blessing after blessing – indonesia

I had not planned to go to Indonesia. Even after 4 1/2 years of travelling since leaving Japan, i had never made even one contact in Indonesia, and had no desire to go and visit. After getting the 1858 Great Controversy translated into Bahasa Malaysia in 2007, i had thot that maaaaaybe i should think about going to Indonesia because the languages were so similar. Of course i had read on the internet that there are many Seventh-day Adventists (200,000 in 2010), and knowing how the people in Sabah are very receptive to Ellen White books, i had slightly considered that perhaps a similar response would be seen in Indonesia.

Well, after 5 1/2 weeks of what appears to be mostly fruitless time spent in Malaysia (except for meeting one young SDA), wondering why pride, having maids work on the Sabbath, worldliness, and strange conspiracy theories (the last is probably stopped by now) had entered the church, and why not even one person would study the 1858 Great Controversy with me, i caught a late nite flight to Jakarta. The information on the internet was not good, saying that this city is bland, polluted, and a bit dangerous. Of course there was a bombing of the Marriott hotel here not too long back too, so that element is something to watch out for also. So i came a bit concerned about safety, and not expecting much in the way of spreading the Great Controversy book. But was i ever wrong! OK, the safety problem is mostly as described, but i didn’t actually encounter it. There are quite a few thieves, and the corruption of everybody, especially govt. officials, makes everybody out to be a thief it seems, but the reception of the 1858 Great Controversy book by Ellen White is just astounding! The only other place that has ever come close in reception of this book is Sabah Malaysia, and that was 4 and then 3 years ago. It is a different story there in both respects now tho.

At the Jakarta airport i had no hassle at all in purchasing a visa for 25 US dollars. The girl pasting the visa in the passport had the veil over her head, but her nice smile almost made me think i was at a tourist information center. I kind of made friends with one elderly man from Malaysia, and gave him a pamphlet on health, and then after around a 30-minute wait in a scene extremely different from the huge, efficient Bangkok airport, i walked thru customs and then into a little hallway lined with money changers and taxi booths. There were quite a few men there plugging for customers, but after changing 27sgd, i walked thru them just smiling and shaking my head “no”. Of course many of the taxi drivers would not take such an easy “no”, so they would follow me asking where i’m going, where i’m from, etc. etc. There was a large, outdoors all-nite fast food place, but that didn’t look too inviting outdoors, so i went back inside, and found a little cafe, and hung out there all nite nursing a cup of hot milk with some almond-taste chemical in it.

The whole international terminal is basically closed down at nite, with just a couple of little stalls selling water and soft drinks and snacks, and then the one fast-food place outside, and the one little cafe inside. The young guy working there talked with me awhile, then laid down on the bench while his friend gave him a vigorous massage for over an hour. A couple of taxi drivers talked with me, and a very interesting one talked for over an hour – from around 2:30 – 3:30am. I probably learned more about the thinking patterns of Indonesians in that one hour than i would have in 1 month of searching the internet – ha! He taught me that Indonesians are hospitable, quite open and free to speak their minds, don’t have world-class logic patterns, and need i say – corrupt. He tells me that the Saudis are the most haughty, and that the Europeans are the most polite. He hastens to add that it has nothing to do with the religion, just the culture. OK sir, but i’m sure you are thinking deeply enough to realize that religion is the most fundamental force driving every culture in the world.

Before coming, i was expecting something much more like India, but instead, was pleasantly surprised to see something about halfway between India and Thailand. The streets don’t have a lot of garbage, but aren’t clean, the shops are not unfathomable, but not attractive, traffic has some rules, but not enforced well, the food is not fiery masala hot, but not entirely palatable either. One thing very pleasant is that absolutely no one comes up to me begging for money. That’s a switch. I do see some groups of little snotty kids being pulled around by their mothers who accost motorcycle drivers when they pay their parking fees, and there is one form of almost bribery that i’ve not seen anywhere else – people will stake out their own portions of parking areas, and when you leave, they will half-heartedly step into traffic to wave at the cars, and then expect you to hand them a note when you drive off – which most people do.

Most of the people i’ve met are from eastern Indonesia. They look quite similar to the Filipinos, perhaps a touch lighter, and are very hospitable and friendly. Once you get to know them, you find out that nearly all of them are related – ha! Maybe that is one reason why many of them go to the capital of Jakarta to carve out a “good life”. Sadly tho, like most everywhere, those who leave their hometown to search for money often come to be like the people that surround them – worldly, more time for business than God, compromising, and yes, even corruption. At least here the people are more straight and upfront about it than what i saw in India. When asked why their country is not doing very well economically and in other areas, many will tell you “corruption”, but unlike the Philippines and some other countries where the people always point the fingers at the govt. alone or foreigners who are messing up things, here the people point a few fingers back at themselves, as nearly all of them have done it at one time or another (i may be exaggerating, but this is the impression i receive).

