Thursday, May 28, 2015

Jakarta and more Jakarta

What an interesting week. We are wrapping up our second conference and have one more to go.

Saturday, May 23
I am sicker than a dog when we drive into Jakarta and should be resting instead. So weird: I rarely become ill, but I got sick after arriving in Seattle and here we are again. This time a bad cold leaves my throat raspy all week. I hack and cough as though I am on my last breath. Very annoying, especially since my energy level is so low.

Suckling pig
We arrive at the apartment where David and Paula S landed from the USA two weeks ago. They welcome us to their guest room for the next few days. W goes out for coffee / supper with them in the evening, while I just can't wait to crawl into bed and sleep.

Sunday
Everyone else goes off to church. I'm happy to stay home and quiet until the big celebration of the day: Isabel's graduation party. The lead pastor's daughter has finished high school and over a hundred guests of all ages squeeze into the reception rooms downstairs to cheer her on. Isabel won top student awards in maths, theatre tech, and English in a school of smart kids.

A huge buffet, two suckling pigs, and desserts galore - including real! brownies and key lime pie - provide the feast. The lights sparkle around the newly renovated swimming pool. The conversations hum and swell. It's fun to hear the speeches choses to outline different interests and times of Isabel's life. She's a bright girl, hard worker, and nice person. She's easy to celebrate!

Monday - Wednesday
We're up and out early. While David is golfing, we take Paula around neighborhood to some of our favorite stops. Lunch at a little cafe in Cayenne (mid-century modern furniture store) is good: paninis, pastas, salads. We head home for a pause before the week ramps up: Paula's still getting over the 14-hour time change from the Pacific Northwest and we're coming off a busy week and weekend.

The first NGO conference starts at dinner. The speakers are established leaders from around the world. Attendees come from Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, South Africa, China, Hong Kong, India, and elsewhere.

Wednesday night we head to the Aryaduta Hotel, a converted condominium tower where the second conference begins with a supper buffet. I head straight for the soup, soothing my throat with a spicy chicken broth.

Thursday
We've truly left our identities behind in Seattle. As one of the older couples, we're generally avoided by the 20-30-somethings of this vigorous working group. It's great fun to watch the singles chattering to each other and the couples with young children negotiating their way between sessions.

The conference gives us a chance to get to know who's here. We sit back, observe, and learn. The participants are spread across the islands of Indonesia so they tell what they're learning about different people groups and customs. Every location is full of joys and challenges. Many attendees are recent arrivals like we. Others have lived here 20-30 years. We consider: how can those with resources or skills best benefit the locals, local needs, and local agendas? What kinds of non-profit start-ups and ongoing projects are the most meaningful and helpful in the long run? How do communities change and grow?

By 5:45 a.m. the sun is rising and Jakarta is humming.
The traffic buzzes around us. Jakarta is hot (80-90oF) and muggy. The architecture that's sprung up between neighborhoods is stunning. Everywhere we look there are "famous architect" high-rises and it feels like the city has 100 malls. Down the little passageways and lanes, house and tiny shops cram together. We loved living here for the first months but are happy to live in Bandung.

Friday
We wake before 5 a.m. and it starts to get light before 6. Another day is about to begin.

Feeling almost human. What a relief!

A city under construction: the view below our hotel window

Read more:
*The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2 NIV

*Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. Psalm 23:6 ESV

*Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light for my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. I have suffered much; preserve my life, Lord, according to your word. Accept, O Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws. Psalm 119:105-108 NIV

*But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 ESV

*God who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Romans 8:32 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Our lovely God, your mercy surpasses all understanding. It is only because of your mercy that we live. We do not deserve such love, but you give it to us anyway. Thank you for sending your Son to die for us, that we may be released from sin. Amen.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A headachy ramble

My grandmas - opening Christmas gifts together (70s?)
Housebound, I enjoy slides Dad's transferring to digital. 
Friday
W, the Bundas, and our friend Josie start for the volcano hike in the morning. They eat good Indonesian food for lunch and enjoy Chinese food for supper after time at the hot springs. Do they also visit the floating market in the lake above Bandung? I don't know. I'm sick in bed. I barely hear the start of their popcorn and movie night in the living room before crashing into sleep.

Saturday
What a pleasure to see the face of a friend in the morning! Josie's mom drops by to pick up Josie. She's prepared a pot of bee hoon (thin noodle) for breakfast. Everyone heads upstairs to eat, where Laura has cooked breakfast. I'm not hungry, my stomach can't bear a complicated meal, and my head isn't up to multiple conversations. Josie's mom skips as well. She roams the yard and picks young leaves and fruit from the clove tree in the backyard. She takes them home to cook, along with a loaf of bread fresh from the oven.

I love sitting on the porch
We've invited DrW over for a visit mid-morning. It's our only chance to catch up in the next few weeks - between her travels and ours, we are seldom home at the same time. How I miss this most gracious of neighbors. I'll miss the arisan meeting this week, too. I ask her to excuse me to the women; if I were in town, I'd be there!

