Dear remarkable Family and Friends!
There once was a T.V. Program with the name "That Was the Week That Was!" I think that would be a good title for this week. Or better yet, The Incredible Week that Was!!! However that was not just about us. John and Lynn moved this week from Carlisle, PA. to near Chicago, IL. It has been a marathon week for his family. Thursday morning early, after having a good turnout to help tightly pack a 24 ft. truck on Wednesday, John left for Chicago and drove 13 hours only to unload that tightly packed truck into a storage unit with the help of a wonderful EQ in the Chicago area. They will be living with Lynn's parents for a bit, until they know what's up. While John was driving some wonderful friends and Relief Society members came and helped Lynn clean their PA. home. The next day John flew from Chicago, was picked up at the airport by Lynn, they grabbed a few things she had prepared and off they drove. Now, luckily they had made the decision to make this a fun trip for the kids. So, they stopped early at a motel with an indoor pool, and let the kids have at it. Smart Mom and Dad. Then they are planning to stay a couple of nights near Matt. Isn't it wonderful to have family to love you and take care of you. Thank you to all those involved with the help and care. We were certainly grateful for those who stepped up when we were unavailable.
Now, for Our Week...
To start our week, we did our absolutely favorite thing and went visiting with Bono. The Branch Presidents had each given us some names of families to see, and since Bono has an embedded GPS unit in his brain, he knew where they all lived. The first home was the home of Aries and Yenni, who have 2 of the cutest little girls (Jesseka, Vanesa) you have ever seen, who were absolutely terrified of us! Yenni works in Solo, and Aries works 6 hours away at an MSG factory. (Did you ever stop to think that there would be an MSG factory?). He leaves Sunday evening by bis (bus) and comes home on Friday evening the same way. So....Gramma and Grampa, Lina and Budi, come and care for the children during the week. It was a great visit.
Next we headed across town to visit the Paynem (Pie Nem) family: a divorced mom, her son, and her mother. We have been to all kinds of places. We have seen lovely homes, we have seen comfortable homes, we have seen poor homes with one room and nothing in that room, but nothing we have seen could have prepared us for this. Solo has major streets, like main streets in America, and side streets, too. Then there are the allies, which we also have in America. But then there are the allies off the allies, which you can only walk to, and where the extremely poor usually live. We drove to the main alley, and Bono got out to ask if we were in the right place. The woman he talked to took us down another alley to a third alley where the teenage son worked in a printing shop. He was very cordial, and wiped his hands to shake our hands. We then walked further down the alley and turned onto the third alley, which was along one of the many extremely polluted canals (the Dutch had the natives build during their occupation) to a wooden building, divided into four rooms. One family lived in each one of the rooms.
There was a covered walkway where mothers were washing their children next to the retaining wall that separated them from the canal. In the far corner of the retaining wall was a very public squat toilet that emptied directly into the canal. The young man went into their room and talked to his Gramma, very old, who was resting on a mat on the floor. There was a rope strung across, about 7 feet from the door, that had rice sacks sewn together to make a curtain that divided the room. His mother was not home, so we gave him our little bread (which seemed like a pitiful offering), spoke to his Ibu (old woman), told him about conferensi (stake conference) and invited he and his mom to come. He was very polite (they always are), and he walked us away.
As we made the turn back onto the 2nd alley, we saw a young man walk to the central MCK (bath house) fling his clothes over the partial retaining wall, and then started to fill a communal bucket with well water (the very shallow wells usually sits very close to the toilet), so he could step behind the wall and bathe. That well and that wash house are their source of water and hygiene, Everyone must boil their water to drink, or get a water cooler (like we have) and have water delivered. Of course, that is not possible for the very poor. There is so much tremendous poverty in Indonesia. So far, this was the hardest to see.
I think Bono could sense our sadness, so he asked if we would like to see Kustedjo and his family. This man is retired military, lives on a pension, and is much better off than most. He has a married daughter, Ajeng, who is married to Siyamto, one of the new bishops. Their son, Tian just became engaged to Riyanti a girl from Jakarta who is beautiful. Tian is studying to become a lawyer, which takes 3 years total in Indonesia. What a great idea!!!!!!!! We were grateful to them that day for lifting our spirits. We can't do much about the poverty, but we can love the poor of world and keep them close to the Gospel. I am sure we will go back to that little alley to see the mom, better prepared to help.
