Archive for the ‘Indonesia’ Category


Sunday, November 29th, 2015


We spent a short 24 hours in Jakarta on our way home. Our friend Wietje had come to Goshen in the late 1990s when her children were attending Goshen College. She lived here for 8 years before she was forced to leave. We have maintained contact with her – and her children – since then. We even visited her in 2009 when she lived in China for a few years with her daughter and family. She and her daughter and family have moved to Jakarta.

Jakarta is a huge bustling capital city of about 10 million. There is a large mix of cultures, of architecture, of rich and poor, and much history.

We stayed in a small apartment on the 32nd floor of a high rise. Wietje and family live in another building of the same complex. We didn’t have time to see much of the city. Wietje took us to several malls. (Shopping/visiting in malls seems to be a favorite pastime for many Indonesians!) The malls were getting ready for Christmas.

Our last lunch was at a seafood restaurant on the ocean. We could choose whatever seafood we wanted—still swimming or on ice—and then have it cooked in whatever way we chose. It was a great feast!


Friday, November 27th, 2015

Spending six days in Papua was a wonderful way to conclude our 2 ½ months in Indonesia. We were even able to stay in the same apartment where we had lived in 2005-06. It was so familiar. During our time we were able to meet many of our Papuan friends, visit familiar places, make new friends, and visit new places.

sunset over lake

sunset over lake

We spent our first afternoon taking a boat ride on Lake Sentani and then eating supper in our favorite fish restaurant on the edge of the lake. The weather was perfect with bright blue skies and a lovely sunset.

When we were in Papua in 2005-06, Sally Jo helped a local NGO create a small community library in a home. (This NGO was created by Albertino, a former MCC IVEPer who spent his year in Goshen.) She taught a group of volunteers how to create an inventory on the computer, how to classify books simply, and how to have a simple check-out system. This small library has grown and now has two branches in other neighborhoods. We visited one of the libraries. It is gratifying to hear of the excitement of children wanting to read. The volunteers are excited to have and run the library. They are open every Saturday afternoon from 2-5. One Saturday a month they do various activities with the children—reading to them, crafting, drawing, playing games, and just free time to read. They said they often need to tell the children they must leave at 5 before it gets dark.

While visiting the library we also met two Global Family children. The children receive MCC support to attend school.

We spent most of one day with an MCC SALTer (one-year exchange volunteer) at an organization that works with women. They teach women to read, to create crafts, to sew, etc. Another day we visited the work place of another MCC SALTer. He works with an organization that supports persons with HIV/AIDS. He spends most mornings at a hospital where people come for testing and medicines. Many AIDS patients also develop TB; thus, the nose and mouth mask. In the afternoon he works at the NGO’s office which we also visited. We saw the bag of food (provided with MCC money) given to needy patients once a month.



In 2005-06 we became friends with two young university women who were studying English. We have kept in contact and were able to meet with one of them (Diana). Since 2006 she has gained her Masters in Australia and returned to Papua to work. Currently, she is working with two others running programs in primary schools. One month they focused on books doing many activities. She said that at one point she was a bit frustrated with one boy who was having difficulty with reading. However, on the last day of the program, the boy’s father attended and she saw how the boy was teaching his father to read! Another month they focused on the environment, especially cleaning up beaches. The children, parents, and teachers are enthusiastic with their activities. It was so good to hear her philosophy. She said that so many people just complain about the government but don’t do anything. She said they want to focus on ways they can improve Papuans’ life—not complain.

We spent time with two MCC service workers who teach at a seminary. We attended an extra-curricular English conversation class which one of them holds. We sat and talked and ate with them.

On our final day the Papuan MCC team (4 persons) and we hired a taxi and then a boat and spent the day at a beach by the ocean. Fun was had by all!


Saturday, November 14th, 2015


There have been a number of photos we took which did not seem to warrant a separate blog or didn’t fit a blog or didn’t get on Facebook. These are a variety of memories.

Besides the number of small shops along the streets, there are several large “department stores.”

We’ve attended various churches. The GKMI church in Salatiga has been closely associated with MCC for many years. This is the one we attended the most often. One Sunday we drove about 20 minutes to a Catholic monastery outside Salatiga and located higher up in the hills. The service was packed (I didn’t take photos). The grounds are lovely. And after the service they sell kefir which they make and is very good!

One day we went along to Yogya to collect furniture of a former MCCer. We were amazed at the men just lifting the motor cycle on to the truck. In the previous blog we had photos of the organization of the storage rooms back at the office when we brought back these household items. During the last week the gardener cleaned out all the brush from the back courtyard of the office.  I had forgotten how pretty it can be.

