Saturday, May 26, 2012

Birds on a Wire

Recently, the basketball teams at Mountainveiw International Christian School competed in an international school tournament.  Travel in Indonesia is slow.  The bus trip took around eight hours.  The teams both played well in the tournament.  For the boys team, this meant easily winning the tournament while the girls team lost in the semifinals to the eventual champions.  I had hoped that the third day tournament would have resulted in a quiet bus ride home.  I was wrong.
The players were wired for most of the return trip home.  However an unexpected sight silenced the boisterous crew.  In the middle of their carrying on, one player exclaimed, "Look at all of those birds!"  Silence ensued as everyone moved or craned their necks to see hundreds maybe even a thousand small birds perched on the power lines running parallel to the road.
Having grown up in the Midwest, birds on power lines was nothing new.  In fact, I wasn't impressed at all but I said nothing because the players were awed by the sight. In truth, it was an usual sight in Indonesia.  Indonesians hunt birds for sport. The possession of firearms by regular citizens is prohibited, but pellet or BB guns are not.  The result is that you see relatively few birds for a place teeming with insect life.
As I reflected on this sighting of birds on a wire, I was reminded how our experience changes our perspective.  No more clearly is this seen than in our decisions.  We make decisions based on our experience.  This is not a bad thing.  Most of the time, our past provides a wealth of information from which we can use to make good, if not godly, decisions.  However, what happens when our decisions clash with the wants of another?  Do you, like me, assume that your experience is somehow superior to the other you are in conflict with?  Do these feelings of superiority lead to a condescending attitude about them?  Maybe you even try to demonize the other.  In a fallen world this happens.  However that doesn't mean that we must participate in such a cycle.  Christ came to reconcile all things and all people.  Through Christ we have the ability to choose a different path, a different way of living.
Watching the high school students be awed by birds on a wire reminded me that sometimes we must simply discipline ourselves to enjoy that which someone else finds enjoyable or be awed by something that seems common place.  This mindset might also include making decisions that enable God to surprise us, especially when we are convinced that we are right.
May God grant us the courage to change the things we can, patience to bear the things we can't and wisdom to know the difference.

School's Out!

When I was a senior in high school back in 1990, I remember anxiously waiting for the final school bell to toll releasing my class from high school forever.  With great joy, my classmates and I joined Alice Cooper in singing his rendition of "School's Out".  It was a glorious moment.  Of course, the song ended and with it the excitement of school being out.  I watched this roller coaster of emotions in my students again this year.  Being an international school changes the way everyone views the end of school.  It is a time of celebration, but tears flow freely because each students knows this very well could be the last time they will see some of their classmates and teachers.
This year marks the end of our three-year commitment to Mountainview International Christian School.  Our time in Indonesia has flown by.  I have not loved every minute of it, but I have greatly enjoyed most of it.  I will miss the students and their rich diversity, I will miss the staff, both expat and national and I will miss the people of Indonesia.
At the close of school this year I found myself trying to do what I have been encouraging students, especially seniors to do; allow yourself to be both happy and sad.  Happy and excited about what the future holds and sad to leave the things you know behind.  With one week to go, I find myself filled more with sadness than excitement.  For three years I have poured myself into students that they may know God.  With tears, I embraced them Thursday (Graduation Day) and told them good bye.  It has been very good to be in Indonesia.
We started this blog as a way of communicating with friends and family what God is doing on this side of the planet.  Indeed we have seen God at work in Indonesia.  He has been changing peoples' lives through missionaries serving in the area.  He has been transforming students from what they want to be to wanting what God wants them to be.  And He has been at work in our own lives teaching us that the Gospel is indeed for everyone.
As for our future, we anticipate boarding a plane to return to the US Sunday, June 3.  We will stop in Beijing, China to do some sight-seeing before heading to back to Oklahoma.  We are looking forward to seeing friends and family.  Blessings to you in the name of Christ. ~Jeff

Monday, May 14, 2012

Counting Down...

