Friday, November 28, 2008


28 Nov 2008

Dear Prayer Partners,

1. Thank you for keeping us in prayers! Pray for God’s anointing as I will be preaching on Saturday in a seek-friendly service among Japanese in Singapore. Pray that the HS will touch many hearts as I share from the Bible.

2. Then on Sunday, I will be off to Port Dickson (PD) to preach in a family church camp for 4 days. Pray for the anointing of the HS, and that many lives will be changed and be mobilized for the Kingdom of God.

2. After the PD camp, I will be flying off to Miri, Sarawak to preach in a church for the weekend. Then on Mon-Fri, I will be preaching in a separate Youth camp on the theme of Love, Dating and Sex. Pray that the HS will break many bondages among the teenage campers and empower them to live for Jesus and His purposes.

3. After that camp, I will be preaching in another Miri church over the weekend and then fly over to Kota Kinabalu (KK), Sabah to preach in another series of meetings.

4. Do pray for me as I travel to minister God’s word, especially when believers are rather consumed with worldly concerns and not with the kingdom of God. Further, I have been sensing the need to preach prophetically, especially during these uncertain times.

5. There are times that I do feel the strain of constant travelling and being away from Anastasia and Jessie. Pray that the Lord will sustain us, as we seek to serve Him as a family, and bring others into the kingdom.

6. Once back from KK, Sabah, a few days later, we will be off to Klang Valley as I am preaching in 2 evangelistic Christmas services. One Malay-language and one English service. Pray that the Lord will save many lives with the gospel and that many will turn to Him as their only Saviour. Without Jesus, our lives has no meaning or significance.

7. Pray for me as I have taken another teaching assignment in Feb and Mac 2009. Originally, I was only to be teaching the pastors and leaders on How to do Premarital Counseling (PMC) for the night classes.

8. Now they have asked me to also teach on Ezra-Nehemiah for the morning classes during the same time. Hence I am doubly busy preparing both teaching materials. And as I was typing this email, another invitation came to teach a group of pastors in Kuching, Sarawak in April. Since I can never resist Kuching laksa, I agreed!

9. Do pray for me to have the anointing of the HS so that all these teachings and preachings will strengthen the pastors, and they in turn edify their churches, who in turn will reach out to others. Pray that God will bring revival to the churches.

10. I have this sense of responsibility that I am being called and financially supported to train pastors and leaders for the kingdom’s work. I want to reinvest in the best possible way so that the investment will generate the most spiritual dividends. That’s why in recent years I keep devoting much more time in leadership training. If God permits, I hope to travel to other parts of the world, especially China, to train the pastors there.

11. Pray for Jessie too! She has been more busy than me, working hard to finance the family and ministry and taking care of Ana. Jessie is celebrating her birthday today, on the 28th Nov.

12. She has been a great wife and helpmate that the Lord has given to me to enable me to be released to do the work of the Lord. TQ for encouraging her especially during all my constant absence. She has been a great pillar of strength. If you have the time, do email her or sms her at +6591897377.

Take care! Worship Jesus! Witness of Jesus!

How terrible not to be grateful to God and give Him praise! and yet in most Christians we find people who are grumbly hateful rather than humbly grateful. Give thanks to Jesus for His never to be repeated event on Calvary.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The western world needs more missionaries to preach to them the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection

20 Nov 2008

Dear Prayer Partners,

1. TQ for keeping us in prayer, especially during our time in the UK and Germany. The Lord was gracious and gave us good weather and mercy journey.

2. We stayed with a family, where the wife is one of the Malaysian university students whom I had met in the early 1990s. She had since married a British and moved there. They were most gracious to pick us and allow us to stay in their home in Southampton.

3. Incidentally, the night that we arrived was Halloween night. Their church had organized some event – calling it the Festival of Light – so that the community does not have to celebrate darkness and evil. They had a live stage concert Christian band and a fantastic fireworks display, as though welcoming us to the UK. 

4. The next day, we visited Winchester, a short drive from where we were staying. In the evening, we visited some Christian leaders who were involved in praying for Malaysia, since the early 1980s. We had a good time of fellowshipping and discovering what God has been doing all these years.

5. The following day, we left Southampton to London (a 2 hours drive) to take a 9 hours train trip to Aberdeen, Scotland. We travelled from the South of UK to the North of UK in one day!

