Monday, March 25, 2013

Solo Week 13

Hello again everyone! 

I know people from many places are reading this, but I guarantee it is colder where you are than where I am right now. (Unless you are in Indonesia.) The raining season has officially ended, and the hot one has begun! I honestly felt an immediate difference. It is really nice that raining is less frequent, but the heat is killer. I have the worst farmer's tan in the history of my life. But besides the weather, I am doing absolutely great. All of us Missionaries here in Solo are getting along, and we have some fun times. I have really been working hard lately, because my companion has given me more responsibilities. It has helped me a ton, and I am so grateful for his example and teachings. Here is my description of this past week. 

Tuesday began as most days do, with our study times and getting ready for the day. Once that was all done, Elder Hasibuan and Elder Martoyo began cooking. They asked me to film them, and they started to prepare the food on camera just like they do on the food network. It was honestly the funniest thing I have watched in a long time. They kept picking up random things with companies on it and acknowledging their fake sponsors. 

Elders Hasibuan and Martoyo eating the food they cooked.
Since I filmed, they gave me a portion of the food to try. It was really good! I also learned a lot in making Indonesian food, so it was a great experience. When we left the house, we first went and visited Agus. He is doing very well, and has been able to come to church for the past few weeks. While we were teaching, it began raining very hard, which showed the last of the crazy rain for a while. During this rain, we did a few errands such as fix my companion's bike. When the rain slowed down, we taught Danielle. No one came to English class that night, but we were able to eat at Pak John's. 

Wednesday was a day full of biking in the new hot weather. When I woke up, I could already feel the heat which would nearly kill me during the day! All the study time went well, and we went right to work when we were ready. We first went to an investigator's house who has been struggling with a smoking addiction. We had given him a commitment the time before to stop smoking before the nineteenth, and he fulfilled it. We were very glad, and began encouraging him to continue. If he continues for a little over a month, comes to church, and never smokes again, he will be baptized! I was really excited, and I hope he continues to fight the addiction. We spent a lot of time finding addresses that previous Missionaries left behind, and we had a few contacts. Then the time came to bike over to the Bishop's house. We had a lesson there with an investigator. It really helped to have the Bishop's family there in support and testimony. 

On Thursday, we had our regular service at the park. While I picked up trash, I was able to have a great conversation with Elder Wagstaff. He is almost done with his Mission, and is a great Missionary. I was also able to contact a few people and have some positive conversations about our church. The people who talk to us are always so impressed with our willingness to help and serve them. We also had our regular meal together, which is always a highlight of the week for me. Afterwards, we went to the post office, and then returned home to study. We planned for the week as well, and our companionship will be having some great appointments coming up. Once we went out, we visited the home of a non-active member, and got to know him. He did not seem too interested in coming back, but we had a nice conversation about the gospel. Later, Elder Lee and I exchanged companions and went to visit an American investigator. We taught him with Elder Greenway, the senior Missionary. It was a very unique experience to teach in English. I felt the spirit very strongly.

Elder Hernandez was at our house on Friday, since we do District Leader exchanges every once in a while. It was cool to talk with him and switch things up. Once we left for the day, we had the regular District Meeting. We have had a goal to do this meeting all in English in order to help those Indonesian Elders who want to learn English. It was a fun meeting, and we had the treats that Sister Greenway always gives. This time it was pumpkin bread with raisins. It reminded me of home, and made me realize how much I miss my mother's cooking! After the meeting my companion and I went and visited Agus again, which was good. We also taught Danielle at the church, and helped him prepare for his baptism. He will be baptized on the 31st, which means we will only teach him a few more times. It will be very strange when we do not teach him anymore. It has become such a great, regular thing! A leadership meeting was at the church, and even though we weren't part of the meeting, there was lots of food. They gave us a ton, so we had no need of going to Pak John's! 

Saturday morning started with Elder Hernandez and I getting up really early to exercise a little bit. When we came into the bedroom again, Elder Hasibuan woke up, freaked out, and then explained, "Saya berpikir Elder Hernandez hantu". Which means "I thought Elder Hernandez was a ghost". We also got some delicious Bubur for breakfast, and so my day was off to a great start. After study time, we went to a member's house to eat lunch. The food was great, and we had a nice conversation with the family. Then we headed out for our appointments. 

