Friday, August 28, 2015

The Center of Java

So one chapter closes, and another chapter opens. This is the second time that I have driven up the North East Coast of Java. It's a fitting way to end 2 years of Surabaya the same way I ended 2 years in Jakarta. 

(Along the coast in a small 'holy' town)

This time it was nice being with good friends on the road trip. Hendra's family and long time buddy Star volunteered to drive me. We stopped at a beach, ate snacks along the way, and stopped at a waterfall amidst a teak forest. This waterfall Nglirip is arguably the most beautiful waterfall I have ever been too. I've probably seen 30 or more, but here outside of Tegal its like a tropical dream. It starts at a underground stream and bubbles forth to a raging waterfall. 

(The water is so clear and fresh I drink as I swim)

(The locals say don't swim here since some have drowned. It's so beautiful how could you not? )

When we arrived in Semarang the next morning was the R.C. We had 10 of us in a 3 bedroom home. So we were all over the place. As we drove to the convention I figured I would  bump into people I have known over the years. That never fails. What also never fails is the others who remember you, but you don't remember them. Here's how it usually goes.  "Hello brother! Do you remember me?"  The conversation doesn't start with- Good afternoon, how are you, long time, my name is... Nope. This time it was about 5 random people that said that. One brothers said: "In 2004 when I was baptized we took a picture together. Don't you remember?"  How would you respond?

After all the greetings and great conversations, it's time for the program. The drama's at this year's RC touch your heart. Seeing it again a second time helped to pick up on details I didn't observe the first time. 

(A large throng of witnesses singing is still something that touches my heart)

(I definitely rememeber Yudha and Jordie from Batam. They were both only as tall as my chest in Batam )

I asked the loving family who gave me a place to stay 2-3 weeks to find a home. In the meantime you need to start learning the roads. Learning where to eat. Learning where people live While your searching for a home your searching for deaf. You just ask for deaf people where ever you go. At the same time the new tracts are so simple and easy to place. "If you find any deaf people, here's a tract that has our website You can give it to them, and see it yourself too!"

Would you like to see some sites around Semarang? 

(Train Station built by the Dutch early 1900's)

(Sem Poo Kong Temple Complex. A statue is dedicated to Zheng He. Really a fascinating individual. Please see AWAKE 9/13 p.14 for article)

(Semarang Zoo. Only 5,000 rp. or .30 cents US. It's worth it just to see the owls and birds) 

(1000 Doors Main Entrance Mosiac)

(New resort built in the woods with mostly recycled and natural material)

(There are mountains very near Semarang. They feed the rivers which are reasonably clean) 

(My partner Yeremia on the bike in the middle of a rice paddy)

(If there are rice paddies, you have to have the rice planters) 

(Morning commute to Downtown Semarang)

When I moved, it was in the heart of Ramadan. I really should take a lot more pictures of all the unique things that happen around fasting month. Here's one to share. In one of the pillars of Islam it's required to give to the poor. So when the fasting month is over it is quite common for people in the cities to bring money back to their family in the villages. It is very much a Robin Hood type-system in Indonesia. The rich are supposed to give to the poor. So in the picture below this woman has a bag full of money in small denominations. So instead of  say a one hundred dollar bill. She exchanges it for like 500 20 cent bills. So people will drive up give her the big money in exchange for making small change so they can pass it out to people in the village. Of course these people charge a small fee. But it saves the richer people in the cities from going to the bank. 

(Anyone want some money from a lady with a helmet a mask and a mysterious bag full of money?) 

Being back in a SL Group also means being back in a Indonesian congregation with interpreted meetings. It's very different when you interpret then when you have the meeting in full sign. It's wonderful to get to meet new brothers and sisters and to also have time to go back out in Indonesian door to door. It's hard. When you go door to door asking for deaf and people who speak English it takes the edge off big time. Anyways, every congregation is different. 

(Case in point of different. Never been to a congregation that has a big TIME IS UP digital clock on the back wall. Probably should be practiced globally) 

(Door to Door got so much easier with videos) 

So how about the Sign Language here? 
Lot's of work to do. 
A little history for you. Salitiga had a Sign Language class way back in 2007. Interestingly Semarang is the bigger city and the capital of the province. Semarang is the 5th largest city in Indonesia with about 2,000,000. Salitiga is a smaller city of some 200,000 about 1 hour away. Eventually Semarang and Salitiga were both functioning independently of each other. So for 8 years both groups never grew into a congregation. In fact Salitiga closed for a while, and Semarang was only official about 3 years ago. Brothers and sisters came and went but it never hit the point it needed too. Although there were small classes from time to time, some of the elders moved or got married. 

(8 years ago I was here, and here we are again. The tallest KH roof you'l ever see)

We received advice from the CO who oversees the Indo circuit to do a trial meeting in a location in the center between the two cities. As some of you are aware, the host congregation of the groups CO is the one who does the visit unless he requests the target language CO to come. So now it was time to see the results. Would it be Jehovah's direction to combine both groups and see if we get enough support? Are their deaf in the city of Ungaran itself? 

(We had 14 deaf and 45 total in attendance. Much better than Semarang's 16 average)

One study who came to the meeting is a big blessing for me. He's independent, has his own transport, money, no family opposition, already studied up to the Bible Teach book, and he can paint... OH MAN, he can paint. We walk into his house and he has 3 huge paintings on the wall. Jesus with his disciples on Nisan 14, Jesus walking on water, and the shepherd with the lamb from the Draw Close to Jehovah book. He also built a huge ship and other things. What an eye! His father gave us a drink from nutmeg. I didn't even know you could make a drink from nutmeg. His house is up in the nutmeg and coffee fields. I'm not a big coffee guy, but it's good. 