6. The train tickets we had was open, thus we could only sit in seats that were unreserved. We had to drag our bags around and finally found a carriage with some unreserved seats. But we had to sit separately as there was no double seats available. I sat beside this person who was busy doing his assignment. He was an American studying in the UK. We had an interesting general conversation, then he had to continue to do his work.

7. So I started reading the Bible. I felt that since the Western world did not prioritize the Scriptures, I would take every opportunity that I had to read the Bible throughout Europe, starting from the first day we arrived in London. So I read the Word of God for 45 minutes in the train.

8. When I stopped reading, the American guy who sat next to me said that he has not seen the Bible or seen anyone reading it for years. That was the opening that I was praying for! So we started to have a spiritual conversation. Found out that he believed in Christ years ago but has now become an atheist.

9. Like most Westerners, he rejects the authoritative claims of Christ. He was a gentle person with a good heart, but probably blinded by secularism and the evil one. I shared with him about God and His work, but unfortunately he had already closed his mind. The western world needs more missionaries to preach to them the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

10. Half way in the journey, the person sitting next to Jessie got off and I changed my seat. Then she told me that I was so loud that almost the whole carriage heard my preaching.  Across the aisle where we were sitting, an older lady saw me reading the Bible and smiled at me. And we striked up a conversation. Turned out she is a pastor’s wife! And was rushing back to Edinburgh to take care of the grandchild. We had a great fellowship talking about their ministry in the UK.

12. So the unreserved seatings, was all part of God’s predestined arrangement to lead us to different ones to evangelize and to edify one another.

13. We reached Aberdeen at night – freezing cold but scenic Aberdeen! We travelled so far and long because I wanted to meet one of my ex-Yayasan students whom I have not seen for more than 10 years. He is working for an oil company there.

14. This has been my commitment to the East Malaysians tribals since 1982 (though I knew them since 1978, 30 years ago!), and now locating them as they have been literally scattered all over the world. Wherever I can find them, I will travel to visit and pray with them. Its all part of the mentoring responsibility.

15. He and wife graciously took us around to see castles, beaches, farmfields of the Scottish land. We had a good time catching up. We even paid a short visit to an African church and prayed for the Nigerian who is just becoming an assistant pastor. Wherever we go, we try to sow – and trust God for the harvest!

16. We arrived Aberdeen late Sunday night and on Tues night we took the sleeper train back to London. And travelled to Cologne, Germany where Jessie had her training course.

17. Another East Malaysian student whom I have met years ago and continue to mentor, flew in from Lausanne, Switzerland to meet with us. She is currently doing her PhD there and she took the opportunity to come over to Germany to meet with us and took me around.

18. On the last day, Jessie and I climbed the 509 steps of the Cologne Catheral (aka Dom)

Many times, I had to stop to rest! At the top, was the excellent view of the whole city. Then we headed to the airport and flew back to Heathrow, to wait for our connecting flight back to Singapore.

19. It was a good short holiday break that only the Lord could have provided at this season. Only He knew our schedule and the need for us to take a break. Thank you for praying and giving. Thank you too for praying for Anastasia as she took our absence very well.

May Jesus be glorified forevermore!

Take care!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Recession is coming to town?!!!!!

Latest Christmas carol for 2008

You'd better watch out
You'd better not cry
You'd better keep cash
I'm telling you why:
Recession is coming to town.

It's hitting you once,
It's hitting you twice
It doesn't care if you've been careful and wise
Recession is coming to town

It's worthless if you've got shares
It's worthless if you've got bonds
It's safe when you've got cash in hand
So keep cash for goodness sake, HEY

You'd better watch out
You'd better not cry
You'd better keep cash
I'm telling you why:
Recession is coming to town!

Finance products are confusing
Finance products are so vague
The banks make you bear the cost of risk
So keep out for goodness sake, OH

You'd better watch out
You'd better not cry
You'd better keep cash
I'm telling you why:
Recession is coming to town.

Friday, November 21, 2008

We must beware of eating demons hiding in Chinese food!

The article below is one of the funniest and craziest article i have ever read over the years! Only individuals with a great sense of humor should read this! The author according to his website is "committed to historical Biblical Christianity. We seek to be thoroughly Biblical, comprehensively catholic, and true to the Reformation faith." All those with reformed faith must now abstain from eating any dim sum, noodles, fishballs - all Chinese food!

