Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Great company!

Sunday is Mother's Day. I call my sweet mama and talk to two of our four kids over the weekend and get warm wishes from the others. W's still teaching elsewhere.

Tuesday, after a study, one of the moms hands me her Mothers' Day bouquet: 60 blue-hued roses. "I'm leaving for Japan. Will you take good care of them for me?"

Oh yes, I sure will! They look like molten blue chocolate. Yum. But they're stunning - real flowers.

Brandy and Amanda are working together, studies continue, and we've been to a few interesting places. The gals have food allergies, which makes finding a menu item interesting.

Between regular meetings, I happily finish a little postcard-size "village."
#1: abstract wash in watercolor
#2: a second layer with edges

#3 Voila - a few strokes with a black pen
and a tad of definition with colored pencil
I also finally measure and cut a sofa slipcover (3 pieces that would have taken me 1/2 hour to design, cut out, and whip together, 10 years ago!) We'd hauled huge canvas painters' drop cloths along two years ago. I just never got around to doing anything with them. Now the sofa pieces are in my office, waiting to be sewn. Sigh. It's such an easy project.

The helper looks at the 12'X15' fabric I unfolded for cutting on the living room floor. She's my age. She just shakes her head, "You're going to sew something?"

Oh yes I am. Eventually. Maybe even today, between a team meeting, book edit, a visit with the gals, and class prep for the course I teach in 1 1/2 weeks...
Monday: studying on the porch
Brandy and Amanda are as wearied as we get from "ordinary" trips. After our Monday study, Amanda goes to lunch and 'a quick shopping trip ' with friends. They leave after 11, have lunch at Kampung Daun, and head to the main market in town.
Kampung Daun (Leaf Village)
At 5:30pm, I get a text that our friends are stuck in traffic, far from our place (well, not far in distance, just in time). They call a GoJek (motorcycle taxi) to liberate Amanda from the car and get her back home ... she arrives near 6:30, too tired to eat supper.

"How long did you shop?" I ask her.
Amanda's first GoJek ride
"Maybe 1/2 or one hour," she says. "We had lunch until 2 or 3, and then headed into the city." They got stuck in rush hour on the way back. It would have taken our friends an extra 1-3 hours on top of their own commute to bring her up to our house. (The GoJek is smart thinking, Claudia!)

Tuesday
The three of us leave at 9:30 for a study and go for lunch at a gallery Brandy wants to see. I am delighted: it;s the place Bramonos took us on our first day in Bandung. For me, it provides a special reminder of why we're here. But we gals make it home just before 4pm. Whaaat? Yup, that's typical.
Everyone's passing in the width of an American freeway lane -
tourist buses, cars, cycles, horses ...
When people ask if we've seen this or that in Bandung, mostly W and I say, "Not yet." We don't have time to sit in traffic for hours. It doesn't seem to matter what time of day, though the hours of coming and going for work are often almost a stand-still. Even with a driver, the pollution and noise is a distraction from the work we take along.

Wednesday
Katie arrived from Jakarta last night - she's a delight. Immersed in her masters program, she also brings a breadth of experience in community care that we appreciate.

After my online conference at 9, we have a team meeting at 11. Love love love our team! and the guests fit in so well. Ibu Sumi has made nasi goreng (friend rice) for lunch. We talk, think, and pray together.

Josue and Clau hop their motorcycle to run errands and get their kids from school. Brandy's going to teach at 3. Katie's working on her school project. Amanda's reading an assigned book. I start editing but need another key component from the book author. Run, run, walk, and wait. The story of life overseas.

Read more:
*Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise. Isaiah 43:18-21 NIV

*The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established. Proverbs 19:21 ESV

*Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Your dream is bigger than our plans, dear Savior. Show us how to dream together, that our individual pride may be crucified and resurrected as hope for the world. Amen.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Welcomes and warm travels


Exotic village chickens are everywhere
Tuesday, May 8, 2017
At 8, we head to J and C's place for a team meeting. We love the readings from the team in Jakarta - they have a liturgy-loving member who assembles the most beautiful prayers and scriptures. We contemplate them week by week together.