Another day a young man was hired to cut most of the branches from a tree outside our office window. The gardener had recently found a man in that tree pretending to look for birds but mostly likely was looking for a way on to the roof and in to our building. The man who cut the tree used only a panga to hack off the limbs – some up to a foot in diameter!

Just a number of photos along the roadside as we traveled to various places.

We have had photos of the two dogs that live at this house. It has been a learning experience in taking care of them. In the process, Sally Jo discovered she is allergic to the hair and broke out in hives. (The one dog, especially, liked to sleep on the furniture.) So she had a sheet that she always put down on the chairs before sitting. After a few weeks, we came home one day to find that the house help had arranged the furniture so that the dogs would not sleep on the cushions! Later on, Ibu Wasti washed all the cushion covers and put all the cushions in another room so that every time we wanted to sit down, we had to get the cushions. She was very helpful!

We had a photo of a cockroach in our last blog. However, we also saw small chameleons and other lizards. The smaller ones which lived in the house were too fast to get a photo. They are considered helpful in that they eat mosquitoes.

One day we attended a youth conference in Solo organized by one of MCC’s partners. It brought together 100 young people from various parts of Indonesia for three days to learn about interfaith peacemaking. There were young people from Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, and Hindu faiths. It was exciting to see their enthusiasm.

We mentioned once that we stepped in and “taught” an English class at the local university for one of the MCCers who was ill. It was fun.

Just some miscellaneous photos of MCC team members. Brooklyn, 1½ yr, came trick-or-treating. One of the YALTers is in to acro yoga and taught some others. Zachary is the newest member of the MCC team. Here he is at less than 2 days old!


And then we always have photos of food! The food is good and relatively cheap. Our simple lunches were usually under $2.00. Our good meal of grilled fish, vegetables, rice, and lemonade cost less than $7.00 for the two of us!

Ordinary day

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

What does an ordinary day look like for us here in Salatiga? That’s a little hard to say because two days are seldom alike. However, putting together happenings of several days may give you a flavor of what we experience.

looking towards street

looking towards street

We may wake up to the 4:00 a.m. Islam call to prayer. The closest mosque is almost “in our front yard” and there are two others within 5 blocks of us. Lately, we actually sleep through that but wake up to hear the ringing of the food cart which is brought along the street about 5:15 a.m. By the way, our bedroom is very close to the street and we keep the windows open for cool air. (The photo looking toward the street is not taken in early morning, but you can see how close the mosque is! It is the red roof with white cupola.)



After our morning tea, 3 or 4 days a week we take the two dogs for a half hour walk. It’s a nice cool time of day. We have a defined route we take which takes us through small streets and through some rice paddies. The dogs are always on the lookout for cats and chickens of which there are plenty of both on the walk. They come back to the house, tired and flop on the floor.

snack break

snack break

We clean up (watching for cockroaches in the shower), eat breakfast, talk a bit with our house-help who arrives about 8:30 and then walk to the office. It’s about a 15-minute walk—uphill to the office and downhill coming home. Schools start at 7:00 in the morning, so that when we walk by at 9:00, the kids are on morning break. They gather around the food carts buying various foods. A couple of the vendors are beginning to know us. They comment if we are late or if only one of us is walking. We pass a large open field where many different kinds of activities take place. School children have their P.E classes there, concerts are held, people walk the track for exercise, public celebrations are held, and many activities we don’t know about. There are food carts around the edge. (The photos showing our walk are in order as we go to the office.  However, we are sure it doesn’t matter to anyone else but us!)



The day is usually spent in the office. However, often unexpected things arise:
– We may get word that MCC has a new recruit. Can we contact the organization to see about suitability. (We have placed two new workers since we are here.)
– We learn that a service worker (and family) is not feeling well. (Twice we’ve had someone need to go to the hospital 1 -2 hours away.)
– We learn of the sudden death of the father of a future IVEPer. Someone needs to attend the funeral 4 hours away.
– MCC Akron writes that they need some documents immediately.
– We learn that a service worker’s visa will not be extended after December unless government gives special approval. This requires meetings with the organization.
– The electricity suddenly goes off which means our laptops won’t last long because of small battery and those with desktops also won’t work. (This happened only once—and we all went home!)
But we also have happenings that are planned:
– Meetings are  scheduled– in town or out of town
– We helped moved furniture from the home of service worker who left.
– We organized the storage rooms at the office.
– Sally Jo weeded and then inventoried the library.