Back to my all-niter at the airport — I leave around 6am, after the change of shift with the new worker spending the first 20 minutes of his time kneeling behind the cash register and singing his song to his god. It is sad to think of his dedication, that it is directed towards something that cannot save him. When i stepped one foot out of the door a couple of taxi drivers accosted me, but soon they disappeared, and i was left to make my way down to the Damri bus at the end – the one headed for Gambir train station. 20,000rupiah will get you there in around 70 minutes. Much better than the 120,000 or more for the taxi! The tourist office had just unofficially opened at 6am, and i was generously given a map of Jakarta, so getting out at Gambir, i walked the road next to the American Embassy, then across the next road, down a ways and then left where i saw “Jalan Jaksa”, the famous/only backpacker street in Jakarta. I was looking for Bloemsteen Hostel, as i had seen good things written up on it on the internet, and at a price of just 35,000 for a single room! Well, they had only had a air-con room for 130,000, so i went to the Palm Hostel (no nameboard) just before it, and got a largish room with a shared bath for 70,000. A guy there said he had a room with no fan for 50,000, and of course i asked for that, but was told that they only had the fan-equipped room, so i took it. It was so hot, and so noisy, i don’t know what i would have done without the fan. Sometimes 2 dollars spent for comfort is worth it 🙂

After shaving, i quickly found a moto-taxi to take me to the SDA Union headquarters in MT Haryono. I was quite amazed to see a very large, 5-story building. The person in accounting who had answered my email was not there, but after explaining the reason for my visit, i was introduced to the assistant publishing director. He and his daughter treated me very nicely, and to a vegetarian gado-gado lunch (veggies with Indonesian-style peanut sauce), and a few contacts to make at the Indonesian Publishing House in Bandung. I walked the little over one kilometer to the nearest train station (Cawang Stasiun), stopping to buy provisions on the way after hitting the jackpot to the tune of 338,000idr for a mere 52sgd – wow, what fun!! The train ride almost didn’t happen, as i got about the closest i’ve ever been to being flattened by a train. There is a high hedge growing between the platform and the tracks at the end of the platform where you walk over to the other side. I look left and right, and not seeing or hearing anything, take a step to within one step of the tracks. A ticket taker is blowing his whistle, and altho not imagining he is blowing for me, i do stop, and within 2 seconds a big train goes hurtling by. After taking a few more steps backwards and offering a prayer of thanks to God, i get a little shaky thinking how close this call was, and what would have happened if the guy had not blown the whistle, or if i had not chosen to stop, or if someone behind me would have pushed me etc. The ride back is very uneventful comparitively, even with the open doors and little boys running in and out and on top of the roof of the train (!) and hawkers etc. For some unknown reason i try to stay awake in the afternoon so i can “sleep better” at nite, but my body refuses after seeing the bed, and i am out like a light for over 2 hours. It’s amazing how much energy you can get from sleeping – much better than any other drug i know of!!!

Supper is pearnut butter, bread, an orange, some peanuts, and raisins. This is what God has provided me for all the next 5 meals except Sabbath lunch. The monotony is broken just a little by the bran crackers i was given in Japan more than one year earlier. Actually, this is about the best meal that i can think of – all yummy stuff that keeps me going 🙂 Oh yes, there is one little squeeze packet of egg-tofu that squirts nicely on my bread – yum yum.

Sabbath is spent at the Jakarta International SDA Church. It is within the Union headquarters building, along with a Chinese church, and a 1,000+ Bahasa Indonesian church. It seems like sometimes people in this country go on rampages and smash stuff every 10 or 20 years or so, so many of the churches now are renting space in large office buildings, or doing something else creative to make the place of worship not look like a Christian church. Very wise perhaps. The pastor is very friendly, asking about my books etc., but it amuses me to see him come up to me around 5 minutes later asking questions to assure himself that i’m not Reform SDA or offshoot – ha! It is good to check, because it is true that many Ellen White book promoters are actually trying to draw people away from God’s remnant church – so sad! The service looks like it might get pretty rowdy, with a rich, educated group of people, but i’m amazed to not hear any drum music at all. The service is interesting, and at the end people stand around the room in a circle holding hands. I thot this was a nice “touchy-feely” modern thing, but even in the village churches in Indonesia, the same custom prevails. Many people show an interest in the book work i’m doing, and after lunch i’m given several phone numbers and contacts. One man asks me to come work in his school, and one lady says she has a cousin who might be willing to let me stay at his place. The ambassador to Indonesia of one country is SDA, and he shows an interest in the books too – nice! I go back to my mosquito hostel with a light step 🙂

After a live imitation Rolling Stone concert just outside my window that lasted from 10pm to midnite, and then spirit drumming that lasted until around 5am, i move out around 8am. A couple from church pick me up and take me to the stadium where thousands and thousands of people are walking and exercising and people-watching. The youth group at church is starting a free English outreach program, and i’m priviliged to be at the inauguration. It is fun to call out to people to join, and see them studying, and then playing a few English games at the end. It is very low-key, and no mention is made of SDA or even Jesus, but the idea is that people will become regulars, and they will start wanting to inquire for themselves. This is the “pull” method rather than “push”. I think it is very wise, and might be successfully replicated elsewhere. It is great to see over 20 young people from church give of their time to this outreach also. We eat lunch in a mall that looks like those in Bangkok (world class), and then am taken to a house which will be my “base” for the remainder of my time in Indonesia. We have a nice study of the 1858gc, and the spirit is very nice.

