Thursday, September 01, 2011


I really didn't know what, how, where, or when life's course would take it's usual twist, but I knew one thing... Why!!!!

It never comes easy, so my motto? - make the best of it.

To be truly honest:....... whoa, what just happened???
There is a song that says "Reality used to be a friend of mine." If he's my friend, he is bi-polar.

Let's get to it- No word on the VISA except it would be a possible 2 months to be finished. So? Find a job in Singapore like you may have read in the last post. That job, though, was temporary, so when I finished-I thought, why not spend the time in a country that I was invited to- years ago to come and stay for a long time to help get the sign language moving- Vietnam. As only South East Asia can do, you can find a $60.00 USD flight from Singapore to get there.

After meeting Moises at a random pickup basketball game in Singapore, he turned out to be a great host for a first spot. To be picked up by a brother in a country under restrictions is a gift in itself. To get back to his place and have a 5 course meal after working 10 hour days for 3 weeks straight is even nicer!

(The first meal in Vietnam was a testament of undeserved kindness, the brotherhood, and patience).

I didn't at first have the field service preaching cap on. I was more interested in being a back-packer again for the first time outside of Indonesia in about 4 years; and in theory, the last time maybe ever ???. The excitement flows, the new people, the stories, the adventure, the relationships, the foods, the everything that comes from living out of a backpack. It took me to the end of the Mekong River Delta which flows 2,600 miles through 6 countries.

The funny thing about doing this $7 per day- trip is that all of the events, -boat trip, trying coconut candy, homemade rice wine, villages, etc, are all things that I have encountered normally in my territory in Indonesia. While others are oohing and ahing, nervous, and picture taking, I'm wishing I knew the language to give a presentation!! It felt like home...

(I did enjoy the contrast of a shack home on the river with a modern-day engineering splendor in the back)

Another day trip took us to the Vietnam War Museum and the tunnels that the Vietnamese dug out during the French and American occupations. Intriguing. What people did to survive is amazing! What people can survive on, live in, and do when the going gets tough is something else. What wicked people did to other people is just... Satanic.

It's a learning experience...

So was the way the way they drive in Vietnam. Nothing in Indonesia compares. Vietnam has Indo by the ropes in how they drive, cross the street, and how tight the streets are with 4 story high buildings. Literally there is no break in traffic, you walk out in the street- slowly in front of 100 motor bikes and cars, and they just make their way around you. It's a dumbfounding system.

But as much as I wanted to fight it, I couldn't not go fishing for the deaf. We ended up meeting this mom and her son at a class for deaf artists. SO MANY deaf and only 1 sister knew sign where I was. She has taught some classes, but WOW. What a workload in front of them.

(The mother and son had the most beautiful blue eyes).

I think one of those random experiences you never forget is playing outside soccer in a thunderstorm at 9 pm with a bunch of brothers who don't speak English in a country under the hush hush... You don't forget going out to eat with a bunch of people and some happen to be on a translation team. You don't forget getting invited to eat at one's home who attended a certain schooling for 5 months who you randomly met 5 years earlier interpreting the meeting into sign language in another country -who remember the particular conversation you had to every last word! You don't forget sleeping across from a certain place of work with a biblical name meaning 'house of.' Hope you follow my thread here.

Those experiences are the cherished ones.

I made a 6 hour road trip and had 3 American deaf people from Gallaudet University happen to be on the same bus who never knew what JW's were, and knew too much about the Bible and that's another experience in itself!

Eating fresh fish and shrimp on the sand in a beach restaurant, watching wind-surfers twist and spin while drinking 50 cent liter beer wasn't so bad as well.

Lovingly, my parents sponsored a 4 star resort hotel on the beach for one night on the coast. A lot of Vietnam has areas with beautiful white-sand beaches where the morning sands and tides are sparkling with some of the most astounding colored shells. What do the workers do with this beauty?

(Shoveling over Millions of memories for a 4 year old or a 30 year old)

After another long 12 hour or so, night bus ride {during which they lost my reservation so I laid on the bus floor the whole time} we arrived in Nha Chang where I saw something I have never seen before. Literally thousands of people up, swimming, playing football, badminton, singing, playing, stretching all at 5-6:30 am. They fled to the beach like hungry people at a buffet. Then suddenly at around 7 am ------- GONE------- 10,000 people just vanished.... It was astonishing. All of the Vietnamese tourists go home when the sun gets out so they don't get a tan. Later in the day, you get the foreigners out there burning their skin hoping to get a tan! 5:30 pm -all the Vietnamese come back!

(It was like I was on the Truman Show where all were programmed to do it)

(BTW the domestic tourism and industry growth is phenomenal. They are not in a recession, they're booming)

If you're planning a trip, I do recommend Vietnam. The food is cheap, fresh, and good. You can rent a motorbike for $4 a day. Here are some of the things you can do!

(Listening to a mp3 player; driving through beaches, mountains, and small towns is a cheery day)

(Lunch Break. I swam, goofed around with some kids, Moises preached)

(I show you my big Vietnamese muscles and my peace sign... araararh)

(It is nice... Really nice...)