We sit on the deck overlooking the garden, eating freshly-baked bread (the one thing I got done yesterday) and cheese. DrW's brought yummy sweet-bean pastries, too.

We talk about our latest adventures. She is building a recycling / composting station next door, a tribute to her late husband who was a chemist and a gardener. What a joy to see her honor him: it will be an excellent contribution to the neighborhood and ongoing reminder of their marriage. Beside it, just outside our gate, the committee has approved a parking lot to allow for more visitors to neighboring houses. The community continues to transform and grow.

Did that person just stroll across traffic in front of us?
By noon, W and I have said goodbye to the Bunda family and are driving to Jakarta. Yes, I'm sticking to my agreement and my side of the car: I drive while we're in Seattle - he drives here. (W's nervous when I drive, which is very distracting.) The wheel is on opposite sides in Canada and Indonesia; we stay in the same seat.

It's a difficult task being a passenger in Indonesia:
 = not gasping as the driver stomps on the brakes, squeezes by a cart, barely misses a motorcyclist criss-crossing between cars, or spurts into the next lane like toothpaste squeezed from a tube. The driver may feel in control; the passenger doesn't always sense that the same way.
 = trapped in limbo. My sole task is to say, "Too close" if W drives too near something on my side. Sometimes my brain turns to mush by the time we've gone 3 blocks.
 = not pointing out things along the way.  Hundreds of cultural observations, artistic moments that capture the eye, and potential service opportunities go unsaid, dropped by the wayside. (I could take notes, but I'm supposed to be watching that we don't hit anything on my side.)
= not processing things we've just experienced together. People we've met or places we've been? By the time we get to the destination or home, we're exhausted from the drive, task-driven to the next thing, and the experience is in the past. If W gets around to mentioning something later, my memory has often already let it go.
= not learning language or reinforcing information. I can't explore the meanings of words or try them on my tongue. We don't compare what we know to what we pass along the way. There's no, "How or where else is this word or this idea used?" Zipping by this interesting ...?  hhusssssh - did you say that aloud? ... don't distract him from the road ... oops, it's gone gon go g

Red light = pause, stop, coast ... whatever seems best.
Don't you love the gal's office suit and heels?
So, moment of ugly truth (yes, these occasionally pop up in the blog, let's be real): my biggest shock and adjustment to date is not the bugs. Not the weather. Not meeting lovely people with customs unlike ours. Not being the only blond for miles. 

It's actually wasting so many adrenaline-filled hours in the car during which we can't process information or observations. W can't drive, focus, and talk at the same time. He's had 4 varied traffic "encounters" already. Luckily, they've been minor.

Any time we're underway, my mind becomes a whirling blank. The colors, movements, and new triggers feel overwhelming without my ability to talk about them. When we ride the angkots, it would be rude to speak lots of English so we listen to unintelligible conversations around us. When we walk, it's single file along the road; the person following can't hear a reply from the front. By the time we get home, we have chores, writing, or other work.

You can imagine why hiring a part-time driver tops my to-do list! Please pray that we find the right person.

En route to Jakarta, I fall asleep immediately - it feels like strapping into the airplane seat before takeoff. The first time I wake, we're still in Bandung. The next time, an hour later, we're on the highway. As much as my eyes allow, I read while W weaves crazily through traffic. If I'd done half that when driving in Seattle, we may have had to institutionalize him. haha All power to the driver. All gratitude to God, who in mercy gets us there safely.

Dave and Paula have graciously let us use the guest room at the apartment. We catch up a bit but my head's pounding, my brain is in a complete fog, and the rattle in my chest doesn't clear with coughing. I'm off to bed as soon as they head to Sebastian's Coffee across the street. I fall asleep until morning, assisted by Alka Selzer nighttime meds.

Argh. Feels like I've missed a million moments this week. But I don't care much. zzzzzzz.

Read more:
*I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalm 32:8

*You shall rejoice in the Lord; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory. Isaiah 41:16 ESV

*Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. Luke 10:39 ESV

*Paul wrote: Rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard. Philippians 3:1 ESV

*You greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8–9 NASB

Moravian Prayer: Loving Creator, we give thanks for your unconditional love and salvation. Though we may continually fail, you are our Guide and Rescue. Forgive us and transform us, that we may recognize you every day of our lives in this world.
O God, let your children in your church rejoice in you always. Let us be grateful for the many provisions you give us, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. Make us a strong community, supporting one another in love. May we proclaim your good news around the world: news of freedom, righteousness, mercy, and love for all. Let our joyful shouts be heard throughout the earth. In the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Connections and contacts

The tropical panoramic view from my desk: the wind chimes
are tut-tutting on the porch as the breeze comes up.
The landlady said the chimes chase away the fruit bats.
Sunday, May 17
One of the kids is sick so I stay home with him while W and T's family attend a charismatic Indonesian church. "Wow, a professional production that feels like a transplant from anywhere in the West," everyone remarks upon coming home. They like the music and W thinks the theology was good. I'll go on the next visit. 

