All photos and text are property of Dave Forney and may not be used without express permission.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wedding Reception

A few weeks ago one of our Indonesian friends got married. Weddings here are usually fairly low-key affairs, with only a few people attending.  Not so the receptions.  The receptions vary widely depending on the financial status of the families, but one thing you can always count on--tons of people, lots of food, many people, loud music, countless people, bright colors, and a LOT of people!  

They (the receptions) all tend to follow a pretty standard routine.  First you arrive and wait in a long line that slowly works it's way inside the building (in this case a church) or tarp-covered structure.  While you're visiting with the strangers in the line, the bride and groom are usually being photographed and videoed.

This little guy was mesmerized by the lights of the cameras and the colors of the wedding reception.

The reason for the slow line is the bottle-neck at the food tables.  That's step two--fill your plate heaping full of yummy food.  They always have a ton of local food favorites.  Then, you go find a seat (if there are any left) and you eat.

Usually, while you're sitting there you start seeing a bunch of people you know.  So the next step is to chat it up with all your friends.  In this case we ran into our house helper, Abi (second from right), her sister, Orpa, (beside Joy) and our neighbor's helper, Nona, (far right). Of course, seeing my camera they requested a photo, knowing that I'll print it off later and give it to them.

You have to eat and visit pretty fast because it's like a never-ending tide of people coming in...if you don't keep moving you feel like you're going to get run over and smooshed.  So after scarfing down the food you get up and make your way up towards the front to the greeting lines.  You quite literally have to push and bump your way through, because it's just a mass of people--but that's normal and expected.

You make your way up one side and across the front and down the other, greeting the groom's entire family, and the bride and groom themselves, and the bride's entire family.  Along the way you pass a big jar (actually a ceramic vase type thing) where you drop in an envelope with a monetary gift.

As westerners, there's usually an extra step for us when we get up front and center.  They always want us to stop and pose with the bride and groom so they can get photos and video.  It used to make us feel very awkward but we've gotten used to it buy now.  Ana is the helper of another MAF family and a very good friend of Abi.  Joy has also gotten to know her quite well over the past few years since she often hangs out at our house with Abi.

And that's it.  After you're finished greeting everyone and dropping your money envelope, you just take off and head home.  Quick and simple, that's how they role here.  Good times!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Waterfall Trek (2 of 2)

And here it is!  It might not look initially all that impressive.  But look closer.  About a third of the way up the picture, to the left of the waterfall you can see a group of people standing on the ledge.  That starts to give you a better perspective of the size and height of this thing!

Aren't my two ladies gorgeous!  Who says you can't be beautiful AND adventurous at the same time!

And here you get an even better perspective of the size of the falls.   Check out the people to the left!

Everything was covered with moss and grass.  It was really unlike anything else I've seen in the jungle.  From up above, where I'm taking this picture, there was just a very light mist in the air.  However, as soon as you started to descend into the bowl it increased in intensity.  Since the waterfall pounds down into a bowl that's surrounded on almost all sides by very steep walls, it generates it's own crazy winds and "weather".  It's almost like a waterfall into a giant sink hole!

By the time you get about half way down you're starting to get drenched.  The wind is fierce.  It was so surreal, b/c the sun was blazing hot up above, but the water from the falls was pounding down with such intensity that it was generating a continual wind and sideways rain that was very cold.  At times it felt like it was going to knock us right off our feet.

As we hiked around the rim to get behind the main waterfall, we had to pass several of the smaller falls that come out of the sides of the cliffs, some that are 20 or 30 feet tall.

It was a weird feeling going back behind the big falls, because the walls of the bowl that surrounded it were actually leaning pretty far out over our heads, and went what seemed like several hundred feet up at an inverted angle.  And like I said, everything was very wet, and muddy and loud and windy.

After we achieved our goal of standing behind the falls, we slowly made our way back around and then down to the "pool" at the bottom, where the three older kids tried to swim for a few minutes before getting too cold.  The wind was fierce down there, and it was hard to breath without swallowing lots of mist and water in the air and choking a bit on it.

We all agreed that this was one of the most beautiful and amazing things we've seen in God's awesome creation...and we've seen a lot of neat things!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Waterfall Trek (1 of 2)

Many times I've flown over this waterfall on my way into or out of Long Sule.  While we were in Long Sule, our friends there offered to take us to the waterfall.  It's only about a minute by air from the airstrip, but it takes about an hour and a half to get there by land and river.  It was quite an adventure! 

First we had to pile into motorized canoes for a rapid-filled ride up river.  We brought a bunch of gasoline with us from Tarakan so that they wouldn't have to use their own, because it's very expensive there!

Since we brought extra gas, and since this was such an unusual opportunity for folks in the village, we had many, many people who escorted us.  In the end I counted about 85 people total!  Again, it was humbling the effort that they went to ahead of time to make this a special memory.  Guys had gone ahead the day before and cleared the trail.  Then, earlier that morning they went up to the spot where the hiking trail left the river and they caught a bunch of fish.  By the time we got there they had a fire going and coffee boiling and several perfectly grilled fish ready to go.  In addition, all the ladies that came along brought rice and pig meat and other side dishes, and we had a big, huge feast of a picnic right there on the river bank before starting the hiking portion of the trek.

After we were stuffed to the gills we began the hike.  It was a beautiful hike through virgin rain forest.

The older kids hiked it on their own, with just some occasional helping hands on the steep parts.  The twins did the easier sections, but in truth they were being fought over by several older men and women from Sule who wanted to pack them on their backs.  They kept assuring us that they carry much heavier loads from their rice fields all the time, and the twins were "so light" according to them.  In any case, it seemed that everyone was most happy when they had one of our kids on their back.  Again, humbling.