As of today we have 19 days left in brain has trouble comprehending that our time here is almost over.  Honestly there were days, even weeks, when I wasn't sure if I would make it the full three years (that's 365 days x 3 years - 30 days for the month of June this year - 60 days for last summer + 1 day for February 29th = 1006 days in Indonesia).  Now that we've reached the end I'm trying to make sure we've experienced everything "Indonesian" that we've wanted to.  There are a few more items on our lists to do and to buy and to eat one last time, hopefully we'll accomplish them before our plane takes off on June 3.  Last Friday I got to experience another "Indonesian" first...while we were on the annual end-of-year swimming field trip at one of the coffee plantations, a young Indonesian boy whipped out his pet python.  Now of course since I'm so brave I asked him if I could hold it?  And of course since it is a priveledge for a "white" person to ask anthing of you he let me...actually bravery was not my motivation, it was all for the picture (and the experience)!  I couldn't leave Indonesia without holding a python now could I?  (Jeff's answer "Of course you could!")  I am hoping that any future students I have will think that this is too cool because I am definitely showing them this picture!

Because we have been so focused on the here and now we haven't spent too much time and energy thinking ahead...  In four weeks we will be in Oklahoma and I am starting to wonder "what will we be doing job wise?"  Is this something that we need to start worrying about?  But once I get started I have a hard time stopping and unfortunately I've started and because I'm at the end of the school year and I've finished teaching the curriculum and we're just reviewing and assessing I have more time to worry...  There is something to be said about keeping busy.

Today I was thinking back to June 2009 when we were leaving and everything we got rid of...oh my!  This is a different kind of move than we've ever done before (and I have a lot to compare it to); we are completely starting over...some appliances, some furniture (fortunately my niece is sleeping on my bed!), all the small stuff like towels and spices and kitchen staples and...I think if I don't stop now I am going to start hyperventilating (that's a really big word for a first grade teacher to spell)!

As I had a bit of time today watching my class take an end-of-year assessment this is where my mind wandered to.  One of my students must of noticed the sudden panic on my face or maybe it was the fact that all the color drained from it and I was pastey-white, anyway, they asked me what was wrong?  Without waiting for me to answer they proceeded to tell me that if I was going to be sick that I could go and lay down in the nurse's office and that they could finish the test by themselves...besides in a week they would "officially" be second graders!  It was at that moment I realized that I've used the word "officially" too often with them.  Again before I could jump into the conversation there were six more opinions about what was wrong and what I should do to "solve" my problem.  I think my favorite was that I must be scared of the smashed bug that was over by the door...

Finally I was able to get their attention and explain that my "problem" was I was letting things I couldn't control bother me.  Their reply "Well Mrs. Dana, how are you going to solve your problem?"  Again they're throwing my own words at me, I say this multiple times a day to encourage them to become independent.  So to take their advice I am going to let God handle the future and I am going to take care of the present which is finishing our service at MICS, and doing everything in my power to finish well.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Difficult Conversations

The decision to transition back to the US has been difficult.  We plan to return to Oklahoma June 9.  There is a certain duality of emotions attached to our return to the US.  We're anxious to see family and friends and yet sad to leave the friends that we've made here.
Today, I had a conversation that I've been avoiding since we made the decision to return to the US.  I've been dreading having to tell our helpers of our departure.  Our leaving represents the loss of a job for them.  For Ibu Rah, we are her only means of support.  As I told our helpers of our plans, they couldn't keep back their emotions.  I tried to assure them that we have been pleased with their work and have enjoyed our time in Indonesia.  I also shared with them that a new family would be moving into the house.  I told them that I would write both of them good letters of recommendation and help them find jobs.
The truth is I know what they know. Jobs are hard to come by in Salatiga, especially for older women.  Foreigners can be difficult to work for and it is the helper who changes, or is changed when difficulties arise, not the foreigner.
As Dana and I look for work in the US, I'm encouraged because God has always provided for us.  Though we are getting older, I still feel like we have options.  For our helpers, I see fewer options.  Just as I hope to have work lined up before we return to the US, I hope that our helpers futures will be secured before we leave.