Monday
I can't remember much about Monday. My stomach is not cooperating but it's thankfully not heaving. It must have been the fresh cucumber which I thought was thoroughly washed. W didn't have any and he's fine.

I'm almost finished putting away the heap from our move. We tossed everything into a room nearest the gate outside - all the rooms have sliding doors to the patio or outside. That makes for great ventilation and was convenient when we were running our things from one house to the next.

Please let the guest rooms downstairs be sorted soon, I think to myself. What a chore! We have enough sheets and pillowcases, a huge blessing. But after a few years of storage, they need washing, hanging on the line to dry, and ironing. Ibu A and I been at it for over a week. Now, if I sew a few more flat sheets into duvet covers, I'll stash away the bedding and be guest-ready.

Bundas and Friska from the Center, exploring
partnership possibilities among teens.
The leather chairs doing their job upstairs.
Upstairs, Paul, Laura and the two kids settle in. We've asked them to move things around, to fully live in the space, and let us know what other guests would need. They're assembling a short-list of house quirks and "good guest" expectations. (THANK YOU!)

Gradually we stock up on basics together: kitchenware, furniture, and cleaning supplies. They occasionally raid our cabinets for a pot-lid, spices, etc. How grateful we are for the generosity of friends back home. We may be tightwads and bargain-hunters but some things can't be done without ... seating in the upper common room, for example. We found two leather armchairs, dusty but in beautiful condition, in the back of a second-hand office supply shop @$75. We'll take them, thank you.

Tuesday
My head is in a vice: throbbing and sore. We have been looking forward to meeting Riga at the Bamboo Shack to discuss a Bible study. About 3am I WhatsApp her that there's no way I'll be able to attend. She replies at 6am (normal time for moving around here - the sun's up, after all). W walks to Miss Bee's and gets a sandwich for each of us. I swallow half and that's more than enough, according to my stomach.

I run the stairs to the laundry a few times; we still have bedding and the painter drop-cloths (future slipcovers) to wash and iron. Ibu A steams through another heap before leaving at 3. The Bundas are exploring children's work and visiting the International School near downtown.

Ibu A has made nasi goreng ayam (chicken fried rice) and stashes it for supper. Everyone says the rice is fabulous. But my appetite has gone missing. I try to stay out of everyone's way. No one needs this headache.

Wednesday
W and I meet for brunch with Pauline, Pak Agust, and Maria at Miss Bee's Restaurant. They're with the seminary where we studied language, wondering if we're available to teach grad and doctoral courses. We map out possibilities but tell them we'll need permission from our non-profit before committing to teaching there or elsewhere. (What a strange thing, figuring out the "self-employment" parameters.)

My cousin Elaine and I - 41 years ago
They come over to look at the house and ask W about scanning documents. He shows them his AeroPress coffee-maker, too. On Jawa, good coffee is almost as important as tea. Bandung is famous for Kopi Aroma, a 3-generation coffee company. (They sun-dry coffee beans before letting them age in burlap sacks for 8 years in their warehouse. Serious about their coffee!)

I hole away in our bedroom most of the day, coughing and under the weather. My dad is scanning old slides into digital photos: the memories are happy as I look through them. Family reunions, friend get-togethers (including my 18th birthday), and church events. The light-hearted look into the past cheers me and makes me laugh aloud at times.

Thursday
Ibu A's back to make lunch and swoosh through the house. Bundas host a guest, Friska from The Center, a non-profit that gives English classes and support to Bandung teens. We are thrilled by the connections being made. Who knows how God will use them in future, to bless local children and their families.

Read more:
*And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. Isaiah 35:8-10  NIV

*You are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea. Psalm 65:6 NASB

*May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6 ESV

*Do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. Colossians 1:23 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Heavenly and merciful Father, help your children be more prepared in faith and in actions according to your word. Lead our steps each day to go wherever you may take us. In the name of your son Jesus we pray. Amen.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Tree stumps and good food

"How many men does it take?" In this case, in our neighborhood,
it takes a few guys in flip-flops with a chainsaw to do the work
and a bunch of onlookers.
Friday, May 15
We leave the house about 9:30am, walking to town with our friends. Men are clearing a tree to make way for a parking lot outside our gate. A neighbor asked for a community garden but the consensus was that parking would serve everyone better. We hope the location (top of the hill) will not shunt water into all our yards. We ask if the stumps are available to make stools for the porch, but the men are making sure the wood - used to make musical instruments: drums - is cut to the right length. Cool. The tree has been been hauled away by evening; the leaves are smoldering in a slow-burning, unattended fire outside our hedge.

It feels good to be on our feet again. W’s walked several places but it’s my first trip down the hill. We climb 40 or 50 stairs while crossing the park and watch our feet as we traverse the rough sidewalks. We adjust our pace for the kids, especially since they're not accustomed to the long distance and non-standard surfaces. It's fun to listen to them notice things that are different than Seattle. W and I have definitely begun to take the surroundings for granted.

