Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Back in Australia

The last week in East Timor was hard work.  It always is after you’ve been going at it for several months and you’re trying to tie up projects in preparation for departure.  Firstly, we should continue Cynthia’s saga with the late night boogie dancers.  It seems as though two weeks of dancing through the night is just not enough.  Although not continuously all day and night, our neighbouring party animals were going hard and loud long into the night for the third week and Cynthia had had more than enough.  So Cynthia, all 82 pounds of intimidating beauty went out into the night … 2 am … alone … to meet her destiny.  Now it happens that the main switch to the power (including loud speakers) is on our side of the church building.  Sneeky Cynthia went up and flicked off the switch and shuffled back home before getting caught.  All was silent, with Cynthia peering out on the dark scene from the safety of an upper window in our house.  She thought she had won when, after a little while, a light bobbed around the corner and flicked the switch back on again.  Drat.  Hmmm … Plan B (note that samuel would surely have been a little more valiant had he not been fast asleep).  So Cynthia, feeling bolder from her previous sortie, decided on a new manoeuvre.  She walked back out into the dark and walked right up to the boys who were fast asleep in the middle of the amplifiers which were all pointing outwards blasting the music across the village.  Nervously she turned the volume switch and it quickly dropped to silent.  One of the boys stirred so she sweetly explained that she couldn’t sleep.  So he just said “Ok” and went back to sleep.  At last the torture was over!  In fact, that was the end of it!  They decided they were over it and didn’t need to keep everyone up night after night anymore.  Hallelujah!
IMG_3038The main job for Samuel was to get the units finished which after lots of hard work and pushing the guys we finally got them completed.  Though the exterior paint was still wet on the last day of work.  He built and installed the solar hot water system and installed the solar pv system (electrical) to one unit and set up wires and materials for the other two to be installed by the now trained Timorese.  Samuel always thinks they are quick learners.  IMG_3040Thankfully, on the last day before leaving we finally confirmed that we had a tenant for all three units.  He’s an Aussie bloke who cared for me when I was very sick in 2008.  He works for the government and if I revealed too much more of his identity then I’d have to kill you, so I’ll spare you the details.

I think I forgot to mention that somewhere a month or so back, the little white suzuki featuring in our history of work in water and Bi ble distribution has been very generously donated to our work.  It is our sincere hope that this little beauty can deliver many more Bibles to the Timorese people before it reaches retirement. 
Another interesting turn of events was that we bought a boat this week!  It was an offer of a quality boat too good to refuse and should prove very valuable in helping the Timorese.  Without inspecting the boat (a minor detail) I agreed to buy it and actually never saw it again after the money transaction of $900.  I immediately entered into a contract with another young Timorese fisherman without even talking to him.  He will rent the boat on a monthly rate so he can use it to catch more fish than he usually would in his little dugout.  It perhaps seems a little foolhardy and it probably is.  I hope to return back next year to find this a successful proposition.  I am still naive enough to believe it is better to trust and take a chance than not to try at all.  You can judge me later on this.IMG_3017
IMG_3025 Cynthia has received an order for her ladies sewing group to make simple cloth library books to assist in literacy in a library in Gleno.  This is a new, exciting and very creative opportunity on top the women’s products that the Timorese ladies are producing.  Also on our brief stopover in Darwin we met a very encouraging lady.  She has now  approached some government connections in the Northern Territory with the possibility of providing reusable sanitary pads to Aboriginal women in remote communities.  Its all quite new and unknown but just the idea is exciting enough to write about.

So after some sad farewells we finally shoved a few belongings into our bags and left our friends and projects all behind in East Timor.  We shall see how it all pans out when we hope to return in Jan/Feb next year.
We had a great stop over in Darwin for the weekend reuniting with old friends from almost 10 years ago and getting our first opportunity to share our work with two Darwin churches.  They were very encouraging to us.  Some of them believe that God is asking them to help East Timor.
We finally got home to the grandparents.  Samuel pretty quickly came down with a convincing round of diarrhoea and Cynthia is now suffering with a yukky fever.  She went to hospital for blood tests which we are waiting on mainly to cancel the possibility of malaria or dengue.  Israel is getting over his boils and Serenity appears fine.  Cant complain really, drinking water comes out of the taps in Australia and you can have a hot shower (and even drink the shower water if you want to – lucky country).
We will probably not update the blog with news for some time as most of you know that life is pretty mundane in the lucky country.  But Samuel is cooking up a little miracle with the Lord.  Problem is, its so darn crazy he’d prefer to keep it a secret until he pulls it off (with a lot of help with God).
So its good to be back … in Australia!
God bless, Samuel

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Heading Home

We have just a few days in East Timor left.  We are looking forward to heading back to Australia although the feelings are a bit mixed.  It has been a very hard time for us in the last month or so.  We look to God to give us strength and wisdom. 

Thanks for those who post a comment - we do read them its just we dont know how to respond.

Cynthia continues to get requests in her sewing group.  The latest one being a set of cloth books for literacy in a library in Gleno.  Very exciting but the range of materials here is limited to cheap, plasticky stuff (I once worked as a fashion designer in France so I should know).

The party by the Church is lingering on - it seems they just love to dance the night away.  The main show moved to the next suburb.  It was stormed by a not very smart machete wielding drunk who took a swipe at a few peolpe for some reason.  Then he took off leaving his very new looking car behind to get completely trashed by the mob that was there for the mass cum dance thing.  A few different riot police gangs showed up along with some Timorese Police - decked out in full black with balaclavas and a rifle with scope they looked more like assassins than peace keepers.  I hoped this would partially justify my anger at the strange arrangement around the Youth Cross but the Timorese logic seemed to flow in quite the opposite direction as they began to think that the solution to all this would be to block the road with bigger logs.  Oh well. 