Spring break at Mountainview gave us an opportunity to take a quick trip to Jakarta to apply for tourist visas for our short stop in China on our way home this summer.  Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia and home to millions of people.  Our taxi driver told us that twenty-five million people call Jakarta home.  The number sounds a bit high but then it's hard for me to wrap my brain around the idea of millions of people living in one huge city.
Before our visit, friends told us to visit the Indonesian Grand Mall.  It is home to a nice theater and more importantly, western-styled restaurants.  We watched the movie John Carter with Indonesian subtitles and then went to the Pizza Hut located in the mall.  The name "grand" certainly fits the mall.  It was beautiful.  Each floor of the mall was decorated with a different theme.  Several of the floors were made to mimic sights in New York City.  The theater, which was on the top floor, had a panoramic view of the city skyline.  Truly, the Grand Mall, with all of its' marble and glass was grand.
Our stop at the mall was primarily to eat and then kill time before going to the airport for the flight back towards home.  Jakarta is an hour flight away or a twelve hour bus ride.  Time was short so we opted to fly.  Our journey from the Indonesian Grand Mall to the airport reminded us that Jakarta, like all of Indonesia is a country of contrasts.  As we wound our way towards the airport, we quickly left the beautiful part of the city.  New buildings and nice cars gave way to small trucks loaded with goods, motorcycles and bicycles.  The buildings changed also.  Clear were the signs of pollution and weather.  Buildings and houses in Indonesia require a lot of up keep.  It's as if the jungle is constantly trying to take the land back.  New buildings look old in only a matter of years.  Along these streets, we saw the poverty that enables places like the Grand Mall to exist.  Wealth in Indonesia is built on the availability of cheap labor.  This means that many live very simply, not as in choosing to, but having to do so.  As we passed areas set aside to collect trash, we saw the shacks of the poorest of the poor who use the trash to support their existence.
Indonesia is not alone in its economic contrasts.  The changes of being aware of such contrasts is deciding what to do about them.  Jesus said the poor will always be among us.  However, I don't think this statement is meant to abdicate us from seeking to do something about it.  Instead, Jesus' words should serve to remind us that there is always economic need around us if we are willing to see it.  The challenge inherent in the solution to economic contrasts is that the "haves" must share with the "have-nots" in order to see that everyone has enough.  Such a solution requires us to confess that we are only stewards and not owners.  And if we are in the category of the "haves", we will have to have less so that someone else can have a bit more, maybe even enough.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Umbrellas on Cloudless Days

Rainy season in Salatiga oftens brings weeks of rain laden clouds that effectively cause one to forget the existence of the sun.  The last three weeks have been like this.  Each day begins without rain but with foreboding clouds that promise the rain will fall later.  As the gray days drag on they begin to color our existence.  Slowly a mild depression begins to set in.  Of course the onset of this sunless despair is so slow that one hardly notices it until the string of cloudy days is broken by a single bright morning.  Today we had a bright sunny morning.
Rain.  The time when you expect to see an open umbrella.
Riding to school each day on the motorcycle, we've gotten used to seeing people with umbrellas during the rainy season.  Since it rarely rains in the morning, most umbrellas are carried closed.  Today with the sun out, the umbrellas were up and open.
At first it seemed perfectly normal for people to be carrying and using their umbrellas.  Or so I thought until the warm sunshine on my arms reminded me that it wasn't cloudy today.  Strange isn't it, umbrellas are carried on cloudy days but open on sunny ones?  This was my thought as we passed two young girls on their way to school carrying between them an open umbrella.  Had I not lived in Indonesia for the past three years I may have continued to be baffled by what I saw.
You might be wondering "Why would people use an umbrella on a cloudless day?"  The simple answer is to stay cool in the shade of the umbrella.  While this makes sense it is only partly true.  A more truthful answer would be to say that people, especially women, use umbrellas during sunny days to avoid becoming tan.  Yes, in Indonesia fat means health and people don't want to be tan.  It seems completely backwards to me as an American.  We tend to want to be skinny and think people are sickly if they are too white.
In this case, wanting white skin goes a bit deeper than a simple case of vanity.  Skin color is connected with status.  Those who work in the fields become quite dark.  Years of long days in the sun doing menial manual labor deeply tans a person marking them forever.  In contrast, those who work inside or not at all remain untouched by the sun.  They tend to be wealthier and more educated than those who work in the field.  As a result, skin color is more than just a preference, it is a sign of status.  The whiter your skin, the more status you may have.  Interesting isn't it the things we think are important.
While it is easy for me to comment on the peculiarities of my Indonesian neighbors I wonder what they would see and say if they visited the US?  I wonder what would seem strange to them?  I wonder how I would respond to their critic?  Would I have the ability to question my own life or would I vigorously defend the normalcy of my oddities?  Today, the sunshine was more than just a welcomed change.  It was a reminder to not hold anything of this world too tightly.  So, consider opening your umbrella on a bright sunny day.  It might teach you more than you think.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