A typical thoroughfare: a narrow alley
between houses or neighborhoods
First, we stop at ACE Hardware for a bit of this and that. Bundas buy a fan, dish drainer, and other necessities. We stash things behind the counter and head off down the road. What a treat to have first guests who are determined to help set up the space. Paul moves a dresser, rearranges, and makes things better. Laura guides the homeschoolers and pitches in with meals, while the kids (13, 11) are cheerful and willing to explore.

We have lunch at a café with a butterfly theme. For about $15, we have good food and drink. My ayam mimosa turns out to be chicken rolled in croutons and crumbs with a flavorful gravy and fries. Yummy.

Then we go to a clothing outlet where Royal Robbins travel clothing sells for 80-90% off retail. Father and son acquire nice blue shirts. Laura, the kids, and I hop into a taxi, pick up the purchases from ACE, and head home. The guys walk and take the angkot (public mini-vans) back. We have 5 miles on our soles. The guys have more.

Saturday
We're not sleeping well, usually up for a few hours in the night. We call our kids to wish them a happy anniversary before W leaves on a quick errand. He has his fourth “encounter” with the car. This time, he swerves to miss a motorcyclist who is speeding through our neighborhood. The curb slashes the sidewall of the tires. He finds out how to change a tire in Indonesia, a block from home. Yup, this is why I don’t drive here: too much can happen that we can’t anticipate.

We inherited a warped Formica counter beside the kitchen stove. I put two 24” square tiles on it and the handyman cut to size part of an old teak door for a cutting board between them. Pak E didn’t remove the finish so W’s spent hours on the porch, acclimating to the climate while scraping the finish off by hand – well, with a plane and scraper. It’s looking good and will be very useful.

Tanya left us a box filled with flat sheets and other bedding. We prefer duvets and covers, but they’re expensive to buy. I explore the button box sent for Christmas by the women of Canyon Creek. Then I plug my Bernina sewing machine into a transformer for the first time and away we go. Between errands today, I measure two sheets for the duvet cover, sew the buttonholes and attach buttons. By evening, it’s satisfying to pack up the new cover, put away the sewing machine, and tidy the office. But I’m surprised at how much work it was. In the past, I’ve whipped up things with a quick estimate. This time, I measured and re-measured, fussed around, and took a long time to get the simple cover done. How weird. I haven’t sewn for a few years, but still…

A good time was had by all!
We’ve been invited to Josie’s house for her homecoming. She spent 3 weeks in Europe with her mom. What a feast her mom has cooked! Sisters, cousins, and grandkids chat and eat together. The Bunda family joins us, their first experience in an Indonesian home. I cook a dish to share: chicken breast, sausage, sweet Italian sauce, and diced apples/pears/strawberries - and return home with her mom’s delicious cooking stashed in the washed pot.

We take a little detour to another ACE to see if we can find a bug sprayer. Yup, there it is. We will put the vegetable and tree spray to good use. (Ants march up and down the branches of the guava tree in a steady stream, carrying disease here and there. The rest of the garden is being eaten by caterpillars, mealy bugs, and other critters.) After an hour of walking, we pause for tea and a sweet at JCo in the mall.

We’re home by dark. I stay awake until 9 to attend an online conversation. When it ends at 11, I'm tired. Happy Weekend, everyone.

Read more:
*The Lord said, “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!” Deuteronomy 5:29 NIV

*Only fear the Lord, and serve him faithfully with all your heart; for consider what great things he has done for you. 1 Samuel 12:24 ESV

*You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. Psalm 63:1-4 NIV

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17 NEV

*Jesus Christ gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:14 ESV

*It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace. Hebrews 13:9 NASB

Moravian Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, you are so good. We do not have words enough to thank you for your word and your promises to us, your grateful servants. Grant us today your wisdom, mercy, grace, and love.

Merciful Lord, we seek to bring witness to the world. May we spread and proclaim your word with freedom and power. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sweet landings

A relic of Dutch occupation: train bridge
Saturday, May 9
Bandung is an utter shock to the system after Seattle’s grey coolness. The weather is mild and the house not yet familiar. We moved here 2 weeks before we left town.

There’s a strange buzzing in our yard. Cicadas swarm the trees. When I walk around the lawn, I also notice that our avocado tree looks odd. A few fruits hang in the naked upper branches. I go over for a closer look. The trunk is writhing with 2-3” grey caterpillars. They’ve stripped the tree bare of leaves, all 40’ of it. Good thing I brought garden spray along; we’ll make short work of them next week.

Except that we’re told that this is an annual phenomenon. At the end of the rainy season, the caterpillars function as a reset button for the trees. With no winter pause, the stripping of the leaves allows the tree to regenerate for a new season. The ants are back in full force on trees, around the porches, and in the dirty kitchen (where food is fried.)

Oh oh. I’ve slipped into flip-flops. I forgot about the snakes and rodents so I make a limited round of the yard, stomping to chase away anything that claims the ground. Then I head inside to continue unpacking and settling in.

