Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Selamat Hari Natal!

{Merry Christmas!}

We were able to talk to Elder James on Skype this morning for a little over an hour and it was the best Christmas ever! He seemed so happy and upbeat and told us so many fun things about his life in Indonesia. He has really learned to love the people and is doing well at speaking the language. He was excited to have dressed up as Santa at the ward party this morning, even though he was in the warm suit for 2 hours when it was 90 degrees and 100% humidity! He said everyone wanted a picture with him and it took forever!

Our second package didn't make it to Semarang in time for Christmas, but they should get it soon. In the package were stockings for he and his companion that were filled with little toys and candies. I'm sure they will be just as thrilled. However, Elder James wasn't without a stocking Christmas morning! 

We put together a calendar full of random pictures of home and life in both Virginia and Utah; he really loved it. We also included some family birthdays. He is sporting his new tie and clip in this picture, along with his new calendar.

A while back I asked if he would take a picture of his favorite meal, Nasi Goreng {Fried Rice}.

We are so grateful for the sacrifices that Elder James is making while he brings the people of Indonesia closer to Christ. We are incredibly blessed to have such a wonderful son and even though we are so far away from him, we are thankful for the technology that brought us closer this Christmas morning. 

Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 24, 2012

Semarang Week 7

Bagaimana Kabarnya semua orang?
{Reportedly how is everyone?}

A pretty river that we bike around.

I am sure glad that the world did not end on the 21st. I'm sure everyone else feels the same way! (Just to make sure you don't think I am serious-I am being sarcastic. Ha-ha!) Today is Christmas Eve, and it sure does not feel like Christmas time. Especially when it stays in the 90's with 100% humidity. Christmas is also not as big of a holiday here, but it still is a good time of year. This year will be a little different for me, but I think it will be one of the, if not most, memorable Christmas I have ever had. It is great to hear about how the Christmas season has gone for you guys so far. The ward here has a party on Christmas morning, with lots of food, so that will be fun. I will actually be Santa for the party, so I will be sure to get some pictures. 

But since it is not Christmas yet, here is a little about the adventures and experiences I have had this past week.

Monday was a pretty normal preparation day, with us teaching a few families after email time, and relaxing around the house. I was able to read a lot of the talks from General Conference, and it was great. I sure do appreciate all the great resources we as members have, and I think after my mission I will use them much more. I would encourage all the members reading this to do the same! So much can be learned and felt from all the Church leaders give.

Preparation day sure did pay off on Tuesday. We were able to teach a good amount of lessons, and we received two new Investigators who are very interested in the Church. To start off, we studied as normal, and ate lunch. We then traveled to the Church to meet a member who would teach someone with us. We try very often to teach with members, because they help us so much with making the Investigator feel comfortable. They are the third person that connects the message to the Investigator, and the message becomes very powerful. While we waited at the Church, a friend of a member unexpectedly walked in, and asked to be taught. He had been taught a little before, and wanted to know more. It was a great surprise! We taught him with a member, and he really liked the message. I think we will see great success with him. After, we went to a few more regular appointments, which all went well. Later on we had English class, which turned out to be just a social event. But it helps them, because they work on conversation.

It is the rainy season right now, so it rains every day. Sometimes it rains a ton! When the canals overflow in some places, the roads flood. But it is not too often. However just because it is the rainy season does not mean it is not hot! It still gets super hot and humid every day.
Wednesday was a very good day. During my personal study time in the morning, I felt the spirit very strong. I am reading now in Doctrine and Covenants, and there are some really great principles in it, especially about Missionary work. This study session gave me a very positive start to the day. For Lunch, we ate at the Church, and I was able to talk to President Budi, a member in the Stake Presidency. He is super classy, and very cool. It is a ton of fun to socialize with him, and he helps my language a lot. After, we visited with the famous Brother Bambang. He is so much fun to teach, and he always has the funniest things to say. We went straight to another Investigator pretty far away, and we taught her with a member. As I said before, it helps so much, and it sure did this time as well. We then went far to another Investigator, and the one thing I noticed was how much more I understand in the language. It is great! We had a few more people who were not home, but the day was still very productive.