After our trips together, Moises headed back down south. I honestly got the last seat on a 8 car train and that took me up to the north of Vietnam. Nothing like being on a seat over-night for 16 hours with a 2 women and 4 kids with three seats... HUH? When I got on- the woman complained to the conductor something to the effect that I thought this seat was supposed to be empty, and she was in a bad mood as well. The woman had her son's feet in my seat area and the kid's leg kicking mine from time to time.

What to do?

One of the nice things about growing up and maturing is realizing what you would have done when you were younger is now different then what the 'mind of Christ' teaches you to do. Instead of constantly fighting/pushing them off, I thought to myself, she must be moving or something and is quite poor since she's not in a sleeper car, doesn't have enough seats for her kids, you have a 5 year old on your lap, so does her friend, etc, etc, etc. When she needed her bag I was able to reach and get it, share some food, etc, etc. It's just ironic and I mention it, because for years and still now- I do sometimes like to insist on 'my rights', space, freedoms.' Yielding, though, seems to change everything. By the end -smiles and bye- bye to the kids and sharing of cookies during our 16 hour journey replaced "the rights".

(It's hard to get so bitter if you stare at the good that is all around you out the train window)

Then it's time to get to work. North Vietnam- where the target invite was. It was 8 hour days with the deaf. It was training on how to do picture WT lessons, or making talks with the deaf in mind. It was accompanying the lone deaf male pub on his motorbike whipping through the streets like a horse's tail swatting flies. He knew hundreds of deaf. He used me like show-and-tell. It was BUSY... It was... having an oyster, duck, egg, fish sauce, fresh mint & vegetable meal, and then 20 minutes later to be at a motorcycle garage at 8 pm for a deaf study and getting uh oh......... uh oh............. something didn't agree with me at dinner. (You know what THAT means! Rough spot.

But on the second floor of a garage is the home for 4 of the mechanics (one of whom is deaf).

(They sleep on mats, they are brothers, they have a lot of work)

The deaf have been extremely appreciative. Many have come for years even without interpreting. There was this deaf guy on the street who had his own shoe repair business going on, who rode his bike around 1 hour each way to attend the meeting.

Service is great. Besides the numerous deaf couples in the cities you may go out to the countryside through the rice paddies and fresh markets. One day we did this which took us to a father and son. The son is deaf and really knowledgeable. Again, the Vietnamese tea is bitter and strong. I liked it,,,, but wow, strong stuff, uh oh.... uh oh.... Rough spot! (oh no, not again) in the country-side about 1 and a half feet wide outside and the dog opening the door with his nose.

(I took this picture for you to see the back-ground. Try and zoom in. The dead relatives get cookies, cake, wine, biscuits, chocolate, etc. for their offerings in the after- life. Not too different from ancient Egypt is it?)

When you're out in service you see the most random things that others may not like those that stay on the tourist trail... As in most places in the world, there is a contrast between rich and poor.

In these two cases you will see such.

(Rich people pay to have their dog's walked quite speedily).

(Poor people sell their dogs for a few dollars a kilo -BBQ or fried)

On the spiritual side, it was uplifting... Pics are private as you can imagine, but the stories are real.

Wisdom dictates the work, but so does the spirit. In one area a 'friend' was in Europe where he was contacted, studied, came in and brought it back to a area that never had any Jw's. In fact he was very early. Post war period, it was really dormant until recently. Now you have even 11 year old boys coming in and a crew of need-greaters and sent-in ones.

At my last Sunday gathering about 4 minutes before the meeting started I get approved and asked to give the Public Talk in Vietnamese Sign Language. It was packed with 23 deaf and only 6 hearing in a room 6m by 8m. There wasn't even standing room. I busted out a sweat- to be sure and I don't even know if it was VSL northern, or VSL southern, Indo SL, or ASL, or most likely all 4 sign languages. The deaf got it though and certain points they really got- they started clapping during the talk. I believe it was only the 3rd time in history they had a PT in Sign. At the end, the lone deaf pub fanning me down for about 10 minutes as I was pure sweat but couldn't walk to the bathroom as chairs blocked the door and I would have distracted the whole hall.

Here's some Vietnamese Sign.

(Enjoy life brochure, who's the boss...)


That night...
Brother Thomas Joseph Kittrick... your visa is ready to be processed in Singapore.

Ironic... After a day like that, an experience like that, it's now time for the next chapter in life... but...

I'm a last-minute flight away back to Singapore, or I can go over land back-packing version... What would you do? Fly right back? Or take the scenic route? Have in mind it has been 3 months living "on the edge" not knowing what would happen, visa, country, immigration, America, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, - just go back, it's been tiring, stressful at times, but now I can just move on...??? Reasonable?

(To be in Vietnam and pass up one of the world heritage spots at Halang Bay would be a tragedy)

I was the lone foreigner on the boat and that made me the guy to take pictures with. I did the package solo to save money, and had to make it work, like jumping off the boat's roof some 20+ feet up.