Strange blooms on the hedge
W goes to the store for drinking water and flour. I stir up a bread for supper tonight and it rises on the oven while Ibu A cooks lunch. We’re happy to see each other this morning, after a long separation. The house is mostly clean at first gland in the drawers and corners. I'm uncertain about the month and a half she was here "cleaning." At least I can walk barefoot with minimal grit.

Ibu A is pleased to take away things that we no longer need: half-used candles (I don’t like fragrances), lunch leftovers, and her treat from the USA, TJ Peppermint Tea.

We have no internet at the house yet: hopefully it will be installed next week. (Nope. Which is why I’m hardly writing. Phone connection only.) We could go to check our email by sitting on the steps at the old place – we left our connection for the family who moved in. They’re out when we swing by to howdy.

It’s so good to unpack a few personal items. I left them behind last year but bringing them here makes Bandung feel more like home. I brought a few of my watercolor paintings, some sewing supplies, and serving spoons. Little things mean a lot to women overseas, I’ve been told. Correct.

As the helper waves goodbye, the rain starts to sheet down. I run upstairs to the drying area where she hangs clothes after washing. Today we did a few loads of bedding and travel clothes. An old shower curtain, left over from the previous place, helps ward off the rain, carried by a strong side-wind. I pull it across the opening in the roof so the water runs down and away.

Sunday
It’s warm and muggy. We head to the nearest church and a warm welcome from people we’ve met before. The talk about relocating and finding God’s presence and calling along the way is encouraging for us on our first day back in Bandung. We spot a a friend from our Boxing Day walk through the jungle. He works as a project manager and his wife owns a restaurant. The guys strike up a conversation while his wife Riga and I introduce ourselves. She’s recently become a follower of Jesus and is looking for someone to study scripture with. We agree to meet Tuesday to chat.

Amaryllis, plucked from the flower beds
After lunch, we list the chores awaiting us before our company arrives on Tuesday. We keep unpacking. Our clothes and shoes in the closet have partly mildewed so we put them out into the sun. They’ll be brushed off and cleaned later.

We visit our friend DrW, who serves us fresh young coconut juice before W heads to town. He returns late in the evening. I stay to examine the shape the house is in. The helper has happily checked off the entire list of to-dos. Apparently she dusted, swished around, and otherwise cleaned while we’ve been gone. It’s a pretty good but not a “German clean” by any means. (It would have taken us a week, not 7 weeks to get this far. Sigh.) Her husband has painted the walls white, streaked rather than the smooth finish W and his dad would have done. Oh well. It is what it is. And we’re glad it’s done.

Monday
Today’s a work day. I toss clothes and several loads of sheets into the wash. Mom sent some bedding along, and Tanya’s linens need refreshing.

Tanya, an NGO worker, used to live in Bandung. She contacted me before we arrived here, saying she’d heard we were coming before she moved. She kindly put things in storage for us. Through a miraculous confluence of events and connections, her things were delivered the day before we left for Seattle. We shoved the boxes into our bedroom, locked the door, and left.

Unpacking Tanya’s windfall of generosity, we are surprised by good dishes, two steamer chairs, and assorted small appliances and office supplies. We sure didn’t have room at the previous house, but this place needs items on both floors.

Upstairs: after
Upstairs: before
In town, W and I buy a small stove/oven, a dining/conference table and bench, and spot 2 used leather lounge chairs in great condition. W needs plumbing and building supplies, too. We get caught in traffic so we’re hungry and tired by the time we get home at 6pm. It’s a  ramen night. Quick. Filling. Sometimes even delicious.

We push furniture into place on the second floor when it is delivered in the evening. W and the neighbor pull the fridge upstairs from the porch. The helper’s husband has closed and covered it to get it out of the way while he painted. Imagine the smell when we open it. We prop the doors ajar. W assembles a kampor (cook’s) counter and slips it into place against the wall. It’s starting to look like a kitchen up there. We’re exhausted and jet-lagged. We can’t do another thing.

Found in my vegetables
Tuesday
Of course we’re awake at 3am. W drives to Jakarta at 6am and arrives for the IES staff meeting at 10:30. Then it’s off to the airport. Two families from Seattle are arriving on the same flight. Our friend Stefano once again helps negotiate their entry, as he kindly did for us last weekend. One family will stay in Jakarta until language school starts in August. W brings the other – a couple with two kids – to Bandung by evening.

Meanwhile, back at home, Ibu A has 3 jobs today: 1) cook two meals (lunch for 3 and supper for 6); 2) iron at least 4 sets of the bedding I’ve been washing; and 3) wipe down the stinky fridge. (Yikes. Imagine opening a fridge stored for 7 weeks in the tropical heat.)

The couple we met Sunday comes for lunch at 1. The three of us sip our rice and chicken soup on the porch. Riga and I give each other reading assignments – studies of various sorts – in preparation for a second meeting next week. We decide to start studying the Bible with interested friends at her restaurant in coming weeks. Hurrah!

