and the earth being shaken. The speaker brought out, that we have NO IDEA nor understand how great this is going to be. The systems are going to be destroyed. Any other tsunami, earthquake, tribulation in the present or in the past will not equal what is going to happen in the near future!
This world is a sinking ship, don’t be concerned about upgrading your class to a different floor.
There were also reports given to us about the country of East Timor. That is a former Indonesian Province that became a country. They had one publisher in 2000 and over 80 today. Over 300 attended the memorial last year.
A comical thing happens in Timor. The churches teach that Jesus Christ was actually born on the island of Timor. Even funnier is the fact that people believe it! What’s great about that is it makes it so easy for our brothers and sisters. When you read the scriptures in the Gospels that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Israel it becomes an EASY bible study.

In our country report it was mentioned to us we have now 26 missionaries in the country. We have 3 construction teams who travel around the country building Kingdom Halls. We need at present 180 more KH’s. We are still awaiting the legal papers from the gov’t, to start building a new Branch. As you are probably aware that Indonesia falls under the “countries with limited resources.” In fact to show how poor we are in a material sense, we just had a letter from our branch office to send a resolution to all congregations in Indonesia. The request? If each publisher every year can contribute 10,000 rupiah to a special contribution strictly for disaster relief. WOW 10,000 rupiah you may think! That’s the equivelant of $1.10 US. Disasters here are like catching a cold. It’s going to happen from time to time in Indonesia, it’s just a matter of when.
It was also explained to us why our literature takes forever to receive. Our congregation does not have any Bible Teach books nor Bibles. I don’t even have a personal copy in Indonesian. That is a huge issue. It comes from Japan on ships, but has a bribe/corruption issue when it comes to the docks in Jakarta. Numerous people want handshakes for us to pick up our literature that is legally ours.

SOO, a lot of STUFF going on throughout the country. Pick your Banana because theirs a BUNCH of work.
But it was good times at the convention!

(Max travel agent T, Dad, ‘The ageless one - Joe from Malaysia/Germany/Australia”)

The guy in the middle with his mouth wide open is my father. He came to visit me, see and experience Indonesia, and go to the convention.
It was great as he came just in time for the floods, and to get robbed!
He had a nice crash course in Indonesia. Some thief put superglue in my key ignition in my motorbike so that my key would not enter to start. Two guys brought us to a key copier to alter the key, and play around for an hour. In the end I found out we had been scammed pretty good! It’s all part of the plan.
They jam up your bike, charge you an huge amount of money to fix it, then two other guys stole my wallet from me in the confusion. In the meanwhile my dad went to a ATM machine that sucked in his card. So here we are sitting their with no transportation, no money, nothing. They then put a oil/alchohol mixture in the ignition which dissolves the glue. Well some nice muslim girl who tried helping my dad at the ATM bailed us out. That’s the way it goes in a 3rd world country. You can’t stress about it. If you’re a foreigner you’re a way for them to make a few dollars.

Dad did get a nice treat though, him and I bought a house here on the ocean, that will serve as his and my moms retirement/move to where the need is great spot in the future.
In the meanwhile I will have to enjoy it for some time before they come!
If your coming through the Singapore/Malaysia region, stop by!

(It's not the whole house, just part of 1 floor, but the sunset is quite nice!)

Last, if you remember from the last post about the District at Hand convention in Philipines in Sign Language. This is a 10 minute video with photos/songs/and a general narration of the convention. If you don't know Sign Language, you will still enjoy how the growth is progressing in Philipines.

(Filipino District at Hand convention in FSL)