Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beauty and a blink

Ah, the blog deletes itself in an internet blink. Argh. I'll tell the week in pictures and bullets. Here's a quick reprise:
  • We have a steady stream of guests. People drop in, between those we invite.
Beautiful gowns in a neighborhood shop window
  • Saturday we host our first life group toward starting IES Bandung = brunch with seven others. I bake an artichoke frittata, spicy yoghurt chicken, homemade bread, and sweets. Dr W brings fried bananas. Sumathi cooks too, though she is sick to her stomach. Ibu A makes rice and cleans up. What a treat to have friends come by. (And to have a good helper.)
Life group participants
  • We walk a lot this week - Sunday we walk 5 miles around town after service.
  • We've made some hospital visits and run errands. Everything takes longer than we expect.
Confident pose: a young landscaper balances
between a tall wall and an iron fence to clip a 15' hedge.
Yes, he is that high up: the green wall is 10' tall.
Tuesday, January 27
We start the day by going through a potential house with building inspectors. They say it's sound structurally, though old. They find no termites. The ants are to be expected and kept at bay by spraying. But they say the landlord is asking too much for the lease in this neighborhood. We will move there if she accepts a win-win offer, quite high $ for here, but still reasonable for expats.
Considering our options
The leasing agent says that the current landlord, based on his non-response so far, is unlikely to refund our money from the remaining 6-month lease here.
Ants galore. Here. There. Everywhere.
However, God can do miracles - either by providing housing here for someone who is praying for provision ...  or by us getting money back. We have seen some astonishing answers to prayer so who knows.
A neighbor's bloom, shaped like a Christmas tree
From there, we walk to our first lesson with the language tutor before lunch. By the time he says 4 words, I've forgotten the first 2. That makes it hard to repeat sentences. My, this will take some effort. Maybe a new brain would help?
Wooden wind chimes help deter fruit bats
Then Oktavia drops by for lunch 1-3pm. She's moving to Jakarta, a real loss for us. Again, Ibu A makes a nice meal. How we appreciate her.
  • Tomorrow and Thursday we'll be online with American friends and do some long-distance coaching. (I'm a certified personal coach.)

Everything grows in pots,
even pineapples
And that about sums it up. What are you up to?

Read more:
*I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously. Exodus 15:1 ESV

*Lord, who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For that is your due. Jeremiah 10:7 ESV

*If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 ESV

*We must obey God rather than human beings!  Acts 5:29 NIV

*If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 NLT

*For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:12-13 ESV

Moravian Prayer: King of all nations we offer our praises to you! We apologize for idolizing people and things other than you. May we turn back toward you and always faithfully follow you. 

Victorious Lord, you continue to protect and reign over us. Thank you for sending your Son to set us free from all sin and oppression. Let us never forget that you are always beside us. Amen.

C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: 
We have two bits of evidence about the Somebody [behind the Moral Law]. One is the universe He has made. If we used that as our only clue, then I think we should have to conclude that He was a great artist (for the universe is a very beautiful place), but also that He is quite merciless and no friend to man (for the universe is a very dangerous and terrifying place). 

The other bit of evidence is that Moral Law which He has put into our minds. And this is a better bit of evidence than the other, because it is inside information. You find out more about God from the Moral Law than from the universe in general just as you find out more about a man by listening to his conversation than by looking at a house he has built.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Up and down the hillside

Down the hill and going back up the Dago side
We're a week late but what fun to celebrate Sumathi's birthday at the Bamboo Shack. W and I walk through the Sundanese neighborhood of Ciumbuleuit. The narrow pavement is edged with unequal stairs on one side as it descends the steep hill. Old and young people alike climb past the houses and little shops that spill to the edge of the road.

Motorcycles whiz up and down, some carrying two people on the mountainside. (If you stop, you have to wheel your cycle all the way up. And don't even think of walking it downhill. Brake hold-your-breath brake all the way.)

Small lanes, some barely wide enough for bike handlebars, criss-cross the hillside and descend into the valley. They dump us onto a muddy trail through the jungle. There's a power plant at the bottom of the valley. Water gushes from the drainage gutters above into its sluices and turbines before churching away against the boulders and river rock.

Jungle electrical plant
Then we have to climb back up the other side into Dago. Whew. It is steep. It is steep. My legs don't feel it but my heart is pounding. The neighbors stare at us as we pant our way to the top of the hill and back into the city.

Poinsettia trees tips are red, dieffenbachias uncurl leaf after leaf, and bougainvilleas splash pink and oranges in the yards. In January. Amazing.

