Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Batamese, Rasta man, Earthquake, Ecuadorians

I promised in September to show some highlights of the district assembly's. Sorry, a little behind schedule.

Before that blog comes about we need to show the Mini olympics in Batam. It's a friend of mine's wedding so I threw a bachelor's party for him. Weddings here are a flip flop from American style weddings. Instead around 150 of your best friends and family it's 400-500 of your neighbors and relatives you never see and your best friends and family don't have enough money to fly out to see it.

The brother here on the right in the 67 shirt has been in Batam for about 7 years but got married in a different city where he grew up. No one has money to get out there nor the time off. So we drank seaweed beer in his honor.

(Ball throw, egg toss, bike with no hands, bow and arrow, coin push, bocce, and blind poker)

Not too long after this the pioneer school came over for the Saturday goodbye meal. I cooked up for 30 people so that was fun. They never had pasta before so it was nice to see all of them diving into something new. This marks the 2nd time the pioneer school has been on our island of Batam so it was nice to have a small part. On Sunday post-school we (almost all the brothers with cars) took them down to the beach, saw a refugee camp, fed wild monkeys, went to 'da bridge' and the crowds rejoiced. I think I should have been part of this class as a second-timer but i'm hoping we will get a sign language pioneer school next year... We'll see.

(Pioneers senang sekali)

On to rastaman. Isias was great. His story of how he came in the truth is funny. He was totally chillin, illin, dillin, and livin the rasta life. But, eventually the truth won out.

After serving in Malaysia and Singapore he wanted to see Indo. He did a fine tour of Batam, Medan, Jkt, Bandung and back to Sing. I gotta say, he gave the craziest public talk I have ever seen. He used the stage like a literal stage. He was using two lap-tops, using the t.v., using a white board, and even walking of the stage to the audience to see pictures on his small laptop. He even had to ask the audience a few times on how to spell words in Indonesian. I even cringed a few times as it was just something. BUT<<<<<< absolutely clear and the deaf loved it. He mixed in Indo signs and a lot of natural signs.
My man Isias!!
This guy was all deaf, nothing but the deaf, and all energy for deaf. We had quite a few 10 hour days. THANKS BRO!!!

(The sizes of hearts can't be judged)

Not long after Isias left was a huge earthquake on the island of Sumatra. You may know that thousands died from the earthquake on September 30, 2009. Padang is located in my circuit. A group of 4 of us went out to see what we could do.

I was there to help with the evaluation of homes, bringing relief supplies, repairing damaged homes and as well emotional support. There were a little over 30 witness homes that had some kind of damage. Two homes were unlivable, but most of the damage to the friends home was minor in scope. Amazingly only two sisters were injured. Both of these injuries was due to falling debris on their legs.

Here are a few points I learned from this tragedy that you may enjoy.

1. Build on rock not on sand.
- Buildings that were built cheaply or with sand as their base literally sank into the ground sometimes two stories. Some of these were impressive Gov't buildings or banks. Houses that were built on rock and with better quality suffered only minor cracks or nothing at all. So Jesus words at Matthew 7:24-27 rang true. Only under pressure will the true foundation be revealed.

(Honestly: It was something to see a mosque just destroyed and people driving right past it. Foregleam?)

2. A lot of work post-Armageddon
- In my estimation the re-building work in general will be going on for 5 years to get everything back to normal again in the city. With all the money and int'l help it still takes time for controlled demolishing of buildings; loading up all the material; bringing it to new places, and on and on. I always thought the Paradise would come like 6 months post-armageddon. Padang has 2 congregations and some 160 publishers in that city. It would take them 100 years or more to try and clean up all that mess. We will have to wait and see how Jehovah helps us via natural forces at Armageddon, but we still have a lot of clean-up to do. A lot more than I thought.

(Have fun dude)

3. Simple is best
- The Indonesians are so simple. No water or electricity and yet for some life continued just like normal. They didn't sweat it at all. Even in these circumstances they just keep on trekking. A simple eye and content with the present things is the way to go.

(This sister is only one of 2 native Padang people who are JW's. A very very hard tribe to come into the truth)

4. Importance of meetings.
- Even though the earthquake happened on Wednesday, Thursday meetings were still held. The one KH for the south congregation was destroyed. They moved to a office like garage building on the first floor. No electricity, no bathroom, no a.c. nothing. In fact around 25% sat outside next to the motorbikes as it wasn't big enough. The following thursday I was there and it was probably the most unique meeting in my life. As stated: no electricity, bathroom, a.c., add to the fact that I had to interpret the whole meeting for a deaf girl that came. It was 95 degrees in their, very hard to pick up words as cars and motorbikes were driving by in the front, and this is the best part.......................... all you could smell was dead bodies from a building that collapsed in front of us that had people crushed under the concrete below. Most people were wearing masks because of the smell. After the meeting though??? All the kids wanted to come and take pictures with the 'bule'. (Means white buffalo).