We usually come home for lunch. That’s a half hour walk in the heat of the day. When we return to the office we need to spend time cooling down! A couple of days a week we do stay in town for lunch. We usually go to a small “warung” for gado-gado or nasi goreng.

When we return home at end of the day, we have our afternoon tea on our front porch. The dogs know that when we have tea, we also have good things to eat and hope for a bite! The dogs enjoy watching activities on the street—and always are on the lookout for cats! Our evenings are relaxation time—either reading, writing, or playing games.

We have very good house-help. She loves to cook and is very good. She does both American and Indonesian foods. We have eaten well here.


Sunday, November 1st, 2015
Joice and parents

Joice and parents

Joice is a GC alum. When she was in Goshen she was at our house many times. She now lives in Semarang and we wanted to spend some time with her. We had a good lunch with her and her parents. They then showed us some of the sites of Semarang.

Semarang is on the north coast of Java about 1½ hour from Salatiga. It is the 6th largest city in Indonesia with about 2 million population. It was an important port during the Dutch colonial period and still is today. The Dutch took over the city in the late 1600s and were there until the Japanese occupied it 1942-1945. We stopped by the beach to view the sea.

Blenduk Church

Blenduk Church

The Immanuel Protestant Church of Western Indonesia  (Gereja Protestan Indonesia Barat Immanuel), better known as Blenduk Church was built in 1753; it is the oldest church in the province. The church has a large copper dome from which it gets its name “Blenduk”, the Javanese word for “dome.” Inside there is still a large pipe organ, though it no longer works. There is a spiral staircase which leads to the second floor.

Lawang Sewu was built as the headquarters of the Dutch East Indies Railway Company.  The name Lawang Sewu is Javanese and means “Thousand Doors”. The name comes from its design, with numerous doors and arcs. The building has about 600 large windows. The building was completed in 1907. When the Japanese took over Indonesia, they used the basement as a prison and execution area.

Sam Poo Kong is the oldest Chinese temple in Semarang.  Originally established by the Chinese Muslim explorer Zheng He in the early 1400s, it is now shared by Indonesians of multiple religious denominations, including Muslims and Buddhists.

Great Mosque

Great Mosque

The Great Mosque of Central Java was completed in 2006. There are three central buildings arranged in the shape of a U, with the domed mosque at the centre; all buildings have pitched, tiled roofs, while the central mosque has four minarets. The central roof resembles the roof of a “joglo”, the traditional Javanese house, and symbolizes the rising steps toward heaven or to gain God’s blessing. The long buildings forming the arms of the U house a library and auditorium. In the central courtyard are six large hydraulically operated umbrellas, inspired by the ones in Medina, which are used to protect worshipers; the six umbrellas represent the six tenets of Islam theology. At the open end of the U is a series of Arabic-style arches standing on 25 pillars, each representing one of the named prophets in Islam. Beyond the arches is an inscription on a 3.2-metre (10 ft) tall, 7.8 ton stone from Mount Merapi. Nearby is the 99-metre tall tower, designed to resemble the minaret of a mosque in Kudus and used to call Muslims to prayer. The whole complex is difficult to capture in photos. Photos on the web give a fairer view of the magnificent area!

In Semarang’s Chinatown Tay Kak Sie is another old Chinese temple. It was established in 1746 and accommodates worshippers from three religions: Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.

One last place we visited is the world’s largest Anabaptist church. It was completed in 2006 and holds 12,000 people. It will be the site of the Mennonite World Conference in 2021.

YALTers (and Pati)

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

YAMEN = Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network
SALT = Serving and Learning Together

Both programs are for young people ages 18-30. YAMEN is a joint program of MCC and Mennonite World Conference and exchanges are outside of U.S. and Canada. SALT is a program of MCC and involves exchanges between U.S./Canada and another country.

YALTers & MCCers

YALTers & MCCers

This year there are eight YALTers here in Indonesia from Uganda, Laos, Kenya, India, Canada, and US (3). They just finished six weeks language learning and cultural orientation here in Salatiga. We were not involved in the actual programming; we were just friends with them. We climbed Andong with them (described in an earlier blog), talked with them when they hung out at the office, and had lunch with them every Friday when all MCC staff ate together. During their last week in Salatiga we also helped host an International Supper with all MCC staff when everyone prepared food from their respective countries. It was delicious.