The Menace of Chinese Food
by James B. Jordan
December, 1984

[This essay was originally published in Presbyterian Heritage 5 (Dec. 1984), a newsletter of Geneva Ministries. Some very slight corrections and additions have been made here.]

One of the unrecognized and most deadly evil of modern life’s facets is Chinese food.
Most people are wholly unaware of the critical nature of the Chinese food question, and blithely continue to participate in this wicked and dangerous activity: eating Chinese food. Of course, to speak against such a hallowed institution as Chinese food is to be regarded as a fanatic, or even as sacrilegious, but we must be true to the faith!

A moment’s reflection by any serious and committed Christian will show transparently
why Chinese food must be rejected. Chinese food is an expression of Eastern monism. Not only does it come from the East, the heart of the world’s most sophisticated paganism (which in itself is reason to reject it as dangerous); it also in its very nature and composition reflects the monistic philosophy of the East.

Christianity gives equal ultimacy to the one and the many. In the West, this has meant that on one’s plate there are several kinds and portions of food: salad, vegetables, meat, and dessert. These are not, however, all mixed up together in a monistic unity, but are left diverse. It is the harmony and combination of the various foods, eaten one bite at a time, which gives expression to unity and diversity.

Chinese food, however, tries to break this down. All the foods — salad, vegetables, meats, and sweets — are mixed together in an attempt to destroy diversity and create a food-monad. This is obviously perverted and evil. Beyond this, sweet and sour are mixed together, in accordance with the philosophy of yin and yang. What could be more pagan?

There is more. Because the perverse nature of Chinese food causes it to be so intrinsically unpalatable to the human tongue, vast quantities of monosodium glutamate are added to make it taste better. Now, monosodium glutamate, or M.S.G. as it is popularly known, is recognized to be a poison, causing hyperactivity in children and cancer in adults. Not only is Chinese food pagan, it is also poisonous.

It is also idolatrous. This is in part due to the addicting nature of M.S.G., which causes the widely-recognized “Chinese restaurant syndrome.” The present writer, however, has further cause for alarm. Over the years I have tried to alert friends and family to the danger of Chinese food, and I have always met with rejection and ridicule. There can be only one possible reason for this — an idolatrous attachment to Chinese food. Why won’t people give it up? The arguments I have presented are clear as crystal, and obviously Scriptural and Christian. The reason can only be that people have an idolatrous attachment to Chinese food.

Non-Christians, of course, are more crazy about Chinese food than are Christians. I say this: Anything the pagans are that crazy about must be evil, and so Christians should keep as far away from it as possible.

There is still more. Few modern Christians have studied the classic exposé of Chinese
food by Alexander Slipshod: The Four Babylons. Slipshod in his masterful work demonstrates beyond a shadow of doubt that Chinese food originated at the Tower of Babel. Nimrod and three of his cousins, descendants of the four sons of Ham and known as the “gang of four,” developed Chinese food as a subtle means of undermining the true faith. People would become addicted to Chinese food, they believed, and as they ingested the food, they would absorb the monistic philosophy. For instance, if they ate sweet and sour pork, they would become committed to the philosophy of yin and yang. This has surely proved to be the case! We must beware of eating demons hiding in Chinese food! (Slipshod’s book has, I am aware, not been well treated by
reviewers. Its arguments, however, are obviously correct. Let the reader obtain a copy and find out for himself. The reviewers, obviously, are Chinese food addicts.)

How did Chinese food come into the West? Slipshod shows that it was the Bishop of
Rome who introduced Chinese food into the Christian world. Do we ever read about Chinese food in the New Testament? No, of course not. So, I rest my case. It can only be a Romish plot to destroy God’s true faith. Do we read anything about Chinese food in the Westminster Confession of Faith? No; so clearly the WCF is totally opposed to all Chinese food.

Have you ever noticed how fanatical people are about Chinese food? Not only do they eat the stuff, but they are willing to pay money for it. They even set up and support Chinese restaurants, wholly given over to the production of this evil, poisonous, idolatrous, and subversive food. When you try to get people to quit eating Chinese food, they act as if you are crazy. The whole world has to stop, just so they can eat their darling sin — Chinese food!

Like Luther before me, HERE I STAND! And if others do not like it, then it must be

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Teaches that all people, not just Christians, are saved ... ?

