Sunday, August 29, 2004

Friday night Matt and I decided to attend a “crusade.” I was relieved when we got there to find that it was not a true crusade with Muslims and Christians killing each other as was the case in Middle Ages, but merely a church service. The speaker was a young woman from California, which was one of the reasons we went—anytime we can hear a sermon in English, we try to take the opportunity. A group had come from America for this crusade. Matt had heard them speak in the chapel service at the school where we teach and thought that I would enjoy the service.

One thing you need to know about our school is that most of the teachers and faculty there are Seventh Day Adventist, thus the crusade was hosted by the SDA churches in the community and the American team that came is SDA. Generally this is not an issue. We go to church on Sunday; they go on Saturday. We eat pork; they don’t. Not a big deal. (There was a problem when the man teaching history in high school noticed that the A Beka books that the school uses classify SDA as a cult.)

We went to the crusade expecting to be able to agree with them on a lot of issues—we all love Jesus, we all read the Bible, we all believe in God. Little did we know that the message on Friday night would be on the importance of worshiping on Saturday.

We entered the church and were greeted with a sound system that was maxed out to the point of causing hearing damage. The Indonesian people took turns yelling into the microphone, singing and such. I think that sound systems are still a bit novel here. If someone has one, they want everyone in the surrounding 50 miles to know about it.

So we sat in the second row of this church, next to the young woman who would be speaking (her name happened to be Jody Foster). After about an hour of singing and preliminary speakers, Jody got up to preach. About 15 minutes into her 30-45 minute sermon, we knew we were in trouble. We sat for a long time listening to misinformation about the early church and Constantine (Thanks to Dr. Carter and his gruesome class on Baptist Heritage, we knew where her sermon was historically wrong or misrepresenting the truth). Then there was the exposition of why going to church on Sunday was started because of the pagan sun god.

I was relieved when I heard her winding down, thinking, “good, it’s almost over. Surely the invitation will be normal.” Wrong again. We were invited to raise our hand if we were ready to follow “Jesus and his commandments and worship on the day he set aside for us.” My hands stayed down, although by this point my ears were ringing and my head was pounding from the loud PA and I desperately wanted to put my fingers in my ears. I refrained, not because it would be rude, but I was afraid it would be misconstrued as raising my hand.

Matt when hiking with all of the visiting Americans and the SDA people today (Sunday). Since my leg is STILL swollen (more on that later), hiking up a volcano is out of the question for me. I went to church with one of the other teachers. Selvia goes to a Full Gospel church, complete with speaking in tounges and people being slain in the spirit.

We arrived about 30 minutes late, which was earlier than most others. The sound system was quite loud in there as well, but luckily Selvia wanted to sit in the back. I was quite relieved. After about an hour of a lively song service (which included some speaking in tounges, but because of the distortion in the sound system and my ignorance of Indonesian I could never tell when they were doing it), a guest speaker gave a nice sermon on wisdom and how God has it or something. Selvia translated some of it for me, but I didn’t quite understand.

Afterward, a couple who have two children in our school approached me to see if Matt and I would tutor their children. I told them what we have been telling everyone, the truth: we are very busy with the regular classes we are teaching and adjusting to the culture and do not have the time to tutor anyone at this point. I advised them to get a tutor from the school for their girls (who really do need a tutor, as their English skills are well below par). They said, “No, we want a native speaker.” I restrained myself from slapping some sense into them and said that I understood, then explained (again) that there are no native speaking tutors available.

I left the church annoyed and frustrated with their persistent pleading for us to tutor their daughters. I tried very nicely to say no about five times. I told them “maybe next semester” and even, “I’ll talk to Matt about it.” Nothing would dissuade them, “How about just once a week?” Sigh.

