Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Out of Retirement- Back Again...


Many who have learned sign language can attest to the uniqueness of the deaf culture and their language ... It always remains in a special place in the heart...

For Joice and I- it was such a huge honor to get the invitation to attend the "first ever" pioneer school in Indonesian Sign Language. Joice is now serving in an Indonesian congregation, and I am in English. So, to be with some of our former students, friends, and ones we served side-by-side with for years, was a renewed trip down memory lane. There were a lot of hurdles to overcome to get to this point- but they all seem to disappear when we saw the welcome signs!

                          (Class 163 is also class 1)

Before we go down this trip, let's digress to the District Convention. I'm an assembly and convention "junkie" anyways, but it truly came as a surprise to get an assignment in sign. 

It turns out that we would enjoy the largest baptism we have had to this point. There were 11 new deaf brothers and sisters who got baptized this day. Many of them had been studying for 5+ years. One of the reasons it took so long was not having direction or tools in the language. Two of the deaf sisters had the experience of joining the Theocratic School only to be forced to give the talks in spoken Indonesian! Others came from Buddhist & majority background.

One of the hardest things was to remember all their sign names and be able to recite them from memory live. You can't write down their names since in deaf culture the name is an abbreviated letter used on some part of the body doing some action.

(We tried to encourage all the other long- time deaf-students that you don't have to wait for tons of knowledge to get baptized. Some got the point and came up after and said they now want to take the dip)

In the chaos of preparing for pioneer school, english congregation assignment duties, prep for our d.c., the sign d.c., the campaign, there was also some guests...

I helped out for rooming for the friends in Batam coming down, and all the deaf wanted to stay together and crash together. So before I knew it, I had 6 young lads in my apartment.

Now the unique circumstances for all these guys is:
1. All 20ish or below.
2. Snuck away from home to attend the D.C.
3. Barely have any money
4.  Can sleep on floor or anywhere else.
5. All Muslim
6. Sign really fast and all tell a lot of stories.

( 7 ) (The tall guy Ilham- this was his first D.C. One night when all the boys went out to play, he was just sitting in the corner of my home meditating. He joined the Theocratic School as soon as he got home.)

Catching back up to pioneer school, we enjoyed many things that only Sign can do. You could tell for many of the deaf that this was wooaah. All of the studying, commenting, laughs, demos, snacks, and deep subjects had heads spinning. It was another great thing to have so many friends and former students, all piled up in one place. It really was historic.   What was also historic was how many Indonesian pioneer schools happened in those short few months. There was 20+ pioneer schools around the country for the summer/fall season.

(Only Pioneer School in Indonesia that can use some fingers to identify the number of the class)

Pioneer School allowed me to do something that I haven't done in a while: take a stroll down the streets with no name. (Insert U2 Hit) 
Yes, looking for those who speak English doesn't normally take us to places along the sides of train tracks. 
It doesn't take you in one room wooden shacks with a rug and a light bulb that is lit only a few hours a day. 
It doesn't bring you to the places where every neighbor knows the business of every other. 
It doesn't bring you to places where kids play soccer with a patched up ball with no shoes on top of rocks, glass, and chicken droppings
It doesn't take you to the places where the world around you stops for a few seconds to say "hello mister!" 
It doesn't bring you to places where life is cheap, but life is rich. 
It is good to be back preaching to the life that is unseen by many, but experienced by billions.

(Walking down the streets in DEAF LAND)


Like any pioneer school in the world it seems to be a women's world. Our sisters are steamrolling the work, and Indonesian sign is no exception. It was nice to have sisters as young as 17 in the school. Sometimes as a foreigner you do chuckle a-bit. One sister was cold because of the A.C. so she busted out her minnie mouse sweatshirt. So you can imagine a sister commenting on camera with little butterflies in her hair and minnie mouse on her chest. 

In the States it seems that  11, 12, 13 year old girls try and dress like they're going on the catwalk in NYC. Somehow Indonesians didn't get that memo for the most part. 