Saturday (Oct 17) we delivered three of the YALTers to their new assignments where they will live and work for the next nine months. It was a long day but enjoyable. The areas we went to are near the Muria Mountains which is the area of the first Indonesian Mennonites.

loading first bike

loading first bike

We left the house at 6:45 am, picked up the YALTers, helping them say good-by to the Salatiga families and loading their bikes and luggage. We dropped Sheria (from Uganda) in Demak meeting her new host family. The next stop was Kudus where we left Samanta (from India). They served us lunch at 11. Then on to Puncel, a very small village 2 hours from Kudus. Panya (from Laos) will be working there. As we got out of the car in Puncel the host father came “bouncing” out of the house and said we had hosted him in Goshen! (In 2006 there was a group of Indonesian pastors on a tour in the U.S. They visited Goshen and we hosted them for a meal. He even had the photo to prove it!) What an amazing coincidence! Panya had had a birthday just 3 days prior and they had a traditional Javanese birthday celebration. So we had another lunch at 2:30! And unloaded the last of three bikes.

By 3:15 we were able to leave and drove 2 hours to Pati where we planned to meet some friends. Paul and Meiske are the parents of Martin (who lives in Goshen) and Nathan (who we had learned to know quite well when he attended Goshen College.) Nathan now lives in Surabaya, a 6-hour drive, but came to see us. Paul and Meiske asked us to speak at their church service at 6:00 pm. So after driving all day, Ron gave a short talk. We then had supper – ikan bakar (grilled fish) at a small restaurant! What a lot of eating!

Sunday we went to the 6:30 am church service, had brunch with our friends, and were able to leave about 11. We decided to take little roads back to Salatiga so it took longer but the smaller villages were much more interesting.



Monday we had a wonderful R & R at a local resort. For a total of $30 we each got a one-hour massage, drink, snack, lunch, and use of the sauna, whirlpool and swimming pool.





Yogyakarta Weekend

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

We first lived in Indonesia in Yogyakarta (Yogya) in 2001 when we led a group of Goshen College students on SST. Since that time we have kept in contact with two members of the Indonesia team that helped us then. We were quite excited to be able to combine visiting our friends and meeting a current MCCer during a recent weekend in Yogya.

special speaker at UGM

special speaker at UGM

Greg lectures at Gadja Mada University in the graduate program of the CRCS, Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies. The CRCS had a special two-day program celebrating its 15 years. We were able to attend the end of a major lecture by a notable Muslim scholar from Bangkok, Thailand. We talked with him afterwards and learned that he knows the Mennonites very well and has been a lecturer at the Summer Peace Institute at EMU. We attended a seminar led by alumni of the program. We met a number of Greg’s co-workers as well as many of his students. We were amazed at how many connections we could make via MCC.

The next day we visited University of Duta Wacana and met our friends from SST days. The “team” from the language department has changed but we met both new and old team members as well as the Rektor of the University. We had a wonderful time reminiscing and learning about their new programs.

kami berdua

kami berdua

The following afternoon one of our friends took us to Ganjuran Church, Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Roman Catholic Church located about 20 km from Yogya. This was a fascinating church with its integration of Javanese culture and Christianity. The church itself is built as a large joglo, a traditional Javanese house. It is a large building with columns and without walls. The roof forms a pyramid-like structure and is said to mimic a mountain. There are many traditional Javanese carvings. The angels at the altar are dressed as wayang characters. (Wayang is a traditional dance using themes from the Ramayana story.)

The original church was built in 1927 and then rebuilt in 2006 when the original was destroyed by the earthquake. Beside the church is a tall Hindu-type temple called a “candi.” There are spigots where one can take “holy” water and then pray at the candi. Around the courtyard are the Stations of the Cross with reliefs in classic Hindu/Javanese design.

pastor and husband

pastor and husband

Sunday we attended the GKMI (Mennonite) church where we had also worshipped in 2001. The pastor was an Indonesian woman whose ordination in 2008 we had attended. She and her husband studied at AMBS (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminaries) and know our friends in Goshen/Elkhart. We also were able to reconnect with a former MCC staff member who we had not seen since 2006.

We ended our time in Yogya with Sunday lunch with our two very good friends from SST days. Their children are growing and are a joy to be with.

What a wonderful weekend of memories and connections!


Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Reog is a traditional dance, originating in East Java. There are several versions of the story, its origins, and the type of dance. The dance which we saw featured physical strength and invoked magical spirits through trances.



