Youth, teachers, leaders and YSA volunteers at the end of the first week.
Last December my longtime friend Subandriyo sent me an email wondering if I would be willing to help recruit some teachers for a first time English language camp for the youth of the Solo (Surakarta) Stake in Central Java. He and Stake President Budi Sutanto felt that improved English skills would be a great benefit for LDS youth in Indonesia. A better command of English would help them as missionaries. If called to serve in Indonesia they would use English when they attended the MTC and Temple in Manila and when they served with English speaking companions. If they were like the growing number of Indonesians called to serve in other countries like the USA and UK, then English would be of even greater importance. English would also prepare them to study at BYU or BYU-Hawaii and help get them better paying jobs which require English. It would also help them in future church service as they interacted and communicated with Church leaders abroad.
It sounded like a great idea and so I offered to help. I was already planning to be in Indonesia for the summer as part of an on-going tsunami project so my initial thought was that the youth conference could be combined with the tsunami project to create a unique study abroad for BYU students. I additionally thought that this would be a great research trip for Joel. While in Jerusalem, Sarah accompanied me on a research trip to the Netherlands so it was now Joel’s turn. For Christmas he got an Indonesian language book and a certificate for a trip to Indonesia. That was a fun surprise gift.
I then started to search for other volunteer teachers. I had it announced in BYU’s two Indonesian language classes, I announced it to the geology students set to go to Indonesia, I announced it at the April mission reunion, and I posted it on the LDS Indonesian and my Facebook page. I also just talked about it.
One day a geography major, Janaya Brown, who took a geography class from me two years ago came by my office to get a recommendation for a FLAS award to study Indonesian. Her parents had both served as missionaries in Indonesia. While visiting in my office I told Janaya about the planned Study Abroad (which never fully materialized). She wasn’t too sure about the geology part, but she was very interested in the Youth Conference part. Later her father Rob Brown, who was in my district in Bogor, called to find out more about the FLAS award. While talking to him I also mentioned the Youth Conference. Rob spent his career running an English language institute in Salt Lake City. He expressed interest. Father and daughter Brown decided to come. A fellow mission companion, Michael deJager, who I served with in Bogor called one day to visit and I told him. He was newly retired and was planning to move to Indonesia this summer. He was interested. A married returned missionary who served a few years ago in Indonesia expressed interest in the study abroad when my research companion Ron Harris gave a presentation at BYU’s Kennedy Center about last year's research. Matthew Johnson and his wife were soon signed up, she for the youth conference portion (along with her 1 year old son) and he for the whole excursion. However when the pre-tour orientation brought up the zika threat, they decided to drop out given the fact that they are planning on have another child sometime in the near future. That left us short a few teachers. Luckily Michael Lowry, one of the BYU geology students (who heard about it at the orientation) and out a the blue another recently return missionary and BYU IR major, Colton Getter, both volunteered to help for the first week. To help fill in for the second week, Sister Robin Rowley, whose husband is the current mission president, volunteered to come help. Also joining the group, was my son Joel’s friend, Isaac Hodson. He and his parents thought it sounded like a great opportunity. We had our team.
It was unclear for much of the time who was in charge and what would happen. Then things started to fall into place. Barita Siregar was called to be the chair of the conference. Called to assist him were six young single adults. The stake president, bishops and stake Young Men and Young Women Leaders also helped in the planning. Eventually our English team found out (happily) that the plan was to have the Camp be more like a BYU run Especially for Youth (aka For the Strength of Youth) or a Stake Youth Conference than just a language camp. It retrained the name Summer English Camp, but English was only part of the program. That meant that we would be responsible for 2 hours of language fun each day, plus two hours of outdoor activities one day and indoor games another day. I also volunteered to oversee a family/history project for one day.
Initially it was planned that the youth from the six wards of the stake would attend for both weeks. Then leaders and parents in Jogja and Semarang expressed concern about the duration of the Camp. They opted for their youth just to come for the first week. Two young men from Semarang and about 15 from Jogja came for the first week. These youth stayed in a nearby extra home of a member in Jakarta and a small hotel across the street from the Stake Center. The youth from the four Solo wards all returned to their home every night—riding scooters or bikes or having their parents pick them up on scooters. Us teachers stayed in the nearby budget friendly Red Planet Hotel. It was a five minute walk to and from the church building.