The little kids loved seeing pictures of themselves in the camera!
We first went to an non-active family who we visit quite often. They are super nice, and have a bunch of kids. We took some pictures of them, and talked with the parents. They were such funny little kids!

The cute little family we often visit. These two are twin boys, with their older brother.
The twins are hilarious. They have their own little "language" they speak to each other!
After this, we met at the church to help clean it up. We came as they were finishing up, but I was able to talk with a few sisters in the ward, and get a referral. I am so thankful for helping members! The last appointment was with an investigator who has been having a difficult time accepting the gospel. We have been trying really hard to teach him, but he is not too interested. But we will keep trying to invite him. 

Sunday came up really quick, and I was not prepared! I realized in the morning that I had only a little bit of food for the day. I need to go shopping on Saturdays from now on. Church was really nice, and I learned some great things during the classes. I learn so much more when I actually understand what the teacher is saying! When we returned home, I was starving. I made the two eggs I had, and ate some oatmeal. It was enough to halt my hunger, but a lesson nonetheless. I had a great time studying at home especially when I read the Liahona. I am always so excited when the new editions come to our home. Later that night, we had choir practice with Sister Greenway. The Missionaries and the youth of the stake are preparing songs for Stake Conference. I am not the best singer, but it was really fun to learn some songs with everyone. We tried to meet with someone later that night, but they were not home. Other than the lack of food because of my lack of preparation, it was a great Sunday. 

This week was not as exciting as some of my past ones, but I hope I was able to explain my experiences. I am having the time of my life here, and my testimony of this Church continues to grow. All the worries and concerns that a Mission sometimes brings go away when one begins to see the blessings. I have been so blessed by our Heavenly Father, and I feel a great desire and responsibility to bring that joy to others. I hope others in the Church will also feel that desire, and do Missionary work, even if they do not have a name-tag. Well, I hope you all have a fantastic week. Sampai Minggu depan! 

-Elder James

Elder Hasibuan's shoes have been going downhill for sometime.
They finally officially died this week!

I love all the funny stickers on cars around here.
A lot of them get the translations wrong.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Solo Week 12

Hello from a sweaty, hot, tired Missionary!

My birthday dinner, a traditional Javanese dish of yellow rice and other things.
Luckily, in comparison to the past few weeks, this one was much less stressful. We did do some great things these past few weeks, but I am happy that things have now settled down. Solo is getting much hotter, since it is now the end of the rainy season. The hot one is about to begin, and I don't know if I am ready! But the longer I am here, the more I get to know the members and the city. I really enjoy it here, and I feel lucky to have been in central Java my entire Mission. Since this Mission is so huge, we Missionaries are able to experience many different cultures and differences. President often says it is like moving to different countries every five months or so. Anyway, here is my week-in-review:

Tuesday was the first full day we spent at the new house. However, we were not finished moving in. The owner wanted to fix the roof in the bedroom, so we could not sleep in there for a few days. 

It has AC in there, but we had to wait. The new house is really cool. There are a few things that bother me, but overall, it is a really good Missionary home. 

It is small, easy to clean, has AC, and a huge picture on the wall of ladies picking flowers. What more could a Missionary ask for? There are a few things that bug me, like the power shutting off when we use the microwave!

This is Danielle, the boy we often teach, wearing my missionary gear!
After our study time, we went to the church to teach Danielle. There was a huge Stake Relief Society meeting there, so we were able to score some free food and drinks. I also was able to see a few Sisters again from Semarang. It was really nice to see them again. After we were finished, we went and visited Agus. He was in his new house, and it was much better than his last. He said it was also much less hot, which I could definitely tell. Later, we did a little grocery shopping, since we had no time the previous days, and went to English class. No one came, so we went to eat at Pak John's. 

This is the whole group that attended my birthday meal! It is tradition for the one celebrating the birthday is the one who pays for the mean. I bought chicken, sides and drinks for everyone. With all of that, and my fancy birthday dish, it was a total of $13. I was so happy that I paid $15 since Pak Jon always gives the missionaries a discount.