Come back soon to see pictures of the waterfall face to face.  It's pretty awesome!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Long Sule (Part II)

Sunday morning the gals (Joy and the other MAF wives that came along) started Sunday School at 7:00 am sharp!  That's what the local pastor said needed to happen.  It rained much of the night, so they did the parachute games in the nearby, open community hall.

Of course, it's always a good idea to get a lot of the energy out of the kids before you sit them down for Sunday School, and the parachute is always a HUGE hit!

Tim, our Chief of Maintenance, did a great job leading the parachute games!

After that we moved over to the church and the kids packed in for singing.  Mary and Marieke did a fabulous job leading the kids in a bunch of songs.  It really was so beautiful to hear all those kids singing so loudly.  I got it on video, but I guess you'll have to wait till our next furlough to hear it.  Just use your imagination.

After that Kathy did the Bible lesson using flannel graph, which you can see really had their attention!

Then Joy did a great review of the lesson, utilizing a paper airplane game that the kids absolutely loved!

And after the review they handed out a bunch of coloring pages and colored pencils that related to the lesson.  That's right when I had to leave.  I was informed that there were two medevac patients in critical condition in two separate villages not far away.  Since I'm currently the acting Program Manager, while our full time PM, Steve, is on furlough, I had to go figure out a solution that would allow us to take BOTH medevac patients to Tarakan, and still get back in time to bring our MAF team back out to Tarakan in the same day.  Complicating the situation was the fact that we were very low on Avgas in Tarakan, due to a string of delays with two fuel orders.  We really couldn't afford to have a different pilot fly a 206 from Tarakan, and the Caravan can't land at those strips.  The only plane that could do it was the Kodiak, and we had that with us in Long Sule.

In the end, Paul, who had flown the second of the two planes that we took to Sule for our MAF team, agreed to take the Kodiak and go get the patients.  Time was of the essence--obviously for the medevac patients, but also if we were to hold out hope of Paul getting back in time for the rest of us to get back to Tarakan that same day.  So I trekked up to the airstrip with Paul to help him pre-flight and get a quicker departure.  While I was gone the regular church service started.  After multiple groups of village folks sang songs, our MAF IT guy, Wilbert, got up and shared a testimony, after which Tim got up and shared a message.

The service ended at about 11:30.  Then, as is the custom in many villages, the pastor asked us all to stand in the front of the church and he thanked us over and over for coming and hoped that we would come again and again in the future.  Then they gave each of us a beautiful woven basket-backpack thing that they commonly use there.  Finally, the entire church--every single person who was there--filed by and shook our hands and thanked us for coming!  It was quite humbling.  (I slipped out of the line to take the below picture after about half the church had already filed through and left.  All the pews were packed earlier.)

Like usual, we went away tired, but very blessed.  We always go asking God to let us be a blessing and encouragement.  I'm not sure how effective we are at blessing them, but I know they sure do a good job of blessing us.  It's amazing how these people who have so little in earthly possessions can be so generous; they always offer the very best of everything that they have, and it's very humbling.

Above, Tyler is wearing his new woven backpack leading our group as we walk through the village.  He always wants to be out front. 
Check back soon to see and read about the amazing waterfall!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Long Sule (Part I)

Last weekend we had the chance to finally answer a long-standing invitation from the villages of Long Sule and Pipa Baru.  For almost a year they have been asking us to send a ministry team to show films, share testimonies and preach, like we've done in many other villages.

I have a lot of friends in Sule.  We often fly there, and last summer I spent a night there with a flat tire on my plane -- go here to read about it and see a picture of Sule from the airstrip, and go here to see how it got fixed.  But my family has never had the chance to meet these dear folks...until last weekend.  Below, they're pictured with a few of the assistants to the national pastors that serve in the village church in Long Sule and Pipa Baru.  They are truly wonderful people with huge servant hearts!

Like always, our kids quickly found themselves surrounded by tons of new friends!  Going interior is always so much fun for our kids--they never want to go back "home" to Tarakan.

And also like usual the women cooked up a storm over their fires!  It is absolutely amazing what they cook, and bake, over fires!  Seriously, I think it would be hard to cook some of that food on a "real" stove or in a "real" oven, but they are masters of cooking over a fire.

There is no shortage of kids in these villages.  When Joy and the other MAF women that were coming along on our ministry team asked me to find out in advance how many kids would be attending the Sunday School they were planning to do, the pastor there told us "about 285"!!!  I didn't even know there were that many total people who lived in the whole village, let alone that many kids!  But everywhere we turned there were kids of all ages, and of course, they were so very friendly.

On Saturday afternoon we had an adventure to an awesome waterfall, which is a story in and of itself.  So I'll do a separate post just on that.  But the real reason we were there was to hold some church services and hopefully bless, encourage, and challenge the local pastors, their families and congregations.  The two guys there that help us with the airplanes had seen the movie "End of the Spear" when I showed it two years ago to all of our airstrip "agents" at a big gathering we had in Tarakan.  Ever since then they've been asking me over and over to come to their village and show it to their whole community.  So that's what we did.  Well part of what we did.

Beforehand I asked one of our Maintenance Specialists, Reg, to share a testimony, and then I also got up and shared a bit before introducing the film.  Aside from the seats directly in front of the projector, the place was packed!  IN fact, a lot of people were standing in the back--in fact, many more came in than are shown here in the picture.

Everyone was riveted by the powerful story.  I always try to connect it to who and what MAF does (Nate Saint was one of MAF's early pioneering pilots), and use it to challenge everyone in the audience.  It's fun to hear the feedback as folks are impacted by the amazing story.

Check back soon to see what we did on Sunday.