Happy Birthday dear friend! Sumathi and Augustine ride the angkot up from downtown. I know that schnitzel (cutlets) is made with chicken, veal, or pork. Yeah, I should have listened to the voice inside my head before ordering. It turns out to be a chewy beef roast covered with breading. The vegetables taste good.

Concealed lipstick holds flowers against the stems
W and I walk back across the valley toward home. The final climb is vertical enough to take my breath away. Luckily W has a bottle of water. A few gulps and we're back on track. Up up and up. We say hi to a few people as we walk through the neighborhood, trying new ways back to the house.

Our new language tutor comes by after supper to set up our first class for Tuesday. Back to work it is. He lives right across the street, much more convenient than the hour-long trip coming and going to school in the fall! The seminary starts Semester 2 of the language course Monday. How fitting.

Read more:
*Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

In that day you will say: "Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you." Isaiah 12:2-6 NIV

*Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. Jeremiah 23:24 ESV

*Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8 ESV

*Live as children of light. Ephesians 5:8 NEV
Moravian Prayer: Lord, we know we cannot hide from you. You are everywhere and we are grateful for that. Continue to watch over us and make us true lights to those around us. Our prayer is to spread your light and presence everywhere. Amen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wet start to the week

The blur of rain overflows the pond and
pools water in the backyard
"Whatever rain we were deprived of in the last month, here it is." W gets the floor squeegee ready and puts a bucket under the drip in the laundry room. The wind gusts through the louvers into the house, roaring past the drops outside to swing the capri chandelier in the living room.

Jakarta has had flooding in the past weeks but Bandung has been quite dry. Now the drain spouts spit water from the roof for several feet, adding it to the little river that's the ditch in front of the house. Our guppy pond overflows: I exchanged the fish and water today, moving the guppies from the house back to the pond and catching new ones. Hopefully not too many fish get washed into the grass.

When I sit to write, I feel like nothing has gone on in a day or a week. However, my 2015 "word of the year" is steadfastness. Keeping on keeping on can be rewarding. As in,

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know 
that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3 ESV)

Measuring the slope by touching heads to the ceiling
Sunday, January 18
We get a call in the afternoon: are we up for a quick visit at Reading Lights bookstore with a friend? Sure. I'm not driving much and want to be mobile if we have an emergency. So I drive down the hill. The squeeze between angkots, cars parked in the road, and students strolling near the shoulder makes it an exercise in focus. We get there safely, have coffee and tea, and talk with S.

Something is on the roof. We hear it at night, walking on the tiles. "Just stay on that side, please. Out-side that is." The neighborhood cats prowl on the porch and knock over wood scraps left by the carpenter.

I stay home while W is researching alarm and alert systems for the neighborhood council. He's gone for a few hours, putting 14 km on his shoe soles. He walks down to town and between the tech centers. Before coming home, he drops by the hospital to read and pray with a sick friend.

Water, sun, and warmth. Perfect for plants.
Back and forth go the emails and WhatsApp messages. We're trying to arrange two life groups this week. Seems like there's no great time for everyone so the point persons have to choose a time and place. As many as possible will come.

In the early evening, we visit a neighbor with Dr W translating. Mrs W is moving at the end of the month and has been working night and day to clear things out of the house. She's moving to her home across the valley. I can't believe how much she's accomplished.

"Up until 4 in the morning sometimes," she admits. What a chore. Seems like we just finished wrapping up our house in Seattle.

I'm up by 4:30 and can't get back to sleep. Martha and I talk on the phone. She's calling on Monday night and I am already at Tuesday morning. We discuss our reading assignment (Mere Christianity by CS Lewis), prayer requests, and life lessons.

Ibu A arrives shortly after 8. We have a morning appointment but are back for a delicious lunch at 12:30. At 1, we take the batik purchased two weeks ago and walk with Dr W to meet her neighborhood seamstress. The lanes, some 3' wide, wind between full-sized houses and small dwellings. We recognize a lot of people along the way: we often walked this route toward language school last semester.

Odd little blooms, little mouths of
white blossoms tucked between vibrant leaves
The seamstress brings out her husband's tailored shirt to show Waldemar what is possible. He decides on a pattern to wear to formal events. I'm looking for a long skirt. And Dr W wants a blazer. All possible by the end of the month. Wow.

There's more back and forth about scheduling the life groups as the rain starts. The thunder and lightning are close by. The growl comes and goes for an hour. We're cozy inside except for water in the back hall. The power goes off.

W walks to the neighborhood warung to pick up some freshly-made chicken and rice. We eat by candlelight, marveling at how spoiled we are to have power. When the electricity comes back, the breakers click off and we're in the dark again. W finds water shorting out a connection in the back wing. We leave the power off back there and run a temporary extension cord from kitchen to back fridge. The disruption to the computer means I don't finish an assignment. Ah, lots to do tomorrow then.