(For some reason, they like to dress the same too! Note- IT'S NOT ABOUT THE LEGS, ITS ABOUT THE SHOES)

In any pioneer school there will be times to laugh hysterically. We had some demos that sent the class rolling. One was a sister 'on a bus' who forgets her DVD player at her seat and just runs off to get it. Or the brother who acted like a scared deaf kid and kept running away. Or the comments of a deaf sister who was off in left field nearly every time. Or one of the instructors with the most hilarious pictures to prove a point.  But to me the number 1 funny moment had to be the 15 minutes to try and explain to the masses the two ladies in 1 picture. When they got it, you heard a oooooohhhhaaaahhoo hehehehehe gitu ya!

(GRANDMA or YOUNG LADY, Do you see them?)

After the great memories and history being made at the first pioneer school, we move on to a week blitz for the campaign for the English D.C. We eclipsed 7?? for the convention. I was very delighted to have a share in the convention with an a fellow New Englander. Mimi & Jesse come from good ole RI/CT and I needed a participant. Mimi was the ideal actor to help out. 

(How's your personal study, rushed or relaxed?) 

For me the highlight of the convention was to see someone dear to me take the step of dedication & baptism. If you remember in the last blog I wrote the following:
While going to a rv in Mall of Indonesia A brother and I were a bit lost. I took advantage of the opportunity to offer some magazines to 2 Africans eating at a fast food restaurant. One took the magazines, and I asked if they have heard of Jehovah’s Witnesses? He said yes, I am one! A discussion ensued and he related that he hasn’t been around the truth in nearly 5 years and he recently was just thinking that he wants to get back. His friends in Nigeria are now Aux pio’s, pio’s, m.s., and he feels I’m not doing anything. Since then he has attended the meeting, memorial, and circuit assembly. Two weeks ago he gave his first talk in the school and was announced as a publisher. 
So here it is only 5 months later and now Nnamdi is making the step. He made it with Jaya who we have spent so much time with. Jaya and her family are extremely hospitable. Coming from a Hindu background and to separate from it- it was joyous for the whole congregation. 


One huge blessing was all of the experience and background of so many of the speakers at the District Convention. We had members from Bethel, missionary service, branch com, special pioneers, BSSB grads, Gilead grads, and C.O's. The program was top notch. 

(They say a smile is contagious. If you come to Indonesia it's everywhere; and for good reasons)

Since we are only 1 congregation in the entire country you can imagine that to have a drama in english would be overwhelming. So lovingly the branch has the team from one of the Indonesian districts do it for us. The problem for them is that they have learn to mouth the words now in English not Indonesian. The response from the crowd was amazing. Many commented it was the best they had seen. The bad girl was really bad. The nerdy brother was really nerdy, but... he checked out the sister 3 times... That was classic! 

(The least we could do is take them out to eat. To me they felt like celebrities without the makeup. So I used the opportunity at the dinner to ayolah: join english!)

September brought on not only a new service year, but the 2 year time of post BSSB/MTS graduation. Life is- a journey on a beach. A never ending experience of sand between the toes, changing tides & surf, and the most colorful sunsets. 
The time waiting to attend the school is definitely longer than the time post the school. From my first meeting to attend the school- to being a graduate was a 10 year span. The 2 years now since then has brought some interesting sets of waves and wonderful people along this beach. Not surprisingly some of my fellow buddies from the school felt it's better to have a partner to surf with. 

Wahyu (Apocalypse in English) decided to get a personal M.D. His wife is a Dr. and Wahyu is a former gangster, muslim, song writer, and comedian. He will have to obey Dr's orders from now on...

(Nearly 2 years to the day 2 guys got married on 2 ends of the country) 

At the graduation, you are going to hear funny stories and sad stories. There is always some brother who literally arrived at the school with $1.00 in his pocket. No money to get home after. You have the good preaching story during the school. You also hear all of the assignments to these places you have never heard of. 

(2 years later and I got to see how young and wet we really were)

So now with the new arrangement of foreigners being in highly populated areas and in Bethel, it becomes more routine to bump into so many 'gifts in men.' I saw a lot of good friends at the BSSB graduation. 90% of them have had beach buddies to serve with. A few started calling me Tim since my hair went from nada to ada. Many Indonesian brothers were thinking I paid to have the hair on my head. Others thought I had it painted black. I told them why would I only pay to have it on the bottom part of my head? I was shocked how many white hairs and curls kept popping up. 

