Well, Hello Everybody!
Let me just say that it is soooo good to hear from many of you. We are grateful because we love you and love to hear about your families, and about your world.
Our world was a bit skeewampus this week, but nevertheless we managed to get a bunch accomplished. But I have to tell you that nothing can compare to the news that it is official...The Surakarta District is to become a STAKE on April 29, 2012!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The second in all of Indonesia, and we are here, and we feel so full of gratitude for so many who have worked so hard to help this come about. It is a joyous, joyous moment in the lives of the members here. So the rest of the letter is just stuff compared to this news!!!
However, before we knew about the Stake being formed, Pres. Agus, the District Pres. asked if I would organize a choir for District Conference. I told him of course, and would it be alright if we had 2 choirs - one general choir and then a youth choir. He was very excited. So I began pouring over all the music I brought, and found two pieces that I think will work. So I then had to find two accompanists.
The general choir will sing a song arranged by a past Stake Pres. in PA., Jon Meilstrup. It combines "He Sent His Son and I Stand All Amazed" and it is simple enough to do but gorgeous. The Youth piece is a combination of "Teach Me to Walk In His Light / True to the Faith / and We'll Bring the World His Truth" that I arranged quite a while ago. So, I asked Widap to play for the General Choir (she panics at the thought, but said yes) and Yos to play the harder of the two, for the youth. He just attacks the songs and will be great! My hope is that I can teach the music and then get two conductors that are not me. We start practices this next Saturday.
We spent the beginning of the week letting me arrange music and getting it ready to use, then we went visiting a whole slew of elderly members of a couple of the branches. We visited grammas of piano students, a member that was baptized by our Mission Pres. when he was a missionary here sometime around 1972. We visited one elderly couple who are taking care of two grandchildren while their parents work out of town, and for the first time in Indonesia, those two (ages 7 and 5) crawled on our laps and snuggled on their own. We were in Heaven!!! Usually, they are afraid of our "whiteness", but these two.... It was wonderful for two grandparents who really miss their grandchildren. We had some marvelous days. We also went with the Jebres Elders visiting a less active sister whose son works in Jakarta at the Mission Home. She was so nice, and sent her two sons to buy us each a cold Sprite. In Indonesia, they come in glass bottles, icy cold, just like the old days in the U.S.
Thursday we met up with the Meridiths at the Boyalali / Ampel water projects. They are the Humanitarian Missionaries who are about to go home. They are checking on their projects, and we were happy to spend some time with them. The huge reservoir workers have been working on for a long time is 99 per cent complete. It is amazing!!! We enjoy our time at these projects, and I had taken cookies for everyone. It was so fun, the plastic container with cookies, just disappeared. It was passed around the work site, then went on down the hill to the villagers. But in the end, I found it in the car when we went to leave.
Elder Greenway took some great pictures, however he missed the one from when we were going up the mountain. We came around a curve, and there were two fathers with their sons (we suppose) carrying a huge dead monkey dangling from a pole resting on each man's shoulder, just like an old Tarzan movie. They were also carrying bows and arrows, and huge, huge smiles. We had already passed before we could react. Bono had just finished telling us that there are no more monkeys low on the mountain, only up high. We of course wondered how high the men went to get there dinner. Sorry about the picture, it would have been a shocker.
Friday was District Leadership Meeting. In Indonesia, March (or Maret here) 23rd is the Hindu New Year. In Bali, everything absolutely stops! But in Central Java it is a big celebration. So everyone has the day off. Hence, District Leadership on a Friday. It began at 10:00 am. and ended a 3:00 p.m. Pres. and Sister Groberg were here, and we enjoyed the meetings. The morning was spent teaching the leaders, then they served an Indonesian lunch. Bakso (a meatball soup), barbecue chicken (Indonesian style) with peanut sauce, tofu, and tempe. In the afternoon, each branch role-played a branch council. That is 7 branches, but they have really taken the Rescue Program seriously here, and the Pres. wanted them to be able to get ideas from each other. Elder Greenway can be proud - they have really stepped up and accepted the program, and are finding their Sacrament meeting attendance rising.
But that's not all... At 3:00, they had a District Young Women in Excellence. I need to explain that Samerang and Jogja have to rent buses for District meetings. So the girls came on buses, waited all day, and then had their meeting. I was honored to play for them to sing. You would have had goose bumps hearing them sing "Guardians of Virtue" a pretty new song from the General YW. Sweet Ron had to turn pages for me, so you hear too much piano on his recording. It was marvelous. All of the leaders waited while the girls had their meeting, until 5 p.m, and then finally they started the 2 or 3 hours for home. Dedication, Consecration, Sacrifice...
Saturday, Elder Greenway and Bono took Pres. and Sister Groberg to Jogja. Elder Greenway also wanted to meet with Mike Allen, the wheelchair man. I stayed home and made sloppy joes, banana bread, and got the makings of 4 cookie recipes ready for the YSAs . They met at 5 p.m. and made 4 kinds of cookies for a fireside to be held Sunday at Kapatihan, plus played UNO, which Elder Greenway found out that there are the rules the world plays and then there are the Indonesian rules. Quite frankly, they cheat. But it was great fun, and we made a ton of cookies. For many it was a first, and they were thrilled.
I had also put a picnic together on Sat. because we left a 5:45 a.m on Sunday for Samerang about 2 1/2 hours away. It was their Branch Council and we also needed to visit the Elders and inspect their apartment. Most of the Branches serve an Indonesian box lunch before council meetings, but we never know, so we pack a lunch just in case. We try to pack enough for the Elders, so today it was egg salad, chips, carrot sticks, candy, etc. They don't have lunch meat here so the choices are limited. We had a good visit with the Elders, and got to know the people of the Samerang Branch better. We will be going more often now.
When we had no car, Bono was worried about being paid while not working. We warned him that when we got the car, we would make up for lost time. We are keeping him busy now. He is one of the most honorable, fun, dedicated, caring people I have ever met. We are lucky to know him.
I think that hits all the highlights. We feel it is such an honor to work among these great people. They take the Gospel seriously, and are teachable and humble. We learn so much from them every day. We hope you can tell how we love them.
Take care of each other, happily
Elder and Sister Greenway