Read more:
*The Lord spoke and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. Psalm 33:9 ESV

*See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love. All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. Psalm 119:159-160 NIV

*The centurion answered Jesus, “Only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.” Matthew 8:8 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Creator of everything, we give you thanks. We are blessed by your creation and your healing every day. Thank you for believing in us, broken though we are. Remind us that we are still another part of your wonderful creation. Amen.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Looking for God? Claim to be his follower? Prove it!

God's beauty
We read the Bible together. The 6-month challenge, sent by IESJakarta, is to read the New Testament. Today we looked at John 14 (Day 78). Let me share two observations from this morning:

1. Many people, Christian and not, claim they want to know God. Do we really?

Jesus says something startling, something radical, to his disciples and to us. He claims that we see God the Father when we look at him. He is God in the flesh.

At their last meal together, before Jesus' crucifixion, "Philip (one of his inner circle) said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." 

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves." (John 14:8-11)

The early church affirmed their understanding of God among us. "[Jesus] is the exact representation" of God ..." (Hebrews 1:3) and "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. .... For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:15, 19, 20)

God's creativity
So how do we get to know God? We pursue all the ways in which God has revealed himself. The spiritual disciplines are not just for our personal benefit (by becoming more patient and kind, gaining knowledge or wisdom, etc.) but tools to assist our relationship with God. We read and meditate on the scriptures, contemplate his beauty in nature, fast, and pray.

If you're not doing that, do you really care about getting to know God? or is he just a convenient fall-back when life spins out of control or you need more resources?

2. Those who believe demonstrate their faith in their actions. 

Jesus said, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12)

Did Jesus mean only that powerful, supernatural demonstrations would prove we were his followers? Certainly, Jesus and the apostles of the early Church did miracles. And miracles still happen.

God knows each name
and cares about each story
But what did Jesus actually do? He fed the hungry, healed the sick, and set people free. He promised his help for us to do the same: "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (John 14:13-14)

Jesus' miracles demonstrated God's care in practical ways, whether he was feeding 5000 hungry people, providing wine at a wedding, or healing a blind man. Let's face it: not all of our efforts are miraculous. But they similarly demonstrate God's compassion and love. We pray for and visit the sick, offer medical treatments, foster community development, fight human trafficking, and support feeding programs. Our hands and feet show God's ongoing love and the work of Christ.

James writes that "faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead," (James 2:17) and "faith without deeds is useless." (James 2:20) If we see hungry people and don't feed them or see someone who needs clothing and don't provide what we can, our claim to belief in Jesus is hollow.

What is Christ's ongoing work? From heaven, he now acts on behalf of his children to provide ongoing reconciliation with God: "There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people..." 1 Timothy 2: 5-6 He uniquely transforms us as he sends us out to continue his work in the world.

The verse on my mantle
So if my life is wrapped up in selfish pursuits, if I have become consumed by the day-to-day grind, or if I refuse to help others, am I doing what Jesus did? If not, am I truly his follower?

It's hard to write this. I don't want to condemn anyone. But these two things have ground through my mind all day. I hope the questions help you - as well as me - to consider how we are setting our goals and spending our days. A review:
1. Do I really want to know God? If so, in what ways am I getting to know Jesus better?
2. In what ways do my actions demonstrate that I believe in Jesus and am following him?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friends, old and new

Fun getting in the picture together
Tuesday, January 13
Have I been anticipating the day with dread or joy? On the one hand, we really like having people over. On the other, we hardly know what we're doing in this new culture. I'm up part of the night thinking through logistics: we can squish about 30 people in (30-non-floor-sitters). Is everything in place? I give up on sleep and by 6am, the oven is preheating for the French toast casseroles.

Neighborhood security delivers extra seating: 12 chairs from the community center. Ibu W mentioned it would be nice to tip them though it is not expected. We tip. They normally make $6-10/day, so any bonus helps.

Improvised arrangement: a 1' tip of a yard plant
in a bowl found in the garden
About 9, the Bariton bakery motorcycle delivers 36 snack boxes. We ordered 35, but they fit into the bag better with an extra. Each contains 4 little savory or sweet treats and a water cup with a straw. I cut the warm bread, bake the egg casseroles, heat the meat, and set the table. It takes me a lot longer and more energy here. After living in the same Seattle house for 20 years, I knew where everything was. Here, I don't even know what I want half the time. When I look for a small serving bowl, I realize ... oops, I haven't purchased those yet.

Between 10 and 11am, 30 women show up with little packages wrapped in newspaper. They each take a Bariton snack box. Some of them start eating, while others put theirs aside to take home. Providing the snacks was my culture lesson from the last arisan.