(Pass up the caves???? Hardly)

As great as preaching is, you still need to take some times to do the tourist stuff that you may have passed by normally. There is a library in Northern Vietnam that was to bring in the best of the best from around the countryside to serve the emperor. This little side-trip will be beneficial as I will explain down below.

(You may also get some time in a library to see some instruments that you have never heard before)


One funny thing about Vietnam is if the people were under 30 and you said you were from America you were a celebrity they wanted to take photos with... Older Vietnamese basically would spit at if you if they were allowed to.

(This is the we like Hollywood, MTV, and your other entertainment trash you send our way- group)

Since it's time to move on to this new chapter in Indonesia and in life... I wanted to see some mountains to process it all. Being in Batam doesn't allow this.
Well, if you thought 12 hours on a bus floor was bad, or 16 hours in a seat with a kicking kid, I would take that any day over 12 hour overnight on a hard wooden bench... That was rough.

What did it lead to? This was what I woke up to in the morning...

(Mountains are nature's never-changing landmarks, boasting Jehovah's strength)

Here it is only a short distance from the border with China and 15 hours from the nearest group of brothers. Nothing to do besides preach to the ex-pat backpackers, eat some roasted pork on the street and ride motorbikes through the mountains.

This little village town all full of the Hmong tribe had a place called the "Silver Falls." Somehow it changes colors depending on time of day, rain, etc.

(In reality it was more like the Chocolate Falls from Willie Wonka)

Now I am in the middle of nowhere on my way back to Singapore. Online stories tell of a 'road to hell' that passes from Sapa in Vietnam down to Laos.

Why? Landslides, drunk bus-drivers, pot holes, unfinished roads, flat tires, steep mountain cliffs, hairpin curves, accidents, and of course the road being blocked off.

Yup- That's the road I took.

Probably the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen in my life on one steady stretch of road.

(This is only 1 picture of hundreds of breathtaking shots that photos don't do justice to-)

You had the natives selling these red fruits (Leche) I believe that tasted like a sweet fine wine.

(Shy, Shy, Shy, Big surprise)

OH YES, the road. NUTS. Absolutely nuts. The best thing was some retired American in his 50's cracking jokes the whole time that made the time pass. We even made a song, had some live chickens on the bus, a woman with a 50 pound bag of peanuts, a guy in his 20's vomiting, the road blocked off due to landslides, broken a.c. and about 4 people too many on the bus... -This is on the Vietnam side!
That was another 11 hour bus ride.

That night, it was nice to sit back and eat stir fried water buffalo with 25 cent draft beer!

Crossing the Lao border the next day was easy as I prepaid for my VISA which bought me some extra time in the middle of the border between Laos and Vietnam. Seeing a local shack that looked like an Indonesian restaurant I walked over to see if any food was available... And oh boy it was! Fried crickets, or June bugs, or something like that.

Fortunately the locals laughed seeing I was bald like their immigration friend. Being bald in this case proved to get me some free crickets! What a deal!

(They called us 'brothers.' It was the first 'brother' I had seen in a while. Look in the pan to see the bugs)

Well, Well, Well, they were impressed to see a white man eat the local food, so they gave me some local rice wine that makes whisky look like a wine cooler.

Well, Well, Well, now he eats crickets and can have a shot of the local moonshine?!? Might as well be part of the family. Unfortunately I noticed that my driver was having a little more then a shot or two. How about a bottle... Uh oh.... Uh oh.....

Sure enough about 15 minutes down the road we get stuck in a washed- away part of the road that he got stuck in... Why? He didn't go through the pothole fast enough. Now a landslide and rocks were coming down hitting our bus. So who does our driver get to help dig him out? Well of course his cricket, rice wine drinking buddy. Our driver's hand was all cut up so he couldn't dig us out. So now I'm in my shorts with no shirt on, nor sandals digging out a bus with an iron rod out of the mud in a torrential downpour trying to avoid rocks falling in the middle of the mountains of Laos............
Honestly glad I ate a bunch of crickets; as they had a bunch of protein and energy.

Anyways we get out, and about 1 hour down the road,- the bridge is washed out anyways- and were stranded in a town in the middle of who knows where.

(Make the best of it. Eat some local cuisine, walk around, appreciate what you have, watch Shrek with the locals)

In a twist of fate, one of the cars that was stuck behind us on the mountain had a young man named Jai. They just came from a tourist training meeting in Vietnam. He had an umbrella and was nice enough to hold it over me a bit as I was digging out the bus. Something about him impressed me, so when we got to the next town I wanted to talk to him.

-"Jai, have you ever heard of the Bible?"
"Yes, I used to study it?"
"Really! Where?"
"In Vientene with some Canadians named _ and _ .
"Have you heard of Jehovah's Witnesses?"
"Yes, I know Jehovah, he is God. I studied with the witnesses for a few years then I was moved up here."
"WOW! Do you remember _ from Australia?"
"Yes, he has the curly hair!"
"Jai! You need to study again!"
"I know, I love Jehovah, but very hard family opposition."

Go figure - lost in the middle of nowhere- in the mountains of Lao getting stuck in a landslide and a town with one hotel and having someone who speaks English fluently help you out. It is amazing what the angels can do. It's also brilliant to be able to get this lone interested person back on track and in touch with the sole cong in the country some 20 hours- by bus- away.

