Friday, August 14, 2009

Goodbye June, See You July, Here goes August

When it comes to traveling I’m not the plan it all out step by step guy. Day 1 here, sleep there, go here, so on and so forth. I personally love an open itenaray just having an idea, being flexible, and being with the friends. In this case I saw it all coming together and it looked like the summer was coming together quite fine.

This blog is one of the best in a while. Why? It’s raw. It’s reality. When you can take a step back or out for a length of time, it helps you to refresh the life that is what it is around you.

We start out with 3 American need-greaters in Malaysia on vay-ca in Indo. It wouldn’t be a story if it didn’t involve immigration, can’t enter the country, stuck in the airport, ATM not working, lost wallets in cabs, calling a random brother they just met saying there are locked up in immigration with no money, and the American brother (me) just lost his wallet and only has 15 bucks. In the end, it just provides a good laugh and more faith in Jehovah’s tlc.

Our time chit-chatting help me cement a few points;

1. I must say the longer I am away from the New England/American culture the more I see the negatives and positives of it. Which is the greater percent? Don’t know yet.

One nice thing though about our culture is how you can just go on and on about people you know, perception on things, and deep spiritual conversation. We discussed the July daily text on Genesis 3:15 and the seed and went on for over 1.5 hours on the topic of what had happened to the seed throughout the generations. Really enlightening and clear too on the issue of the number remaining and the new understanding on ‘this generation.’
So if you talk about deep spiritual things, you need to wash the day down with Batam Indonesian’s own seaweed beer. Yup! It’s good for your skin. Makes it smooth.

(Try some seeweed in a glass)

What was great is the 3 are all in Sign Language in Kuala Lumpur. We have had to go through the same similar struggles with getting things going. So many deaf, so few workers in the field. (Matthew 9:37,38)

Since they were here on vacation/visa chop they just wanted to just chill out. It was good for all of us, including me to refresh up the batteries. Realize how nice where I am is, and soak it all in. Sit in the hammock, swim in the pool, and listen to the ocean. We played scrabble, listened to Maxwell and Jack Johnson, cooked tacos, bbq’d and had wine and chocolate. – Another plus about the American culture. -Indulge and enjoy- On the spiritual note, they were a huge shot in the arm for the congregation to see 3 more white people who can sign.

It was their 2-year wedding anniversary so they wanted to go to a random deserted island. Sure, no problem. We kind of found one, as there happened to be about 4 families there. They happened to be Christian so they got a witness, magazines, and brochures for the first time by a bunch of random bule’s {white buffalo’s}.
In appreciation for the literature and witness the local leader Markus decided to give us some local delicacies.

(coconut’s for the coconut’s; can you see the man in the tree?)

Well, time is what it is. It goes bye-bye. To all of you back in your home cultures: Soak it in. Look at the positives. If you’re in a foreign assignment when you get a taste of your home culture, appreciate it, then back to learning from the new one!

(wanna get away?)

After the freshen up with the Americans it was on to good old Jakarta.
Here in lies the next month of my life due to District Assemblies and sign conventions. WE WILL WAIT to unveil the amazing stories from the convention. I have one more to attend the end of this month.
Non-convention experiences leads us to coffee shops overlooking the city of Jakarta with some deaf people eating random Chinese delicacies.

(Rainbow Skyscrapers? What's next?)

So why the meeting in Jakarta with the deaf? It turns out we have a major problem on our hands here in Indonesia. We have been invaded by Americans! Aduh! How? We have adapted too many of ASL everyday signs into our language that just have to throw out with the news.
I will write about this in another time when everything is cleared up. Right now it’s still a little shady.

(These deaf know their language; we just need to learn it too!)

Many of you did here about the bombings in Jakarta. No reports of any brothers being hurt by it. We did go past one of the nice Hotels that was later bombed about 4 or 5 days after the convention. It’s interesting as Manchester United (English Premeire League soccer) was scheduled to be in the opposite stadium the following week so due to the craziness that that would have been it was decided to combine all of Jakarta at one convention instead of two weekends. The same parking lot, and entrance to the assembly would have been shared by the MU crowd and the JW crowd. One of the hotel’s that was bombed was the one supposed to be for MU. They later cancelled their trip to Indonesia.