Downsizing in the Aftermath of Scandal
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The property of an Atlanta megachurch founded decades ago by Earl Paulk is on sale for $24.5 million.

Listed this month, the campus of the Cathedral at Chapel Hill, well known for its neo-Gothic, 6,000-seat sanctuary, is one of the largest religious facilities currently available in the United States, said Matt Messier, a Florida broker and principal of CNL Real Estate Services of Orlando, Fla., according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In recent years, membership at the Cathedral at Chapel Hill has declined from 10,000 regular attendees to roughly 1,000 after a series of sexual misconduct allegations against Paulk, 81. Current pastor D.E. Paulk, who grew up believing Earl Paulk was his uncle but recently learned he was his biological father, said the sale was triggered in part by the church’s evolving mission to be inclusive of people of diverse religions and sexual orientations.

“As we have become a ‘radically inclusive’ church our need for space has lessened considerably. ... If we were to preach an exclusive message we would need more space,” D.E. Paulk said. “The mission of the Cathedral has not changed, only expanded to include all of God's creation—Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, gay, straight, etc.”

D.E. Paulk, who also leads a group called the Pro-Love Organization, has advocated for gay rights in recent years and is an associate of the controversial preacher Carlton Pearson, who teaches that all people, not just Christians, are saved. In an interview with Charisma magazine, D.E. Paulk also alluded to universalism, saying the Cathedral does not seek to convert but to “convince everyone of Christ’s love.”

“We believe that Christ was successful, not a failure,” D.E. Paulk said. “Christ came to ‘reconcile the world to God,’ and we confess that Christ succeeded and ‘finished’ this work. If Christ was successful then the world was converted at Calvary. Salvation, then, becomes an awakening to God's free gift—not a conversion.”

Brandi Paulk, wife of D.E. Paulk and a pastor at the Cathedral, said the church property was valued at $31 million two years ago, but the price was lowered because of the economic downturn. She told the Journal-Constitution that the facilities were not being sold to pay legal expenses related to civil actions involving Earl Paulk, who has been hounded by claims of sexual misconduct since he was accused of committing adultery in 1960.

In February, a judge dismissed the most recent action against Earl Paulk. The lawsuit filed by Mona Brewer and her husband, Bobby, alleged that Paulk coerced the woman into a 14-year affair. The couple and their attorney were ordered to pay more than $1 million in legal fees. They are appealing the decision.

Although Earl Paulk remains archbishop of the church, he is not active in its daily operations. [, 11/13/08]

Lord, help us to be wise and faithful!

Downsizing in the Aftermath of Scandal,Part II
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Atlanta’s Cathedral at Chapel Hill may be downsizing for the sake of being “radically inclusive,” but about 25 miles up the road, another high-profile church is downsizing for another reason: eviction. After failing to pay rent since July and owing more than $400,000 to its landlord, Global Destiny International Ministries, lead by Bishop Thomas W. Weeks III, was officially barred from its former meeting place this week. On Sunday, after almost 250 members of the congregation met in a hotel, Weeks claimed his church was “re-sizing … to fit economic times. We are committed to being an absolutely debt-free ministry.”

At one point Global Destiny had 3,400 members, but last year lost a reported 1,600 members in the wake of Weeks’ assault of ex-wife Juanita Bynum in an Atlanta hotel parking lot. “People do not understand the cost of running a worldwide ministry,” said Weeks, who has been dogged by numerous financial problems in recent years. “When something like this happens, it’s really an exodus into a new prophecy.” [, 11/16/08]

Don't worry, you're not going to hell ....?

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do (With More Money)
Marcus Yoars
Oct 23, 2008

After seeing London buses advertising a Christian evangelism conference, an atheist group raised more than $175,000 online—mere hours after launching a charity site—to retaliate with their own signs. The British Humanist Association, which is administering the "Atheist Bus Campaign," will purchase ad space on more than 30 buses for signs that read: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." Although organizers originally planned to post the signs for only four weeks in January, donations have exceeded expectations almost twentyfold so far, immediately creating the possibility of a more massive push. "A lot of people say trying to organize atheists is like herding cats. The last couple of days shows that is not true," said comedy writer Ariane Sherine, who initiated the campaign. "I thought it would be a really positive thing to counter that by putting forward a much happier and more upbeat advert, saying 'Don't worry, you're not going to hell.' Atheists believe this is the only life we have, and we should enjoy it." [AP, 10/23/08]

Wall Street's self-interested greed. They are their own worst enemy!