After sleeping in some random guys' home who were building the new bridge that is 2 years late- I hitchhiked with Jai and his company to the next town; again bridge washed out. Some kids were mesmerized to see a white man, so we had fun playing sign language games, and they, in turn, tossed fruit into my mouth that I would catch. Hey, you have to make the best out of sitting in the back of a truck for hours on a bumpy road.

(YUP -Make the best of it: Road washed out? take some bamboo, rope, and sticks and get your motorbike across)

The next town: River too strong, can't get past. So, we took a boat across and the journey continued on mini motorcycles, buses packed with 30+ plus people, eating soup on the side of the road and enjoying the breath-taking landscape.

(That's the first big city I've seen in a long... time)

At one bus station after having been sort of "together" with a Czech and British kid through the 'road to hell' I had one of the best meals of the trip. Maybe due to hunger, thirst, or just to be off a bumpy bus... An entire Mekong fish about the size from your elbow to fingers. It was BBQ with lemongrass, and scallions on the inside with a sweet/salty bbq sauce coated on the sides. BBQ on the street with an assortment of other rodents you could choose from; the girl wanted to keep cooking it Asian style {Soooo dry and crisp} Knowing it was fresh- I stopped her- which made a big commotion and shock. It was so soft and juicy and a slice of fish heaven. With a cold native Lao drink and some fried banana with coconut flakes for dessert, I was ready for my next 10 hour bus ride!

(On the sides of roads you see pigs with piglets, double rainbows, people in native garb, fresh fruit and corn stands, 4 year olds leading two year olds to water holes, and of course; the sweet shy mountain girls seeing a white man) TEE HEE

(This same road that started 3 days earlier and only about 150 miles all the way in Sapa Vietnam has now led me into the heart of Laos. Like I mentioned before the road had extraordinary, eye-catching shots that didn't allow you to take naps)

Lubang Prabang is a world-heritage city, a big spot for backpackers, river tours, arts and crafts, nightclubs, and food. There was this unique place called Eutopia that I had to see. The lighting, the setup, the atmosphere, the river, and a beach volleyball court built into this bar/restaurant. Little did I know that the couple I was playing volleyball with had just been contacted by JW's in Thailand and were seriously thinking about a home bible study when returning to Texas to get married. A fine discussion ensued, and informal preaching always goes when you travel; you never know what happens with the seeds that are planted.

That night I slept in a dorm room with Muhammed Hussain from the largest nomadic tribe on earth without a country. Was he impressed with what Jehovah's Witnesses believed! He has read the Quran and the Bible, and the things we believed were things he came to grips with on his own.

Besides informal preaching there are of course temples, museums, and kingdoms to discover. Including the former King's home. The walls were decorated with mosaic stained glass detailing the history of the Lubang Kingdom. It is hard to look past all the wars and fighting that man has done in every kingdom in it's history.

(PURE GOLD: What would it be like to have approached Solomon in "all his glory?")

Laos is also famous for these sets of waterfalls that are turquoise see-through blue. Due to flooding it wasn't as clear this day, but there were people from every corner of the globe! A rope swing, diving off off rocks into the waterfall, fish nibbling your toes, natural jacuzzi whirlpools, everyone becomes little kids while exploring.

(Hopping on a random bus with random people with random conversations always makes best of memories)

The next stop on down on our long bus trip brings us to ...huh...? Tubing down the Mekong river. Some business savy Laotians came up with this great idea:
Let's take a section of the river, put up a bunch of wooden shacks, bring in tons of beer and alcohol, put in rope swings, mud volley ball courts, spray paint, hip hop music, 20 foot slides in to river, zip lines, water guns, and give them a tube to connect from bar to bar going down a fast-moving river... "Ya, great idea! That will make tons of money, and never have any problems!"

As you can imagine, young people, alcohol, away from home, and a river are not the wisest mix.

The nice part of this town are the limestone cliffs that has the most magnificent blue lagoon I have ever scene. You honestly thought there was a neon blue light under the water. It was like being on another planet. Another thing to do is go for a morning jog and watch the sunrise from the mountains and rice paddies. The sad thing was seeing all the dead fish in the water of the rice paddies.

(You can tell some big int'l company gave the local farmers pesticide to keep the bugs away, but of course it killed all of the fish. Meaning, that rice is now contaminated as well... Aaah the west)

As we continue on another local bus ride {one that the tour companies of course said didn't exist so they could get customers} we enjoy 4 to 5 hour busride we have a nice chat with a dutch indian who is an his exploration of the world, it's peoples, and search for answers. As great as the ride was, you can always tell when you get close to a big city. The beautiful mountains disappear, the green trees, water holes, and rice paddies are gone. What you are left with though is after 1 week of bus rides, confusion, sleeping who knows where, you get the best thing you ever can receive while traveling...