(Tom became Tim)

So when you sit in the audience and watch another 24 others go through the same big step that you had.  It is a time to ponder...

(Insert Scientist by Coldplay)

What does it tell you? It tells you it's time to get out of the city for a day or two and get lost in some rice paddies. It tells you, go and take a nap in some grass and soak up some sun. It tells you throw time out the window and just enjoy breathing. It tells you that you know how all the writers of love story's feel, but enjoy the beauty you have now not what is lost or what will come...

As mentioned many times before; sometimes the abnormal becomes normal and those same things that shocked you don't do as much so anymore. Other times, it just makes you laugh. Down in Bandung with some friends there was a festival for a 'street.' Any excuse for a good time. Having friends there who are not from Indonesia and not used to the abnormal made it all the better. 
It went from a random zip-line in the middle of the street.
To jamacian reggae music with 2000 kids just moving their heads up and down like they have dreads. 
Old people dressed up in costumes playing traditional music to
odd street performers, smiles, school kids, strange foods, and karaoke machines. So that's F T W S. {Figure That One Out?} 

(With hair changes, constant sun, fashion statements, and the threat of skin cancer, I have become quite a hat guy)


                           (GO SOX! -Bandung Style)


(Roller blades are still in and in fashion with florescent colors)

(hehehehehe mister, hehehehe maam- I believe mimi placed a tract with them)

(Eli placed his name card with his digits/email/fb/twitter/myspace/home/office/fax/google/bbm/home address with these ladies)

(I was more interested in men & women who dress up like their colonial lords who got around riding bikes, and decide 200 years later that this is what we want to remember)

(By the end of the weekend we were a bit silly) 

Besides a few CT guests it is always great when we have guests coming to spy out the land. Anne from GA USA and Andrew from QL AUS were 2 more great guests to come through. It seems Anne's spying out the land worked as she will come back to serve. Andrew & I discovered motivation at a middle eastern restaurant that inspired me to change my room and has helped my sleep. Your castle has got to make you feel good & relaxed. 

(If you come to Jakarta, you need to see things 'outside' Jakarta like Bogor Botanical Gardens)


I do enjoy seeing skyscrapers. It's great to see them out my bedroom window on the 42nd floor. I have always enjoyed that ever since I was a kid.  It does create a deeper appreciation for nature's green skyscrapers.

(Take a deep breathe. Also from Bogor Botanical Gardens)

2003 was a year that changed my life forever. That's when I really became an assembly "junkie". I believe it attended 16 that year. One brother I met along that endless beach of people was Subash. He was in the middle of a big trip that year as well. We met in Hungary, Ukraine, Holland, Australia. Having a guest from a link to the past was very refreshing. 

(Ukraine August 2003)

(West Java Indonesia 2012)

Other guests are some friends 'serving' somewhere else in Asia. Another new friend helped work on the branch construction in Indo nearly 20 years ago. By the end of the day I was saying yeaaaa like an Aussie.

Guests are great, but it's not the same as those in your own congregation. We have a very healthy spirit for association. We're spread out over a vast sea of houses and apartments in this city. The view from Jeremia's room really proves that point. 

(As far as the eyes can see are people who speak English)

One nice thing with working with your congregation is to see the fruitage that can be produced. We discussed starting a Bible Study for the first Saturday of the month. Well Edena & I were able to go to someone's house with whom she placed some mags. The mom wasn't home, but the daughter was, who spoke English. Well why not try? Right to the yellow pages in the WT. Study started!

(Flowers are nice, congratulations to the happy mom and baby Javen: still inside when this picture was taken) 


We have had many brothers and sisters move into Jakarta to help out. One is the 'skipper.' He has sailed the 7 seas over to Jakarta from the banking and sailing island. Now he can sail through floods, traffic, and the occasional protesters who block the road. 

(How do you spell your name again?)

Indonesia has so much of a need, so it would be great to have you. At the same time I must be realistic with you about one thing in Jakarta. The traffic is bad. Really bad. Last Friday it took 2.5 hours to go a distance that is normally covered in 15 minutes. Some government protesters blocked the road protesting or requesting their desire for gov't benefits. Like only Indonesians can do, the Police hired a local mafia gang called Hercules to disperse the crowds. 