Waking up the next morning after a sweatful nite, my movement immediately makes the arowana fish jump over his divider into the filter side of his tank. I’ve seen similar fish on TV, but never live. They are quite beautiful, but hard to believe that when they get full-size they are red in color, and cost around 7,000usd! For a fish!!! He has many little fishies huddling in a corner, and it is interesting while here to count their dwindling numbers. Live cockroaches are treats for these expensive fish, and it is kind of funny to see a leg of one that got caught in his throat, stick out of his gills for several days. I wonder if that will make his price go up – haha.

The family is upper-middle class, and has a maid and driver. The mother is extremely worried about me finding something i like to eat, so buys some oranges and apples for me. Several days later i confide to the son that i’d like some guava or other local fruit, and he immediately catches on that i can get oranges and apples anywhere, but tropical fruit like guavas and soursop is something special to me (while still cheap). They take me to Makro one afternoon, and it brings back memories of being in the one in Bangkok. The soy milk display is not even 1/10 the size of the one in Bangkok, but there is such a thing, and while i enjoy pouring it on my rice in the mornings, it brings forth strange noises and looks from the family members – slurp, gurgle, yum!

Most days start out with a quick bucket shower. This is typical SE Asian style, with a wishy-washy bathroom/toilet all together. After a sweatful nite, it feels great to pour cold water over the body. Then we usually have worship together. The son loves to play guitar and sing, and it is wonderful to hear the various songs he’s learned over the years. I really think that is one thing that has helped with his English, and i do recommend that for everyone studying a language – learn a song or at least try to memorize something. That really helps fix it in the mind. Some of the members have already eaten, some eat later, i usually eat on the coffee table in the living room, as the two dining tables are either full of stuff or other stuff. Like my brother used to say, his table is his horizontal filing cabinet – ha!

It is just my second morning there, and already i’m off to another place. A church member who is related to a man who translates for the Indonesian Publishing House says he is going to Bangdung today as it is a holiday, and he is happy to take me along with a young pastor. We drive the 2 1/2 hours up into the hills on a toll-road that looks like just about any interstate or autobahn i’ve seen. The house where the translator lives is reached, and my friend pulls a rambutan from a tree in the front yard. After knocking off all the ants on it and putting it in his mouth (after i decline), he pronounces it “sweet” 🙂 The mother and father are in the house, and the mother speaks excellent English. Seems she used to be an English teacher at one of our SDA schools. Maybe that helps account for some of her son’s ability with translation? We go to the SDA-run hospital where the translator is watching over his wife. Several pastors are there, and a prayer is given for the patient. It feels great to be in a predominantly Muslim country, and have the freedom to give a prayer to Jesus in semi-public space 🙂

Then one of the most interesting experiences i’ve ever had with a potential translator is experienced. After all the other visitors have left, i pull out my 1858gc books in the various languages, hand him the English one, and start to give my spiel about how this is the first edition of the Great Controversy, and is very powerfully written, and —- “I’ll do it”. Huh? but, but…. I’m pretty sure he is like several potential translators i’ve met who are hyped to spread God’s words thru Ellen White, and maybe a bit interested in the money involved also. So i start to tell him a bit deeper about how this book is a bit different from the part in Early Writings. I read the first sentence in the book, then start to explain how that is different than what is in Early Writings. He waits until i finish, then proceeds to tell me something that gives me goose bumps about like the lady in Bangalore did when agreeing to translate last December. He is very aware of the need for this book, and seems to have almost been waiting for a chance to get it into the Indonesian language. Wow! Now how did God know to put us together today??? (^-^)

I stay with a pastor’s family near University Adventista Indonesia (UNAI), and go to the library every day to browse their books. There are several nice old Spirit of Prophecy books, and i’m amazed enough to take a picture of a book with the cover title: “The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan —- Patriarchs and Prophets”. That is the first time i’ve seen something like that! While looking at the books and using the wireless internet, a young man comes up to me and asks if i’ll speak to their English club. Of course 🙂 But just about 1 hour before the scheduled talk, he comes up to me and says that some big-up has come from Canada, so that man will give the talk. Alright. I understand 🙂 The spiritual atmosphere of the campus seems pretty low and secular, but it is very green and nice, if a bit old.

I give a worship/testimony to around 30 guys in a “poor boys dorm” near where i’m staying. There seem to be 4 or 5 of them who are on-fire, and they gather the others together for a talk. After my testimony i study a bit of chapter 32 of the 1858 Great Controversy with them, and with the translation given by one of the boys, it goes pretty well. They can hardly believe that i’m not married, and that i don’t have a cell phone – ha! I talk a few seconds too on the need to keep things clean, as they just throw, throw, throw everywhere.

