Amazing Indonesia trip! (Next blog--Japan!)
Friday, November 8, 2013Wow, what a trip to Indonesia and Tokyo! Here is a brief blog about our time in Indo and a few photos. Next blog...the time we spent in Tokyo (too much to put in one entry!)
From the moment we entered the arrival area of the Jakarta airport, Jan (pronounced "Yon"--Dutch Indonesian name) Sutandjati, children's pastor and organizer of Indofest made sure we would feel welcomed and enjoy our quick slice of Indonesia. The people are so warm and friendly, the sites and sounds are amazing and the food was bountiful and yummy!! We left part of our hearts there, and brought home a few pounds under our snugger belts, to be sure.
Padang food...spicy and yummy. I didn't eat the pigeons though. They looked too much like little friends!
Jakarta is a busy, bustling place. It's every man/woman for him/herself on the busy streets, where countless road bikes, cars and pedestrians all vie for position in the thick traffic, but surprisingly without the roadrage we see here in California! People walk out in the middle of traffic to stop oncoming traffic and help you through (expecting a well-deserved tip, after they've risked their lives), and help guide you into rare parking places in front of busy storefronts. I instantly loved the craziness of the Jakarta traffic....partly because I wasn't behind the wheel, but also because that's just the way it is there!
You see it all in Jakarta--from women in full burkas to people in Western dress; three people, a dog and the day's wares all on piled on a road bike (everyone on those bikes dutifully wearing a helmet, I might add); people laughing and eating and selling from little stands and storefronts. You'll see ramshackle storefronts on one part of the street, then two blocks down see beautiful relics of the Dutch era as well as classic Indo architecture. As you get closer to downtown, the median areas are well manicured and remind me horticulturally of Hawaii. You pass under modern downtown pedestrian bridges (with banners advertising things like McDonald's McFreezes--do we have those in the USA?), and see beautiful sculptures, fountains and high-rises that rival any here in the US. I hear the economy is growing in Indonesia--that doesnt' surprise me. Even though it was a brain teaser to translate rupia into dollars (approx. 11,500 rupia to the dollar), there was plenty of shopping to do in beautiful malls as well as Mom and Pop shops. I hear that big things are ahead for Indonesia on the world economic front.
Indonesia is about 90% Muslim, so there are mosques everywhere, and you hear morning and afternoon prayers blaring on loud speakers all over town. The photo of the green and white tower above is a mosque directly across from our hotel. We were invited by Jan and his large Christian church to be one of several guest presenters at a children's leaders conference they put on called Indofest 2013. People came by planes and boats and cars from all over the various Indonesian Islands to worship, fellowship, and be encouraged and instructed in the areas of puppetry and creative arts in communicating God's incredible love to children. It was SO much fun to meet these folks!
Team Indofest; Jan Sutandjati upper row, doing the "thumbs up." Amazing people!!!
Teaching workshops at Indofest. What amazing leaders these are for the kids of Indonesia!!
Jan and two staffers (always feeding us!) back stage. Feeling the love of the Lord after a workshop. Attendees even brought families by to say hello (here with Melani, Kaylee and Kennard, my new friends!)
The music/tech people were GREAT to work with! Ron and soundman, Handri.
The amazing band (minus a couple of guys) and their beloved children. Amazing players; great people!!
The people we met were all so warm and welcoming, genuine and humble...and shockingly familiar with our music! What a humbling, awesome thing to be part of!! God has put these songs into my head and hands, He has given Ron the creativity and talent and to produce them, He has connected us with great kids and leadership to produce DVDs, and by His grace, creativity and providence, people have heard this music (and seen clips on YouTube) all over the place, including Indonesia. I cannot express how blessed Ron and I are to be an encouragement and blessing to these instant friends and family on the other side of the globe!!!! My heart is gonna burst!
By the way, good friends and fellowship always includes good coffee (right?), and Indonesia is no exception. Though I'm primarily a black coffee drinker, and that was good there, I came home with a pile of these packets which the girls and I have been loving--Indocafe!!!
The final celebration at the end of Indofest was a concert featuring several of the puppeteers, actors, and ventriloquists who had presented at the conference, and a concert by me. Jan and his team had been planning this for months and months. There were 35 kids who diligently learned and practiced my motions (the "Shine the Light" team).