(This is a different protest but you can get the idea. Downtown Jakarta protesting for Syria)

In the ministry, or out and about you may see things that make you laugh. I sometimes try to get a picture- sometimes you can't. I saw a guy on a motorbike with mannequin pieces all over the bike. It was like 4 feet high of legs, heads, arms, and the best was right in front of his face on his windshield area a stack of woman's chests. Another funny thing is seeing motorbikes stacked with hundreds of baby chicks. Other times you see ducks. Sometimes its 25 guys sitting on fire hoses on the back of a truck. 

                        (HEY, WHAT'S THAT SMELL?)

                             (Contrasts of Worlds)

(Street Performers doing there thing in this same area)

(Other times it's lighting and water that make things beautiful. The national monument called Monas)


To get around you never know what means it may take to beat the traffic!

(Troll Bridge)

Other benefits of living in a city like Jakarta are the amount of food options there are. We have a very hospitable congregation with no shortage of different places we like to go. 


(One special treat was dinner & a show with Benni hanna)


There are traditional restaurants that offer food on wood carved plates, stories of Javanese princesses, spices that the western world craved for centuries, and fresh vegetables galore. 

(Even in parking lots you can get character)

Like any congregation, you will have some that join, and some that leave. It's difficult to keep up with all of the new names that come into the congregation on a weekly basis. At the same time, you will have those who leave.

I was appointed as the MC for one recent wave of people leaving. We had an egg toss, pictionary, and how well do you know your mate game. Well, everyone was smiling!

                                        (Goooing Goooing Gone)

So where do we find English speaking people? At the Jakarta Auto show, of course. You see the latest cars and see the most random things. 

(Whoever can hold their hand on the side of the car without letting go will win the new car. It's not done in 1 day. There is more then 1 day to win. Also regional championships. Have fun!)

Other places to give a witness can be at concerts. Even though they are old timers now, these guys still are kicking at full steam. 

(True blue musicians- CHICAGO)

Since Jakarta is a megapolis you are always going to have some type of show or event going on. Right outside of Chicago was 2 shows. One was bikers against drugs, and Jakarta's Youth Festival. 

(Well he's either on drugs to stand on his bike, or if he was(?) he's in trouble)

In the Jakarta Youth Festival I saw more trash thrown on the ground then ants on a cookie. I'm thinking this is the future? What was worse was the Death Metal concert they had playing. Did these kids know what they're hearing? Got out of there. Next door back in Bikers against Drugs were these guys...

(Hey mon, Say no to drugs! -But on our guitarist shirt was a picture of a green plant that said Legalize It!)

Another concert- These guys are in need of some hope for the paradise. (Insert songs Higher, Arms Open, Sacrifice)

This guy is the hit-man. I was very fortunate to receive a ticket to this show, and they were selling at a pretty high value. It was tough not to sell the ticket, but it turned out to be a brilliant show. {With the exception of Paul Young} Wow, Stephen Chung of American Idol wants that job Paul. The funny thing I found out is that the David Foster show is really quite impromptu. How would I know? I met him and the band the next morning at breakfast. Got to witness to him briefly, his brother in law's, Babyface, and others connected with him.  

(If you can sing, or play piano be ready to play or sing with Davd Foster. He and the band were shocked how many songs the Indonesian audience knew and could recite from memory)

Back to life outside of concerts, are weddings with mini-concerts inside of them. A well- known brother and sister from Jakarta and Bandung got married recently and their wedding seemed like a district convention. People were hanging out in the Hotel, the lobby, restaurants, meetings all together. It was a nice time. Somehow the bride Olin was able to bust out (Insert Alicia Keys If I Ain't Got You) after standing and saying greetings for at least 2000 people. How she was able to hit all of the notes and sound great was beyond me!

(No, it wasn't really Alicia Keys, but she was treated like a celebrity. There was a singer at the wedding who can break glass with her voice.)

During the break between the talk and reception was the sign language meeting. Our dear old brother gave the talk and he had some great pictures as most do here in Sign Language. 

(The picture says Immoral. But if you look carefully they are blow up/wax dolls. I don't even know how he got that pic?!?!)