The nites are cool, as this is a bit up in the mountains, and with all the Seventh-day Adventists around me, it seems a bit strange to still hear lots of imans wailing at 5am, but that remnds my groggy brain where i really am. Fortunately i can go back to sleep until nearly 7, when i get up to shave, dip a few chilly dippers of water over my face and arms, change clothes, and then sit down to a breakfast of rice and bananas and pineapple and veggies. Usually i choose either veggies or fruit, but not both at the same meal, as my stomach is quite weak. From around 8am – 8:30, there is a beautiful TV show with just pics of nature from around the world, with a background of non-vocal hymn music. They say it is put out by the SDA church there – what a sweet blessing to start the day!

Friday morning i’m given a ride on the back of the motorcycle down the mountain to the bus station, where i’m very fortunate to see a little green mini-bus (with no door!) just getting ready to leave. I hop on, and in a few minutes a couple of college-age guys get on too. We have a very nice chat, and i learn that they are studying to get a job in the tourism industry, so they both like to study English. One of them even seems quite interested when i tell him i’m a Christian spreading Christian material, and said he is a Christian too. The light beaming from his face when i told him i was Christian warmed me above the already hot streets of Bandung 🙂

I loitered around the outside of the train station a few minutes, taking pics of the colonial-type surroundings, and then walked up to the ticket window, to find out that the train for Jakarta was leaving in 4 minutes! Yeow! It cost 60,000 rupiah to go the 3 hours or so to Jakarta (7usd) in a nice, air-con train. The scenery was quite nice, and i took many pictures of the terraced rice paddies. Rice paddies gave way to flat, ramshackle buildings and warehouses as we neared Jakarta. I got off at the end – Gambir station, and started looking for a way to get some coins to use the few public phones that were available. A kind man at the magazine store changed my 1,000 bill, but the phones didn’t like my coins, so finally i walked up to a fancily-dressed 50-ish couple and asked if i could call someone to come and get me. There were very few people in the station, and i seemed to startle them, but they readily agreed, and didn’t even ask for anything in return, even when i offered them something 🙂 So i went outside and had a sandwich with peanuts and a tomato under a tree, watching a cat munch on a chicken leg someone threw away, and trying not to smell the fact that this tree was probably a public urinal at nite. Some beggar kids came by, and i offered them part of my sandwich which they refused, and they laughingly went on their way with some lady far in the rear, to the parking tool gate, where they soundly harrassed the entering drivers until they got money – quite a lot of it it looked like. I still wasn’t sure about where to meet my friend/pick-up, so tried to find a pay phone outside of the station – but no luck. And no one would let me borrow their phone either, even when i offered to pay. Finally a taxi driver points to some little building, and there are the familiar metered phone booths that are quite prevalent in India, but have almost died out here, in Jakarta anyway. The young loiterers in the phone shop seem to think something about me is funny, but that’s OK, no doubt i am. I’m just happy to make contact with someone who tells me that someone is coming to get me. I walk around 15 minutes past the US embassy, to the front of Jalan Jaksa Road, and after talking with some moto-taxi guy there for a few minutes, here comes my ride! She had somehow gotten off work early that day, because President Obama had cancelled his Indonesian trip, so unexpectedly, she could get me then. I had been planning to wait for a couple of hours, so really felt blessed 🙂 Since it was early, we could even get thru the usually horrendous traffic in no time at all, and had plenty of time to take a dipper-bath, eat, and be ready for Vespers in their home.

The people i stay with treat me great, and love to study the Bible and 1858 Great Controversy book. Vespers meeting is at their place on Friday evenings, and i am given the privilege to speak. I mostly cover chapter 34 – The Loud Cry. There is a retired pastor and his wife there, and it is funny/sad to see both of them spend so much time telling me that i must get married. He even used one absolutely new device to try to convince me to get married: He asked what i would tell Peter at the gates of heaven when Peter asked me why i had not brought along my other half. I was taken aback, as this is such a RCC-type of scenario to start with, and then to think he would ask that of me…. I asked him what Jesus and Paul would have said, and he said to answer the question, so i answered something like “I have never been married”. He smiled smugly, and dismissed my comments that Jesus said it’s best to be single if possible, and Ellen White with her husband wrote the same.

The next few days go by quickly watching the arowana in the tank in my bedroom (which has so willingly been vacated by the owner who is sleeping in the main room now) circle around the tank and gobble up one of the little fish huddling in a group in the corner. He goes thru one or two a day, so after about 2 weeks there, the little fish are all gone. One day i see him with a brown “hair” sticking out from a gill behind his mouth, and find out that he didn’t quite fully swallow his favorite delicacy – cockroaches. It is kinda funny to know that these fish, which usually sell for over 5,000usd when grown, and some up to $20,000, are fed cockroaches, and given water to swim in straight out of the bathroom faucet – ha!