We had a break on Sunday and Monday. On Monday we heard that the youth from Jogja and Semarang had had such a good time that they convinced their parents and leaders that they wanted to return for the second week. It took some scrambling by the YSA volunteers to arrange for transportation again, but they made it work.
Brother and sister dancing duo from the Solo Second ward in a traditional dance in which good wins out over evil.
Thursday night Subandriyo was in town on church/work business and so he invited all of the leaders and volunteers helping with the Camp to a thank you wedangan (Javanese term for setting around eating snacks (above) and visiting).
Afternoon games provided by the English teachers. Marshmallow and spaghetti construction (I was in charge of this one). Other activities included a slack line, pioneer games, move an Oreo from your forehead to your mouth by facial movements, a hand slapping game and a fun game of having to tell someone something silly ( I can't remember what) without laughing.
At one point when energy and interest was low, Joel jumped in with his play list playing and showed them some new moves. This got everyone dancing again. The number of followers on his Instagram really increased during the camp.
My class at the end of the first week. Saturday night the boys and I went to see the new Spiderman movie in a very nice theater in a nearby mall.
10:00 Am Solo Second Ward sacrament meeting
Old timers in traditional kebayas (blouses) and batik sarongs. The Church in Indonesia has not grown fast, but it has depth. Most of the youth at the conference were third generation Mormons, their grandparents having joined the Church back in the 1970s
Sunday after church, Joel, Isaac and I rode the local bus (with the many aisle singers) to the amazing Hindu temple of Prambanan.
Monday was also a free day so we went with Colton and four of the YSA volunteers to a local fresh water spring fed pool--Umbul Ponggok. It was a fun outing. The pool is full of fish and clean clear water--a rarity in Java. There are also sunken objects to observe and and to use as photo ops like a Vesba scooter, bicycle and table and chairs.
Photo courtesy of Colton Getter
Police cadets went swimming in their uniforms.
We then went batik shopping and had dinner at a Padang restaurant.
Wednesday afternoon we talked about church history. I showed slides of historic church sites in the US (from our road trip in 2014) and then talked about the history of the LDS Church in Indonesia. We then had youth share stories about how pioneers in their families came to join the church. We ended the day by watching the touching movie 17 Miracles.
Thursday morning we all met in front of the headquarters of the Solo Soccer club (Persis) to catch a double decker bus for a three hour tour of Solo. The founder of the Solo club is honored in this statue.
We stopped on the bank of the Bengawan Solo river, but this flood wall blocked the view. I somewhat jokingly mentioned that we could climb the wall to see the river and before I knew it, Joel and Isaac were climbing. I soon followed, as did a few others.
The youth of the Solo Stake are just like LDS kids around the world. They are fun to be around, they can be rowdy at times, they love to laugh and play, they are overly involved with cel phones and social media, they are faithful, they are talented (many good piano and guitar players among them) and they have promising futures.
We reviewed what we had learned in the two weeks with hangman. Other phrases used included: Seventeen Miracles, The Other Side of Heaven, David and Goliath (we watched the Liken movie), pray always, Jesus Christ is my Redeemer, Heavenly Father lives (we learned phrases for testimonies and prayers) and to throw them off--Bengawan Solo, the river we climbed the wall to see.
Group talent show on Thursday night. Each group (not ward) took turns washing dishes, and cleaning up each night. They dutifully did it without any murmuring and with very little oversight. There were very few adult leaders at the camp. Most stake and ward YM and YW leaders had work and family duties and thus were not able to attend. Hence the use of YSA volunteers.
Friday morning closing ceremony. Goals were made--including future English camps, and youth were encouraged by the Stake President to put their language skills to good use. We teachers were presented with nice sarongs as a thank you. We left right after lunch for our flight to Bali so the boys could catch their flight home the next night and enjoy some time at the beach. So glad we came. So many good people involved in this productive and fun endeavor.