30 reasons for Great Depression 2 by 2011

New-New Deal, bailouts, trillions in debt, antitax mindset spell disaster
By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch

Last update: 7:19 p.m. EST Nov. 17, 2008

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- By 2011? No recovery? No new bull? "Hey Paul, why do you keep talking about a bigger crash coming by 2011?" Readers ask that often. So here's a sequel to my predictions of 2000 and 2004, with a look three years ahead:

First. Dot-com crash

We pinpointed the dot-com crash at its peak, in a March 20, 2000 column: "Next crash? Sorry, you won't see it coming." Bulls-eye: The dot-com bubble popped. The economy went into a 30-month recession. The stock market lost $8 trillion. And today, over eight years later, the market is still roughly 40% below its 2000 peak. See previous Paul B. Farrell.

Factor in inflation and the average stock has lost well over 50% of its value. Stocks have proven to be a very big loser, a bad investment for Americans, thanks to Wall Street's selfish greed, plus the complicity and naiveté of politicians, press and public.

Second. Subprime meltdown

We reported on warnings of another crash coming as early as 2004, wrote a sequel, also titled "Next crash? Sorry, you won't see it coming." Yes, we were early, but in good company. We wrote many more warning columns. Few listened.

Subsequent events, notably former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's admission of his failures in congressional testimony, prove that if he and other Reaganomic ideologues weren't so myopic and intransigent about proving their free-market deregulation theories, they could have acted earlier and prevented today's colossal mess. Instead, their ideology kept the bubble blowing, delayed the pop, making matters worse.

So once again, as history proves over and over, ideology trumps common sense, reality and the facts. Greed drives ideologues to blow bubbles. They pop. Crashes happen. The public is collateral damage.

Third. Megabubble cycles

We also detailed the broader, accelerating macroeconomic sweep of cycles last summer in columns like "20 reasons new megabubble pops in 2011." We summarized a long list of major warnings from financial periodicals -- Forbes, Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Economist -- and from the voices of Warren Buffett, Bill Gross, a sitting Fed governor and a former Commerce secretary. Multiple warnings "hiding in plain sight," beginning with a Fed governor warning Greenspan in 2000 about subprime risk.
But the big shocker came from the new Treasury secretary two years before the meltdown: Bloomberg News reports that shortly after leaving Wall Street as Goldman Sachs' CEO, Henry Paulson was at Camp David warning the president and his staff of "over-the-counter derivatives as an example of financial innovation that could, under certain circumstances, blow up in Wall Street's face and affect the whole economy."

Yes, they knew. And still both Paulson, a Wall Street insider, and Greenspan's successor, Ben Bernanke, a Princeton scholar of the Great Depression, stayed trapped in denial and kept happy-talking the public for months after the meltdown began in mid-2007. Get it? While they could have put the brakes on this meltdown years ago, our leaders were prisoners of their distorted, inflexible views of conservative Reaganomics ideology.

As a result, once again the "best and the brightest" failed America and now they and their buddies in Washington and Corporate America are setting up the Crash of 2011.
Now it's time for my 2008 update, a look into the future where things will get far worse during the next presidential term. And given human behavior, especially in the deep recesses of Wall Street's "greed is good" DNA, it seems inevitable that no matter how well-intentioned the new president may be Wall Street and Washington's 41,000 special-interest lobbyists will drive America into the Great Depression 2.
30 'leading edge' indicators of the coming Great Depression 2

Every day there is more breaking news, proof Wall Street's greed is already back to "business as usual" and in denial, grabbing more and more from the new "Bailouts-R-Us" bonanza of free taxpayer cash and credits, like two-year-olds in a toy store at Christmas -- anything to boost earnings, profits and stock prices, and keep those bonuses and salaries flowing, anything to blow a new bubble.