On Thursday, we went to a member's house early in the morning, pushing back our study times. Their house was on top of a huge hill, which was very difficult to bike up! But we knew that coming down would be a ton of fun. They served us breakfast, and we gave a short message. They were very kind to us, and it was nice to get to know them a little better. We then went to the Church, met with some more members, and they took us to eat as well! I was already pretty full from the morning, but I still ate, which was brutal! But it got better over time. Next was our study time, and after we had the regular weekly planning session. It was much easier to plan for the week, because we had the two new Investigators! I then did some reading, and went right to bed!

Friday started off as they always do, with early morning service. It was very difficult to get up, but once I started riding my bike, I was wide awake. With the traffic here, you must stay very alert when biking. Not that it is dangerous, but we just have to be careful. After we returned home, we had our study times, and went to the Church for District Meeting. It went very well, and Elder Giolas and I are becoming much more involved. Lunch was already taken care of, since the family we help out in the morning gives us tons of food. So we ate all of it at the Church, and headed out for the day. Although our first appointment was not at home, the rest were all there. One of the appointments we teach is an older man who forgets pretty much everything we have taught. He remembers us, but never anything else. So the lessons are pretty simple, and we just try to socialize with him. It is very hard to understand him! But it helps with my listening of the language. Later was English class, which is always fun, and it marks the end of the day.

In the morning on Saturday, our street was bustling with activity. Our neighbors were preparing for a wedding, and it was to happen right on the street! We continued with our studying, and then left. Right as we went, our neighbors asked if they could use our front area for the wedding. We said they could, but we had no idea what they would do! Unfortunately, today we had little success with people being home, and we biked very far. But one was home, and the lesson was fairly good. He was a Minister, so it was a little different, and pretty difficult to teach. But he is a good person, and it was fun. This was pretty much the whole day, which although wasn't very busy, it was very tiring! So I went right to bed with no problem. But I had no idea what was coming the next day!

This is in front of our house where the wedding crowd was seated.

So on Sunday, because of the wedding, the family started the festivities at 4:00am, by playing loud, obnoxious music out of huge speakers that were in our front area! Obviously, I could not sleep with it going on, so I just laid in bed, and waited for the time to get ready. Luckily, I went to bed a little early the day before, so I wasn't too tired. We got dressed for Church, and headed over right as they were announcing everyone. Our front area was filled with chairs and speakers. 

They also put speakers up by our front doors!

Church was really good. I really love this ward, and I become closer to the members each day. Brother and Sister Sugianto also came to our ward, (The family we ate with in Bogor) and it was super nice to see them again. I talked for a long time with Sister Sugianto, and she gave us some chocolate for Christmas. 

We then went right home, knowing that the wedding would have food, and since it was on our street, we were invited. When we were meeting all the people, the wedding singer was having a show. However, right when he saw me, he stopped the music, and came right over to me. He asked a little about me, and was really excited to see a white person. He wanted me to sing a song, but I refused! But this did not stop him. He kept naming songs that I might know, but I didn't know any of them! But then he asked if I knew 'Unchained Melody', which I did. So in front of a crowd of laughing Indonesians, I sang that song. It was crazy. My companion and the other Missionaries were laughing up a storm. That was pretty much the most interesting thing that has happened this week!

Well, I better get going. I hope you all have a great Christmas, and a happy New Year!

-Elder James

Monday, December 17, 2012

Semarang Week 6

Hello Dear Friends and Family,

I hope you are all living up the last days on earth! Since the world ends on the 21st of this month, we have been trying to baptize as many people as we can! Honestly though, is everyone in America still going on about that theory? Hardly anyone in Indonesia even knows about it! Pretty funny how superstitious some people become about those things.

Things here in Semarang are going great as usual. We are all preparing for Christmas, and for the festivities that will come. I hope that everyone remembers the real meaning of Christmas, and how grateful we should be for the most glorious gift of all: Christ's sacrifice for all of us. It sure has taken on greater meaning for me, especially as a Missionary.