After they leave at 3, I continue to stock the kitchen upstairs before raiding our moving boxes for pillows, blankets, and bedding for the guest rooms. The mandate is to have a functioning kitchen and clean bedrooms. Ibu A stays an extra hour but I’m barely done – just pulling on the last duvet cover – when the car pulls in.

We decide to eat in; everyone is wiped out from travels. The family is happy that they arrived safely and we orient them to the house. I’m pooped from housework @6am to 7pm … before supper. Thank goodness I just have to heat up Ibu A’s second meal. After washing dishes, it feels great to fall into bed about 10pm.

Wednesday
I’m planning a default breakfast of oatmeal (not a favorite of one of the kids) when I spot the eggs our neighbor Stacy put into our fridge, along with fruit and vegetables. (Thank you, Stacy!) So I cook pancakes instead, served with the apples, strawberries, and pears Ibu A cut up yesterday. By the time we finish eating, it’s time to go grocery shopping, my first opportunity for food shopping since we arrived on Saturday. Dirty dishes left on the counter? = ant heaven. So what.

We promise our guests a more local experience later, but first take them midway down our hill to the most Western grocer in town. I buy meals to be cooked by Ibu A or myself for the rest of the week. Laura and I stuff our carts and then check out the bookstore nearby, while the guys pay in the checkout line.

By the time we put everything away, we’re hungry again. What’s in the fridge? Turns out it’s the makings of two big frittatas (omelets), some sausage, and a salad. I’m not done cooking until 2. The guys walk downtown to get internet hooked up, but the shop helpers say the DSL service won’t be available for a few months! while the internet company changes their delivery system. We may have to shift the system we left the Johnsons at our old place to this house. Nothing is straightforward but we are grateful that most things “can be done eventually.”

I don’t finish lunch dishes until 4pm, so I’m not cooking dinner. As we head out at 7pm to buy supper at the warung around the block, our friend Dr H comes to the gate. The others head off to get takeaway while she and I make ourselves comfy at home and catch up on the news. She lost her husband while we were away and her friend's son was swept away in the Nepal landslides. My heart aches for these women and their losses.

Soon everyone comes back, carrying a few packets of mie goreng (fried noodles), nasi goreng (fried rice), and ayam goreng manis (sweet friend chicken) – for about $10, the price of one dinner in Seattle. We unfold the brown paper wrappers and dig in. There’s plenty, with leftovers. More dishes, but with help. Ready for bed. And I can’t sleep until 1:30. Jet-lag is a pain.

A pause at the lobby of a local hotel
Thursday
I’m up by 5am, ready for the day. W and Paul walk to the coffee meeting with the guys and come back while Laura, the kids, and I are on a stroll through the neighborhood. There’s a burial going on next door: W saw a table set up for preparing the body last night, walking Dr H home. This morning people mill around the graveyard that lies between the two houses we’ve lived in. The street is lined with men, sitting on their haunches. By the time we finish the walk, everyone is gone.

We knock on Johnsons’ door to introduce the families to each other. Ibu A has arrived at 8am to finish ironing the bedding and cook lunch: baked chicken and scalloped potatoes with fresh vegetables. (Pass the salt, please. It was pretty bland but otherwise tasty.) She’ll take Saturday off to be with her family for the Ascension Day weekend.

Stacy swings by after lunch. Her four kiddos want to take our two young guests swimming at the local clubhouse.

My big chore today is tackling the storage area again, trying to finish sorting the linens. The mildew-ed bedding has been washed and ironed, so matching sheets and pillowcases go into their pillow cover. Pillow and blanket forms go together. There’s a heap of green garbage bags at my feet when I’m through. We kept tossing things into bags when we packed up the other house. There’s no shelving to store things here, so into Rubbermaid bins they go. I’m still working my way through when I decide on a nap. It doesn’t happen. I have to catch up on writing and some business … I’m so far behind.

Read more:
*Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:1-2  NIV

*For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:13-14 NEV

*Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1  NIV

Prayer:
God, thank you for the day. When we are weary and worn, whether we accomplish much or little, let us do it in your Name. Help us to see the big picture - you at work in us, around us, through us. We are grateful to be yours. Amen

C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups—playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the  pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.

Now, the moment you realise ‘Here I am, dressing up as Christ,’ it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretence could be made less of a pretence and more of a reality. You will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going on there if you were really a son of God. Well, stop them. Or you may realise that, instead of saying your prayers, you ought to be downstairs writing a letter, or helping your wife to wash- up. Well, go and do it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Waking in a new place

One more night in Seattle. We have three flights ahead - and already my head is trying to wrap itself around the change of place.

In the past year, several friends have died. The juxtaposition of shifting from life here to there has me wondering, "What will the transition be like when we leave this world and wake up in eternity?"

Will we find we have become the person we were designed to be?
Will we have finished the work we were created to do?
Will we wake up where we set out to go?