Scan these 30 "leading indicators." Each problem has one or more possible solutions, but lacks unified political support. Time's running out. We're already at the edge. Add up the trillions in debt: Any collective solution will only compound our problems, because the cumulative debt will overwhelm us, make matters worse:

1. America's credit rating may soon be downgraded below AAA
2. Fed refusal to disclose $2 trillion loans, now the new "shadow banking system"
3. Congress has no oversight of $700 billion, and Paulson's Wall Street Trojan Horse
4. King Henry Paulson flip-flops on plan to buy toxic bank assets, confusing markets
5. Goldman, Morgan lost tens of billions, but planning over $13 billion in bonuses this year
6. AIG bails big banks out of $150 billion in credit swaps, protects shareholders before taxpayers
7. American Express joins Goldman, Morgan as bank holding firms, looking for Fed money
8. Treasury sneaks corporate tax credits into bailout giveaway, shifts costs to states
9. State revenues down, taxes and debt up; hiring, spending, borrowing add even more debt
10. State, municipal, corporate pensions lost hundreds of billions on derivative swaps
11. Hedge funds: 610 in 1990, almost 10,000 now. Returns down 15%, liquidations up
12. Consumer debt way up, now at $2.5 trillion; next area for credit meltdowns
13. Fed also plans to provide billions to $3.6 trillion money-market fund industry
14. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are bleeding cash, want to tap taxpayer dollars
15. Washington manipulating data: War not $600 billion but estimates actually $3 trillion
16. Hidden costs of $700 billion bailout are likely $5 trillion; plus $1 trillion Street write-offs
17. Commodities down, resource exporters and currencies dropping, triggering a global meltdown
18. Big three automakers near bankruptcy; unions, workers, retirees will suffer
19. Corporate bond market, both junk and top-rated, slumps more than 25%
20. Retailers bankrupt: Circuit City, Sharper Image, Mervyns; mall sales in free fall
21. Unemployment heading toward 8% plus; more 1930's photos of soup lines
22. Government policy is dictated by 42,000 myopic, highly paid, greedy lobbyists
23. China's sees GDP growth drop, crates $586 billion stimulus; deflation is now global, hitting even Dubai
24. Despite global recession, U.S. trade deficit continues, now at $650 billion
25. The 800-pound gorillas: Social Security, Medicare with $60 trillion in unfunded liabilities
26. Now 46 million uninsured as medical, drug costs explode
27. New-New Deal: U.S. planning billions for infrastructure, adding to unsustainable debt
28. Outgoing leaders handicapping new administration with huge liabilities
29. The "antitaxes" message is a new bubble, a new version of the American dream offering a free lunch, no sacrifices, exposing us to more false promises

Will the next meltdown, the third of the 21st Century, trigger a second Great Depression? Or will the 2007-08 crisis simply morph into a painful extension of today's mess to 2011 and beyond, with no new bull market, no economic recovery as our new president hopes?

Perhaps some of the first 29 problems may be solved separately, but collectively, after building on a failed ideology, they spell disaster. So listen closely to "leading indicator" No. 30:

At a recent Reuters Global Finance Summit former Goldman Sachs chairman John Whitehead was interviewed. He was also Ronald Reagan's Deputy Secretary of State and a former chairman of the N.Y. Fed. He says America's problems will take years and will burn trillions.

He sees "nothing but large increases in the deficit ... I think it would be worse than the depression. ... Before I go to sleep at night, I wonder if tomorrow is the day Moody's and S&P will announce a downgrade of U.S. government bonds." It'll get worse because "the public is not prepared to increase taxes. Both parties were for reducing taxes, reducing income to government, and both parties favored a number of new programs, all very costly and all done by the government."

Reuters concludes: "Whitehead said he is speaking out on this topic because he is concerned no lawmakers are against these new spending programs and none will stand up and call for higher taxes. 'I just want to get people thinking about this, and to realize this is a road to disaster,' said Whitehead. 'I've always been a positive person and optimistic, but I don't see a solution here.'"

We see the Great Depression 2. Why? Wall Street's self-interested greed. They are their own worst enemy ... and America's too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We want to be religious. We have a right to heaven and we have a right to hell

Indonesian transgendered find refuge in Islamic school

AFP - Tuesday, November 11

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) - - Heavyset and wearing the pink Islamic headscarf and matching flowing clothes of a pious Indonesian housewife, 48-year-old Maryani says her penis is a gift from God.

Born as a boy and raised as a Catholic, Maryani spent years of drinking and selling sex on the streets as part of this city's transgendered community before discovering Islam.

Now, with her eight-year-old adopted daughter Rizky Aryani scrambling across her sturdy thighs, Maryani says her job is to bring Islam to her fellow "waria," as transgendered people are known here.