Well, here is a recap of what happened this week...

After our email time last Monday, we went to a couple appointments, but neither was there. We did, however, obtain a referral from some members, so it was not a complete waste! We then just stayed at the house and ate a lot. P-days are very enjoyable, but also very strange because we have so much free time. We still stay pretty busy with shopping and everything.

We went right back to work on Tuesday, with the regular four-hour study time. Normally, Missionaries have a one-hour companionship study, but all new Missionaries go through a twelve-week training course, which makes the companionship study two hours. It is a very good system, and by the end of it, I should be able to know how to function perfectly as a Missionary, and ready to train others to do the same. The church sure is organized! After the study times and lunch, we went to visit the famous Brother Bambam. He is a great member, and it is always fun to teach him. We then set time aside to contact people, which is always a little hard, but it sure helps the language progress. After trying for a little bit, we found a nice man who new the Missionaries before us. He did not seem like he wanted to learn, but he was very kind to us. We will visit him later next week. We then had a few more appointments, but the only one that was able to learn was Pak Hadi. We taught about the word of wisdom, and he liked it. Later was the regular English class, and afterwards we met with the Zone Leaders, who stayed the night.

Wednesday was obviously 12/12/12 which was pretty cool! It will be a very long time until that happens again. The Zone Leaders were with us the entire day to do interviews and see how the work was progressing. It was fun to have them over. To celebrate 12/12/12, we went to KFC. (Which is apparently the only place we go to celebrate.) We ate right at 12:12pm! (see picture) Afterwards, we split up and went on with our day. We had many lessons, but one notable one was with a really graet family. They are mostly less active, but we were able to share a simple message with them, and the spirit was very strong. They believe very firmly in prayer, and we hope they will come back to church. They were very nice, and shared lots of food. We then returned home, and visited with the Zone Leaders. One of them, Elder Kjiampa had only twenty days left on his Mission. He said it went by so fast, and it really made me realize how fast it will go for me pretty soon.

Thursday was a little different, because we got permission to play Futsol (indoor soccer) with some teenagers from the neighborhood. They are the ones we buy nasi goreng from often. It was such a workout! I mostly played goalie, since I could use my hands, and it was so difficult! It was a lot of fun, but we got killed! I don't think I have ever sweated so much in my life! It was so humid and hot; I was drenched. We then returned and studied, and I was so tired during the rest of the day! 

After lunch, we went to the hospital to teach English again. We taught a bunch of younger nurses, and they were so nervous to talk to us at first. We were very friendly to them, and towards the end of class, they opened up. Afterwards they took so many pictures of us! It was pretty funny. The managers then took us out to eat, and I got Bebek goreng (fried duck). It quickly became one of my favorite foods here. It was so good! The only thing we had later was a few teaching appointments, and they went well.

Friday began with service early in the morning, as usual, and it is very fun. The food they sell is very good, and they always give us so much to take home. I don't think we are serving them, I think they are serving us! Since it was Friday, we had our District Meeting at around noon, and it was a lot of fun. It really made me realize how close us four Missionaries are becoming; especially now that the language is coming along. We set some goals, and made plans for the week. My companion and I were able to do some contacting, because we want many more investigators. It wasn't too successful, but there were some very nice people we met. Many try so hard to speak English to me, but the accent is so overwhelming, I have no idea what they say! I'm sure it goes both ways sometimes with my Indonesian. As we were traveling, I found a place that had Bebek (duck) again, and I asked my companion if it looked like a good place. He said it was good and cheap, so I got two orders of Duck! The price turned out to be 32,000 rp., which sounded so expensive! My companion and I were amazed at how pricy it was, since our meals are usually 3,000-7,000 rp. After a while I realized that was just $3.20, which I guess means I am becoming more Indonesian! Later was our regular English class, and it was a lot of fun. I mostly just talked about American football with a few people, which was refreshing.