It was my birthday celebration meal, so Pak John told me what to order. I got a huge thing of Nasi Kuning (Yellow rice) with chicken, vegetables, perkadel (sp?) and many other things. It was a fun, traditional celebration!

On Wednesday, I had a particularly great study time. I have been reading the Old Testament, which can be very difficult. However, I found a study guide for it, and it has helped a ton. I am learning lots about many parts of the Bible that I did not understand beforehand. What has stood out to me, is the fact that the Old Testament testifies of Christ. Many cannot see this, but it is true. Many stories, such as the story of Abraham and Isaac, are metaphors for the sacrifice Heavenly Father gave of his only begotten. Once you realize this, the Old Testament takes on such greater meaning. 

Movie night for me during my study time. I watched a new training video on
repentance and ate Nasi Goreng.

After I studied, my companion and I went to get our bikes serviced. There were a ton of problems, and they were a little busy, so we spent about two hours there. However, afterwards I was happy, because my bike ran perfectly. We headed out and taught an investigator, who has been coming to church lately. He has been doing very well. Later, I got a haircut, which I really needed. The rest of our appointments were not there with the exception of a part-member family. We had a good visit with them. 

Usually, Thursdays begin with a service project, and my favorite meal of the week. But President Groberg came, so we switched our schedule around to meet with him. He wanted to inspect our new house, so he came shortly after we ate lunch. Both President and Sister Groberg loved the house. Their daughter was also there visiting with her husband. So we had a good time visiting and getting to know them. At home, we had weekly planning, and then we went to the church to do interviews with the President. Mine went really well, and he gave some great advice. We planned on going to an appointment with him later, so we waited there at the church until he was done with all of the interviews. Sister Groberg brought some delicious cookies, and we had fun talking with everyone. Once President Groberg was done, he called a taxi, and we went with him to an investigator family. We taught about Family History, and President helped us a lot. After the lesson, he said that it was the first time he has seen a lesson taught on Family History. He said we did a great job, and he thinks it is a good thing to teach to certain investigators. He also said my companion and I worked very hard together. So it was a rewarding experience! 

President Groberg and his wife were still in Solo on Friday, so they came to our District Meeting. We held it earlier than usual so they could make their flight with plenty of time. Once we as a District were finished with all our business, President got up and gave us a great talk. An important thing he said was that we should not worry about the big picture in this life, because God will take care of it. What we should worry about it the work right now. If we work hard, and stay completely obedient, we will be blessed. I really liked this concept, and I know it will help a ton in this Mission and in life. We should always focus on the now! Once we were finished, we all ate together, and then split up. My companion and I visited Agus again, which was fun, and then we searched for a long time for non-active members. There are quite a few here in Solo, and we have a responsibility to find them and bring them back. We found a few of the addresses, but none of them were home. However, while we were looking, we were able to contact many people, which was a lot of fun. No one came to English class again, which was a little disappointing, since we invite so many. But the night ended on a good note with dinner at Pak John's. 

Saturday was a very hot day. I could already feel the weather changing from really hot to unbearably hot. In the morning, I had some extra time before studies, so I prepared a package to go home. I had bought a few great things for my family, and I think they will enjoy everything! I am going to send it very soon, along with some letters for many others. Once we were ready to head out for the day, we went to an investigator’s house. He is usually not home, but this day we were very lucky, because he was. We followed up on the previous lessons given, and he seemed to remember them all. He has not come to church yet, so we are really focusing on that. It will help him improve so much! 

Bishop Catur, who is a car salesman is in front of a Jaguar C-class, a car I would love!
After this, we took the long ride to the Bishop's house. But it was not that bad, because we stopped twice to get snacks, and visited his car dealership. He had a Jaguar, which I really liked, and I promised to buy it if I ever had a house in Solo. At his house, we watched the Joseph Smith movie with their family. It was a very spiritual experience, and it strengthened my testimony of our great prophet. They took us out to eat afterwards, and we had a great time with them. 