Back close to home was the circuit assembly in Sign Language. They were able to use the same building complex that we used for our English District convention. The building is like a mini U.N. It is great for note taking and has super comfortable office chairs.

(Nice. The deaf deserve a spot where all can see)

                           (Singing in the building)


On the same day as the assembly was also a wedding for a sister in our English hall. It felt like another convention reunion.  Food was great, didn't know there was veal in Indonesia. 

(Simple Wedding)

Some of the friends at the wedding are dear to me. Seth on the far right is the one who hooked me on Indonesia back in 2002 while at Walkill Bethel in NY. He was hooked because of his meeting his wife Grace in Brooklyn Bethel in the 90's on the far left. Reiner was hooked in the 60's when Br. Knorr said to him: "Indonesia."

(Still smiling after all the years)

After attending my meeting the next day was a chance to go back to the sign circuit assembly because an American friend and his deaf son were happy to attend. Tobin was a celebrity-being deaf, new, and half American. Everybody wanted to talk and take pictures with him.

(The crew)

So just when I was retired from sign for a while, the brief opportunity came up to do a 2 for 1. Give a talk in sign in 1 side of the city of Surabaya at 10:45, then rush to the other side of the city for 12:00 to give a talk in English. Somehow it worked out with 5 minutes to spare, good memories, and encouragement for all. 

(Sign in Surabaya)

(English in Surabaya)

So choose your poison (?). They both need the help. Surabaya is the 2nd largest city in the country with 5.6 million in the greater area. English isn't even a group yet... Wanna help?

(The friends were so hospitable. Amazing seafood that I haven't had since Batam. Thanks so much!)

Right after the sign circuit, the trip to Surabaya, we enjoyed our circuit assembly in English. It was a real treat to have friends from the new areas that are opening up to come and attend. We also get the privilege of many from Bethel to come and visit us for a day in English. 

They of course got a treat. The report was 22 were baptised!!! Who were they? Toyota's, Honda's, Nissan's, BMW's, Mercedes, and other car's.

Jakarta had it's worse rain & flooding in nearly 5 years. The roof was leaking back stage, and gushhing down the inside stairs. When we looked at parking lot, well, this is was happened. 

 (If your gonna get stuck at an assembly, might as well be with good friends) 

(Somehow the locals had a 'navy' boat and were willing to sail people out of the parking lot!) 

Then back to life in our assignment we enjoy the time off during holiday times. It seems in Indonesia there is a major holiday or birthday for somebody every month. Might as well use the time to get together eat noodles, go preaching, and play Bible Trivia. 

(No new years resolution, only a new service group)

One joy that happens around the time of the assembly's is the annual pioneer meeting. I had the joy of being a guest at one and bumping into my old CO and wife. If you go back to a blog post from 2009 you will see us working together for the relief work in Padang Sumatra after the earthquake. We

As earlier mentioned, you never know what your going to see. Right before our pioneer meeting las week this is what i found.
(For you Noni Lovers that's bottles and bottels of product on the side of the street)

We were blessed with an unforgettable pioneer meeting. A brother got us a place with a buffet and art work from around the world. The 22+ pioneers in Jakarta had a nice time. Still not enough... Wanna join us for next year?

(It was like walking around in an art gallery)

(All smiles as all were in a pleasantry shock)

Like many things in life there are always changes. In the last 1 and 1/2 months I have had to move 3 times. Each had a new and fresh experience. One bit that touched me was having the Monday evening phone witnessing group come and crash at my place. Literally!

(I didn't know my bed qualified as a place for a service group!)

Home on the 42nd floor, you may come across something that only is there once in a while. The mountain range behind the city. It's there for about 30 minutes each morning then disappears into the pollution of life behind it. But you know what? It's still there, it's just our viewpoint that hazes it out. All the best for you in your endeavors..... that life's pollution never clouds out the beauty. 

(The brief things can help see through the big things)

The holiday's had people rushing out of Jakarta to see this big big world. The beautiful thing is they take the pollution and traffic with them!

(Here's the view from the rooftop)

No matter what happens, I'm still a sucker for a good sunset. What will this next year have in store. ALl the best to you in your service to our loving creator...

                             (Thank You)