Saturday was one of my favorite days here by far. It started out with the regular study time, but then we received a call from an Indonesian senior mission couple. They said they wanted to take us out to eat, so they picked us at the church, and they looked for a good spot to eat. They picked a place, and the main thing they served was, you guessed it, duck. This meant I ate duck for three days straight. I never got tired of it though! It was a lot of fun eating with the mission couple and hearing about what they were doing. They then dropped us back off at the church, and we biked to our appointment. After our appointment, we went to a park nearby the church, changed into exercise clothes, and met someone from our English class to play American touch football! He invited us yesterday, so we took time out of our P-day to play with him. Every week, about twenty Indonesians come to this park to play. It was amazing! They were pretty good, but I did amazing! (No bragging, haha!) I had four interceptions, threw for three touchdowns, and ran for one. I played Quarterback the entire time, and man was it fun. I also helped them a little bit with their technique, which even though I am not the best at football, it helped. They begged us to do it again, which we might. We then changed, finished our appointments, and returned home. I was pretty sore, but it was so worth it!

Sunday was pretty normal with church and study times, but we were able to visit a member, along with a few others from the church, who was in the hospital because she fell in her home. She was very happy to see us, and it was fun to talk to her. The members are pretty close friends, which I like about it here. They love us missionaries, and I feel at home whenever I am with members. They play such a vital role in the work here, and without them, we would not have very much success. The last thing we had was visiting the Joko family, who are new members. They are the ones with the cute kids, and they are very strong in the gospel. It was a good day to recover from the soreness of my body from Futsol and American football.

There is a little of what happened here. It sure is an adventure each week, which is exactly what I like. However, I really do want to hear from all of you, so send letters! I never thought I would be the kind of missionary who looked forward to letters so much, but they are so nice to get! It is great to hear from all my great friends and family. I hope you are all doing great, and I'm sure you will all have a wonderful time this holiday season! I miss you all a ton!

-Elder James

{I asked Elder James to send some pictures of his apartment.}

Our apartment

Elder James' desk is the one on the left and behind is a fun poster that has some pictures from home.





Kitchen (open to back yard)

Elder James' closet (on the right)

Alley that we ride our bikes through to the back yard

Back yard

Water tank and washing machine

Monday, December 10, 2012

Semarang Week 5

{This is the Christmas tree our family sent Elder James. We took pictures of all of his favorite family ornaments from our tree and cut them out. We also made some just for his companion.}
Greetings everyone!

I trust everything is great back in the U.S.A! I sure do miss a few things from home, but I am doing great here. We had a pretty eventful week, with a lot of fun things happening. This week went by really fast, and I hear from many other Missionaries that it keeps getting faster and faster! So I guess before I know it, my Mission will be over. Thank you to all who sent me letters. Especially to my family who sent me a whole package! The mail here does take a little bit to send, so it will take a long time for me to respond, but I will for sure!

My SWEET new sunglasses!
Visiting Lewang Sewu, which means "Thousand Doors" in Javanese. This is the "Standing Prison" where the Japanese would put up to six people in this cell, which was only about four feet by four feet. Pretty brutal!

Here is a day by day recap of what happened this past week:

After emailing last Monday, we went to the church to meet a member. He took us to Lewang Sewu, an apparently haunted building here in Semarang. Lewang Sewu is Javanese for "thousand doors". It is named this because it has many hallways and passages, which are told to have ghosts roaming around. It was pretty scary, but I did not see any ghosts. I saw many bats in the attic (see picture), which was crazy. We could not see them all, but by the sounds we heard, there must have been thousands! We also were able to go to the basement, which had about six inches of water all around it! So we had to put these boots on they had for us. It was really dark, and we saw where the Japanese imprisoned and killed many Indonesians. Elder Giolas and I also volunteered to stay down while everyone else went back upstairs. They then turned off the lights and it was pitch black! Still, no ghosts, but it was pretty spooky! It was my first cool trip on P-day, and it was a lot of fun.