One version of the story says that a king had a beautiful daughter who he wished to be married. After consultations with the gods, the daughter said she would only marry a man who could present an exciting dance performance that had never before been performed and with gamelan music. There should be 144 twin horses and in the end he should be able to present her father with a two-headed beast. There is much more to the story but this is more-or-less the part that we saw.

We were invited to a small village about ½-hour motor bike ride from our house. We saw the dance performed three times by varying degrees of experience. Unfortunately, when the more experienced, and probably better, performers began, we had already been there 5 hours—much of the time standing in the sun so were tired and ready to leave. The performance seemed to be a part of a “county fair” event. It was held in a large open area with a lot of food stalls, “fair- type” games for children, souvenir stands, etc. A large area was roped off in which the dance took place.

forming a circle

forming a circle

Six dancers with six large wooden horses did battle with one another. The dance included a lot of Javanese dance footwork. At one point, they all came into a circle and came out in a trance. Toward the end, the “head” spiritual man enticed them with water and flowers. Eventually they fell down and passed out. At some points in the trance, the dancers acted like horses, drinking water out of a tub and eating food like a horse. It was all fascinating—and a bit unreal.

When we were ready to leave our hosts thought we should have a number of photos taken—with the horses and with some of the dancers. We should note that the people we were with knew almost no English so most of what we learned was through our limited Bahasa Indonesia (and the web)!

Idul Adha

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Eid al-Adha (or Idul Adha as known in Indonesia) is the second of two religious holidays celebrated by Muslims worldwide each year.  The first is Eid al-Fitri (Idul Fitri) which celebrates the end of the month of Ramadan (fasting). Idul Adha celebrates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son, Ishmael. The meat from the sacrificed animal is usually divided into three parts. The family retains one third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbors; and the remaining third is given to the poor and needy.

For us, the celebration started the evening before with a parade of children on the street in front of our house. The parade was led by children chanting and carrying home-made objects on poles. Then came a band with drums and homemade marimbas. It continued the entire night with prayers, chanting, and drumming from the local mosque, broadcast through the loudspeaker. The mosque is just across the street from our bedroom! We sleep with our windows open for fresh, cool air. (Not much sleeping that night.)

For the celebration we were hosted/escorted to a small village mosque/school by a young Indonesian family. We witnessed the prayerful sacrifice of many male sheep, goats and cattle. It was not easy to watch for us. Even our female host cringed as we heard the baleful cries of the sheep.

It was fascinating to see how well organized the process was. There were men who brought the animal to the area and announced the family who was donating. There were others then who tied the animal and brought it to the exact spot where it would be sacrificed. We’re not sure, but it seemed as though these men needed to calm the animal and make it “willing” to be sacrificed. The Imam and some others prayed over the animal and then cut its throat. Another group of men carried the body to an open area and hung it up. Another group of men then skinned and cleaned it. And still more men cut it in chunks to be divided among the various groups of people.

We ended our time with this friendly family and a small meal at their house.

Returning “home”

Saturday, September 19th, 2015
where we are

where we are

It’s been 7 years since we last left Indonesia. Many things feel the same but, of course, changes have happened.

MCC Indonesia team

MCC Indonesia team

We arrived in Salatiga and immediately jumped into the life of MCC. We went with the others to Saleh Putih which is a “resort”, a short distance up the mountain, not far from town for 3 days of team meetings. It was a good way to meet and learn to know new MCCers and to reconnect with those we knew from previous times. There are 8 MCC staff in the office here. Three of the national staff we have known since 2005. One of those we learned to know when she was an IVEPer and came to the States. Also here now are 8 YALTers*—4 from North America and 4 from other countries (Laos, Kenya, Uganda, and India). Of course, we knew the one from Laos since we had just been there 2 months ago and had been a part of his preparation to come. We discovered the one from Uganda lived not far from the MCC office in Kampala and we are sure we must have crossed paths during our 15 months in Uganda 4 years ago!

we made it

we made it

Team meetings are a time for mostly learning on a chosen topic with some time just for relaxation. The meetings ended with an optional afternoon climb up Gunung Andong, a 4800 foot nearby mountain. We had been up twice before in 2008. It was hard work but great fun. The “young” YALTers were even tired. We ended the day at an Indonesian home for supper.

As an aside, when we flew out of O’Hare airport we watched as an American Airline pilot flew his last flight before retirement. The tradition is that the airplane goes through a shower of water as it leaves the terminal. It was fun to see.

*YALT = YAMEN + SALT. Two MCC 1-year programs for young people.