Tucked into a small alley in Yogyakarta, Maryani's house has been turned into Indonesia's first Islamic school set up specifically for waria.

The school is named Senin-Kamis, meaning Monday-Thursday. And twice a week, around 20 waria in tight jeans, skirts, straightened hair and fastidiously applied makeup come in -- many bleary eyed from a long night of drinking and searching for clients -- to study the Koran and get better acquainted with their religion.

"Waria are people too, we want to be religious. We have a right to heaven and we have a right to hell. Because we've been given life we have to remember God," Maryani says.

"I'm thankful to God I've been given this fate, that I live like this."

Indonesia's waria -- their name is a portmanteau of the words for "woman" and "man" -- have a long history here as a third sex, neither man nor woman, in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.

As the word transgender implies, the waria are men who prefer to live as women. Some have surgery or take hormones to enhance their feminine attributes -- including having breast implants -- but do not have radical sex-change operations.

While Indonesia does not keep definitive figures on how many waria there are nationwide, there are an estimated 300 in the Yogyakarta community.

More an object of ridicule than scorn, waria see selling sex as one of a handful of viable ways to make a living. Looking for clients at night on street corners and by train tracks in Indonesia's sweaty, amber-lit cities is also the centre of social life for many.

The Senin-Kamis school, which was set up in July, steers clear of judgement. It has a policy of not lecturing charges and avoids pushing waria to become "real" men or women.

Maryani herself says she's happy the way she is, and has no plans to get rid of her penis in a sex change operation.

"I don't want an operation because I'm thankful to God for what I've been given. If I get an operation I will be violating God's will," she says.

"My breasts are only an addition, but I won't get rid of this gift from God."

The teachers at the school are a rotating crew of around 25 ustadz, or religious teachers, from a much bigger nearby mainstream Islamic school run by preacher Hamrolie Harun.

Teacher Heri Suchaeri, a straight man who is married with kids, says he approached teaching at Senin-Kamis with trepidation at first.

"Certainly, if a person looks at it superficially then 'whoa, this is a queer, a waria'. But actually after we went in there and we followed what they do, they also have hearts, they also want to pray, they also have a God," he says.

"Our main goal isn't to say 'you have to become a man', we don't have the right," Suchaeri says.

-- "When I am old I will still be like this" --

The school teaches skills such as baking and beauty therapy to get the waria off the streets, but its main focus is religious guidance that will leave students equipped to make the right decisions themselves, he says.

For the students sitting on the school floor and fiddling with mobile phones and makeup compacts, there is a fine line between feelings of guilt and defiance at a society that gives them few options.

"If you ask me going out at night is not good, but this is the only way we can meet our everyday needs," Tika Aurora, a slender and articulate 26-year-old, says of the 20,000 rupiah (1.86 dollars) payments for sex that supplement the incomes of many waria.

"My principle is that I'll stay like this in the future, when I'm old I'll still be like this.

"We have hopes like other women. We hope to live with someone beside us, hope for a son. To live like regular people."

Maryani, who looms like a matriarch over the students, appears unfazed as her charges discuss seven-nights-a-week drinking bouts, beatings from drunk customers and relationships with regular boyfriends who diligently drop them off at the start of a night's work.

"We have biological needs, basic needs. Waria also definitely need relationships," says 29-year-old Maria Alda Novika.

The students say the school gives them an opportunity to follow Islam freely without the confusion caused by the religion's many divisions between the sexes, including the separation of men's and women's prayer areas in mosques.

Senin-Kamis allows waria, as well as anyone else, to pray together in a small half-room at the back of the house shared with a concrete-floored kitchen-cum-laundry.

When it comes to prayer time, the waria are free to dress as men or wear the billowing, body-covering mukenah prayer shroud of Muslim women. Most choose the latter.

Despite its gender-bending ways, the school has drawn only sporadic criticism from conservative clerics here, mostly for its softly-softly approach.

Syarifuddin Abdul Gani, the head of the edict council of the Indonesian Ulema Council, a peak group of clerics known as a bastion of conservative Islam, concedes waria "have a right to live and receive knowledge".

And perhaps reflecting Indonesia's age-old ambivalence to transgenderism, Gani says the waria at the school are allowed to dress as women as they pray -- so long as they consider themselves men the rest of the time.

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