The next part of our journey takes us to Bali. Yes, the ‘island of the god’s.’ (see blog nov 2006) As much as I’m learning Bali, it still is entrancing, unique and such an intricate puzzle piece of Indonesian culture.
In Indonesia you honestly never know what is going to happen at any given time. That’s inside the organization and out. This trip and Bali quickly reminded me of that fact.

Case in point. Going to a KH which isn’t a KH, it’s a house where the friends sit in like 4 different rooms. You can actually go to a meeting hear someone comment and by the time you walk around to find them, they are at another end of the house or went home. You could go a few meetings without actually seeing people. Imagine if you didn’t comment.
So this particular meeting had something I had never seen. The rough draft of the story is that the couple in the video below had a child out of wed-lock but wanted to get married, but not in Christendom’s churches as they know it’s wrong. But since they had been in a situation with living together they couldn’t progress to become publishers or being baptized for this reason. In Indonesia you must be part of some type of religious organization to be officially married. The representative body from that religion will sign the legal documents. Where to go?

Legal department was contacted. And an answer was formulated. The couple wrote up a letter of intent that they want to get married and vow’s in front of Jehovah and the congregation in line with bible principles and take the subsequent partner. So basically it was like reading a public notice of vows in front of the KH. It was really unique to go to a random Thursday night meeting and have people practically get married during the service meeting.

(If you look in the video you can see one main room, the room outside where I am, then there is a hallway, and two other rooms along the side, which can’t be seen in the video)

Mr. Daniel is the head JW tour guide for Bali. His family’s home is special in itself. One night there was a biawak (monitor lizard) who somehow got herself trapped in the electrical cords. She seemed to have fallen through the roof. What to do? It’s a big 3 to 4 foot lizard! What about smash it over the head, wrap it in a towel, cut it’s throat while it’s still alive, then skin it, cook it, and eat it with a glass of red wine… Welcome to Indonesialah! I was the smash over the head guy, and then eat it with a glass of bubbly

(This is the skinning and the operation. It’s educational but gory)

(New wallet, belt, shoes, anyone?)

Bali has something Batam doesn’t have: surf. I will learn to surf standing up again in the future, but in the meantime I still love being the board myself instead of standing on it.

(I caught one wave at Incredibles that was about a 10 foot face that I felt like when you get to the peak of a roller-coaster)

The convention is now finished in Bali, (later blog) and it’s on to a 5-day sign language crash course in Lombok. I honestly can’t do this portion of the blog justice, as it was so amazing. If this was Tommy of 5 years ago I could give you every detail, story, breathe of fresh air and experience that this brain could come out with, but,,,, the Tommy of 2009 is like: that’s the way it is in foreign service.

Lombok itself has around 3.6 million people. In 2000 there was a religious cleansing that left many dead, displaced, and in fear even up to this point. The chinese christians took the blunt of the tyranny. The congregation here is doing well, but only 25 publishers. That clearly is a big assignment. That’s a ratio of 1 publisher for every 144,000 people.

Our team on arrival was a group of 5 zealous youth’s from the Malang sign congregation in Java. They were asked by the C.O. to teach a 5-day crash course in sign here in Lombok. Let’s think about logistics for a second. You have 1 elder, 2 m.s. a few pioneers for 3.6 million people. Why are you going to have a sign language class again? Can you form a congregation? Can you start a group?
I love Indonesia… Nothing is impossible. Semuanya bisa.
Just like the phrase “YOU CAN DO IT” in Indo they don’t think twice.

For example in Lombok; are you getting married? First, steal your wife, pay the brides price to her father, then get both families together on a random Monday afternoon. Get a whole bunch of trucks and kids from the village and block off the main highway blasting music noone understands. Get all dressed up, and just walk.