The challenge and the delight of faith in Jesus is accepting that he assumes the burden we cannot carry, taking away the weight of our sins and nailing them to the cross. Released, resurrected, we are free to live life to the full. Then, how do we embrace God's great generosity?

We stop flailing about trying to overcome sin and failures. God understands our brokenness and has redeemed us: our debt is paid in full.
We're no longer striving to mask flaws or earn points with God. Completely known, we are utterly loved and accepted.
We do good to reflect our gratitude to God, our hopefulness, and our lightness of heart. We've a story to tell and abundance to share.

Ah, how many times have I sighed over the transition to eternal life with God! I've held memorial programs in my hands and envied the bliss and peace of a saint who has gone to live forever with God. I've cried over people I will miss, but I've never grasped a Christian's reluctance to finish life on earth and enter the glorious presence of God. The sting of sin - death - has been removed.

There will be no airplane to take us from here to there. Perhaps sickness or an "accident" or old age will transports us from this life to the next. It may be slow or quick, but it is certain we will go.

The Good News of Jesus is that the path is certain. Our forgiveness has been sealed by another's sacrifice on our behalf. What anticipation, joy, and home-sickness fill my heart tonight, lying in my bed and thinking ahead.

Read more:
*You have set my feet in a broad place. Psalm 31:8 ESV

*You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God. Joel 2:26 ESV

*God has not left himself without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy. Acts 14:17 ESV

*May you have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Ephesians 3:18–19 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Thank you, God, for your boundless and infinite love for us. We want to serve you only. Lead us to recognize you through our Savior Jesus Christ.
Eternal God, you are the Provider. You give us your grace through Jesus Christ and you always provide us with abundant fruits of the land to feed us. We give you thanks for all of these gifts. Amen.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Pack horse-ing around

We have 2 days left in Seattle. It's already been a wonderful week of life and friendship and packing stuff.
One last NU faculty friends dinner
Grandkids and nephews
One last visit with the tribe
We'll be taking back less than we'd hoped but need the priorities we'd earmarked for the year. What's in the suitcases, beyond our clothing?

  • equipment for teaching and working abroad.
  • a few books for teaching, reading, and art - oh, how I missed English books! We were library hounds and now we have to purchase online books that are not blocked. That's tough on me: W loves to read online. I read like mad while in the States.
  • household / hospitality items that are too expensive or not available in Bandung. We host foreigners and Indonesians educated abroad, so we stock up on items we'd do without for ourselves.
  • walking shoes. We've worn the soles off our shoes. If we could find them in Jakarta, they'd cost $100s a pair. Here, Sierra Trading Post had them on clearance @$30.
  • my Bernina sewing machine. I missed missed missed it. I'll cover the utterly worn furniture left in the house, saving $$$ and having a creative outlet. 
Goodbye to my brother and sis-in-love 
Nephew and his grandma 
One last church service together,
Miss K standing on a chair back and hugging Oma
What else?
  • DIY household items - sink stoppers, drains for the showers, hooks, oven knobs, etc. - that were permanently "out of stock."
  • a few favorite foods and Trader Joes teas. Yes, we're packing some big bars of chocolate.
  • a slipcover from our Seattle home. It fits the Beddinge sofa someone gave us in Indonesia. God brought a big smile to my face, unbelievably sending us the exact IKEA sofa we knew, no longer available in the USA market. (Instead of buying new furniture, I updated our Seattle LR by getting slipcovers on clearance over the years. Now I just need to get one home to Bandung.)
  • a few trusted makeup and hair products. Nope, I can't get it there or I refuse to spend $$$$ for find equivalents in a country with few blond heads. We're also bringing some things requested by fair-skinned coworkers.
  • canvas drop-cloths from Home Depot = slipcovers. I'll use Sharpee markers to "decorate" fabric with the upholstery weight cloths.
  • Sheets and bedding donated to us here. Some sizes are only available in Indonesia at high-end expat stores. (Again, it would be $$$. Nope, not doing that.)
How will we fit it all in? We don't know yet. God always provides, though.
We say goodbye to our Indonesian kids,
studying in the States and living in our suite

I haven't cried during farewells, but I remember tearing up a week or two after arriving. I think that will be the case when we get home. I'm a delayed responder. 

Do you cry on the spot or later?

Read more:
*Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49:13,16 NIV

*And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything
according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever
we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15 ESV

*Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 ESV

C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain
Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness. For about a hundred years we have so concentrated on one of the virtues—“kindness” or mercy—that most of us do not feel anything except kindness to be really good or anything but cruelty to be really bad. Such lopsided ethical developments are not uncommon, and other ages too have had their pet virtues and curious insensibilities. And if one virtue must be cultivated at the expense of all the rest, none has a higher claim than mercy. . . . The real trouble is that “kindness” is a quality fatally easy to attribute to ourselves on quite inadequate grounds. 

Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment. Thus a man easily comes to console himself for all his other vices by a conviction that “his heart’s in the right place” and “he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” though in fact he has never made the slightest sacrifice for a fellow creature. We think we are kind when we are only happy: it is not so easy, on the same grounds, to imagine oneself temperate, chaste, or humble.