(We'll see where you go for Jah my friend) 

So the CO came and it's of course all hands on deck. It's super tiring really when your a pioneer elder. I remember my dad always being the van driver when CO comes. Always taking the CO all over. It does feel like that sometimes.  Service, meals, meetings. They have a great life, but a busy one. It's never easy when you never know your sleeping arrangements as a foreigner.  They are missionary CO's who speaks Indonesian fluently and he is a great indoor football player!  

(Thanks for the hospitality and the excellent CO visit) 

(Goodbye songs, and food. I cooked some pasta too since most had never tried it)

In the congregation we have a bunch of young people who are home-schooling. I remember it like yesterday my desire for home schooling and it not happening. Now-a-days home schooling really seems like a wise option due to the situation in the schools. So I organized to take these young kids on a tour of the Central java museum as part of their history and religious class. 

(This is a Lingga and this is a Yoni. Basically the sacred pole that was used by the worshipers of Baal in Canaan)

SO MUCH OF LIFE in Indonesia is still tied into false religious beliefs that go back to Babylon. It's astonishing actually. Recently preaching to the help-desk girl at the cell phone company she was explaining the Javanese ritual for death after 1,3,7,40,100 days. It doesn't matter whether Muslim or Christian, they both follow the traditional belief that you need to have a prayer and a meal for the spirit of the dead one. 

(The crowd goes wild) 

While all of this craziness is going on. Trying to arrange for CO visit, a new congregation, help encourage the sign group, indonesian congregational needs, a home, a car, renting a house, renovating a house, special pioneering, giving talks in 2 languages, there's something else to do. Teach Indonesian to some new Korean missionaries. Myself and another brother were assigned to teach these Koreans bahasa. Although they already speak Indonesian, they never lived here. 

(Toni the teachers job teach the language, my job, teach the culture, thinking, language tips and hit the tourist spots :)

In the meantime the local brothers had a little day trip in the mountains near-bye when the fasting month was over.  If you have been to Mt. Bromo for the sunrise, or heard of Mt. Bromo I would like to introduce you to Mt. Dieng. Bromo is special when you hit it just right with the clouds. But for the cost, the noisy tourists, and the high chance of bad weather Dieng is better then Bromo in my opinion. We arrived probably on the busiest day of the year. To ensure I would get the sunrise I had to run. And run I did, to nearly the top of the mountain to catch the sunrise in time... The view from the top and surrounding areas were priceless. Here's a little taste and a video.

(If you have 2.5 minutes enjoy the video with pics with the local music in the background)

(If no time, here's view 1)

(If still no time, here's view 2) 

My friends Clayton and Rachel got married.  Arriving in Jakarta at 5 am there's not much to do. So why not go to a park? It was nice to see all the old people doing early morning stretches and power walking around Monas. Monas, the national monument of Indonesia  is by the way a giant Lingga and Yoni.  

(An unexpected blessing in Jakarta; a peaceful sunrise in Monas park) 

Ray and Clay were in the same congregation as me back in Jakarta English. Ray Ray was like my little kit sister. Great young people and they were accepted to Bethel as a couple. The wedding talk was given last minute by a member of the Branch committee. Hidei did an amazing but simple job. One point. In 1 Corinthinas 13 the love chapter of the Bible he mentioned instead of saying LOVE IS... LOVE IS... can you say I AM... {Insert your name}. What a great point!  

Clayton and Ray finally broke down the barrier at the typical Indonesian wedding. It is not common here to hear at the end of the talk 'you may now kiss the bride.' It's usually not mentioned. If it is, it's a kiss on the forehead or something cheesy like that. Well, they made us westerners proud. Broke the rules. 

(Breaking the rules, taking a group selfie; gotta love it) 

After getting my legal work done, it's good to go to the legal address of JW's indo. It just so happens the sign language films there too. 

(Nothing like a grilled shrimp lunch in bethel with the sign peeps)

On the way home a quick stop at a wedding in "Modern Man's Paradise." Some of you may know a volcano was erupting in East Java which affected flights around the world to Bali. At this wedding some 20 or so people got stuck in Australia or other places. 

(Where the couple walked down the aisle) 

(The view at the edge of the ocean) 

Back working in Semarang, I did finally find my house. I can't talk enough about how Jehovah answers prayers. He's done it before, he'll do it again. It's just such a guarantee at 1 John 5:13-17. The revised translation says: confidence in the power of prayer. I asked to live in traditional java. I wanted to be near a rice paddy, with a river, by the mountains, quiet, cool, a watefall, animals, and nature. Would Jehovah answer? 

(Crab in the front  yard...that's a start)

(Check, Check, Check, Check, Check) 

So, Jehovah's goodness and kindness can never be understood, just appreciated. On Indonesian independence day a group of brothers were hiking up the local mountain. Well, what an opportunity to see what is in front of my house. We preached all the way up leaving tracks with people as we went. Nothing better. It was a long hike that took some 8+ hours. But the sites along the way is what always makes up the journey. You go through a stream, coffee plantation, tea plantation, a village or two and through the clouds.

(Classic centuries year old Candi- Hindu temple- at the bottom of the mountain) 

I had to hike alone on the way back since that morning I had to teach a language class. Nothing like a walk in the woods with just you and your thoughts. 

(Jehovah provides the rest) 


(I'm not a big selfie guy, but this time it was a selfie worthy moment)  

That's a quick overview of arguably some of the fastest 2 months of my life. September is going to be even busier so I'm glad I could get this done now. Hopefully I can start on a blog post that's 12 years in the making in the next few days. Like most postings I conclude this one the same as others. With the view from the selfie... A sunrise above the clouds.