Sabbath is interesting, as we go to a shop lot this family is renting, and around 30 people attend. There are 3 pastors in the audience, and 2 missionaries. One of the missionaries is myself, and the other is a lady from Burma who has been brought by the retired pastor and his wife especially so i can have something good to say to Peter at the gates of heaven about my “other half”. ha! She is very nice, and gives an interesting testimony, and i give a testimony too. In nearly all the churches i’ve been to, someone usually reads a mission story in a lifeless manner, and most people cannot relate to what is being read anyway. And here, in this little place, there are 2 missionaries to give first-hand experiences. I’ve been asked to give the sermon, which i start – about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s experience with “civil disobedience”. We should respect and obey the government leaders always, except when they try to make us go against what God wants us to do. The retired pastor starts translating, but he has a few problems, and finally the audience tells him that they can understand without a translator, and he meekly sits down. It is quite a cute sight, and i hope he didn’t feel bad about it.

After church service we go upstairs to eat potluck, and i eat some nice fruit and bread while most of the people have a nice feast. After lunch i’m given time to hold a study of the 1858 Great Controversy, and we study chapter 32 – The Shaking. The spirit is quite nice among us, and there are no open doubters, making me very happy and praising God. Later, in talking to the mother of the house about cooking on the Sabbath, i’m told that she has dreaded this day for over 20 years, as she has been told by leaders in the church that it is the ladies’ responsibility to prepare lots of lovely food for everyone on the Sabbath. She accepts the new information without hesitation, which is very unusual for me to see, and looks so radiant as she exclaims later “I’m free now on the Sabbath”. 🙂 Lord, may we all be free on the Sabbath. With just a little planning, all the cooking can be completed before the Sabbath hours, even in a hot climate, and everyone can enjoy simpler, fresher meals without the attending work on the Sabbath day.

In the afternoon we go to visit a 20ish Sister in the hospital. She seems to be getting better, and we stay only a few minutes.

Sunday morning nearly the whole family goes to the stadium to exercise and talk with friends. It is really jam-packed, but lots of fun to “ei-oh!” with the large group of mostly orange-shirted joggers. Probably around 500 of us start off around the stadium, scattering people in the way. After each round tho, the numbers lessen, and i drop out too after 3 rounds to go help with the English-teaching group from church. The orange-shirted joggers keep going around and around for over an hour longer, and at the end it looks funny to see an organized mass of skin and sweat jogging/swimming around the stadium – ha!

The youth event starts around 9, with an amazing number of young people from church – over 20! – gathering to do something for the community in the way of free English lessons. They are organized quite well, with some of them approaching the rapidly dwindling crowds milling around, other planning and giving lessons, and others talking to the parents of kids who’ve brought their children. I spend a while with the first and last group, and have an excellent conversation with a young man whose little kid is studying English with his mother. He tells me his in an undercover narcotics agent, and tells a few stories of busts etc. We even talk about God a little bit, but this event is not outright evangelism, it is more of a community service, and if the people come to know and trust them and ask questions of themselves, then we can share the best community service ever 🙂

During the week there are quite a few opportunities given me to witness/study with people – even with several Muslims, two of which are very interested in the Christian faith! The son spends lots of time with me, making me wonder if his business is alright, but he assures me it is, so i take him up on his offers to go around with him. He loves to talk about spiritual things, and it is exciting for me to be around someone who doesn’t profess to know-it-all already. We go to some business meeting with the third richest man in Indonesia, and some fragrance supplier from India in the JW Marriott hotel. When i get there it finally comes to mind what they’ve been telling me – this is the hotel that got bombed by some Muslim group a year earlier, and some Australians and others were killed. hmmmm. But now there are battalions of guards, with mirrors on long handles to look underneath your car, and with big German Shepherd dogs. Probably it is now the safest place to be in all of Indonesia – ha! The talk is boring to me, but interesting to see how businessmen do their business. One young guy in the group has graduated from Ohio State University, and is a bit interested in what i’m doing with spreading Christian books, so my friend gives him a 1858 Great Controversy book. I hope he reads it. After taking some pics out over central Jakarta with it’s few tall towers, some lush green, and lots of shanty-houses, we go to the arowana fish store and see the super-reds etc which sell for tons and tons of money. Hey, they’re just fish, alright?! It all seems a bit unreal to be living in like a little bubble of luxury among the harsh conditions for many. But the type of business they are in is not for the faint of heart, and they tell me many stories of govt. officials asking for bribes, people black-mailing them, and other tales of intrigue and infamy. I really do they can pull out of that kind of business, as it cannot be God’s will to sell things to make people addicted to tobacco. My friend has quite a sense of humor about it all tho, and with a heart to overcome and be with Jesus one day, i’m sure he will pull out of it, even if he loses millions of dollars.