You cannot be kind unless you have all the other virtues. If, being cowardly, conceited and slothful, you have never yet done a fellow creature great mischief, that is only because your neighbour’s welfare has not yet happened to conflict with your safety, self-approval, or ease. Every vice leads to cruelty.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Guest blog: God, Can I have a Cookie? The Question of Prayer

Today it's a delight to feature a guest blog by Jennifer Baker. Feel free to respond below or directly to Jen at jenzbaker@gmail.com

Remember the Ikea television commercial, with the man in a lab coat repeatedly wrenching a cupboard door open, saying “Mom, can I have a cookie” and then slamming the cupboard shut? When I ask God for something I just plain want, like a parking place, a laptop, or good weather for a game, I can’t help but think about this commercial. Am I just bugging God for something that may not be good for me and doesn’t seem important in any context outside of my own desires?

But I want it! My Christian traditions and Bible teaching have taught me that:  
·     It never hurts to ask (John 14:14)
·     ·     It doesn’t matter how insignificant the request is, God cares.
·     ·     If I keep asking, God will eventually cave. (Parable of the friend at night, Luke 11:5-13)
·     ·     I can ask God for a sign (this comes with dangers)
·     ·     I can pray for gifts like patience, a peaceful spirit (but I won’t because that will probably bring hardship and testing first!)

I pray with the belief that if what I’m asking is in God’s will, and if it really is in his will, he will grant my request, which is what I’m saying when I pray in Jesus’ name – the one who said “not my will but thy will be done” (Luke 22:42).

Then there’s the mini-person on my shoulder (who looks a bit like my grandmother, who had many wise and cautionary things to say) that says, “Watch out what you pray for!” The thing is, if I am praying for something I just really want, it’s not in the same category as “Please heal my dad.”

Even so, I know that God still listens to me when I treat him like a vending machine: “Okay, I need to get home in 20 minutes or I’ll be late for choir; and I need to find a dress to buy that’s under $50; and I pray little Nicky will be in a good mood so I can get dinner on the table without clobbering him. Uh, I mean, well, thank you. Jen out.”

I don’t doubt that God cares about me personally and all my concerns and worries, having experienced human life himself through his son Jesus. 

But sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t just put a cork in it? Shouldn’t talking to the Almighty God who created everything command a measure of respect from me? What shall I say to him in my little selfish moments that he doesn’t already know?

What about the repetitious prayers? Is it really necessary to pound on God’s door with the same request for healing every day? Am I annoying God with my prayer to “Please heal my dad?” And lay out my fleece, like Gideon (Judges 6:37) – “Okay, if you just give me a sign – if his blood count is up today, then I’ll know you are healing him.” – isn’t that just hedging my bets? 

Do I believe God can heal? Yes. Do I genuinely think God will heal if I pray in Jesus’ name? Not sure, maybe. Will it help to ask for a sign from God to give me a hint about his will? That would be no, in my opinion. And if I repeatedly ask for the same thing, do I think God will eventually relent and give me what I want?

Yes, there’s a protocol for talking to God – the Lord’s Prayer – in which we are given an outline of how to pray. We can know Jesus on a personal level and truly ask God for anything, because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross: I can pray to God with a daughter’s assurance that no matter how silly my request is, God will listen. And then smile that wry smile that he saves for me when I ask stupid questions before letting me down gently! Luckily the King of the Universe is accustomed to being the smartest one in the room!

Perhaps, however, when we pray for small individual needs and desires, our focus is a bit off. Although lots of Old Testament prophets and kings conversed directly with God (who spoke back), and many New Testament people were lucky enough to know and talk to Jesus in person, the Bible includes few individuals praying for personal gain or small needs.

When God speaks to people in the Bible, it’s not about donkey parking places or test taking success, it’s about what’s good for the community, or smiting evil, or healing someone in front of witnesses. Do we believe the disciples also prayed to the Heavenly Father for themselves? Probably. Some things didn’t make it into the Bible: “And Peter also go the new net he asked for.” Do we think Jonah just meekly treaded water as he was swallowed by a whale, or possibly prayed, “Please don’t let this thing eat me?”

We will be swallowed by our world, spat out somewhere God needs us, inconvenienced, and realize that our status as children of God allows us to ask whatever we wish, but I’m thinking we might wish higher!

Read more:
*Happy are those who make the Lord their trust. Psalm 40:4 ESV

*Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior, and your Redeemer. Isaiah 49:26 ESV

*The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28 ESV

*Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. Hebrews 10:35 NIV

Moravian Prayer: God of the cross, God of the empty tomb, God of everywhere in between—no matter where we find ourselves, you are there, ushering in newness of life, both now and forevermore.
Dear Lord, make us servants of your peace. May we be faithful to you in our work in this world, preaching your word of grace. In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity:
This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects—education, building, missions, holding services. Just as it is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects—military, political, economic,and what not. 

But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden— that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time.

In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.