2011: Year in Review

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Selzers.
We hope that this Advent Season and your Christmas celebrations have helped you remember the miraculous event of God coming to dwell with humanity.  It is a powerful reminder of the importance of relationship with God first and then with all people.  Certainly our time in Indonesia has fleshed out a greater understanding of just who ‘all people’ means.
Christmas Eve 2011
(Perhaps our last Christmas photo where everyone is in shorts)
Last Christmas we were blessed to host some of our friends from Nebraska, Jay Dee and Wendy Janzen.  It was a good time to reconnect with those from our own culture while exposing them to the culture we now enjoy.  This Christmas, we celebrated Christ’s birth with 34 people from our house church and other friends.  We fellowshipped with a light meal before worshipping God in song, reading Scripture and lighting the Christ candle in the Advent wreath.  The rest of our break was spent getting ready for the next semester and exploring more of Indonesia, specifically a small island off the east coast of Bali called Gili Air.  It was beautiful.  We enjoyed snorkeling with sea turtles, seeing dolphins from our fast ferry and soaking up some sunshine.  In Salatiga, we get very little sunshine this time of year because we are in the midst of rainy season.
The time between this Christmas and last Christmas has gone by fast, perhaps too fast.  Here’s a quick year-end review of the family.
Sunrise on Gili Island
Jeff continues to teach in the high school at Mountainview International Christian School (MICS).  The classes he’s teaching this year include Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey, Biology 1, Apologetics, Missions and Weight Training.  His other responsibilities this year included Dana.  The girls’ season ends February 26.  On Monday and Thursday nights, Jeff can be found playing badminton at one of the local indoor courts.  He has been playing with members of MICS national staff for about two years.  For Jeff, it’s been a great way to build relationships and stay in shape.
Dana is in her third year of teaching first grade and continues to enjoy these little people from around the world.  She continues to be amazed at how quickly they are able to learn in English when for the majority it is their second or even third language.  Dana spends most of her time perfecting the first grade curriculum and finding ways to make learning fun for her students.  When she is not in the classroom she is planning events for the school.  This year’s events so far have been Book Character Day, the all-school Christmas chapel, and the K-12 Winter Field Day.
Quintin turned 16 and is in 10th grade this year.  During our visit to the US this summer he was able to take drivers’ education and practice a bit before we returned to Indonesia.  He enjoys playing basketball and is on the JV team.  He can’t wait to get back to America.  He misses the good food and his books that are in storage though he reads a lot here.  He also misses family and friends and hopes to see them soon.
Abby turned 12 in June and is in the sixth grade.  Sixth grade is a bit different for her since she now has four teachers instead of just one.  Abby’s highlights this past year included going to the beach and snorkeling where she could explore coral and the life that dwells under the ocean.  She also enjoyed visiting the monkey forest and having monkeys crawl on her.  Abby writes “Although I love it here, I can’t wait to be back in Thomas and Henderson”.
Zach is in the fifth grade this year and turned 11 in October.  Zach has a first year teacher named Ms. Lauren.  His highlights from 2011 include climbing to the top of a volcanic crater (Mt. Bromo) and petting a lion club at the Bali Zoo.  Like Abby, Zach enjoyed staying on an island that you could walk all the way around in two hours and playing in the ocean.
With this being our last year, we’ve tried to see a bit more of Indonesia.  These efforts included going to the Gili Islands and to the volcano, Mt. Bromo.  Mt. Bromo is located in western Java.  It is roughly a 10 hour journey from Salatiga that takes one from the warm moist air of central Java to the cool, thin air of west Java high in the mountains.  Mt. Bromo is spectacular to view at sunrise.  It is also the coldest place we’ve been in three years.
We were also blessed by Pleasant View Mennonite Church this past year to be able to travel to the US over the summer.  Of course we had to get used to driving on the right side of the road instead of the left but that was a small thing in comparison to the opportunity to visit family and friends from California, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.  It was especially good for our children to reconnect with friends knowing that we’d soon be returning to stay.
“Staying”.  That seems to be a word that we’ve had difficulty doing.  For now we plan to finish the 2011-2012 school year in Salatiga and then leave for the US June 4.  We’ve chosen to spend a few days in Beijing, China on our way home.  Our immediate goal upon return is to see family and friends.  After that, we don’t know.  What we do know is that God has been faithful in the past.  We hope His provision for us will include a teaching job for Dana and some type of meaningful work for Jeff.  As soon as we know something we’ll let everyone else know so you can join us in giving thanks to God.
Whether in the US or in Indonesia, we pray that God will continue to call all people to Himself; and that the called will be resolved to live as a new people, redeemed by God for the purpose of living in right relationship with God, each other and all of creation.
Blessings to each of you in 2012.
Jeff, Dana, Quintin, Abby & Zach