Clau has made cheese buns - oh yum! Brazilian style. Brandy is especially happy to have a South American treat. Amanda is exploring Bandung on many fronts. She'll be exposed to lots of people and activities in the next weeks.

By 10, we're at a study slightly south of C's place. Seven of us sit at the table, introduce ourselves and pray for the person on our left, and then we open the scriptures to Mark 3. As always, we are surprised by the insights and application to our lives.

Then it's time to drive across 2 hills to get Amanda a SIM card - except she has forgotten to unlock her phone. She may have to buy a cheapie here. We stop for lunch and arrive home before 3:00. We're all tired. Time to relax and tackle some academic stuff, I guess. (I teach in 3 weeks in Singapore.)

My instinctive reaction to those who protect abstract theories
or get excited about innovations
I recently did a personality evaluation for a leadership group. The cartoons for my type's reactions are spot-on and gives me the giggles. (right)

I'm asleep by 10:30.

Wednesday
At 2am, the alarm rings for a one-hour online seminar on "asking good questions." It's worth getting up - there's excellent information and lots to think about. I snooze a bit but can't fall asleep.
A quote from the "Powerful Questions" PPT
I'm still thinking when the alarm goes off again at 5am. Pak E and I leave the house about 6am. We're at Clau's house in 20 minutes - and soon on the toll road to Jakarta. We have to stop for gas; while Pak E refuels, C and I run across the parking strip to the Starbucks. (Starbucks, KFC, McD, Dunkin Donuts, etc. are global franchises.)

A typical load on the narrow streets
The highway is crowded with buses, cars, trucks, and - wait, thankfully no motorcycles. Drivers weave in and out, which slows down things. Some pass on the left shoulder, looking ahead to avoid parked or stranded vehicles. It's not helpful that some of the trucks are so loaded down that they are driving 20km/hr up hills (15mph). I catch my breath a few times; for some reason, our driver is uncharacteristically aggressive today.

We arrive only 15 minutes late for our 11:00 lunch. Yes, it takes that long to drive 160km (about 100 miles). Clau and I enjoy the "Long Lunch" put on by Hillsong - we hear lots of ideas for making people feel welcome and "at home." After, we have a few minutes to talk with Katie and Tirza. They have interns coming who might enjoy working in both cities.

Views beyond the banana trees to skyscrapers on the next hill
Brandy left her own suitcase and 2 for us with Katie in Jakarta: they were too heavy to drag onto the train when she arrived Saturday. Today, we transfer them to our car and bring them to Bandung.

We were hoping to go to IKEA, but it's 4:00 by the time we're done ... and traffic is stop-and-go already. There's a holiday tomorrow. Seems like every few weeks, we have a "red-letter" calendar day that encourages Jakarta to drive to Bandung for cooler temperatures and great shopping.

C and I compare GoogleMaps and Waze, directing PakE through the narrow streets toward the toll roads around the city. There are multiple accidents and random police checks. We read, chat, and C naps a bit. We drop her off first; I'm home by 10pm.

The driver zooms away on his motorcycle. I've told him to take tomorrow's holiday off: he says he could use the time with his grandkids.

I look inside the suitcases before bed: some linens from my mom's downsizing, a few foods we can't find here - ordinary things we crave, and lots and lots of paper plates for movie nights. (One suitcase is nearly all papers plates from the Dollar Store. They're expensive here and good quality ones are 20/$1 in the USA.) I fall asleep after midnight.

Thursday
I'm awake before 6am but determined to get out and walk. After an hour of office work, I blend a kale/ fruit/ kefir smoothie - and spill it all over the kitchen cabinets and counters and floors. Ugh. I have a bit left to drink, but spend most of 10 minutes wiping up the green goop.

