Monday, August 30, 2010

First Year Reflections

Beautiful mountains can be seen from just about anywhere on a clear day 
Some days it feels like we just arrived in Indonesia, while other days it seems like we’ve been here for years. No matter what it feels like, the return of the dry season reminds us that our first year in Indonesia is over.

We’ve waited until now to reflect on our choice to obey God’s call to serve in Indonesia. God has certainly cared for us during this first year and has used us to help meet the needs of the students at Mountainview International School.

Transition is rarely easy. Transition into life in Indonesia has not been easy. Freedom is the greatest thing missed; freedom to speak and listen with whoever you want, freedom to go wherever you want and freedom to get whatever you want.

Home Sweet Home
Our language study has been slow. Dana and I can read a little Indonesian, but struggle to hear it spoken. The result is an inability to converse with neighbors beyond just saying “Hello” and “How are you?” In a culture where community is everything, not being able to communicate has been disappointing. Our language learning struggles has certainly given us both greater appreciation for those who can speak the language and greater empathy for those trying to learn English.

It’s surprising how trapped one feels when you can’t go where you want. Of course, the lack of language is a big part of this but the inability to jump in a car and go where you want can feel really limiting. We have a motorcycle which helps but it is just a bit small for the whole family. Of course having a larger vehicle doesn’t necessarily solve your problems. Getting from one city to the next isn’t as simple as jumping on the highway or the interstate. In Indonesia, most roads are lined with stores, street vendors and homes. The constant merging of people and machines makes traveling slow and tiresome, not to mention dangerous. The upside to this sense of a lack of freedom is that you plan trips more carefully, even when just shopping downtown. When we go out of town we hire a driver. This is a blessing for everyone. For our driver it is a blessing because he can provide food and shelter for his family. For us, me specifically, I can sit back and enjoy the trip without experiencing the exhaustion of driving in Indonesia.

Fresh food, very fresh food
In the US, a person can get just about anything they want. Moreover, they can get the product they want in a certain brand that they prefer. This is true in Indonesia if you’re buying rice, cooking oil or Coca-Cola. Of course we miss the things that we can’t always get like pancake syrup, popcorn, Milo (a type of breakfast cereal) and most recently whipping cream. Please know that we’re not complaining, but just identifying some of the differences that limit our freedom to get the products we want whenever we want them. Again, it is not a bad thing to not always get what you want. In fact, it teaches us to enjoy things a bit more when we can find them. For example, Dana went shopping in Semarang (a large city about one hour from Salatiga) with some ladies from school. She brought me back a treat that I could enjoy in the states daily if I chose; cheese (real cheese that tasted like real cheese!) and saltine crackers. I savored them over the next two weeks enjoying only a small quantity at a time. Actually, once you get past the initial frustration of not getting what you want when you want it, it can end up feeling quite liberating.

Even a smile can be charity
At the core of our experience of life I think we must ask one simple question, how well are we cooperating with what God is trying to do in our world (for us, Indonesia)? Some days, I’m quite confident of our cooperation with God in our service at Mountainview. Life is good when prayers are answered, students do well on tests and our own children don’t complain about being here. Of course, there are other days; days when God is silent, teachers and students don’t feel like being in the classroom and our children speak of nothing except of how wonderful the food is in America. Yet, through it all we seek shalom and shalom is what God is all about. We end this first year, much like we started it, seeking shalom. Of course, we know more Indonesian now than we did, our students learned something if only that we love them and our neighbors know we smile a lot. Even a smile can be an act of charity or that’s what it feels like when they smile at us.

Good Ole Family Entertainment

I continue to be surprised by the plant and animal life that we have in Indonesia.  It seems like there is something always moving.  Tonight as we prepared to wash dishes, we spied something behind the trash can which sits under the sink.  It took a moment, but we quickly realized what we were looking at; a dead gecko being carried away by ants.  Of course, seeing ants and geckos in our house is nothing to get excited about, they peacefully co-exist with us 24 hours a day.  What caught our attention was that our "dead" gecko was moving.  It's tail kept moving back and forth.  Upon closer inspection, we could see that the ants were trying to carry the gecko away, unsuccessfully I must add.  Groups of determined ants lined up on each side of the gecko's tail and attempted to move it.  The ants couldn't move the whole gecko, but they could move it's tail.  Back and forth they moved it, giving our dead gecko the appearance of an almost but not quite "dead" gecko. 

Perhaps the most bizarre part of this story is not the dead gecko under our sink or the ants who were trying to move it.  The most bizarre thing was that we kept watching the ants moving that dead gecko's tail back and forth. (apparently we're starved for entertainment here.)  It was amazing and inspirational to watch the ants determination in the face of what seemed like an impossible task.  Perhaps we need to stop and watch ants try to conquer the impossible more often.  Maybe then we would be less apt to fear and quicker to try.  Maybe then we might learn to live under the reality that nothing is impossible with God.  It's surprising what we can learn from unwanted creatures when we try to see them through their Creator's eyes.  Blessing to you as you try.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reflections of Summer

We can't believe that summer is over for another year.  This summer, unlike the previous two, didn't find us moving to another state or another country.  Even though summer is a much needed break it gave our family too much time on our hands and on our minds.  We were able to think about everything that we were missing from home...the people...the food...the familiar smells...wheat list could go on and on.  Needless to say the month of June seemed to pass slowly, and then July arrived and with it so did family.  We were all excited to see Jeff's parents, Gerry & Jean Selzer, arrive safely from Hesston, Kansas.  While they were here we went to see Borobudur Temple as well as traveled to Jepara to spend a little time at the beach.  We were able to spend two weeks with them and our children loved having Grandparents around to play games with, in fact two weeks wasn't nearly enough time.

Then the Oklahoma side of our family arrived bringing not only a grandma and an aunt but cousins!  The kids had a blast showing their two cousins their Indonesian world.  Upon their arrival Quin, Abby, Zach took their cousins to a local warung to buy ice cream.  While my family was in Indonesia we traveled to Bali and Prambanan Temple.  The kids would say that the best part was boogie boarding in Bali with their cousins.  For Jeff & I it was having family near rather than far away and actually being able to touch them.  For this reason we wish summer could of lasted just a bit longer if it meant having our loved ones near us, but like all things summer to has to end.  Now we are looking forward to our second school year at MICS and we pray that God will use us to bless our students and their families.