Tuesday was a pretty adventurous day as well. Once we were 
ready, and finished our study times, we went outside and got our bikes ready. Right as we were about to go, it started to rain. But this was not just rain; this was the hardest rain I had ever seen in my life! We put our covers on, and prepared to go. We didn't go far, just to the church, but it was the craziest bike ride I have ever been on! The roads were starting to flood, so in some areas we were biking through about 8 inches of water. We finally made it to the church, and some people were meeting us there to be taught. The rain ended when we were done, but man, was it crazy! We then were able to travel to our other appointments, which went well. We taught Brother Bambam, which is always a lot of fun, and later on, we taught our regular English class.

Wednesday morning was pretty rough, because Elder Giolas and I became very ill. Our companions thought it was the Mie Aium we ate on Tuesday. It had meatballs in it that may not have been very safe to eat. But it was not horrible. We stayed home while Elder Martoyo and Mongan went on a split to some appointments. It was pretty boring for sure, as we just read and studied the entire day, but it was good. We were going to the bathroom quite a bit though! We also watched many of the church movies, which was fun. I went to bed early, and took some medicine, so I quickly became healthy. Our teachers in the MTC said that this would happen to every one of us at some point, but later our bodies would become much stronger and used to the food.

Thursday was a pretty normal day. After our study times, I made myself some noodles with a fried egg. The noodles here come in packages just like Top Ramen, but they are even cheaper, and they taste so much better! I have also been getting used to all the spicy food. I eat something spicy almost every day, and it sure is getting better! After lunch, we had our planning session, and I was much more involved during this one. I know the families and individuals we teach much more, and so planning is a better experience now. After our planning session, we went out for the day. We traveled a different way today, and because of the recent rain, many of the roads were flooded. I was very thankful for my amazing shoes from Spencer! They keep the water out so well. All of our appointments were there, except the Leo family, so we talked with some of their neighbors, and they were very kind to us. It is incredible how nice random people are here once you talk to them.

One of the spiders in our house
Friday was my 100th day on the mission! It was really crazy to think that I have been out so long. It seemed to go by slow, but it is going by fast for sure. For today, we had our Zone Conference, so we traveled by bus to Jokja, which was about four hours away. So we had to get up around 4:30 to leave. Once we arrived, I was able to see Elder Miner, a friend from our MTC group. The only bad thing was that he told me what kinds of spiders are all around our houses. They are Brown Recluses-so scary! They are all around the house! Anyway, it was really great to talk with him and hear some of his stories. The conference went well, and at the end they gave us our mail. It was unexpected, so it was a really great surprise! We visited with all the Elders and Sisters, and ate dinner with them. It was a lot of fun! The bus ride back was very pretty, and we were able to see much of the countryside, which is a lot more beautiful than the city.

This is the view from one of the investigator's house
Saturday began with an early morning English class at ACE Hardware. One of the employees comes to our English classes, so he told his boss, and he wanted us to come and help with conversation. The group was about 40 people, so it was fun! We helped with pronunciation, and just talked with them. Afterwards, we returned, and finished our study time. We then had our appointments for the day. Unfortunately, only one was there, so we visited with some members. We were able to talk to many of their friends, and they had many questions about the church. We obtained a few referrals from the visit, so it was definitely not a waste. I also started to learn many of the roads to different investigators and members. The city is becoming more and more familiar to me.

Sunday was also pretty normal. Sacrament meeting was good, and the members were very friendly as always. I was assigned to teach Gospel Principles, which was pretty hard, but it tested my vocabulary, so it was good practice. Afterwards the lunch was really good, and we ate like Kings! We visited some members with some sick kids later on, which was nice, and then we went to sleep!

It was a really good week, and I look forward to telling all of you about my new adventures! I hope everyone has a great Christmas!

-Elder James

Lewang Sewu
"A Thousand Doors"
The Semarang Elders at Lewang Sewu
Top floor was infested with bats 
We went through some of the tunnels in the basement
After the Japanese left, the place was a train station
The basement had 6 inches of water