Health news:
Please continue to pray for my leg and the blood within it. It is still quite swollen. The doctor said that since it is still swollen, I will need to be on the rat poison (i.e. blood thinner) for six months instead of the initial three that was prescribed.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Things I miss (in no particular order):

- checking for mail
- Wolverine comics
- English speaking churches
- the way we could go in a circle in our house
- consistent water
- warm water
- calling people
- driving
- Brookshires
- cold milk and Oreos
- milk that does not come in a box
- shopping in Hot Springs
- Mexican food
- telemarketers
- the funky smell of our yellow house
- being understood
- understanding
- trains
- bathtubs
- the always interesting family dinners
- raspberry vinaigrette
- King of the Hill
- The Simpsons
- Hot Springs
- Gap
- dinner parties
- answering machines
- having a dryer
- our washing machine
- Wendy’s
- long evenings with OBU friends
- screened windows
- Sunday afternoons at the McNary’s
- ER
- the tea kettle that whistles
- early morning fog
- Super Mario Sunshine
- shampoo and conditioner in one
- microwaves
- sitting in the grass at OBU
- oak trees
- bagels with strawberry cream cheese
- Thrio’s
- (never quote me on this) Wal-Mart
- Baskin Robbins
- books
- book stores
- rugs
- both of my legs being the same size
- stop signs

Things I don’t miss:
- Dr. Phil
- washing dishes
- the funky smell of things rotting in dishes we hadn’t washed
- Brittany Spears
- Hollywood Squares
- knowing which celebrity was dating/marrying/divorcing whom
- short skirts/low shirts dominating the market
- pharmaceutical commercials
- central air
- bad political commercials

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Long Ride Home

Friday night Melody and I went into town for blood tests, burgers, and new pants. On our way out of the department store, the waiting taxi drivers spotted us and we agreed to let one of them drive us home. We immediately recognized the driver who stood up to claim us as a man who had driven us before. I remembered how his face had come alive when he discovered that we had studied the Bible in University. He had some pamphlets from a certain “Watchtower Society” of Brooklyn, New York that he would love to discuss with us. Kicking myself for having already betrayed limited understanding of Indonesian, I was still able to evade his requests for a good time to come to our home for “diskusi” and “dia-log.”

We were in his cab (which was missing interior door panels, smelling of misdirected exhaust and lacking in enough room for both my knees and the dashboard) and on our way home before we knew it. Before long the conversation turned to matters religious. We discussed his church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or as it is unfortunately rendered in Indonesian: Seksi Jehovah (say it out loud). I had to try to stifle my smirk as Melody laughed in the back seat every time he would say it. He had been meeting with my boss, Mr. Vijay, an Indian Seventh day Adventist, for “diskusi” about “Alkitab,” that is, the Bible.

Soon he was offering me the same privilege. I declined, as I would not truly be able to understand the nuances of his discussion with my rudimentary Indonesian. Not to worry. He said he had a church brother who has studied at the Watchtower Seminary itself in New York and has since returned to spread the “kabar baik,” news good, bilingually. As the conversation continued he became more animated, kept his eyes on me instead of the road, spoke faster, drove more slowly, and began to yell across apparently great chasm of about arms-length between us.

My annoyance and frustration matched his mounting intensity. I told him, in Indonesian of course, that I had already discussed at length with Jehovah’s witnesses in the States, native speakers of English, and I agreed on the matters where he held similar beliefs but I could not agree on the matters where we differed. I did not see how it would be different here. He assured me (even more loudly) that they had more to tell me. I was getting angry. Not because of miscommunication, we were communicating fine, but he was not willing to take no for an answer and was yelling at me, shouting into my face with a smile. I turned to him and said, “Why do Jehovah’s witnesses always want to go into peoples homes and have discussions? Why must you come into the home?” This question thrilled him. It game him a chance to explain to me the great commission of Jesus Christ to spread the kabar baik out to… to… “all nations.” I finished his sentence. “But I already know all about that. I have Jesus, in my heart. I know him, already. Why do you want to come into my home?” “Diskussi…dialog.” Right.

I tried to remain civil. But he had just tried to explain the great commission to me. Did it really seem that I was that unaware of it? I can understand how groups like the Seksi Jehovah can promulgate their non-traditional and even non-Christian beliefs (i.e. a non-divine Christ, or their pseudo-open canon of scripture) but what I can’t understand is how they manage to maintain, cross-culturally, the homogenous consistency of their pushy, abrasive, cloying techniques for evangelism.