(I had a gut feeling it was going to be a special meeting and it was)

(To the kids the only thing special was the guy with the funny nose)

5. Fame and wealth are temporary.
-So many people lost everything in a manner of a minute. It's soooooooooooooooo temporary in this system. One day here, one day no more. A proof of this is one day while we were walking along I happen to see a bunch of trophy's and a expensive vase on the side of the road for the trash man to pick up. Why? They broke and had no use anymore. So true, so true.

(Am I focusing on a crown of thorns or a crown of life?)

6. Imitate Nathaniel
- The best story from the earthquake was 2 year old Nathaniel. His mom a JW; picked up her two boys (aged 2 and 3) in her arms while the earth was shaking. His mother frantically trying to figure out what was going on and was quivering and shaking. 2 year old Nathianel replied: "Mama, Jehovah is our friend, Jehovah will help us. Don't be afraid." After hearing this his mother started to cry. She thought; here my son is only 2 years old and his faith in Jehovah is stronger than mine although i'm an adult and already baptized.

I asked our sister while repairing her home, how did he get such trust in Jehovah? She replied: 'When he takes a nap he only will fall asleep if I sing to him song number 47 'Jehovah our Strength and our Might', only after that will he sleep.'

(mama, Nathaniel, and the 3 year old)

There are many other stories and principles from the earthquake but it would take too long.
-Follow the 2005 KM on disaster preparedness.
-Be ready to obey the direction of the elders at the last minute.
-No water, electricity, and jacked up prices will happen.
-Post disasters people need personal visits not text messages 'are you o.k.?
-Acting like a witness is sometimes the greatest witness.
-One grandmother grabbed her grandchild and cuddled her into her arms right before a wall collapsed on-top of her. Another man did the same with his money. In both cases (grandmother, man) died. Only difference the grandmother saved the baby, the money didn't save the man.

Now after the work was just about done, I tried to go back to Batam but all the flights were full. It seems there has been a mass exodus from Padang due the trauma experienced by the quake. So, what to do?

Go to Medan and work on a KH project. In typical Indonesian fashion; there is always a surprise in store.
Please keep in mind all of the follow happen because there was no flights left to Batam. I ended up getting home cheaper.

(Hey can you make some concrete? Sure, as soon as I kill the deadly cobra in the sand)

Seriously, funny. Just a random cobra in the concrete mix. The friends were like, ya that's normal here. There are farms all around so that happens. It was nice though to see some of the crew I worked with in Bangka. The lunch on saturday was a bredded-shrimp dish that was so incredible. Thankfully all the friends take two or three helpings of rice and only one or two shrimp, so that left PLENTY for the hungry American.

It seems anywhere I go I can't travel without meeting the deaf. Medan was no exemption. They have the highest concentration of deaf attending meetings in Indonesia. The picture speaks for itself. They are all deaf.

(At 9:00 I had the public talk in Indonesian on one theme, 16:00 was the talk in Indo sign on another: HSpirit)

Now to add to this trip is the fact I'm supposed to be entertaining Melissa and Linda who are American-Ecuadorian guests in Singapore, bringing them to Malaysia and back to Batam. Again, always a surprise in store.

I love traveling in Indo, because you never know what your going to expect. I don't know if it's better to know the language or not. The friends in Medan tried to help us with contacts in Berstagi (which they did) but we didn't exactly meet that particular brother. We got off a random bus on a random road called Brother Street. (Jalan Saudara) The reason is this one sister had been a JW forever and all neighbors know who and where JW's are.

We asked where is the witnesses and they brought us to her house. They took us in, fed us, showed us around, and we even slept there. The main entrée of the night was fried snake and snake soup with coconut liqueur a local delicacy renowned for it's health benefits.

That evening we rented a bus and packed 15 of us into it to go to the natural hot springs. Somehow the Indonesian friends are more happy screaming, jumping, and pushing each other into the 100 F water then just sitting back and relaxing in the water.