(A meal with brothers, good friends, and Rhode Islanders)

Seeing Dave, Tanya, Joel, Ally, Hyesun, all of whom I know, have befriended, and spent time with was a reason for joy. Seeing other friends whom I met in Thailand nearly 4 years earlier in October 2007 at the English District Convention was shocking to them that I remembered. I think they felt the same seeing someone who hasn't shaved in a week!

(Actually, if it wasn't for helping translate into sign some baptism questions back in Vietnam a few hours before leaving I could have been a drama character with a full beard)

Vientiane is busy, hopping, and has changed so much in the last 5 years since being there but the tasty sandwiches remain the same. Side-point- Fresh mint inside sandwiches gives a a whole new twist on a sandwich.
After being cleaned up it was back to well, you know, deaf preaching. We met a incredible girl who studies the DVD in Thai Sign, knows ASL, and of course signs Lao sign.
On my last day in Laos, i was thrown into conducting a Sign Language Workshop with some of the youth. They had been paitently waiting for me, and I for them! Something lost in translation, but acting out Bible Stories in Sign, playing classifier games, discussing goals of sign, and general laughs were squeezed into a quickly bashed class.

(If you read the August KM about moving to another area, Laos would definitely qualify as a place that needs HUGE support)

Now, decision time. In Vientiane there is a flight to KL, and from KL it's close to Singapore by bus, train, or sometimes an even cheaper flight. Or... take a train to Indonesia. Huh? What? Something said that's the way to go. I think it stems from being a youth and dad working on the railroad. My dad had the opportunity to take me as a 5 or 6 year old all over the USA for free on Amtrak. We would have went down south, out west and gone wherever the tracks were laid. My mom being a bit more rational didn't think this was a wise move for Train Jockey Joe and a 5 year old.

When I was older I always wanted to do a big train trip, so if there was ever a time, it would be now. Arriving at the train station as the only train per-day was departing Laos was not the way to start. Running and screaming and Hyesun translating seemed to stop them. Somewhere though the ticket was never exchanged for me, so now I'm on a train departing for Bangkok with a receipt and no ticket... Nice... At least I stacked up on yummy sandwiches.

Out of the goodness of his heart the ticket man on the Thai sign called the travel agent and he confirmed my purchase. So now we're on another 13 hour train ride to Bangkok Thailand on, yes, yes, a sleeper bunk on the second level! Might as well been Club Med from what I was used too!

Arriving in Thailand I saw one of the most beautiful things I had scene since I left USA on May 24th. What was that?

(Advertise, Advertise, Advertise to attend an assembly!)

After having been in countries under restriction: Sing, Viet, Laos, for over 2 months it was sigh's and smiles seeing a convention sign. Have in mind I arrived in Bangkok Thailand at 7 am, and I was on the 2:40 afternoon train down to Hat Yai and hopefully Malaysia. It just happens to be a special assembly day in English very close to the train station on that day!

It was also super to meet people in the assembly that I know, have met before, or have connections too somehow. One brother and his wife knew of me from the Philippines as he attended the sign language training class with good friends of mine at Bethel. We had also met in October 2007 at the English District. He is now overseeing sign in Thailand. The C.O. of the assembly went to Gilead with my Gilead compadres who are now at Bethel in Indonesia and was the very brother emailing coordinating my VISA. Br. Vladimir I remember as his story is in an older magazine how he won Olympic medals for Russia, but then got the truth. We went on a boat tour around Thailand with a bunch of Cambodian need-greaters back in 2006. I saw his wife only a few months ago at the Johor Baru Malaysia 2 day assembly! Not forgetting the Need-greating Aussie couple who we met in Laos in Dec 2006 up in Chang Mi who we chatted deeply about the timing of GT, and how I have ate humble pie every time seeing them since! Then of course Br. George who I met back in 2003 at Thailand Bethel. He has been serving around 50 years as a missionary in Thailand. Then lastly another brother who I remember from October 07 who remembered me too! Excuse me! I know you, your from US right? "Oh ya, your in Indonesia with the sign, ya, I remember you could tell I was from Neeew Yooorrrk. You teased my accent." He then proceeded to say one of the most unexpected and encouraging words that touched my soul.

(With all of the above, and after mudslides, bumpy roads, no brothers, and being in countries under-ban it was such a delight to hear the following)


I cried hearing the Kingdom songs in English and being around so many who have been serving Jah for decades. But, it was now time to go down the home stretch back to Indonesia. An extremely hospitable and random witness couple offered me some sandwiches and it was time to get back to the train. Pad Thai wrapped to go would be dinner. It would be another tragedy to be in Thailand and not get some good Pad Thai and yogurt!

There were more back-packers to preach too on our train down south. This train would be around 23 hours long if I can somehow find a ticket on a reported sold out train from Hat Yai to Penang. Hoping off the train and no Thai Baht I was able to use my Indonesian ATM card to get the ticket. As soon as I got back on the train, boom were off. Another close call!

Arriving in Malaysia/Thai border was a sign that I need to mention. --People who are unshaved, unkept, long haired men, wearing shorts, flip flops, don't have at least $500 cash, smell, aren't wearing underwear, or are dressed in a way that characterize a hippy are not welcome to come into Thailand.-- That was a good laugh as the Australian guy I was chatting with fit the description. In fact he said: I never have $500 cash on me, and I haven't worn underwear since I was 10 years old!