The helper decided she wanted the day off as well - so the house is quiet. I meet Brandy and Amanda at the door: Brandy is doing a workshop for a group of caregivers today and Amanda's going along. They ride off with an Uber.

By the time I'm out the gate, so many strange things happen that I could make a comedy film. The backpack slips off, the keys I couldn't find fall out, the trail mix falls on the porch, the water bladder slides out and dangles from the tube. The dog runs away and will only stand still to have his carry pack put on after I leash him.

Typical home-paved paths
Our occasional gardener, arriving an hour late, tries to help me understand that I have to lock the gate behind me. He is cutting the hedge in the back. First, he stabs a bamboo pole into the tall tree above the driveway to bring down two jackfruits: IbuA can cook those Saturday. I have little idea of what else he'll do in this ever-growing climate - but there's no one to cook at midday, so I'll have to be back in time to give him lunch money.

I shove my stuff back into the pack, lock the house, collar the dog, and finally make it out the gate. The gardener takes pity and locks from the inside, handing me the keys through the bars, avoiding the trails of black ants that stream across the metal gate and up into our house. I'm too late to run back in and spray them dead. Later. Just go.

I was hoping to stroll 6 blocks to the meeting place as a warm up. Instead, I'm hot and sweaty from walking as quickly as possible. I'm 15 minutes late but the 3 others are cheerfully waiting.
Locals wave to us from the far bank as we climb the hillside
We walk up a very (very) long, steep hill. It's sunny out and in the high 80s, so we rest every 50-100 meters, drinking from our water bottles to stay hydrated. I forget to check my tracker at the top - but once we start down, we've gone 2.5 miles. There's not much air stirring so we're hot hot hot. But the beauty, the shabbiness, and the wealth crushed together take my breath away, like usual. I love this city.

Laundry drying over a river valley. We cross on a
hand-poured concrete bridge with bamboo rails
Gypsy snarls and lunges his way past dogs on the street and behind gates. It's a good arm workout for me, holding him back. Sometimes I'm tempted to free him so he can fight it out - but I act like a responsible dog owner today and keep him leashed.

We've walked over 5 miles (+7km/11,000 steps) when we sit down for lunch at Ethnic Restaurant. My folks try to FaceTime a few times but the connection is poor and they can't hear me. We finally give up after multiple tries back and forth.

We four women enjoy our food. Three of us head back to the same neighborhood while the other goes the opposite direction.

The gardener is happy to get his lunch money. At 3, he alerts me by ringing the bell at the gate. He collects his pay envelope and starts to head off. Oh oh. He comes back and chatters at me but I can't tell if he's asking for more money to feed his kids or happy to get his wages. I tell him I don't understand; he should sort money stuff out with W.

Brandy and Amanda come back about the same time. The house is quiet all afternoon and evening except for the calls to prayer that echo off the hills. I have a headache. I think I need more water. And some sleep.

Read more:
*You are my hope; O Lord God, you are my confidence from my youth. Psalm 71:5 NASB
*(Paul wrote:) So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV
*Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:7-10 NIV
Moravian Prayer: Your leadership, O Christ, is the resurrection. Your healing, O Christ, is redemption. Your work, O Christ, is reconciliation. Lead us, heal us, and send us to work. Amen.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The color of life

Splashing watercolor on a postcard,
maybe the start of something.
Monday, May 8, 2017

It feels like a houseful of girls! Brandy's here and so is Amanda.

W and I unpacked after we got in Friday from Malaysia. We filled a big hamper with laundry from our suitcases. Malaysia is muggy and hot so whenever we went outside, we felt the temperature change on our skin, especially after a hotel with air conditioning. The first night in Malaysia, Tabby took us across the street from the hotel ... at 10pm. Youth workers have all kinds of energy! But I'm still dreaming about the fantastic lamb rice dish the Indian-Malay chef whipped up.