(Source of the Hot Springs comes from these geysers/active volcanoes)

The next day was a day to remember for sure. For some reason most of the locals have never been to this spot before. (Typical) The persons that live by the ocean who don't swim. The ones who live next to a mountain but don't ski, the ones in NYC who have never been to the MET, Bethel, or the museums, and so on...
I have never seen anything like it my-life. You go through a tropical rain forest; end up in a mountain range; cross by unique limestone cliffs; pass a sulphur stream; skip by the geysers; and end up at volcanic crater. If you want to keep walking you can go to the peak and see up to Medan on a clear day.

We as the genius's that we are decided to make our names in rock formations, walk through sulphur water, collect rocks, clean up debris to make our own hot spring pool, and,,,,,,,, get caught in a straight up flood-like rain storm.

(It was awe inspiring, I swear you would be off limits for getting that close in the Western World)

Ya, so we got soaked. EVERYTHING soaked, and it was a good couple mile walk down the mountain again. BTW, we had all of our things as we were on to Lake Toba.

(If I hadn't just bought some brandy we would have definitely got the pig flu)

We made our wet way 6 hours later arriving at 12 am to a random hot spring hotel on Lake Toba. 3 different hot springs in 2 days was well worth it. In typical Indo fashion it was closed so I hopped over the fence and banged the door until Papa Batak woke up from his slumber.

Our timing was perfect as the next morning was the weekly market where people bring their goodies from ALL OVER Toba to sell in this weekly free-for-all. This old lady was absolutely hilarious. She kept on trying to sell me a pig and my answer was the same: 'There is no way I could take it back on the plane with me to Batam.' (Haram/Forbidden)
She was a GREAT saleswoman and said, well if you can't take the big one on my lap, just take the smaller one in this bag.

(Hey!!! Take a picture with me but give me $1.00)

For you new-bee's to Indonesian culture there are hundreds of tribes and languages. Batak Toba is one of these tribes who are predominantly Christian and they are known to be loud, pushy, and a very strong character. I loved it. Most of Indonesian JW's come from the Batak tribe. In fact 75% of my congregation is from there, so it was great to see how they grew up. It was also awesome to preach freely and identify myself as a witness as EVERYBODY knows JW's in this area.

Then on the lake itself, it's wow, something else. I don't know how big, but it's the largest in South East Asia. It was formed by a volcanic eruption that apparently changed the whole climate of the world. It could be explored for years.

(This pic doesn't do it justice as the lake is actually like a big eye with an island in the middle)

We stayed in Hotel Carolina which was owned by a witness family until mama passed away last January. It was $3.00 a day for a room in a traditional batak house which was fun in itself. On our way out of Toba we bumped into the most famous of all Indonesian tribes: Monyet

(Give me a peanut and I wont mess up your car - sama aja seorang parkir kan?)

After another 7 hour bus ride through the flooded city of Medan we arrived at a deaf brother's house and discussed deep spiritual conversations dealing with the organizational structure and sign language linguistic issues. This now bap brother was president two times for the Gerkatin deaf organization in the second largest city Medan.

The next day in the airport we were tricked into buying a all-you-can-eat buffet and drink in the airport lounge completely equipped with inet, free massages, cappuccino maker, cell phone charges, special boarding, and satellite T.V.

(Man, what a wasted $5.00! j/k)

Back in Batam on Friday afternoon, it was on the road again.

Arrive, pick up car, shower, laundry, dinner, sunset, sleep, wake up, breakfast, meeting, parts, service group, drive, ferry ride, informal witness, kh, motorbike, beach, preach, dinner, shower, sleep, wake-up, shower, breakfast, public talk me, wt, pictures, motorbike, ferry, pick up car, meet deaf persons, meeting, chairman me, public talk, wt reader me, pictures, mall, shopping, dinner, sunset, talk, shower, sleep.
AAAAAAAAAAHhhhh now it's Monday am.

(Somehow a white sand beach fit in the schedule)

Melissa and Linda were amazing. Melissa has been in Ecuador for 10 plus years so I was kinda of feeling she could handle a week like that, but Linda, oh my. Usually 18 years of marriage makes people take more of those relaxing 4 star vacations, but my dear sister Linda you go girl.

So the girls are off now, and I'm back to normal it seems. Literally since my parents arrived last November 2008 this is the first few weeks I have had off to just figure things out and take it all in. There is no better way off to do this then...

(Ya, you know a sunset picture was coming, but this is what happens in my home when it sets)

If you read this far, thank you. This was a really loaded blog. The next one will catch up about the Keep on the Watch assemblies here in Indo and Korea.