Hello Great family and friends from very sunny Indonesia!
We have not had rain in quite some time, yet I hesitate to even mention this with the on-going drought there in the U.S. I know from reading online that the circumstances have become dire for many farmers in the mid-west. It is normal for here, and no one is too worried. With the farms terraced way up the sides of the volcanoes, they worry more about torrential rains. They just plant tobacco when it is dry and it does well. Also doing well is our sweet little Luke, Matt and Tanya's baby that we were so worried about. He is being blessed today in Ohio, and we are so jealous that Emily, Joel and their families are there. John and family would have gone, but he is graduating from Goucher College with his Masters Degree today. These are the days when we long for Star Trek technology, and wish we could beam there and back!!!!
We had a good visit in Ampel on Monday. You'll remember that we cart the Sisters there each week to teach the 2 wonderful ladies who have cooked for the men of the Water Project for nearly a year. Talk about "golden". When we arrived, the older of the 2 sisters came out to talk to me. She was sharing her testimony with me in Bahasa, and I was sharing the best I could right back. I told her the joy she was feeling was the Roh Kudus, and that saya tahu benar ini apa anda belajar. These women truly love the Gospel, and they are anxious to have their friends and family learn also. One sad note is that wonderful Sister Blake is leaving for home tomorrow, and her amazing companion Sister Neis (brand new in the mission field, but you would never know) is being transferred to Malang. So, they set up their return appointment for today, Sunday, to say good-bye and to teach one more lesson. Well, this morning at church, Bro. Sutarno, the General Contractor of the Water Project, told the Sisters that they better go prepared with about 5 new Book of Mormons, because his family taught a Family Home Evening last Monday at Ampel, and had 15 attend and 5 new FAMILIES want to read the Book of Mormon, and be taught!!!!!!! Plus he and his family are going back this Monday, with the Bishop, to meet these active investigators and continue to teach! Talk about every member a missionary!!!!
The Sisters also told us that Anggung came to church today, had her baby blessed and shared her testimony. A while back I told you we had gone looking for Tyas, a less active YSA. We found her, but she seemed indifferent. However, her married sister, Anggng ( married to a Muslim fellow), seemed very interested. So we sent the Sisters, and today she came to church! In fact, we are really starting to see the "fruits of our labor" and the labor of the Elders and Sisters, and the labor of the Rescue Effort in all the wards of Solo. It is really a marvelous feeling.
On Wednesday we met at 7:30 a.m. for our P. Day trip to Merapi. Merapi is the active volcano near Solo. We had 14 going plus the drivers of the cars, so we had our car (seats 8) and then we were borrowing a car and a driver. But when the driver went to pick up the car, everyone there decided it needed new tires. So he had to wait, and so did all the missionaries. It made us a bit late taking off, but we just visited, and they all sang happy birthday to me, and finally we loaded up and were off. Now you need to realize that we are going up into the mountains. So once we leave Solo, we began a slow climb which eventually becomes a steep climb. About 1/2 hour from the visitors center on a mountain across the little valley from Merapi, black smoke begins to pour from the borrowed car. So our driver, Bayu, calls the owner, Bishop Catur, and he says to leave it right there, and find a car to rent. So Bayu starts up the street, and soon comes back with a man driving a Volkswagen van. Bono, Bayu, and the man negotiate a price, and everyone loads up again and we are off, leaving Bayu with the smokin' van. This visitors center has a museum, and a movie. So we all go into the movie, and WADU is it dramatic!!!!!! Loud music, with explosive sounds, rumblings, and pictures of billowing smoke pouring out of the volcano!!!!!!! Then all of a sudden, Josh Groban starts singing "You Lift Me UP" and the mountain explodes and ash begins to pour down into the valley. Elder Greenway said it should have been, "You Blow Me Up"! No matter what, it was hysterical. We were all very surprised at the choice of music, and wondered if Mr. Groban knew his song was accompanying the spewing of Merapi. After that, we all ate at the restaurant with its pet rat climbing up and down the doorway, thrown in for free. We visited the museum, and then headed for home, having had a terrific day. The driver of the Volkswagen brought group 2 all the way back to Solo (that was part of the bargain) threw everyone out of the car, turned around and zoomed back to the volcano. What a birthday!!!!!!!!!
Thursday we took the Knorpps to visit Bro. Tomi, a pioneer member from way back. He has his family history clear back a gadzillion generations because he ties into a Royal Sumatran lineage. Trouble is they didn't believe women were important, so there are only men's names clear down to Bro. Tomi's mother. He knows her name. It was so interesting to listen to his son, Choki, talk about the customs, and his heritage. We were there quite a while.
Then Friday Bishop Suparno offered to go with us to visit at 9:30 a.m. until 12:00 when DDM begins. We went looking for YSAs, and we didn't see one we were looking for, BUT!!!! we found their families instead, which is much better. So when we got to DDM we had a list of people for the Banjasari Elders to visit. We were very excited. Elder gave the lesson at DDM on the government of the Church, and the meaning of "Keys". The Elders had been asking him some questions pertaining to this, so they asked him to share his knowledge. Elder Greenway teaches this subject very well. So, they really enjoyed the lesson, and learned so much. During DDM we found out that one of the Elders had been hit by a "motor" the day before and was very sore and achy. But, the poor guy was also running a fever and found out later in the day that he had amoebic dysentery. Poor Elder! But the President was on top of the situation and he was receiving the medicine he needed. I asked him if he had been drinking the water, and he said only to brush his teeth. Now, he could have contracted this any of a hundred places where they eat or drink, but we told him maybe he ought not to rinse his toothbrush in the water. He still looked pretty rugged on Saturday when the Knorpps and the Greenways took the Solo District to get pizza at Papa Rons because at least 3 of them were leaving us. We only had a half an hour at supper time to squeeze it in between all of their appointments, so the Sr. missionaries went and ordered the pizzas and drinks and then they all showed up and ate it. Fun, fun!!!! We feel blessed to be around these valiant young people!
It is very interesting to be around these wonderful people. Jebres Ward had a baptism today of a youth. He was baptized by Elder Secrist, a fine young Elder. During the meeting the YM & YW sang "Called to Serve", "Stand For the Right", and "We Thank Thee Oh God For a Prophet". The youth are a major force for good in these wards and are given PLENTY of opportunity to shine. Today, Willie, my 11 yr. old piano student who started lessons in Dec., played for the entire Sacrament Meeting! ALL 3 SONGS!!! He was fabulous! I love that the leadership gives them the option to serve. There are now 7 of my students who have played on Sunday. They are encouraged all the way. I am so grateful to see this, and be a part of it. I think sometimes we are more worried about appearance than opportunity in the U.S. We are somewhat fuddy-duddy about seeing outside the box. Thankfully, the Indonesians look for growth, not appearance. Ahhh! How we love them.
Love you all,
Sister and Elder G.
p.s. Farida leaves for the U.S. on Tuesday morning. She shared her testimony in Banjasari today. What a lovely woman.