According to my journal, Sunday was my 200th day on the Mission! I guess it was also St. Patrick's Day! It is a good thing they do not celebrate that here, because I was not wearing green. When I realized it was my 200th day, I read my journal entry for the 1st and 100th day. Boy have I changed so much! Anyway, at church, we were very lucky, because an investigator came. He really needed to come, since he is struggling with a smoking addiction. He had a really good experience and was very involved in the Gospel Principles class. I hope he comes every week. Also, after church, we went over to the other church in Solo, where they had a baptism. It was a good experience, and also unique. The person being baptized kept lifting his foot up, and they had to do it four times before it was right! Later we visited a non-active family, and they were really nice to us. They offered so much food and drinks, and we were able to give a short message. I have loved working with non-active members, because it brings so much joy if they return to activity. The rest of the day was full of study and rest, which was very nice. We also had the bunk beds set up the day before, so the room was really cold! So cold, in fact, that I was freezing! This is a rare, and beautiful feeling here. 

I know I always say it, but thank you all again for all your support. I really would not be as prepared on this Mission if it was not for all the great examples I have been around. I have had such an amazing experience here, and I continue to grow in the gospel. My testimonies of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon have specifically been strengthened. I was thinking the other day about those who think that Joseph Smith started this whole church and wrote the Book of Mormon on his own. With this belief, those people are admitting that he was a genius, and a perfect leader. This church has grown massively international over the years, the Book of Mormon is an incredible record of an ancient people, and the organization of this church is near perfect. If Joseph Smith brought all that by himself, I am deeply impressed. But I know that he did not. He saw God and Jesus Christ. He translated the Book of Mormon through the power of God. He opened the last dispensation for the church of Jesus Christ until our Savior returns. I have a testimony of this, and I promise that it is true. I look forward to emailing you all again.

-Elder James

Today for our P-Day activity, we played futsol.
Wearing my new birthday shirt my parents sent- Elder Labron James!
The bedroom is so cold from the A/C and it feels great to finally be cold!
The Kitchen.
Both bathrooms have traditional, Indonesian squat toilets. 
Our backyard.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Solo Week 11

Hello again everyone!
The gorgeous view from our P Day trip today up the mountain.
I am really sorry, but because we have been so busy lately, I am going to have to make this short. I was able to upload many pictures this week, but now my time is up! Thank you all for the many birthday wishes. This was for sure the most unique birthday I have ever had, and I will remember it forever! On the day of my birthday, we finished moving to our new house, so there was really no time to celebrate. But I have a dinner planned tomorrow, and I will update you all on how that goes next week! Here are a few cool things that happened:

On Monday, we all moved into the other Elders' house temporarily, but we stayed there until Saturday! All eight of us were a bit crammed, but we had a really good time. It was pretty hard to bike all the way to our area, and then return to their apartment every night. The bathrooms, laundry, and food situations were quite hectic, but we figured it out. I am glad this is all finished now! 

My Birthday gift was a yummy Snickers from President and Sister Groberg!
Saturday finally came, which happened to be my birthday, and the owner of our new house was ready. So we got help from the Mission couples, and headed over to the new house! We spent the entire day cleaning the house, and unpacking our things. Hauling all the furniture around was tiring, but the Mission couple provided food and drinks while we worked. I am so grateful for them! We are not even finished completely, but we got a ton done. Once the house is fully ready, I will take a few pictures. It is kind of cool to be the first Missionaries in a house! This was the reason I did not have time to celebrate. But everyone remembered, and wished me a happy birthday. It was one I will not forget! 
We had a great time up in the mountains with views of Solo.
Just recently, we returned from our Bishop's Vila. 

He took us up to the mountains in his 4X4 truck, which was quite the ride. We all were crammed inside, and it was very bumpy. 

Once we arrived there, the scenery was beautiful. I was able to see the entire city, and more. 

We threw a football around, played games, and looked at horrible poisonous spiders! There were honestly tons of them. If you stopped and looked around the forest, webs were everywhere! It was a fun trip, and I am glad we were all able to go!

The Bishop's Vila up in the mountain above Solo.
Once again, I am sorry this is so short. Since we came back to the city a little late, we do not have as much time as normal. But, this past week was pretty boring anyway! Thank you all for everything you do to support my family and me. I love you all, and wish you the best of luck! 

-Elder James

A self-portrait while I was biking.

This is Elder Wagstaff with the chicken head we got him, as a prank, for dinner.

This was a nice member family we ate with this week.

Brother Masias is a great member.