Everyone tells me that the strong SDAs are over in eastern Indonesia – specifically – in the Manado area on Sulawesi Island. I remember seeing the name “Sulawesi Island” long ago in some mission book, and somehow it seems very exotic and far, far away. Well, 630,000Rp (68usd) whisks me there in 3 hours on the wings of Lion Air. Of course i’ve ridden countless airplanes, but rides that stand out are the ones where i saw the “green flash”, ” shadow of airplane in a halo on clouds below with rainbow around it, coming into Osaka one time at nite with the sky lit up, seeing the receding coast of Vietnam, seeing Mt. Whitney, and now this one – seeing the most beautiful, puffy, cumulus clouds all around and just beneath us. It is like walking thru a field of cotton candy, whatever that would feel like 🙂 This ride gives me only the 2nd time in my life to experience jet lag while travelling in the same country. Once before when going from LA to Nashville, and now this time, from Jakarta to Manado. Look on a map and you’ll see why. Even tho the land mass is small, the country is spread out like from California to New York – over a very long distance. When i land i’m struck with the idea that the people look similar too, and act a little like the people in Sabah Malaysia, and the Philippines. Again, looking at a map will explain that one very well!

I don’t know what the guy looks like or the telephone number of the guy who is supposed to come pick me up, but tell the not-so-very-pushy taxi drivers that i’m waiting for someone. I mill around the 30-40 people there looking at the the passengers come out of this small airport. Then the people dwindle, and dwindle some more – until only around 10 people are left. Finally i give up, and am getting ready to agree to the taxi driver’s proposal (but it seems crazy to spend almost half the amount of my 3-hour plane ticket on a 20-minute taxi ride!) when a tall, young man who’s been standing, looking at the passengers come out, turns to me and asks, “Are you Daniel Winters?” Thank you Lord. It seems strange to me that it has taken so long, when i’m the only guy with different color skin around, but anyway, and relieved to find my contact, and he kindly takes me to the house where the person in Jakarta used to live. He explains his business of raising tuna mostly for the Japanese market. He seems to be wanting a deeper walk with Jesus, but something seems to be pulling him back. I pray he gives it all, so he can gain all.

The house is right across from University Klabat (UNKLAB). There is a couple living there now, with one young lady attending the university, and then one young man who lives in the shack in the back. This house is very nice, clean with tiled floors etc. and it is easy to fall asleep. Starting fairly early in the morning tho (around the time of the 5am imam wail) is the sound of thumping bass coming from the minivans trolling for passengers up and down the road. The young lady very much wants to practice English, and i’m happy to oblige. She invites me to spead at their Wednesday evening youth prayer meeting on the campus, and i go and give a 20-minute talk to around 30 students. The next day is spent mostly going to the library, which is basically off-limits to non-students for some reason, and talking with students i run into. It is my first time to ever talk with someone from Timor Leste, the country that just broke off from Indonesia just a couple of years earlier. He tells me that his country is nearly all Roman Catholic, and speak Portuguese. Very interesting. The greenery of the campus makes it perhaps the most beautiful of any SDA college campuses i’ve ever seen, with only Southern Adventist University in Tennessee coming close (maybe i’m biased?) Really, i love green. It is mostly flat, but there is a mountain rising in the background. The spiritual level here seems much higher than in UNAI, and i hear story after story of students who’ve sacrificed and worked and then gone to be a missionary for a year, or gone to study at the university for a year, and then they have to go work again, making their college days quite long, but also quite fruitful. And they don’t just sit back, expecting to get some cushy job when graduating (some do), but many of them that talked with me anyway, have a dream to go out and evangelize. That part is quite similar to what i’ve heard before in the southern Philippines, especially with students at Mountain View College, but here, there is absolutely no one who asks me to sponsor them, or tries to make me feel bad i come from a rich country, etc. It is a very nice feeling. One young man talks with me around 15 minutes at nite, very seriously asking me if i really believe that Jesus is coming soon. Yes, i do. But i don’t know when. I have to be ready always, because i may die tomorrow. But i do understand that some things have to happen before Jesus comes, and don’t see how it can be possible that he comes within the next 3 years, for example. The answer didn’t seem to satisfy him….