But now we're home and it's time to eat Indonesian. Sort of. (With team dietary restrictions, we may have to get creative.)

Saturday
Brandy arrives from a few days in Jakarta. She falls into bed, dead tired after a trip on the train and supper at Miss Bee. That's fine with us. We're playing catch-up. The helper hasn't come: the laundry and dishes pile up as I cook and settle into the house again.

I find a note from Ibu A in the evening. "Sorry. I'm cooking for my niece's wedding on Saturday." At least she's not ill and nothing bad has happened to her. She, like many others of her generation (and mine) is barely literate - she dropped out of elementary school to work for her family's survival. She's one of the smartest gals in the kitchen, though. She loves cooking. Thank you, God! for Ibu A. We pray a blessing on her family get-together.

Sunday
W's theology class is growing each time we get back. Today he talks about the mysterious Trinity - our relational God.

A young man with a new vegetable business (organic) sells out his greens in a hurry under a canopy in the church courtyard. We buy kale (80c) and salad (60c) for our smoothies. And we keep his number so we can order delivery on a regular basis. It's about 1/2 the price of a shopping trip.

Let's celebrate! Brandy doesn't tell us - but her friends do - that it's her graduation day! She's finished a second Masters, this one in Leadership, at an American seminary. We want to be creative in spoiling her, but what to do?

We start with lunch at Bumi S, overlooking a brilliant blue swimming pool. The kids splash below our window: it's always a great setting for an affordable Sunday lunch with our small group.

Unexpectedly, the masseuse who works on all the neighbors calls. Is there a chance we'd like her to come to our house this week? I guess so! How about today? Brandy and I hurry home from our meal to our wellness date.

For 2 hours, she eases out the aches and pains of travel (@$16, that's a celebration in itself.) It's the equivalent of 4 days' wages for a handyman, hotel clerk, or driver - with no overhead. I even supply the coconut oil. Our tired bodies have nothing but gratitude. And afterward, we're too tired to do anything else. Brandy heads to bed, catching up on emails and congratulations.

W and I stay up, waiting for Amanda to arrive. The driver left early this morning to fetch her from Jakarta Airport. She gets a quick tour of the house and an overview of "what to know." = stuff like, 'don't brush your teeth with tap water,' and 'turn on the water pump if you want to shower,' and 'pull down the mosquito net if you hear a bug.' She falls into bed and - except for a brief wake-up - sleeps until morning. Ah, youth.

Monday
The study on our porch is excellent. The first person arrives at 8:30. At 9:30, when it starts, we do introductions all around: Riga is back from Mongolia, Dr H has returned from Bali, Amanda's welcomed warmly by attendees, though several regulars are missing. It's good to discuss and learn together. The cookies and tea disappear.
A reminder from Lela
After lunch, Amanda and I walk around the neighborhood. With the dog, she's safe anywhere nearby. She test-drives him. He's hot and tired so he behaves, except for lunging at a gate protecting two dogs from him.

The driver takes Brandy to her meetings in the morning. In late afternoon, he fetches Amanda from the house to meet Brandy at the grocer. They're hoping to find some fun foods to cook and enjoy upstairs.

One of the gifts in a convoluted and crowded city is a good driver. Pak E has known the city since childhood. He creeps along in Bandung traffic (driving 'on the wrong side', and understands the subtle eye signals that mean, "I'm going first," or "Go ahead, I'll wait for  you." So we never worry when our teams or friends are going with him.

I've always thought of "helpers" as a luxury. They sure are in Canada and the States, where I had a kid on each hip and two holding my hands as we walked out the door. I cooked, cleaned (sometimes), and worked besides.

Here, help is a survival tactic for us, but it also supports entire families. On our end, chores and errands take 4X the normal time. People are coming and going nearly every day (besides stay-over guests). With helpers, we can better focus on the work we're doing. They live at home with their families, but I'm grateful every time I hear them turn the lock and walk in the door.