Nice... Somehow he and I made it into Thailand and Malaysia

Penang Malaysia felt like being back in Indo since they speak Melayu (Indonesian's main base for a language). Martha in our hall in Batam used to serve there so it was great to have connections to meet the local friends here. On arriving and after sleeping on a train the last 2 nights made it a perfect time to go out in service with the local sign langauge group! We did search territory until the evening and had a nice tour around the island. Ironically a missionary in Indonesia I know well had just stayed with the Japanese couple and left just a day prior to my arrival!

(Thanks for the great Indian Food!)

After showering, telling stories, drinking Japanese tea, and watching the city light up it was time to head back to the train station for another train ride down to KL. Yup, night 3 on the train. In the morning I was picked up by Jen's mother-in-law. Jen came and visited Indonesia twice including a great foreigner weekend where 4 of us went off to islands off the coast of Batam, cooked hamburgers, tacos, read books, and boosted each other up spiritually at my home.

Now Jen's mother-in-law has developed a unique territory for herself. Morning Park preaching at Kuala Lumpur's Botanical Gardens. After getting picked up at 7 am it was time to go out in service again, this time with a sister with the energy level of an competing athlete. The nice thing is I didn't need a button up shirt since we were walking all over.

It just happened that the former Sultan of Malaysia takes his walks in the park, and it was a great opportunity to meet him!

(You never know who your going to meet in the park, so... make the best of it)

The following weekend was the Sign Language Assembly in Malaysia so it was campaign time for them. We headed down to Klang and passed out the invitation for the deaf. Interestingly a brother and his wife said: "You stayed with us before in 2004 correct?" I replied: "I never stayed in KL when coming here before." They were convinced, and after a little remembering lesson sure enough...! I did! I had stayed with them at their home in 2004 and now we were preaching together some 7 years later. It was a brief night stay, and he was thinking about sign then, and sure enough he's the coordinator of Malaysia's only Sign Congregation.

We went out to eat together with other friends and ironically I met up with Natasha an Kendra who are American need greater's serving in Malaysia whom we happened to be staying at the same home with when arriving in Singapore back in May 24-June 1st for the first ever Singapore Sign Language CO visit?!?

(The connections of the truth are amazing. If you travel it seems the 6 degrees of witnesses becomes like 1 or 2)

After this it was time to help build the sign language stage for the convention. A loving provision that this brother from NZ did was design, buy, and follow the organizational standards for a stage for the deaf. It was nice to help him with the finishing touches. After this it was back to KL to some deaf studies. This month is Ramadan so millions of people break the fast at the same time. What that means is outdoor markets that sell all kinds of food and paraphernalia.

(She didn't like the smell of BBQ chicken; I was drooling)

After our study In the evening I was asked by a brother: "How was your day?"
I replied: "It's not over yet." Thinking to myself that I still have a few hours before another overnight train ride, the unexpected, or should I say unsurprising happens... See deaf people signing.

(A pioneer is always alert, even in one of the most famous plaza buildings in the world)

We of course still had our invitations with us. Where were we?

(Bald Samson can't do much without hair to push down the Petronas Towers the former tallest buildings in the world)

On a side note: Those buildings were designed with Islamic patterns, architecture, theory, and design behind them. Question... False Religion is destroyed at GT, or in a case like this at Armageddon?
Back on a train for the 4th night in a row. It's time to head back to Singapore... Time to rush to process the VISA for Wed so it's done by Friday...

Process. Pray. Wait.

What to do? Go preaching in Sign of course. Our dear old pal Isias has made his way back to serve in Singapore. Great to see a familiar face as well with Angeline who we bump into all-over-the-world in random spots. Including her bumping into my mom in Massachusetts. Being back in Singapore felt comfortable, like home, and like I knew what was going on. I don't know how that happened. Anyways... Taking advantage of seeing Singapore's museums, history, science, art, and poetry places before being sent to some village in eastern Indonesia... But, of course see good friends as well.

(Love you Too)

It just happened that I bumped into a Indonesian brother who went to BSSB (MTS) in Indonesia who use to be in Sign Language in Jakarta who happen to be visiting Singapore. He had some nice tips for me on being a Special Pioneer and how to balance things. Now it's starting to feel close to the new beginning.

For years I got haircuts from wherever and however I could. This time the role was reversed. Isias needed a hand.

(Advice while shaving: No laughing or swift movements)

Then suddenly, VISA is done. I pick it up. No questions, no interviews, finished. Really? Step 1 done. Goodbye Singapore, now it's time to see if the same thing will happen entering Indonesia.
OK. Yup. Pass Go. Enter back into Batam. OK. Good. I'm home? I am, but it's not the same, something is different. But, hey, I do remember 1 thing about being home...

