Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Malaysia Day 5

This time, it’s papaya, Asian pear, and mangosteen juice with sunflower seeds and oatmeal: I’ve run out of roasted peanuts. But there are still all kinds of fruit waiting in the fridge. My ride comes to get me around 9.30am. One of the delights is how well administrated this trip has been – I don’t take that for granted anywhere we go! I have met so many women with unique stories of how God has found them and how they are involved in the Story of Good News.

I’m seated front and center in the church until it’s time to speak about Jesus the Light of the World, to us, in us, through us. I cannot believe that I, mother of four kids, simple Seattle housewife, am so honored to share with these hundred-or-so women. They are responsive and their faces open towards me as I preach. I thought I might have too much prepared, but decide to heap the women with scripture, since that is True. At the end, the senior co-pastor gives an invitation and two women respond for the first time to the gospel. Others share with me what spoke to them. I think about how lucky I am to be here, and how generous of God that I (who am the least) should be up front. And how blessed to be covered with the prayer of my parents, family, and friends.

Mrs. G (co-pastor of this church) lets me freshen up in her office and offers me a drink of hot water. Then we join the woman pastor who does care ministries (orphanage, social services, senior center) for a Thai lunch: Tom Yam (sour) fish soup, pineapple rice, Japanese beancurd, mixed vegetables, pandan leaf chicken (chicken wrapped in long leaves and steamed). And then we share three kinds of desserts. Unbelievable that three women could eat so much! We have mango with rice pudding, sweet steamed bananas in coconut cream, and water chestnuts and jackfruit over shaved ice and coconut milk.

Mrs. G has to leave, but comes back with a wonderful cheesecake to take back to the apartment. The other gal and I wander into the mall. I find Milo (Australian milk powder, sugar, and chocolate drink), and she insists on paying. I feel badly that I got four packages (had I known…) We drive past the pastor’s house near the church, perched on a hill with a great view of the city below. A profusion of blooms tops their shrubs beside the driveway.

I’m always looking for the Malaysian version of British words: Motosikal; Filharmonik (orchestra), Teksi, etc. Students learn the Malaysian language at school, but many choose Chinese schools where they learn Cantonese as well. One mandatory course in English gives students a foundation for optional subsequent studies. Nearly everyone can make themselves understood. Even the maids who swish through the apartment and leave it sparkling when I arrive back home can speak English quite well.

I am suddenly tired. I fall asleep for an hour and then wander out into the neighborhood. Someone is coming to get me for supper at 7pm, so I have a good hour to explore. Most stores or service outlets (hairdresser, spa, doctors’ offices, etc.) are locked and the staff comes to let me in when I ring the bell. Nearby, I find a modern kitchen and household shop. They have Ghost chairs, our Corbusier recliner, and the most exquisite dishes. I choose two sets of egg cups, salt-shaker, and cream and sugar dishes. There are three girls in the family as of next week (after Jeremy and Rebekah’s wedding), but I’m sure at least one of them won’t like this plain modern china. And probably one will love it. If there’s a set left, I’ll keep it ☺. The pieces are beautifully proportioned.

I write, catch up on office mail, read the Malay gardening magazine I finally found in an Indian shop on our street (Impiana Laman), and relax. Tomorrow I’ll have to work on a PPT for the missions class, and that might take all day.

Ends up, there are four of us who go out. They know what I’ve been eating all week; everyone talks about it. The restaurant is The Wok, and we have gulai tumis, stingray and ladyfingers (okra) in curry; Lobak – 5-spice pork in spring rolls (my favorite); Juhuchar – a shredded turnip, carrot, mushroom and dried shrimp combo that is scooped into lettuce wraps; Assam prawns – with tamerind sauce; and Otak Otak (literally, “brain brain”) which is a fish mouse: beaten egg, chili and fish steamed in a banana leaf. We drink iced nutmeg juice, which tastes a lot like cold Coke.

The style is uniquely Malaysian, Baba and Nyonya Peranakan cuisine from the northern Penang area. In C18, C19, Malay women married Chinese coolies who had left their families behind in China. The photos on the wall show serious looking Chinese men in business suits (very British-influence) beside traditionally dressed Malay women. The women spoke Malay at home, cooked mostly Malay food, and dressed in their costumes, but the men spoke Chinese and English. The resulting blend of cultures produced a spicy, very tasty cuisine. “It’s dying out among the young. They want hamburgers and Pizza Hut. They don’t like the spices,” says the manager of the restaurant, who guides us through the menu and explains the food ingredients.

We drive a short way to a dessert restaurant. The streets are teeming with cars and people, even though it’s after 8pm and we are in a purely commercial district. “Malaysians like to be out after work. The children go with them. We like to eat.” The open air plastic chairs and tables are filled with groups enjoying their food and chatting.

I order a hot tea. One of the women has soy milk with glutinous rice; another an iced red bean drink; and yet another bean curd swimming in coconut milk. I try a bit of the latter, but I am SOOO full from eating so much. Day after day!

We talk about the church build which is well underway, but encountering the typical resistance from conservative thinkers who think they ‘hear from the Lord.’ As usual, these divisive voice are gathering steam and confusing the flock. The latest tools are hate blogs, which can be deadly because they shout to so many. Ignoring doesn’t solve the problem as the voice draw in others who have no discernment. My encouragement is to be gentle but consistent in pastoring the marginalized and to pray God’s protection around the project.

If only the inner circle of wounded and survivor mega-pastors would grab any minister thinking of building large! They would have great advice on what works and what to avoid from their own blows and battle scars. Some succeed and some are almost killed in the process: they are a unique club of hardened warriors who could advice, pray with wisdom, and protect the incoming member. I’d say, as soon as the pastors hear about a mega-church starting a build? “Grab the senior pastor, put him on a plane, and get him into a huddle with guys who have been there.” And have those guys advise and guide his process. (Yes, it always seems to be men with the vision to build big.)

The gals walk me up to the flat because it is 10.45pm. They troop back down and I’m alone in the building again. It’s quiet, peaceful, and I have time to write and pray for the church here.

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