Hmm. What is the newspaper thing about? "Untuk tahun baru," they say. Whatever that means. I run into the bedroom to wrap a small gift to add to the stack.

The beautiful colors of my gift scarf
Finally I figure it out. Happy New Year gift exchange! A few women write numbers on each parcel and hand out papers with numbers on them. We're supposed to get the gift corresponding to our number. I draw #13 and am given #2 gift. Somewhere the numbering system breaks down. I twirl around once or twice wearing my bright-hued scarf. It's pretty; something I would get for myself. Near the end, the organizers rush to wrap a gift for a last-minute guest. She explains why she was late but I can't understand much. Sigh. Does she live far away? Work somewhere and couldn't come earlier? I can't tell.

There's a lot of food on the table. Ibu A dropped off cut fruit and her market purchases last night. She arrived at 7am today to cook fried chicken, nasi kuning (yellow rice which is traditional for events and celebrations), and a spicy vegetable dish. It's the first "heat" she's put into our food. The other family she cooks for must hate hot food because she is shocked when we say "Kami suka makanan" (we like it).

Almost done: the women pack up amid goodbyes
My contributions are three home-baked loaves of bread that took all of yesterday to rise and bake, between making other dishes. There's French toast and sausage in gravy. Half a dozen women ask for the recipe. Oh oh. I make it differently each time. This time the Bockwurst was so salty that I added creamed soup, sweet barbecue sauce, and a can of creamed corn to balance the flavors. Of course there were trays of home-baked cookies, too.

Ibu A has cooked a feast. We have leftovers until the women see the plastic food bags on the table. They ask if it's okay to take food home. Of course. That's the custom here. Some take more, some hardly any, but bit by bit the table empties. There's a lot of fruit left over so I freeze some and make a smoothie for Ibu A and me.

The arisan treasurer hands me an envelope of food money. I sign that I've received it and have counted it. The president of the group writes the next month's address in my guest book and many of the women sign their names.

Lunch at Miss Bee's Providor
After the women leave, I snag a plate of food for each of us. W and I haven't eaten. I ask the helper to fill a few bags for herself and her family. We used paper plates and real cutlery and serving dishes, so the helper finishes washing up. She mops the living room floors before hoisting herself and the food bags onto the back of her husband's motorcycle.

In the evening, we met three Seattle leaders who are looking for service projects for their groups. One is an Indonesian expat who knows young professionals in Bandung. We eat a delicious Sundanese meal together with them and four outstanding young people.

Pak Herry demonstrates squatting, Indonesian-style.
Can you do it? Keep your heels on the floor!
In the morning, we meet up again with the three travelers. They've brought a few goodies along that had been delivered to our house in Seattle after Christmas: silicone measuring cups, a mixing bowl grip, and a few tech items for W. Very exciting. (Really.) And very useful.

We have fun together, too. Pak Herry lays down a mean beat that is the traditional rhythm for folk music. He shows the guys how Indonesians can sit on their heels by the hour. Since arriving in Indonesia and walking so much, W can do it, too.

We have lunch at Miss Bee's nearby. The guys walk the neighborhood to pray blessings over people living here. Then we talk about projects by work teams or interns that could benefit the city. By the time they leave in the evening, we feel encouraged about possibilities for partnering together.

After I format and send our "New Normal" photo, it's 11 pm. Time for bed.

I'm up at 3:30, preparing for a 4am conference call with leaders of a women's caucus. Most of them teach or do research in the USA, but a few are in England and elsewhere.

I stay up until Ibu A comes at 8am to clean. "Please do the walls, floors, and surfaces very well. We have to clean up after all the holiday company." I think that's what I communicate.

By 8:30, I'm ready for bed. I sleep until 11:30. We stay in until supper, go for a short walk and end up at Miss Bee's again.

The server asks if I'm Ibu Rosemarie. Eek. How does he know my name? Ah, apparently one of the young men at a pre-Christmas get-together had invited him to our place. The server was working but he promises he'll come along next time if he's free. We talk a bit and then W and I walk home, bemused by the networks all around us.

Graves are oriented with the faces toward Mecca
We plan to attend a concert at the seminary in the morning, but as we're ready to leave, I check the venue with a friend. Oh oh, the concert is another place on another day. So we are dressed and ready to go ... with the morning ahead of us. W is researching alarm systems for the neighborhood council and I've wanted to go to the local bookstore for months.

We walk down the hill, saying hi to the regulars who sit and stand at the sides of the lanes. The paths are so narrow that we have to move aside when motorcycles drive by. Many are not wide enough for cars, through the houses on each side can be big and elegant.