(You should watch this video, it’s so random, and so Indonesia) (P.S. I stopped next to the bride and made her blush via a big bule smile)

All of converged together in the coordinator’s house here in Lombok. He’s an American from LA with a Surinamese wife. They kind of just fit in in Lombok. Those days were stories in itself. You have 10 people from totally different backgrounds all staying together. I don’t know how we all ate (nasi bungkus) or how I survived 1 week sharing a bed with a 200lb Indonesian brother with a mustache, likes to snore and throw elbows in the night. BUT, tidak apa apa. [whatever]

Since the sign class was in the evening after the friends work that left us the day to travel. Little did I know we would somehow end up at Desert Point the 2nd or 3rd best surf break in the world when it’s on. While out on the surf I was chatting with a Peruvian man who spent some $3,000 US to get that surf break. He asked me where am I from and how did I get here? I just told him, aww, were JW’s, just driving around sightseeing. I have a 7 o’clock sign language class to teach so I’m just passing the time.

(Lombok also has a bunch of foreigners looking at some of Indo’s best waves, snorkeling and 2nd tallest mountain in Indo)

In between our time for the classes we got to hop on our little 90cc motorbikes and see parts of the island. Not disappointing at the least! The landscape differs greatly from Bali. I mentioned to our host; ‘the more I see in Indonesia the more it blows me away that there is no 2 places alike. The more I see here makes me realize how amazing the paradise is going to be.’ His reply; ‘Ya man.’

(Land for Sale, Tanah di jual all over the place)

On the side of the road you can sometimes find people selling for a $1.50 fresh bbq fish about a foot and a half long. Sometimes your just driving along and you get a random monkey in the road. Ya, that’s the way it goes.

(Traffic jam lombok style)

Back to the spiritual paradise. The cong here meets in a brother’s home, and due to safety reasons due to the possible upsetting of religious zealots it has been decided not to sing in his house. Recently a office type building was purchased by a brother outside of Lombok and allows the brothers to use it. Unfortunately the local permit man only allows them to use it on special occasions and not weekly. This definitely merited a special occasion so we were allowed to meet on the 2nd floor. It was a fun two meetings. The sound system was a laptop with some guitar speakers. The chairs were rented and brought up and down the stairs like a line delivering sand bags to damn a river. The attendance was some 47 people the highest ever at a meeting here. Some 8 deaf came to the meeting on Sunday, and even 2 commented. One more tidbit… Part of the curriculum for the sign class is to start interpreting right away. That means all students who have been learning for 4 previous days will sign on the 5th day (the final meeting) Can you imagine this? Four days learning a language and already having to interpret the public talk, and watchtower? Ya, that’s the way it goes.

(Largest meeting attendance ever in Lombok)

A very special announcement was made during this week. For any future meetings at the brother’s home all songs will be sung in sign language. Why? Since it’s unsafe to sing in a voice, singing in sign language will still give praise to Jehovah and not cause distraction. Not too many hearing congregations in the world like that!
After the meeting it was back to the coordinator’s home. Just as the class is about to start some deaf show up. Then more, then more. Some 15 deaf showed up! They needed to finish the class, so I had the privilege of doing a big group study with them all. Let’s go right to it then. Universal Soverignty. How did they react?

(Hooooo, AAArrrgg,, Baaaaaaa, Horaay! )

Actually the picture is just some of them, as that picture was post b-study at the beach. We had over 30 people go to the beach after the last class for an hour or two. It was a blast to finish off our week with association. I snorkeled out a few hundred meters and so an amazing coral reef. Just when I was about to head back in, I saw one of Lombok’s most famous resident’s. A sea turtle. SO amazing. He was big, about ¾ the size of me. I followed him around for a while, but he was too smart! Every time I would get close, he would just swim deeper. He was so smart, he had me chase him some 30 to 40 feet down where of course I run of out air and need to resurface. Pretty good way to end the trip in eh?

(oh wait, actually after chasing Mr. Turtle this was the conclusion of the day)

Back to Bali. The 3rd reason for this trip was back in Bali. Reason 1 was the conventions, reason 2 was the class in Lombok, and reason 3 was the KH build in Bali.

There are 3 construction teams around Indonesia right now doing their thing. It takes usually over 2 years to get a permit to start building. In Bali’s case they can’t register under Kingdom Hall, they have to register under Educational Building for Bible Studies. Why? Even though Indonesia has freedom for religion, go ahead and try to get a permit in an area that is not the majority religion. If you’re a Muslim or Christian in Bali it is extremely difficult to get a permit for anything other than Hindu. If your in Aceh or Madura or Padang have fun getting a permit for a church or Buddhist temple. If you’re in an all Christian area have fun blasting a mosque at 4 a.m. Only with a lot of money in tips do things go through. Ya, it’s like that.