(The view out my bedroom window, and the sunsets on the balcony will be one to be missed)

The sunset is short-lived as now I have only 4 days to get to Jakarta to process the VISA. Flying to Jakarta and getting picked up by the Branch rep who was the same brother who I was told to give greetings too back in Thailand, was just wow. It's funny what the small things do. Have in mind, that being a need-greater your expected to do-it-on-your own. Then to get excepted to BSSB (MTS) you are taking care of. Even though I attended and graduated, for a year I was in limbo to see what the GB/Branch would do. It all started at graduation back on 28 of September 2010. Then it really hit steam the first week of April with Immigration and now in August I am still living out of my back-pack. To get picked up and be a Bethel Guest and told that the GB personally accepted you and approved you for a miss VISA was overwhelming. How did it go from KY to GT? (Grand Tropic Hotel Suites)

(Random meetingness at the Penthouse sweet of Missionaries, Branch Comittee members, Bethelites, and whoever I am)

VISA.- We take the pictures, we take the fingerprints, it seems like it's going good. Now we'll see if accepted. Later that day, randomly in the hallways of Bethel, I run into my pal Vincent on the BC. He gives me these encouraging words: "Tom I was so happy when I read the letter from the GB that you were approved. Thank You for your patience. Congratulations."

So where would my assignment be? English congregation in Jakarta. After 10 years in Sign Language, it's now time to open up a new field: Indonesians who are educated or have a background in English in the greater Jakarta area... WOW. 28,000,000 people in our territory are potential targets. More on that in the next blog...

I digress to the emperor's library in Northern Vietnam mentioned above. Throughout the centuries the emperor searched for the brightest and most gifted in his kingdom. By a series of tests they chose the best from the village, town, province, and then brought them to the Palace Library to be trained. From there they were giving periodic tests and then the best of that group met the emperor himself. After an interview the emperor placed him where he knew was the best place for this man to serve him the best in his kingdom.

-Point being- Jesus is the head of this organization; who am I to say what about the assignment. It's his kingdom he places all of us where he sees fit. Only 1 thing to do...

(Signing away the vow of poverty and modesty for the spirit of "Here I am Send Me." Yes Sir!)

Visiting one of my best buddies in Bethel- Daniel P- who is so busy with all his sign work. We venture to my former MTS classroom which in I believe the biggest irony of all is now the Sign Language Translation video room! For years we have struggled and endured to help the deaf get the needed attention. Well, kicking out the MTS students from Bethel and making a studio is one way to do it. It's amazing how times have moved forward.

(Bible School is now Sign Language Translation Room!)

With the VISA doing it's last process', the new assignment now known, the dotted line signed, it is now time to finish up, pack up, and ship out for the last time in Batam.

What does that mean? I have about 9 days to sell my car, my bike, my sofa, t.v. set, kitchen ware, photos, clothes, and sell or rent my home... By the way I have been trying to sell my car and bike for about- a year and a half or more...

There is also the last things I need to do with friends, food, congregation, say goodbye's, and so on.

(I couldn't leave Batam with playing soccer one last time with the "Boyz of Ball in Batam")

I went around looking for ex-pats or anyone who would want to sell the bike. One place I went too I had the unfortunate experience of seeing a mother giving her 2 year old some beer. I could have taken a video, but next thing you know it's all over YOUTUBE like the Indonesian Smoking Baby. You would then have the Indonesian Drinking Baby.

(Photo of Kid drinking the beer, the edited version)

The possessions in the house went first. Load it up, send it out. It's so amazing as once it's gone, you really don't care. The house looks cleaner and more presentable. The bike went second to a bunch of random big muslim guys smoking cigarettes at midnight. They tried the bike, pulled out a bunch of cash, I handed them the papers and walked away at 1 a.m.

The car went a few days later to a first time car buyer. He was happy, I was happy and that left me 2 days to get my last packing done and find a renter.

(Stuff is gone, and I would recommend to anyone out there with a house to get a truck load it up, clean up everything you think you need but you don't... Changes your day to day psyche and gives a clean feeling on the inside as you gained control over stuff not stuff controlling you)

Somewhere mixed in those last 9 days of all the things listed above was as Wonder said: "Your last talk." Nothing like having 3 days to make up a public talk for that Sunday. Saturday night the friends took me out for one last time and we played freeze tag and made people pyramids until we couldn't move anymore.

It was a wise choice to have chosen Batam back there in late July early August 2006; now exactly 5 years later. Although we had so many people come and go from the sign group due to financial or other reasons, we have seen fruitage from our territory. We have been a congregation for a few years, have deaf publishers, and always have new ones attend.

(Last Talk, Last Meeting in Batam... I feel I really grew up a lot with these friends as well as encouraged their sp growth)

So, with all these parting emotions and things needed to close up and move on, I receive a phone call from Bethel. Br. Kittrick we need to have you give a substitute talk for the sign district on Friday. Well it's only Wednesday, that gives me two days to prepare in addition to my scheduled part, so, why not... Again... Yes Sir. I signed the line; undoubtably holy spirit will provide the rest.

One thing that holy spirit did was provide a renter literally as I was locking the door to my apt. Cash in hand, and keys turned over it was a miracle to close up 5 years of life in a little over a week. The best bit was that the renter is having her employee; Martha Thompson move in. Nice to have a sister who is a fellow need greater enjoy what I have enjoyed these years.