Reading Lights bookstore and coffee shop
Last time we came this way, a frail-looking old man walked through the cemetery path ahead of us. He easily negotiated the uneven steps cut into the muddy hillside, slippery in rainy season. Occasionally bricks or stones are placed as treads. Usually the path is chopped into the slope at whatever pitch is needed: some risers are 24" deep while others are 4-6". We always watch our feet. (We marveled and wondered how many North Americans his age could use the path.)

W leaves me at the bookstore for a few hours. Helen the owner and her assistant sign me up for their insider discount. Oh yes, I'll be back. I find a new novelist and time flies. I like an original painting "Orb" that glitters on the wall ($12). I'm fascinated with the creativity of people, whether in words, sounds, or art, aren't you?

Textured acrylic landscape
A $2 cutlet
W orders lunch at the student food court on our way home, a $2 chicken cutlet. We detour a few times walking back up the long steep hill toward home. Between every few houses, a narrow lane leads to still more homes. We discover a new way across the valley to Dago, the next hill. Maybe next time.

We're asked to contribute to an article for a local paper. The back and forth between text and pictures takes a while. We'll see what they use.

Read more:
*Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

*Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36 NIV

*If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:20-21 ESV

C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain:
   If the world exists not chiefly that we may love God but that God may love us, yet that very fact, on a deeper level, is so for our sakes. If He who in Himself can lack nothing chooses to need us, it is because we need to be needed. Before and behind all the relations of God to man, as we now learn them from Christianity, yawns the abyss of a Divine act of pure giving—the election of man, from nonentity, to be the beloved of God, and therefore (in some sense) the needed and desired of God, who but for that act needs and desires nothing, since He eternally has, and is, all goodness. And that act is for our sakes.

   It is good for us to know love; and best for us to know the love of the best object, God. But to know it as a love in which we were primarily the wooers and God the wooed, in which we sought and He was found, in which His conformity to our needs, not ours to His, came first, would be to know it in a form false to the very nature of things. For we are only  creatures: our role must always be that of patient to agent, female to male, mirror to light, echo to voice. Our highest activity must be response, not initiative. To experience the love of God in a true, and not an illusory form, is therefore to experience it as our surrender to His demand, our conformity to His desire: to experience it in the opposite way is, as it were, a solecism against the grammar of being.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Walks and plans

One reason sidewalks are in poor condition:
motorcyclists use them to get around traffic jams
The new week is starting. We have a big lunch planned Tuesday and American friends will be coming that evening. Tonight, the sun's going down on as the evening prayers ring across the neighborhood. The air is cool at 72o: it will get down to 66o tonight. Brrr.

Wednesday, January 7
The morning session in Jakarta is the final one of the conference. What a great group of coworkers! Four of us "new-to-Indonesia" gals set up a trial accountability group. We'll log in online every few weeks to check that we're on track and pray for each other. We make only a short-term commitment: after 2-3 sessions, we'll evaluate. If it's helpful, we'll keep going.

W and I drive home to Bandung after a quick lunch. It takes only 3 hours for the 80 miles because traffic is quite light. It's wonderful to see the house again. I spray the ant invasion into a twitching death and sleep like a log.

At least, I sleep until almost midnight, when my alarm wakes me for a conference call from Seattle about coaching. Our master coach offers encouragement and reminds us how important a coach can be to people entering a new profession. After we hang up, I can't get back to sleep until 4:30am. 

A grasshopper takes a break on our palm tree
Ibu A comes at 8. I have a headache and am tired, but one of the things we heard at the conference was appropriately relating to helpers. So I get up and give her instructions and money to buy food at the market. (W and I usually do the shopping). When she returns, she notes the purchases in a new notebook, set aside for the purpose. She is a marvelous cook: lunch is chicken, baked potato, bok choy, and - of course, rice.

A friend picks us up in the evening. We're going to the hospital to pray for Ibu V, who has cancer. She's been treated in China and is home again in Bandung. Her daughter and our friend have known each other since they studied in Holland years ago.

Pasar: baskets overhead
Such visits bring back many memories of how friends surrounded us when our daughter K was ill. We appreciated every visit, prayer, and note. Now we can do the same for others.

Afterwards, we go to a gathering of hawker stalls. The server brings a menu for all the shops. I had leftover soup at home just before we left so the surroundings interest me more than the food. Dozens of baskets hang overhead. ("Don't they get dusty? And who lives up there?" Be quiet, my inner German housewife!)

A typical poinsettia tree in the neighborhood
We stay home. I bake 3 loaves of homemade bread. One is for Ibu A's family: the other two are for us - one is supper and the other? How about tomorrow?