I go to the SDA Union office in Manado on the back of the motorbike. We see someone who has just weed-chopped a huge snake, and i take a pic to the laughs of all around. The publishing director seems a bit reserved towards us, but after explaining the book and all to him, he seems to thaw a bit. The guard supervisor tells us of the SDA man who does all the printing for the Union office, so we try to contact him, only to find out that he is visiting relatives in the hospital, and cannot meet us. Oh well. It is kind of interesting to know that the Union Mission building used to be a Coca Cola place, then a car dealership, and now, a repository of the truth 🙂 They were busy making a new church attached to the back of the building when i was there. We went out to buy my ticket back to Jakarta, getting wet in the process, and then went to eat gado-gado, as that is about the only vegetarian food most Indonesians can think of. It is quite spicy tho, making my stomach church a lot for the next 24 hours, causing me to skip a few meals. But then i get a bit nauseous again, making me think that maybe the water is to blame. I never really do find the cause, but thank God i don’t actually have to lose what little is in my stomach over it 🙂 After spending some nice time looking out over the bay, and me whacking my head while walking under some bamboo poles put up for a festival or something, we don our helmets and take the 30-minute or so ride back up the hills to their house. A sudden squall makes us take cover for a few minutes, and we get to chat with a couple doing the same thing. It is incredible to see all the churches here, and see them all decked out for Easter celebrations. Churches outnumber mosques by a large margin, and about the only way you can tell there are any Muslims, is by, yes, you guessed it, the waking wails at 5am. I read that about 90% of northern Sulawesi is Christian, making my heart sing! Maybe that explains a bit of the slightly lessened trash by the roads, and the nicer attitude of the taxi drivers. But it might also explain why the women wear much less clothes and much more makeup – sighhhhh.

On Sabbath we walk to church. I understand there are around 50 SDA churches in the greater Manado area. I can believe it. The church we go to is in the middle of enlargement construction, and we have foot washing right in the sanctuary, spilling water everywhere on the cement floor. The music is nice, and the Lord’s Supper is done well for the 150 or so worshippers, but after the service i see where the kids have thrown lots of candy wrappers all over the floor. After potluck we have a kids’ meeting, and at the end i’m asked to give a little talk about the Great Controversy book, as the audience now is mostly adults coming for the sundown worship. It goes well, and the young man who has kind of been my guide says he wants to study the 1858 Great Controversy book with me the next day, to which i happily agree, and look forward to.

Sunday is spent nearly all day with studying the 1858gc with this young man. He is really on-fire, and is excited to be learning these things, especially since some of things are quite different from what’s he’s learned before. He is really poor in this world’s goods, but he seems rich in a heart for God, to know the truth. In the evening we go to his friend’s house, and study with his friend and wife. This friend is already a pastor or studying to become a pastor, i’m not sure, but has a laptop, and is eagerly studying Bible and Spirit of Prophecy on it. Studying chapter 30 with him and his wife is one of the very best studies i’ve ever had with anyone. The spirit is very solemn, very respectful, and very, very earnest. Thank you Lord for guiding me to these souls who are hungering for your words. Please infill them, and make them strong to pass these words to others.

A man comes by who has worked for NGOs for quite a while, and now is planning to open a little village school on one of the islands just off the coast and sees if i am interested in working or helping there in the future.. He tells me the people who live there are staunch Sunday keepers, and have torn down previous buildings built by SDAs there. He says he plans to just have a small school, teaching regular subjects to the kids, and slowly, with wisdom, introduce the Bible truths as the prejudice slowly wears away as a result of their efforts in education and medical missionary work. That sounds like a wise, long-term plan 🙂

The pastor of the big campus church, who is also a lecturer at the university, is introduced to me, and after explaining a bit about myself, he invites me to come talk to two of his classes on the last morning of the day i’m to leave. That is quite magnaminous. I basically give my life testimony, and describe a bit of the 1858 Great Controversy book. The first class has mostly SDAs, and there are some who look very intent, but i’m surprised that even in the second, mostly non-SDA class, that there many seem interested in what is being said. Another lecturer gives the translation for me in the second class, as the pastor himself had already translated the talk given to the first class. A couple of the young men talked with me after the second class, and i spent some time especially with one young man who has done missionary work for a year, then worked for a year, then came to college for a year. He is very interested in being a missionary to Japan. We talk earnestly for around half an hour about his future life direction. What an eager, sincere, young man! And the amazing thing is, nobody there asked for any sponsorship or money! Sound too good to be true? It sure is a nice feeling not to be hounded everywhere you go 🙂

Many of the students brought their laptops to the open-air space under the library, and it was kind of like a science-fiction movie of 30 years ago to see everyone staring at their blue screens, intent on seeing what’s on facebook – ha!

The last few days are spent going from here to there, especially spending quite a bit of time with the family of the 20-ish lady who we had met in the hospital earlier. The mother and brother have been baptized before, but backslidden, but a large part of the reason seems to have dissatisfaction with the way church was being run. Surely pastors have a big responsibility to take care of their little flocks, and still be ambitious to spread the gospel to others. But when they strangle their sheep, that is not good. Anyway, the sister is very open to the SDA truths, but the husband belongs to a Sunday-keeping church, and has showed a bit of hostility to SDAs. When meeting in their home one rainy nite, the sister comes in a bit late, but eagerly joins us, and asks several deep questions, making me realize that she is seriously considering following the truth, wherever it leads. The husband is more reserved when he arrives, but it is already quite late, so we take our leave. My heart sings for joy as i hear that the next Sabbath the mother and brother go to church again after a long absence, and the sister is considering the truth as it is in Jesus too. Lord, please, please look over that little family, and save them all in your kingdom.