W is excited about 2 weeks of teaching Hermeneutics. I've taught it before as well. It's strange how schools rarely consider previous classes when scheduling. Courses take a lot of advance study. Every time we teach, we learn new things and improve our courses, so it's good to teach the class more than once or twice. But W's starting over; he finds online resources posted by the text's publisher and peeks at my notes as he prepares.

Meanwhile, I'm editing, plugging our friends into routines for the next weeks, and putting the house in order for our work. Can we say happy?
 Read more: (ESV)
*My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all day long. Psalm 71:8
*I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. Psalm 118:17
Jesus says, “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” John 10:9
*After they had given Paul and Silas a severe flogging, they threw them into prison. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:23, 25
Paul wrote: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Moravian Prayer: Like tulips burst forth from snowy gardens, dear Savior and friend, we praise you with the colorful fabric of our being
God of grace in adversity, we thank you for the privilege to be your disciple. In all things, in all times, and in all places, help us to sing your song. Amen.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Malaysian marvels

We're always happy to be home. Let's start there (with a big smile). Want an honest look at the glamorous life of each of us international travelers? See below. Yup, pretty soon it feels like hopping a Greyhound bus. Crowded lines, luggage, stamps at immigration, etc. Only our calling and the sweet relationships make this part of the job worth doing.

Sunday, April 30, 2017
W teaches his theology class after service - and we eat our regular lunch at Bumi S with our friends. That's always a highlight of the week for us.
Lussi orders a typical Indonesian meal of chicken, rice, and sambal (hot salsa) 
We fly from Bandung to Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia, in the evening. This time, we have wonderful travel mates: Terry and Sandy. Sandy grew up in our hometown; they're encouragers and friends.

Tabitha - a KL youth organization leader and dear friend - picks us up at the airport. This is no mean feat: she's an hour away. Time with her is always fun! She's a fireball of bounce and passion. When we ask her the best thing about what she does, she replies without hesitation, "The people."

Monday-Friday
The hotel is beautiful, the city is clean and modern, and the setting is lovely. Many Chinese live here, but the Chinese quota for university admission is low. Preference is given for Malay (Muslim) students. Most Chinese and expats study abroad and remain outside the country for work. It's a brain and money drain, but Saudi Arabia invests to boost its influence. The skyscrapers are stunning: many of the top global architects have recognizable buildings in this skyline.
The twin towers downtown, piercing the sky between soaring architecture
At the first hotel meal, someone says what everyone is thinking, "Oh my! Hot showers! And water pressure in my bathroom! Can you believe it?"

"Yes," we chime in, with sighs of rapture. (We're from Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, Indonesia, parts of Africa, the Philippines, etc.) "Wow, isn't it amazing?"
We don't even notice the pile of pavers on the sidewalk until we see the photo.
The small things - like regular showers (not a cool splash from a bucket because there's no water in the tap), food that tastes like it looks, and mostly-level sidewalks - throw us for a loop at first. They'd be extraordinary and noteworthy where we live. The modern conference surroundings are soothing to a Western soul: we focus on what we came to do, leaning in to learn without distractions.

The topic is renewing the inner person to serve better. It's a vital time for W and me - always on the gallop - to reflect together and separately. As usual, as we expand our understanding of international service. We enlarge the network of mentors and coworkers, too. Many leaders are entering or exiting their job site - in transition. W and I fill our heads and hearts with new ways to engage and serve.

I skip breakfast most mornings and limit snacks: that's hardly virtuous. There's food aplenty at lunch and supper. W enjoys it all. (Sadly, I maintain rather than lose weight. Just saying - if we skip one buffet a day, so what! We get lots of calories in 2 meals.)

Thursday
Ok, work's finally done after lunch Thursday. W's had a head cold for half the conference: he starts to feel better today. He's a reluctant patient and prefers to be left alone. Good - I may be a little deficient in the gift of mercy; tell me what you need or rest in peace (sorta).