Let's hope the instructions to Ibu A are clear. 30 women (potentially) are coming for brunch Tuesday. I've asked Ibu A to go to the market on her husband's ojek (motorcycle) and bring the groceries back. She'll cook yellow rice (a tradition for special occasions), chicken, veges, and cut fruit. We have to start an hour earlier than usual to get everything ready. No cleaning until the ladies leave. Did she get that? 

We'll see. As usual, before an occasion, my head is whirling with details so my body is lazing around. Focus is worse when I'm going across culture and between Google Translate, Bahasa Indonesia, and English.

We miss baby Kamille, who is in Seattle with her parents. They're celebrating her first birthday far from her Indonesia family.

On our Sunday walk, the one-lane road is peaceful...
until it fills up with passing cars and motorcycles...
from this new housing neighborhood. Urban planning, anyone?
The homemade bread makes a good breakfast. We attend church nearby and meet the nicest mom and daughter in the parking lot. They've lived in Vancouver and the daughter recently completed community college in LA. She's home for a semester, waiting for her business program to start in fall. "If that falls through, we know a great business program in Seattle at Northwest University," we say.

The cutest youngster sits next to us on the bus
We change clothing quickly and walk a few miles down the hills and back up. We have a few things to pick up for the lunch we are making Tuesday. And our cable has been blocked for half a month. W finally finds someone in the mall shop who promises to connect it. (Later in the evening we discover that it's connected but we have the wrong subscription. We're not interested in a lot of cooking channels and Bollywood dramas, ok? W will try again. Fourth time lucky? And I don't suppose there's a refund or extension for 3 weeks without service, is there?)

We take an angkot minivan to the hospital to see Ibu V again. She's thinner, having trouble eating. But it's lovely to share scriptures and prayer. Her daughter faithfully is caring for her.

It's a single angkot ride back. W heads down for groceries for tomorrow's baking. He picks up supper at the warung on the next block (noodles for me; rice for him) and we eat about 7pm. 

Temperatures are dropping. So is lizard poop. Right on W's white duvet cover. ugh. He sponges it clean and sighs, "Laundry tomorrow. For sure." Yup.

Read more:
*Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name; worship the Lord in holy splendor. Psalm 29:2 ESV

*Help, O Lord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly; the faithful have disappeared from humankind. Psalm 12:1 ESV

*Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:67–68 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Master and Friend, we promise never to turn our backs on you. We believe you are everything we need. Keep us loyal to you in everything we do. Amen.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"Up, up with people" (anyone remember that song?)

Avery celebrates her 23rd birthday
Tonight our hearts are overflowing. We've spent two of three days with expats who serve in Indonesia. We're all doing unique work. Most of us are new to the country, first learning the language and culture.

Monday, January 5
We've been looking forward to this day for over a month. The director and his wife have flown in from the Philippines. The Indonesian committee is meeting to help us new arrivals acclimate to Indonesia. We have dinner at Applebees, newly opened in a mall in Jakarta. It's a bit surreal to eat American-style food; we seldom have burgers or Caesar salad here.

We are a very noisy bunch. We celebrate coworker Avery's 23rd birthday. The restaurant staff sings an enthusiastic and off-key ditty and we all cheer.

Getting ready to eat together
The entire back section is filled with new friends from oldest to youngest. The children are very good: they run and play together between eating. In Indonesia, the nanny follows the children around to feed them. Locals don't seem to understand that a child can be corralled in a chair and fed in one location. The Americans capture their kids, feed them, and then let them play.

Jakarta feels less traditional than Bandung. There are a lot more expats. People's clothing is more Western, their attitudes more modern, and their speech and manners are more abrupt. It's easy to see why these urbanites consider Bandung a small town rather than a big city (though it has over 7 million people). In some ways, Bandung feels like a collection of villages. People are connected to each other and look out for their friends and neighbors. We miss Bandung the minute we leave it: we've fallen in love with the people and the city.

A kind mentor and friend
I'm awake at 4am, thinking through the brunch planned for 30+ women at our house next Tuesday. Chairs - do we have enough? (Nope! During the day I text Dr W who arranges for security guards to pick up extra seating from the community center. She sends us their phone numbers so we can call them on the day.) What will I cook? I organize a mental list of foods that can be prepared by 9am. Will the older ladies need help negotiating our steps? Maybe W can help them get up and down to the front door. Etc.

My phone battery is almost dead so I can't listen to the scriptures which often comfort me as I begin to rest. I stuff earplugs in my ears instead and fall back asleep for another hour.

The hotel cafeteria serves a good breakfast. W loads up while I choose a little rice porridge and half an omelet. I'm still full from the American-sized portion last night. Katie joins us with a cup of coffee. One of the delights of being here is seeing the passion and tender hearts of the young interns. They're quicker to pick up language, careful observers, and enthusiastic about ministry and community development.