We visited one more family on Friday. This family lost a 14 year old daughter in a "motor" accident 3 years ago. Tutup and Bambang have invited us, but we have not been able to go until Friday. Part of the problem is that they live 40 kilometers out of the city. So Friday, we grabbed Elders Xiong and Praesetyo, who had made the appointment and left Solo. When we arrived, we found out that this was to be a memorial for their daughter (they do that here). Elder Greenway and I had the majority of the program. It began with Elder Greenway teaching a lesson on the Plan of Happiness (remember we had no idea would be doing this). Elder Greenway did a great job! Then Elder Xiong bore his testimony, then me, and then we watched a DVD about temples. Then we all walked to the village graveyard, up the road a piece, to honor the Ibu, Gramma, and the daughter. Then Tutup asked if I would say a few words over the grave. What came to me was the lesson of the Glove and the Hand, about the body and Spirit. You know, actually it was a lovely visit, and it turned out to be quite a spiritual moment. We all knew that we had lived before with our Father, and that we have the opportunity to live with Him and all those we love, again. She then fed us Bihun, and fried tofu, and rice.. It was a wonderful afternoon.
Then came the historic, weekend of a lifetime!!!!!! Today THE SURAKARTA DISTRICT BECAME THE SURAKARTA STAKE. Our new STAKE President is just 34 years old. His name is Budi Susanto, his 1st Counselor is Budi Utomo from Samarang, (who was the first counselor in the District), and the 2nd Counselor is Joko Poernomo (but we all call him Ipung) who was a Branch Pres. in Banjasari. Each of the Branches were made Wards, except Magalang which will remain a branch. The new Bishop of the Banjasari Ward is Bishop Suparno. The Tangah Branch became Solo 1st Ward and Barat Branch became Solo 2nd Ward. All Branch Presidents were sustained by just their new Ward, and All were the former Branch Pres. except Banjasari. It was an amazing experience to watch the Church Government work under the Priesthood Authority. Elder Subandriyo (area authority seventy) and Elder Perkins (area President) were here. Elder Subandriyo was given the assignment to announce the reorganization to the people he has loved so much. He is originally from Solo, and this was such a moment of joy for him.
On top of all that, my two choirs (the "general choir" and the youth choir) sang perfectly. We had asked for the help of angels (anyone who has lived in Carlisle will understand this) and those angels sang in the ears of those choir members. It truly was the best they had ever sung. All in all it was the most inspiring meeting I have been to in a very long time. One of those, "no one wants to leave" meetings. Elder Perkins reminded us that it took 40 years for Indonesia to get it's 1st Stake, and just a year later, the 2nd. He smiled and wondered if we will make it a yearly thing. Well, I am not sure about that, but it will grow and it will grow well with power and strength. I wish you could have heard the almost 50 youth sing "Shall the Youth of Zion Falter" in English by the way, with their heads up! and huge smiles on their faces. And when they sang that "NO" at the end of verse one........WOW! You knew they meant it. WOW! WOW! and MORE WOW!!!!!! We held STAKE CONFERENCE in the ballroom of the hotel we live in, so we just had to get in the elevator and go down a couple of floors. BUT.... they had set up 60 chairs for the choir, (I told them 75) and we had to add 15 more chairs. They had set up 800 chairs for the congregation and it was packed! You need to remember that some of these new Wards are 2 and 3 hours away. They come in huge buses, because very few have cars. Many from Solo have for their main mode of transportation a simple bicycle. But they were there.... about 900 of some of the most beautiful people on the face of the earth. We love them so much, and we were so proud of Indonesia today.
On a side note, we found that the word for sour in Indonesian sounds just like awesome. So I am trying to forget that word and work on excellent or amazing or super-duper or something. [Editor's note: "Fabulous" would be my suggestion - excellent choice.]
We thank you for your encouraging notes, and for all the work you do in your part of God's vineyard. We are grateful for our family, who skype us and let us see our dear, beautiful, growing up grandchildren! The greatest joy is to know that you love each other, without ire. We are grateful for the package (Laura) of crayons, glasses, fruit bites (you can't get those here, so I will feed them to the kids at church) and for the past Stake conference program. We loved seeing who is where on a mission. It is so wonderful to feel your support and love. I hope you know we love you well.
We are being well cared for here, so please take care of each other at home.
Mom and Dad, Gramma and Grampa, Bro. and Sis, and Ron and Melanie