(An ole fashioned KH build... 3 months)

One brief story was how they got the land location. The original property that was to be purchased was on a street name in Balinese that sounds like the 'river gina'. In Indonesian it is VERY close to the river zina which zina means adultery. The brothers were bummed about this as Christendom churches would use this as a means to ridicule Jehovah's Witnesses as they meet in a place that sounds like adultery street. Then the owner raised the price so the brothers backed out and the sale didn't go through. They next found land on a place called 'river Jehow' which sounds like the river Jehovah. The land was HALF THE PRICE as what the first owner wanted. So now they will meet on a place that can give praise to Jehovah not take it away.

(Happy Happy Joy Joy)

When they got the property it had a lot of mini demon offering statues. The construction team took great pleasure with taking sledgehammers and bashing the false religious idols to pieces. They were happy having their little share in the destruction of Babylon the Great!

When it was non-working hours you have to spend time on Bali’s beaches. Nothing like them. People from all over the world, the sunsets, never dull moments. I have to say when people are on vacation it can either bring out the best of them or the worst. In this case this family from France or another French speaking country had the best coming out of them. I’m just glad I happened to be at the right place at the right time!

(Dad and Son have the beginninng of a beautiful relationship)

Now there were some good waves that day, but a school of fish got right in my area. When that happens, get out! They were jumping out of the water a bit, which I figure can only mean one thing. A bigger fish. Sure enough about 3-5 minutes later I saw a nice white fin. Yup, a shark out there chasing the little fish. I could only picture my mom saying to me; ‘ you saw a shark and continue to swim after? You idiot.’

Due to this inner voice of my mom, I got out of the water and told some other tourists, get out. I ran down the beach to tell the Indonesian life guards, who were like, no sharks here, really? No.? Then I stopped a local Balinese surfer who said, ‘ oh ya, hue putih, sudah biasa’ {white shark, that’s normal to see} He laughed and said, oh yeah close to the reef, no problem, they don’t usually bite people. Thank’s buddy.
So, that experience brought me to a conclusion of another day in Bali.

(Well not yet; I preached, he played bongos, and the other guy brought the rice wine!)

Then for my next to last day in Bali after working at the KH project 27 hours straight (night watchman duty included) I decided to enjoy the last day. Why? I had just reached a mini milestone personally.

(Of course catch waves, do some snorkeling, and see creatures from the abyss)

What was the mini milestone? The previous week I had reached 15 years of baptism, and that previous day I had reached 10 years of full-time service completed. In reality 15 and 10 is still small in the big picture. It’s about the average of a Gilead student is like 14 and 11 or 14 and 12. That is when they really get into their career. I guess I’m really happy about 3 main points from that realization that a mini milestone was reached.

1. Kept my integrity. Yes of course some foolishness in the heart of a boy, some stubbornness that needed to be softened up, and a greater understanding of the issue of Universal Sovereignty, but integrity in tact.
2. In all 10 years I made my promise to Jehovah of 840 hours. I still need my certificate, I still need to be better at pre-organization before going out in service, but a promise is a promise.
3. I’m still living my favorite scripture. Philippians 1:12, 25 says ‘Now I desire you to know brothers, that all of my affairs are for the advancement of the good news rather then otherwise… So being confident of this I know I shall remain and abide with all of you for your advancement and the joy that belongs to your faith.’
So what do you to enjoy this moment?

(Just like it all started, watching the sky at the beach)

Just when I think the trip is over, pack it up, soak it in, you never know what your going to see from the airplane.

(Some random inactive volcano over Java)

(The modern world of Jakarta, the white are clouds the grey is just pure smog!!!)

I believe the last picture, although not a sunset is a good way to remind of us of this world. Smog, dirty, choking us out. We need a complete overhall of this system. As much as I enjoy relating positive stories from Indonesia amongst this time in which we live, we just can’t escape the filth around that still exists.


If possible the next blog sometime in mid-September will show pictures and videos that show a glimpse through the clouds.