Back Home in Jember

Posted on February 25, 2013 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Down Home in Mississippi

(Although we are back home in Mississippi, reports and photos from our family trip to Indonesia will continue for a few more posts.)

Lori could not wait to hit the streets once we arrived in Jember, East Java. Although modern shopping malls now dot the town, our hotel was just a block from the unchanged massive “pasar” where we went to the market. The dingy, smelly cavernous building selling everything imaginable was the same as always. Most of the meat, fish, fruit and vegetable stalls had overflowed to the surrounding streets. We were quite an entourage making our way through the curious crowds while ignoring the familiar derogatory taunts still being directed toward foreigners.


Tears were shed when Berli, Lori’s childhood friend appeared. They have continued to communicate on facebook but were seeing each other for the first time in 34 years. Berli’s mother was a faithful member of our church in Jember but died while we were there, so Berli became especially close to our family. The scanned photo is Lori and Berli singing together in church years ago.


The family was intrigued to be invited inside by the current resident of the first house we lived in, located south of downtown in Kebonsari. It has deteriorated considerably with stalls of street merchants infringing on the yard, but continues to reflect memories of learning to be at home in Indonesia. Lori is pictured in front of the house, and the dated photo shows the yard which was always full of neighborhood kids who lived in the nearby kampung.


Jember-TokoJeanetteLori was intent to discover if Toko Jeanette’s was still operating as this was the store where we could buy freshly baked bread and the children’s favorite place to buy local candy and chips. We helped our grandchildren understand why no one would be interested in potatoe chips when you could have cassava chips, banana chips and kripik tempe (fried soybean chips) from Toko Jeanette’s. Not only was the store open, Jeanette was still there at 83-years of age and remembered Lori and asked about Russell.

Jember-EduardFamilyMy greatest serendipity was to find that Eduard Theroupun had heard I was coming and came with his family from Jakarta to see me in Jember. Eduard was a Baptist who had come to Jember to study law at the local university. I was able to disciple and train him as he became one of the stabilizing leaders of our local church, even as a student, and accompanied me in starting village groups. He has recently retired from the Attorney Generals office and has nurtured new churches wherever he has been assigned all over the islands.

After surveying the city and reconnecting with friends and places, the fun began with a picnic at an old Dutch resort in the mountains overlooking the city where Lori and Russell remember swimming and playing on “family days.” Then the visit was climaxed with an all-day excursion and hike to a volcano crater lake. Those experiences will follow in subsequent posts.

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