Had I the Indonesian to express myself properly in this, my first truly theological discussion in a language other than English, I would have told him that I understand and believe in the great commission. People do need to hear the good news. They just need to hear it from people they can trust - people who don’t take advantage of captive audiences and manipulatively steer conversations. They need to hear it from people who love them and long to gather them under the same wings within which they also seek shelter from pain, disease injustice and the great hollow emptiness of sin.

The next day I got an email from my not-so-little little brother, Andrew. He and his friend, Chris had had an encounter the day before with two Mormon missionaries who had happened upon them, alone at Chris’s house in rural Arkansas. They were a little intimidated by these two young men who seemed interested in them but also had a strange falseness to the way they tugged in certain directions on the conversation, tossing out loaded questions like spinner-bait, waiting to recite long prefabricated responses from memory. I reminded them that those “Mormon missionaries” are kids, just like they are, who are doing what their families and churches think is right. “If they make you uncomfortable or get too pushy, you don’t have to take it. But the important thing is to treat them like people,” even if they don’t return the favor.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Air Means Water

Ah, another saturday, another cup of Sulawesi Toraja Coffee, another lazy morning spent chatting with my brother about the excentric intricacies of Mormon history. Just a notice to all our loyal readers to check the new photo album "Air means Water." They're all from last weekend's hike to a series of amazing waterfalls near here. I think you'll like them, and Jason (Roe), you can count this toward my credit of shooting more "landscape" shots. But if you're really looking for photographs as opposed to these snapshots you have to wait until I get back to see the stuff I shot on film (yes I dragged both the digital and film cameras up that river and back down it and they both still work, much to my surprise).

Enjoy, and remember: photos worth enjoying are photos worth commenting on :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

When we got back from Singapore, I surprised by the announcement that I would be teaching two Bible classes a week in elementary—first and second grade. The classes have a Sunday school feel, but are supposed to be graded. With little time to prepare for the first lesson, I decided to talk about Noah.

I walked into the first grade class where 19 pairs of eyes were looking everywhere but at me. I finally got them all to sit down and look in my general direction. Not wanting to lose them, I began to draw on the board—a big boat, a man with a beard in a funny looking dress, the man’s wife also in a dress, animals.

In an attempt to explain why Noah was spared from God’s wrath, I drew an arrow up from Noah’s head to a heart that said “love.” I said, “Noah loved God.” I drew an arrow up from all the other stick figures on the board to a heart that was crossed out and said, “These people did not love God.”
“They loved Satan,” came a voice from somewhere in the back.
“Well, I’m not sure if I would say that…” I started.
“No, they didn’t love Satan because the devil wasn’t there until Jesus came,” spoke up 6-year-old Edward. He continued, “Satan lived with God in heaven. His name was Lucifer then. One day he broke something and he wouldn’t say he was sorry. God made him leave.”

Shocked and slightly taken aback by Edward’s explanation of the origin of Satan, I said, “Right, and so Noah…”

Next week I think I’ll tackle eschatology. I’m sure Edward’s got it all figured out.


Saturday, August 07, 2004

If you or someone you know is responsible for a deposit into our USBank account, please let us know.

My mom sent me a warning e-mail that there has been a scam where an e-mail or pop up window asks you for bank information. When you give the information to them, somehow your money gets put into an account in Thailand. Maybe somehow we are Thailand. Matt said not to question it.

"In English, it doesn't work when I tell my class that, it doesn't work when I tell the tv that." --Matt

He is watching tv, which just got much more interesting: small dogs on remote controled Harley Davidson motorcycles in hospitals in Ohio. I think this is a matter worth looking into.

"American standard of care, my foot! There were no dogs in the Singapore hospital." --Matt

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Today was a good day so we thought we had better write something to counteract the dreadful tone of the last post. So here’s a little something from Melody and from Matt. We hope you enjoy.

“Pray without kissing.”

This was a fourth grader’s reading of “pray without ceasing.” I love the ABEKA books. The ABEKA curriculum is a Christian curriculum, which is generally good, except for the archaic language and random references to tabernacles and Zephaniah thrown in. There’s nothing like teaching ESL kids English using example sentences like, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Which, locally pronounced, is more like “honor tie father and tie mother.”

“I am your friend.”