(Some smiling kids on the Shine the Light team rehearsing; great ladies who planned the concert--Rita, Jan's wife Aleen, and my right hand girl, Sanny, who organized the concert--sorry this is such a pathetic photo. I really need to get a phone that takes good photos!).
The band, Ron and I rehearsed a couple of times while there. Over 2000 tickets to the evening event were sold. I was beyond excited to do my very best to bless these people with the best concert I could give. But by the third day there, I felt my throat, which was sore when I left CA, clamping down. By the morning of the last day of the conference, I knew I was in trouble. Many were hoping and praying for a miracle, but it was clear that the miracle was going to be how the Lord would work in spite of my having no voice. And that He did!! He is good! Or as they say in Indo, "Ya Tuhan baik!" (God is so good)! I did have to lip sync at the concert, but there was still enormous excitement as the band played along (SUCH great guys) and the Shine the Light kids joined me on stage. (By the way, I am awaiting many more photos and clips from Jan's team. I'll post them later).
One little girl named Joanna sang "God of Love" all by herself and killed it!!! What a blessing! (photo below)
Other kids came up and sang parts of "Day by Day," which also was both touching and hilarious (one little guy was yelling the song until put the microphone up to him, and then he backed away in fear. It was adorable.). After the concert Ron and I had one hour until we had to leave for Tokyo, so I hugged, kissed and snapped photos with hundreds of families as quickly as I could, with the help of the team. In order to get to everyone in that queue, it was actually a blessing to be nearly mute with laryngitis.
(This is a Ai May Ong and her family).
God IS good. He is strong when we are weak. I LOVE watching Him at work. The fact that I couldn't sing was very humbling and hard for me, but it was a joy to surrender to the Lord and just watch Him work. One good thing--Jan announced from the stage that Ron and I would be coming back next year, and I croaked, "Yes, and then I'll be able to SING for you!!"
There were so many other blessings during our Indo visit. One is a new friend name is Ari (Suzanne), a native of Indonesia, highly trained in teaching and a heart of gold! She has been translating and sharing our music with children in Indonesia (including in poverty-stricken areas) for years. My friend here in California, Rehana Amrull Rodriguez (Indonesian) connected me with Ari. Ari, her husband, her sister and their daughters patiently waited for me in the lobby of our hotel one evening (rehearsal went WAY long) to take me out to dinner (Ron was exhausted, but I brought him home some amazing Teriaki!). What a JOY to finally meet them and hear their stories in person!
The little girl at the far right is named Ayra...a nickname for "Alayra," which her dad Deded (Ari's brother-in law, next to me in the photo) says means "always cheerful." Wow. Deded and the family shocked me during the concert by presenting to ma a beautiful framed piece Deded made himself to thank Ron and me for all the joy we have brought to their family.
Another spontaneous thrill was meeting Jan's sister in law Pipi, who runs three Christian preschools in the area. She is a hero! I asked if I could go visit the schools, and she worked it out immediately for me to not only see her precious schools in action, but also jump in and sing with them. The kids knew many of my songs backwards and forwards. I thought my heart would BURST when I heard them sing! The kids were in uniforms at the first ISMILE school (this stands for something..International School of something.....I'll find out), and at the second ISMILE school (held in a corner of a very upscale shopping mall), it was pajama day!
Following the little visit at the second school, Pipi (on left in the above photo) and Julie (on the right) treated me to a delicious Chinese meal. Note the dumplings....YUM!!!! By the way, Julie was our driver to a number of places and she is fearless! As I mentioned, driving the streets of Jakarta is not for the weak-kneed! Thank you, Julie! Both of these ladies are now so dear to my heart. Its incredible to feel that bond in the Lord. I miss them....good thing we have next year to look forward to, and GREAT that we have eternity together!!!
Ron and I are beyond excited to return next year (that IS the plan!), if the Lord wills. These dear friendships that formed will pick up right where they left off. The band and I will pick up musically right where we left off. The kids I got to meet will have grown, but we will also pick up right where we left off and have an awesome time singing for the King together. Hopefully we will also get to go experience more of Indonesia. We have a Compassion child on an Island further to the East who we would love to go visit. Who knows....its in His hands, as are all of our lives. So, stay tuned....
(next week, I'll add a blog about Tokyo. A completely different place and experience, but some things are the same all over the world....like friendships, faith, food....)
Tuhan memberkati! (God bless!)