We haven't played much. With meetings every day and some evenings, we're tired at night. I even lack the energy to swim in the fabulous pool.

After the final conference session and goodbyes over lunch, W and I walk a few kilometers to Prince Court Hospital, rated #5 among "the best 10 expat hospitals in the world." I register, find the skin clinic, and see the doc.

He's funny. A female assistant watches at all times, "because we have to be very careful with the ladies who come for help." Yeah, many women are dressed head to toe. My attitude after birthing 4 kids is, "Let's just get the skin scan done." I'm pretty sure the docs have seen every shape and type of us in their career anyhow.

Clear - no skin cancer. Thank God!

We couldn't get a specialist appointment for our throats, which have felt dry and gritty since December. We have ongoing irritated coughs; I wake up with a parched throat many nights. We wander to the other end of the first floor, sign in at Emergency (recommended by the hospital), and sit for 3 hours between doc, waiting rooms, payment, and the pharmacy.

Clear again. Thank God!

"Do you want medicine?" Sure, if the spray will calm the tickle and let my throat heal. Lozenges and hot tea haven't been much help. Imagine ... $106 total for both visits, including medicine.
Chinese-style buildings
Tabitha meets us at the hotel at 7, after her day's work. We've just gotten back from the hospital. ("You walked?! You're kidding." Nope, walking is at least as fast in rush hour as a taxi. Plus, we need the exercise.)

Terry and Sandy come back from a tour about the same time. So we stroll to Hakka Restaurant, an indoor-outdoor sprawl of tables under red Chinese lanterns. The server doesn't even ask: he takes us into the air-conditioned area preferred by Westerners. Everyone chooses a dish that sounds good to him/her. It's a yummmy shared meal.

Then we hop in T's car and head for the central market. Most of the shops have closed early: it's only 9pm and official closing is at 10. By 9:45, everything is shuttered. I find a few gifts: a few scarves @$2, animal slippers for kids.

"You my lucky one last custom'r. Now closing," says the Chinese lady, handing back change from $10. She pulls shut the accordion door. Most fabrics and handicrafts are already locked behind their metal grates and doors.
Posing for the phone in front of a traditional cart
We walk through Chinatown, a street similar to Singapore's souvenir stalls and nooks of hawker-food. Tabby got us Boh Gold tea and a package of medicated jujubes the first day: we think those tins of lozenges will be a hit with our helpers so we seek them out again at a drugstore.

Friday
The taxi to the airport takes less than an hour so we're in good shape. None of us need anything but it's fun to browse the stores in the terminals. We're struck by the amount of alcohol for sale in town and at the airport. This branch of religion is different than the one at home: much more restrictive in some ways (they say to be Malay is to be Muslim) and yet more liberal in dress and food: there's pork in most restaurants. (In Bandung, unless the restaurant is Chinese or has a special pork menu, food is halal or no-pork.)
Indian man-skirts at the airport, some pretty classy
We're home by late afternoon - no trouble at immigration or customs in an airport full of friendly Sunda smiles. The helper went home at lunch; there are a few things undone, but we'll remedy that next week.

There's no fresh food at the house so we walk to our neighborhood restaurant and enjoy the warm air coming through open doors.

 We finish the chocolate cake W orders, then walk home in the damp dark night.

Read more:
*Do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. Deuteronomy 15:7

*If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

*The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned. Psalm 34:17-22 NIV


*The Lord says, “I will make peace your governor and well-being your ruler.” Isaiah 60:17 (VOICE)

*The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. James 3:17-18 ESV

*How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? 1 John 3:17 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Open the eyes of our heart Lord, so that we may see the needs around us. May we serve you by helping our neighbors, renewing our faith with love. 

Beloved of all, when we seek peace, let us not make peace only for ourselves, but also with those we consider our enemy. Amen.