(Last sunrise in Batam for.... no end in sight)

In Jakarta, holy spirit also motivated a brother to rent out a bunch of rooms at a hotel for friends coming in from out of town. Since I was focusing on closing up Batam, I needed a place in Jakarta. A few days at a hotel will do. Who would my roommate be? No less then my haircut receiving buddy Isias in Singapore.

During one of my talks I used Isias old photo when he was in the world and likened it how the 'leaven' can change people's heart with a before and after picture of Isias. He was a drug using Rastafarian, and now he is a solid deaf elder serving as a need greater. It turns out his experience was used by the BC member on the hearing side of the assembly during the concluding talk of the program.

(Isias and friends front in center in downtown Jakarta for a bite to eat)

You know what- with all the stuff going on:
emotions being choked up,
trying to focus on the program,
trying to not be nervous about my talks,
trying to let go of sign,
trying to say good-bye to deaf friends in sign,
trying to find a place to live in Jakarta,
trying to find a motorbike,
trying to take it all in,
trying to realize what country i'm in,
and then...
Br. Kittrick, here's your completed VISA and card. Your all set.

Undeserved Kindness. Nothing more, nothing less.

(We used all deaf brothers or men, and let me tell you some of their signs and expressions gave us goosebumps and oohs and aahs)


Back in March the CO told me that one of his recommend places that could use my help for sign was Kupang, Indonesia. That is the island that is connected to East Timor. NTT is not that developed as a province. That's one of the reasons I visited all the art gallery's, museums, and poetry readings I could while back in Singapore. Since the CO is the eyes of the branch on the outside, I did think there was a big chance I would be assigned here. They are very young and really pumped about Sign Language.

(It would have been fun... Here's the Kupang kids with their hats)

Since our job is to get the good news out there and make disciples, this picture means a lot to me. This is just a handful of the deaf brothers who have come into the truth since we help get this going back in 2003/4. In this group only Herman was baptized at that time.

Herman and I have shared a lot together over the years. He was a big influence to me in presenting the info to the branch about the correct sign in Indonesia. When he heard I was being reassigned he found me and gave me his parting words and assured me of Jehovah's blessings. Were both grown men and he's married now, but we both cried and gave each other a deep deep hug.

(Some of the frutiage of our work with deaf men here in Indonesia. I think were at 50 deaf now, up from 3 in 2004)

Another good friend is Tumpal the sign CO. When he was reassigned out of sign to be a CO in hearing he called me right away to tell me how he was bummed. My words were, "don't worry sign will come back around. Your experience won't be forgotten." He pulled me aside at the end of the assembly and said "what do I do without you my teacher?!" "You now will have to take the same advice that you gave me many years ago."

(A big hug, more tears, and 'make the best of it.' 7 new people being baptized always makes us all smile. )

To be honest, I didn't catch the high count for the convention. 543 or so? 198 deaf? Something like that. What I got was the overwhelming feeling that the work is steamrolling ahead. Seeing the long timers now, and many new ones who have joined the ranks and their abilities beginning to show in the language is very satisfying. To see so many men involved is another bright spot and highlight.

For me, als I can do is try to make the material clear and come alive. KISS---- Keep- It- Simple- Stupid-

(Last expressive face for a while, this was my KISS moment)

I think it really started in my mid-teen years where I wanted to go to a country to serve. Reading the yearbooks were a big influence as well as my father's broad perspective training. I remember being in pioneer school and one of the only chapters we skipped was the chapter that discussed opening up a new territory. That was the one chapter that I really wanted to learn from and discuss! Our conductor had mentioned since it's most likely that most will never do this; we'll pass over this chapter due to field service activities and arrangements.

The trip around the world at 22 was to find a country where I wanted to set up my home in to help with sign language in 3 ways.
1. Congregations and a full district in sign
2. A Circuit Overseer in the language / Branch help
3. A DVD. Get a tool in the language.

When the following 3 goals were accomplished; well, I was free. Free to well,,, guess. Besides that, I also figured I could help move on to another country or another language, or start over somewhere else...

Then as the program is ending on Sunday, the following is announced and posted on the screens around the building-

(What a feeling, relief, happiness, and a new chapter to start)
[In the process of being made and released]

The chariot is on the move, we just have to keep going with it. The Vietnamese Bible has since been released the NWT of the Christian Greek Scriptures. The deaf man I worked with every day in North Vietnam has got baptized just a short time after I left. Thailand has released DVD's in sign. Lao has a satelitte group far away from the capital. Indonesia will be soon forming another 1 if not 2 sign congregations. So much going on...

It has been 5 years now being back in Indonesia, and 5 years of operating this blog.
Now as I conclude this nearly 10 year journey with sign language I have nothing but happy memories with the brothers and sisters and of course with the deaf themselves. The benefits we receive from coming into their world can only be superseded by the benefits we an give them by coming to grow and love Jehovah better.

It's a beautiful time to serve the Great and Living God Jehovah...
"By Jehovah the very steps of an able-bodied man have been made ready. And in his way He takes delight." Job 37:23