Asian lights
Some of today's speakers have lived in Indonesia for a decade or more. They provide insights into power distance (who's boss and underling), making donations (carefully, through local organizations), and how to train, teach, and engage with respect. An Indonesian leader reminds us that we are not here to make up our own agenda. For maximum benefit to locals, we must respect and partner with existing charities and projects.

For lunch, we go downstairs to Pesto, an Italian restaurant. My half-plate of salad with a few pear slices and a taste of Gigi's pizza takes me through the afternoon. (Boosted by a few cups of tea in my Contigo thermos, of course.) We break into groups late in the afternoon, sharing what we've found surprising about living here. It's reassuring to hear that others sometimes feel as unbalanced and topsy-turvey in their "new normal" as we do. The veterans remember their first year being the same. We are cautioned to focus on our strengths, not to compare ourselves to others, and to seek God's guidance as we settle down.

Supper in a Thai restaurant provides the backdrop for conversation that is warm and friendly, loud and cheerful. Afterwards, we hug a few people goodbye (early returns home) and say "see you tomorrow" to others.

Genius food warmer, fueled by 2 tealights
W and I are looking for a Brabantia food warmer like the one W found at Christmas. Though we're becoming accustomed to cold food, we prefer to serve heated food hot! And we have lots of guests. We head into the mall, find the warmer, and arrive in our room just before 10pm.

Our income record shows up in our email today. Donations sometimes take a few weeks to be recorded so we don't always know right away when a gift is sent. How grateful we are for the year-end giving entrusted to us. We couldn't be here without generous and faithful partners! W and I thank God at the end of the day. He is Good.

The day has flown by. We've learned a lot and spent hours among fine people with big hearts. A success, I'd say. W's asleep already and another long day lies ahead. Time for bed.

Read more:
*Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. Psalm 118:5 ESV

*O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I'm far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! Psalm 139:1-6 NLT

*Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12 NKJV

*In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. Ephesians 1:7 ESV

*You are God’s own people in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Light of the world, thank you for responding to us in our time of need. We declare ourselves to your holy way. Help us respond to others and proclaim your amazing grace.

Heavenly Father, you who are unseen are able to see all. Forgive us for forgetting that you know what we need before we can even ask. Keep our hearts open to sharing your forgiveness with the world. Thank you, Lord. Amen.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Neighborhood council meeting

The neighbor's porch. Hard to believe it's January
As of January 3, we've been here 6 months. Friends who live overseas told us to expect the unexpected. That things would not be like we imagined or maybe hoped. That we might achieve more or less than planned. They said learning a new language was a difficult challenge but worthwhile. And they were right.

Friday, January 2
We walk down to town. It's downhill all the way so it doesn't seem far. Then we walk some more. By the time we get home, we've done about 6 miles (10 km). And the cable TV shop closed before we got there. (Our TV doesn't work; we get a "disconnect" signal. It's hard to hear enough language without it. But W will try again tomorrow.) My feet are tired when the taxi picks us up far from home drops us at the house. The fare is $4.

Potholes can be serious obstacles
Saturday, January 3
W and I walk around the corner with Dr W at 9:20am,  headed to the Community Center for a meeting of the neighborhood council. We are the first to arrive so we go next door first. The lady who lives there cooks beef "floss" = meat fried, dried, and pulled into fluffy bits that are sprinkled on rice, baking, or soups to add flavor. We'll order some when we get back next week. The cook sells through a well-known bakery for twice the price. Better to buy as a neighbor!

About 60 families live in the neighborhood. The main business of the day is affirming a permit to remove and replace a house: a non-local family has purchased the old place and wants to tear it down. "It normally takes a year or two to build," they tell us. Their son is an architectural graduate who is helping his parents as they plan. They show their intentions to the council.

W has to leave: he has to try again to get the company to hook up our TV. I stay to find out how the neighborhood is run and learn a few things:
A mini-pickup truck = motorcycle conversion

