Thursday, December 18, 2014


First it's a steep walk down
through the neighborhoods
Wednesday, December 17
"Yes, this is the post office. But we have no stamps left." A young man smiles as he explains why his little shop cannot take our mail.

W got to the post office earlier this week and successfully mailed some Christmas letters to supporting organizations. But today we have no luck.

We've walked down steep stairs through the neighborhood, trying a new way through the valley. We're headed across the river to Dago, the next hill over. We may have to go with a local person next time. Along the way people look puzzled as we wind through the maze of lanes. They point us foreigners in a general direction but we're sure they know better shortcuts. There's no way some of these very beautiful homes can be reached by car. You have to walk in or, where the lane is wide enough, drive a motorcycle. We wander up and down, through the grounds of a mosque, past very diverse streets, and finally find the main road of the post office and Borma.

Borma is an all-purpose chain, a bit like Walmart but messier. W needs an extension cord and I'm looking for wheels to put under the mop bucket. No wheels, but we find an extension cord. In the back of my mind is a puzzle: how to hang a newsprint roll for planning and thinking in my office? Ahhhh, that towel rack ($5) would be perfect. W says we have all the other boards at home. (They'll keep the paper flat to the wall and let us tear off the bottom.) He tucks the holder into his tote as we walk downhill, looking for a bigger post office ... that is, one with stamps. [When we get home, Pak E has used up all the boards. Oh well.]

Ristole and hot pepper
Lightnings and thunder startle us. Some strikes are within 2-4 sound seconds (less than a kilometer away). They herald a heavy downpour. We whip on rain jackets and spot a bakery across the street. By the time we cross, our socks and trousers are soaked.

It's after noon and we haven't eaten so we leave the umbrella open to dry by the bakery door and go in. My, what a feast. The best pastries are risoles, introduced to us by a guru at language school breaks. Potato and tiny pieces of vegetable fill a deep-fried crust. A little hot pepper is tucked into the end, to be bitten off bit by bit as the pastry is consumed.

Reading the sign: "You are entrance zero waste..."
their English is better than our Indonesian
We eat our risoles and some brownies. Well, they are called brownies, but they are actually brownie-type filling in a tart shell. Not bad. Our meal plus a generous little box full of tomorrow's breakfast cost about $4. The sausage rolls look vaguely European, and W finds a pineapple tart and chocolate-sprinkle cakes.

When we first came, we choked on cold deep-fried food. But now we're used to it and like it. Louise G, one of my heroes, lived for decades in Hong Kong. She told us to take all the pictures we wanted the first year. "After that, everything is like it should be. You won't even notice." She was right. It's already starting to happen to us.

Once in a while I see 4-5 people on a motorcycle and marvel but usually we don't pay attention anymore. The little kids playing and running beside the busy thoroughfare? No one is wandering into the street so all is well. The baby wearing a faux-fur jacket and a hat, tucked against her mother in a thick sling? So what if it's 85oF out; she's used to it and thriving. The cyclists in winter wear and full face guard helmets? The bugs don't hit and the wind whistling by at 20-40km/hr doesn't chill them.

The view once we climb back up
The rain hasn't let up as we walk to catch the angkot home. We'll leave the post office for another day. We are dripping when we climb aboard but shed our raincoats and join the others crammed into the van.

Yesterday we hosted another pastor and his wife for lunch. We instantly find them personable and partner-oriented. They talk about their work, the people we're most concerned about, and how hard it is to forge deep connections. We commit to praying and working together. Our unity is vital to disappointing the devourer who wants to divide the Church. Today we pray for them and for what God has called them to, as well as our own commission.

W gets a beep on his phone while we're out. A young couple sends great news. We ate breakfast together a while back. As is our custom, we asked them if there was something we could pray about. They said they were trying to have children, among other concerns. We prayed then and since. They were delighted to report that her pregnancy was confirmed yesterday! 

God is interested in each person we meet. How privileged we feel to pray as we move around the city. Your prayers are also part of what God is doing.

These feet are made for walking
Ibu A is ill. "She is staying home," says her husband. He's back to chip away the decaying plaster walls where the bugs hide and repaint the outside of the house.  "And we took her mother to the hospital yesterday." W asks if we can pray for them and he says yes. Before we set off, we pray for them and for another woman's work situation.

We have to get the letters mailed. This post office has lots of stamps. W stands in three lines: information, stamps, and postmark. Goodbye, letters. Finally.

We're back at the house by mid-afternoon with a few basic office supplies in hand. The rain has barely started when we walk to the house. Dr A (the landlord) drives by in his blue jeep, the first time we've seen him in months. He is as surprised to see us as we are to see him and doesn't stop or wave. We hope he's inspected the house.

Oh wow! the wall facing the street is gleaming white. "Good job, Pak E! Did Dr A stop by?"

He shakes his head, "No, I haven't seen him." Too bad. Dr A would be pleased with the work Pak E's done. The back porch roof and back bedroom ceiling are no longer caving in. The new drain-spouts work, a blessing on a day where the rain starts and stops over and over again.  (Dr A doesn't need to pay for the repairs until next year's rent is due; W's keeping the receipts.)

A dear friend and I are once again reading the Advent scriptures in tandem. This year I am struck by the hopeless circumstances surrounding the promises of Messiah and God's salvation. No one but God could have arranged history and people's hearts so perfectly for His arrival. Some of our friends are going through difficulties for which there seem no solutions: job anxiety, financial woes, and family breakdowns. We feel privileged to pray for them. In all these things, God has good in mind. He purposefully weaves His grace and love into the worst of times.

W and I miss our families during this season, though we anticipate time with friends and hosting sleep-over company after Christmas. We're also thinking ahead to life groups. What will the year ahead hold for us? For you?

Read more:
*The Lord said to Solomon, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon answered, “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” 1 Kings 3:5,9 NIV

*It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for he gives to his beloved even in his sleep. Psalm 127:2 NASB

*Admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 ESV

*Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Great Comforter, we get caught up in the anxieties and worries of our days. Forgive us, we pray. Cast out our worries and fill us with your peace.

On this day, we can see the bounty and beauty you bring to the world. Our thanks and praise for your goodness must be matched with a willingness to demonstrate that goodness to others. Show us the way, we pray. Amen.

C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters (fiction): in which the Devil's apprentice Screwtape twists the gift of pleasure:

Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s (God's) ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.

Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula. It is more certain; and it’s better style. To get the man’s soul and give him nothing in return—that is what really gladdens Our Father’s (the Devil's) heart. And the troughs are the time for beginning
the process.

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