Sunday I went to church alone so Melody could rest (isterahat). Sunday is our day for grocery shopping for the week since that is the day that the school provides a car and driver to haul the apparently inordinate amounts of food we buy. The grocery store is in the basement of the Mega-Mall (home to only the coolest and newest shops, restaurants a now a Billiards Bar on the roof). I was looking for anything non-top-40 in one of the three music stores (all of which promised me they could order me any album I wanted, but when pressed revealed that they in fact could only order what they already had), when I saw an awkward toothed Indonesian stride proudly up to me. I turned to face him.

“Ekscuse me sir I hope I do not bother you.”
“Well, you haven’t yet.”
“I hope I do not bother you because I have a class and the teacher say that when we see foreigner we must go and conversation with him, so that is what I want and I hope I do not bother.”
At this point I’m remembering that last encounter Melody and I had like this that dragged on for an uncomfortable fifteen minutes culminating in a horribly awkward inquiry about our sense of safety in what the inquistor saw as a frightening place for bule’ such as ourselves.
“Oh, so you would like to practice your English? Well, alright we can do that, but just for a short time, I have to finish my shopping.”
“Oh, OK sir. What’s your name sir?”
“Where you come from, Mak?”
“I’m from America.”
After three months I’ve almost given up returning the question as the response is almost invariably “Manado,” even when they’ve lived elsewhere. I think they interpret it as where did you just come from.
“How long you here?”
“I’ve been here for three months.”
“What you want in Manado?”
“Today I’m here for groceries.”
“No, why you here? Why you live here.”
“I’m a Teacher.”
With light in his eyes “Where you teach?”
“I teach at Manado International School, on Kolongon.”
“What subject you teach?”
“English, of course.”
Smiles and laughs.
“Oh, I have a friend who also teaches English at M.I.S. He also from America…”
At this moment I knew what was happening. Dr. Randy told us a story once about meeting a man on a remote island who, trying to establish common ground with his new acquaintance insisted that he knew of another American, indeed, his good friend, who also lived and worked in Manado (where Dr. Randy was based). Dr. Randy assured him that he was the only American living and working in Manado at that time. Eventually the man produced the name card of his “friend.” It read “Randy Richards.” After they both read it, the man extended his hand with a broad smile to meet, for the first time, his friend, whose name card he had carried in his wallet for many years.
With a look on my face that indicated I’d gotten my own little inside joke (Brandon, you know the one) I offered my hand and said,
“I’m your friend.”
He looked shocked and embarrassed and then his embarrassment turned to indignance and I realized that I had in fact met this guy before. He was the same guy who had detained us for excruciating minutes on end in another store, another night.
“You not remember me?” He said without a touch of irony. “I’m Aiudi.”
“Aiudi, you didn’t remember me!”
“Why you not email me back?”
He had me there. When we had first met he wanted my phone number, and like so many young women hoping to stave off stalkers, I had offered my email as an acceptable second prize. But when I received his first transmission of text less decipherable than his speech I ignored it, busy, and assuming that this city of 400,000 would shield me from further encounters and email-buddy accountability. Alas, another curse of the ‘bule’ is that you have no anonymity. I always looked at becoming a pastor with trepidation because of the extra scrutiny their lives receive. I had no idea coming to Manado would magnify attention to my action, choice and purchase by a factor of SPF 36.
“Well, I’ve been very busy…”
“What your hand phone number?”
My saving grace for this question is that “I don’t have one,” yet.
“House phone?”
If you think Aiudi’s tenacious demands for my personal contact information are out of line you and I are agreed but we are the only ones to whom this seems self-evident. This is part of my local fame as an American in Manado: my contact information ought to be publicly accessible. Though I have to say, after a couple of weeks of urban anonymity wandering the streets of Singapore amid tides of blank-faced audio-earplugged people, it was nice to return to Manado where, grown men feel compelled to stand up and yell “Hello Meester!” upon seeing me pass their neighborhood in a cab with the window down. I benevolently nod and smile feeling ridiculously royal.
“Aiudi, I have to be careful who I give my phone number to.”
“Why? Why you have to do that?
“Be careful? Because I work very hard at school all day teaching and when I come home I need to rest and prepare for class. If I give my number to everyone then the phone will always be ringing.”
“But email me again and I’ll try to write back this time. OK?”
“Now, I should probably go buy some food. See you later.”