  • The community leaders are esteemed and educated people. They are polite and respectful to each other. Most were scientists (or spouses of scientists) who worked at LIPI, a scientific research institute established  in 1967 by the government to oversee national scientific progress. When the Bandung facility closed, the government allowed the researchers to purchase land or their rental homes near the institute. (We officially have a neighborhood section number. However,  the sign at the entry uses the old name so that's the easiest way to self-identify.)
  • The community center is used for prayers. The man who used to call prayers passed away this fall so prayers are held once or twice a week instead of daily. On one side long runners underlay prayer rugs. 
  • Dr W introduces me to Ibu S, who teaches Arabic at the center. She also schedules rentals. Functions must be cleared by the committee, but the center rents @ Rp500.000 (about $45) for neighbors and double that amount for outsiders. The chairman encourages me to rent the building for next week's Ciumbuleuit women's gathering if my house is not big enough. (We may have 30-35, for which we will order take-away boxes from the local bakery, as well as providing food. What oh what shall Ibu A and I cook for so many?!)
  • Women are encouraged to join and attend bimonthly LIPI meetings. I was at my first meeting last month at Ibu Wigar's. Ibu Wiwi has just been voted as head of the women's gatherings; we sit next to each other after Waldemar leaves.
  • Security guards get minimal pay but can be subsidized by private contributions. We may consider a donation now and again.
  • Before the meeting is over, one of the very respected members asks what we're doing here. Our immediate task is learning the language. We are professors so we will be teaching as well. I tell them that we have always had company, so they can expect people to come and go from our house. Our guests will be respectful and pleasant but if there are any problems, would the council please feel free to let us know? If we are inadvertently impolite, will they please correct our manners?
  • We each get a lunch box packed with a bottled water and 5 foods, savory and sweet. Oh my. Yum. I taste a few things and take the rest home.
Heron batik
Dr W and I walk home about 11:30 when prayers begin. I'm working in my office when I start to feel peckish. It's after 1, the usual time for lunch. I haven't heard Ibu A cooking so I go down to see what's happening.

She's ironing. I leave her to her work and make soup. After checking out the fridge, I gather the leftovers: sausage in gravy, shredded chicken and mushrooms, eggplant, peppers. We leave tomorrow; I have to use the food up. I boil up a broth, seasoning water with a Maggi beef cube. I toss everything in to blend and heat. In another pot, I cook two rounds of noodles. Then I call Ibu A to join me. "Aren't you hungry?" I ask her.

She gets the giggles when she comes into the kitchen. "What? You are cooking?" She is aghast but between us we communicate that she thought I had already eaten (acc. to W's brief chat before he left) so she made lunch for one: herself. She tries the soup, which is flavorful and spicy. I have two helpings before the noodles run out. Then it's back to work. 

Ibu A washes the dishes and dashes out the door after 3, leaving a clean counter, a pile of ironed laundry and sheets, and washed floors. The marble tiles are still gritty in places so I keep my indoor flip-flops on, as usual.

Ikat fabric: one of a kind
Ibu W calls to let me know that Adeline, the batik artist and community development director, has dropped off the fabrics we were considering Thursday. Would I like to come get them? The invoice is in the bag. I pull out bills from my pocket and pay for the two lengths I want to keep: a lavender and peach ikat that I shall use for a skirt and a 3-tone brown and grey heron pattern. I haven't decided whether it will be for decor or another shirt for W.

W comes back with the errand undone. Yesterday, the staff sitting on the steps after closing said the shop was open 9-2 each Saturday. They neglected to mention that this Saturday was some kind of store holiday. Sigh. He brings in the canary from the porch, who fluffs up his feathers and gets ready to sleep.

We relax in the evening. And we pray over the neighbors, the community leaders, the friends we've met. Over the churches and pastors who will meet tomorrow. Over the house and our surroundings.  Then we fall asleep until morning.

Sunday, January 4
We read the scriptures and pray. There's so much to talk to God about. We are grateful for safety. For a house to sleep, cook, and be hospitable in. This year stretches ahead, unknown and untested. We move forward day by day, asking God for guidance and insight, for connections and favor.

Mobile kitchen: fridge on wheels
We drive to Jakarta in the afternoon. We have an Indonesian Orientation course Monday through Wednesday. The drive takes 2 1/2 hours. That's excellent, one of our fastest trips. Apparently Jakartans have not yet left Bandung after their shopping weekend.

I'm tired after W weaves through traffic. Avery's gone to enjoy karaoke with friends so the flat is quiet when we arrive. While I blog, I absorb the TV reports of Indonesia's recovery efforts after the AirAsia crash on Dec. 28.

The word for sacrifice, scapegoat, and victim is the same in Indonesian:  korban. Our hearts are heavy when we think of the families who waved goodbye to loved ones at the airport ... and will not see them again. We are especially sorrowful for a church in Surabaya who lost over 40 members. The news shows families mourning those they miss.
In the evening, W walks to a neighborhood vegan restaurant for pseudo-burgers. They're cold and kind of hard by the time I pull the "veet" out of the bread and microwave it.

For us, life continues as before. For those who have lost loved ones this Christmas, time stands still as they learn to cope. I look forward to the place without sadness or sorrow, to the time when God wipes the tears from our eyes. Blessings and peace on you in the New Year.