Smilingly i tell the young lady who had been in the hospital to eat an apple a day, as that would clear up her problem for sure, and she smilingly replies that the doctor told her nothing like apples at first, but she promised to eat them when the doctor said she could 🙂 That is one very good thing i saw here in Indonesia – many of the people have a nice, humble attitude. I haven’t seen that very much anywhere else except for Sabah Malaysia (sadly not including this year’s visit).

The young man of the house where i’m staying really treats me very well. He is always making sure my physical needs are taken care of, but more than that, he is very interested in studying together, and what is very nice to see, he is excited to take me around to his friends and tell them about Jesus. Normal Indonesian food is pretty spicy and oily and meaty, so he takes care to make sure i can get something. A Padang restaurant brings a hearty laugh to him, as he tells me that the veggies are basically free, as everyone orders meat, and maybe picks up a side of veggies – ha! Sure tastes good while we are eating Indian-style (fingers), getting sloppy. Usually Indonesians use spoons or forks, but i saw very few chopsticks. As in all these SE Asian countries, the main foods are rice, fish or chicken (but with more beef than in most other countries – no pork tho!) and some little vegetable. I’m told a funny story about unscrupulous business men who mixed cheap wild boar meat in with their beef and sell it to the people. Of course if they find out it is pork, they will kill the seller, so it is risky business!

He picks up a few friends one Sabbath, and we drive over to Bekasi, a suburb east of Jakarta. Around 80 people or so gather in the old church building, which is a bit of a rarity in Indonesia, as it is difficult for a church to get permission to build, as the neighbors must all agree to it. So, as in Malaysia, of the few dedicated-church buildings (as opposed to rented shop space), nearly all, or perhaps ALL of them were built under colonial rule. So glad for at least the little bit of light that was allowed to shine under the foreign rule, or else these countries would have stayed in permanent darkness (it seems in my worldly wisdom). Actually, quite a few of the Christians of these countries are very thankful for the previous colonial rule, realizing that spiritual freedom is even more important than political freedom. Anyway, i preach about the certainty of prophecy, and my friend does the translation, giving much better articulation and gestulation than i do 🙂 The hilight tho, is that in the afternoon they give me time to do a study of the 1858gc book, and i’m encouraged to see around 1/2 the church stay behind for the study! There are 2 or 3 people who question the book a bit, and the last one i answer perhaps a bit sharply, causing me to apologize after the study. I find that he really does believe in Ellen White, but just wanted to ask that question as he knows some others in the church who feel that way, and wanted to get my public answer. Probably failed in that – sorry. He harbors no resentment (an elder), and, in fact, calls the place where i’m staying a few days later and asks if i can come and either speak or study with them again – thank you Lord!! Maybe the Holy Spirit impressed the right answer on their hearts anyway?

The last nite of my stay, a call was sent out to the church members and the family of the young lady to meet at our house for a “last” study. It was gratifying to see around 14 people attend, and as there are some non-SDAs present, i keep it “Sola Scriptura”. I try impress on the people’s hearts how Jesus’ coming is very sure, and very soon, and how we need to be ready now, confessing and forsaking every sin while Jesus is currently in the Most Holy Place, as he is leaving soon. At the end i ask if anyone has questions/comments, and the retired pastor starts to speak, and i cut him off as i know that he is going to go off-topic, and turn the minds of the people away from the message just presented. The group rapidly disperses to eat and chat and get ready to leave after the prayer, but the retired pastor talks with me something that, sure enough, is totally unrelated to what we’ve just talked about. After everyone has left, the young man of the house has a good laugh, saying that i did not give opportunity for the retired pastor to show everyone how smart he is. I can’t help but laugh too — a sad laugh. Here’s a man who has shephered the flock for many years, and is the last few years of his life, and he is still trying to score points with people to show them how erudite he is, when the effect is opposite of that intended. It is a good lesson for me tho.

There have been several incidents at this house which make me know for certain that God led me here, and worked on their hearts while i was here. I’m so thankful for this wonderful opportunity to stay with them, and hope and pray i was of some benefit. I’ve stayed with quite a few people in my travels, and after my long stay with the family in Thailand, i feel like God has used me here more than just about anywhere. Looking back as i write this 4 months after the fact, i’m still amazed at how i went from not knowing anyone, to having one of the most powerful experiences of my whole 5-year trip right at the tail end. After seeming failures everywhere for around a year (yes, i know that some good was accomplished in India, but not in the way i had intended), it was very, very nice to have a super-fruitful, productive time lifting up Jesus to people, showing them the narrow way, and putting fire back in the bones of the complacent.

Lord, your blessings renew each day, and satisfy me more than all the money in the world could ever do. Please watch over the little flock in Indonesia, keep them humble, and may they be able to break away from the attractions of this world. May they always, always keep their eyes, their hearts, their words – focused on you. You are all we need. Please may your words you gave your prophet be translated faithfully, and the people in Indonesia get these precious words and become fortified to give the Three Angels’ Messages to the great country of Indonesia. I want to see them in heaven, forever, is my prayer. Amen.

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