I am finding it really hard to get men to work in construction.  Makes it hard to feel sorry for some people who cry poor.  But God has been kind and gracious with us, especially me and my attempt to save the world before the end of the week.  I wonder if He finds it amusing.  I have dropped just about everything to try to get these investment units done which should provide income for a couple of poor families.  My work team seems to dwindle every day but we press on and with just 4 days left we have hope that we might just make it.  I still need to install my home made solar hot water system and install two solar systems, finish off the waste water, earthworks, touch up, windows, blah blah blah.  I will try to post a pic of the finished product.  I will also try to get out to Beraka and do a few other things  along the way (yeah right)

Israel loves his new found skill of riding a push bike. He loves burning around the sea side tracks.  Serenity is really coming along with her reading and starting to read books for her own enjoyment rather than for school.  Woohoo!

I'm pretty tired, I think I'll go home now.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Taking a Stand

Getting about on the island with Graham and co.

It has been a difficult time for us over the last two weeks. There has been a rather bewildering event put on by the Catholic Church. I like to believe the best about the Church but sometimes my faith gets a little stretched in that area.

Without warning the road to our house was blocked for two weeks for the Youth Cross. This is a special timber cross about 1.8m high that started its journey soon after the infamous 1991 Santa Cruz massacre. Briefly, a young man was shot in a main Church ground in Dili by some pro-Indonesian forces in 1991. The burial was massive and many pro-independence Timorese used the event to make a protest against Indonesia. The riot squad was brought in and they opened fire on many innocent people. Within the crowd were a few brave reporters who braved the blood, shot footage of the whole thing and buried their rolls of film in the cemetery. They returned later, dug up the rolls and sent the awful images around the world. This created widespread publicity for the plight of East Timor and could be seen as the beginning of the end of Indonesian rule in the country. Fast forward 20 years and we have this memorial cross that has taken on a life of its own. All the major martial arts groups are given the role of protecting this thing taking turns around the clock. They took it upon themselves to close the road and threaten any vehicle trying to enter. Beside the cross a round stone altar was built. In this was erected a sacred pole. In the lead up to the cross arriving the elders performed various rituals including sacrificing a goat, a cow and a pig. I didn’t see all of these sacrifices but I presumed they took place because the fresh bones of these animals decorate the pole. All this is set up on the grounds of the sweet little Catholic Chapel next to our house. A pretty good program has been running each night to encourage the young people to seek peace, consider how they fit within the mission of the Church and how they might improve their lives and their community. Then the priests, nuns and youth workers leave and let the young people have a dance party all night with the large amplifiers and sound gear set up for the Church. This has been going on every night for two weeks.

I have a major issue with mixing sacrifices, altars and ancestor worship with Church functions but I thought that this was not the time or place to say something. I am not sure if this is right. I also have serious concerns about the Church asking martial arts gangs to guard a Church function but I chose to be quiet on that as well. But when they decide to block the road and blast the night away for two weeks I think that perhaps they are going a little too far even in the lower realms of human sanity. So Supersam, bald and short as I am, decided to take a stand. I started with the boys themselves, went on to the community, then the leaders, the village chief, the secretary of the martial arts alliance (if you’re thinking some timid pen pusher you’ve got another thing coming, this guy is a night owl and the meeting took place at dawn, he is the second in command) and then on to the UN police. All we wanted was freedom during the day to enter our home with our vehicle without fear of intimidation and the freedom at night to sleep. Seems as though it was a little too much to ask. But at least we got access a few times to run our various projects and we got through it all without physical injury.  Just this morning Cynthia got so angry about the noise she started climbing ladders at 7.30am pulling down their tarps and shifting their amps while they all slept.  They all seemed to accept that after over two weeks it was time the party stopped - she's my hero.

The kids have been suffering from some tropical diseases such as fever and boils. We put our Community Development worker back to 1 day a week. The people from Maquili have put in a proposal for a small business making coconut oil but its ringing with warning bells so I probably won’t go ahead with it at this stage.

Cynthia: “Sewing project, busy, only Sinta and me. Starting a second experienced sewer this week, arranging everything so Sinta can manage it while we are in Australia. Had many problems with treadles, Got to a point where both were unusable, and it was a black out so we couldn’t use the electric machines. Samuel spared some of his time to do a big overhaul on them and tightened up a number of loose bolts, and re-aligned some pins, so at the moment they run lovely! Praise God!
Delivered our first bulk order to an NGO. (Unfortunately, they were not yet able to pay us which puts a rather large dampener on the excitement of the delivery.) Sinta was very amazed to see the invoice come to $215! (Mind you Samuel took me to buy more fabric supplies and he insisted I spend up) So $240 of fabric is sitting under our table and getting sewn into bags etc.

The mending jobs keep coming in with up to 6 jobs a day. With each of those bringing in $1-2 plus with sales of bags we are easily covering expenses and Sintas wages with a small profit.

Who would of thought we could start an enterprise that runs at a profit within 2 months?

Not me! I give thanks to God for all the gifts that enabled it to start, and for finding such a suitable employee.”

I have had to put most of our work on hold to complete the beach front units. I have been working very hard on this in the midst of all the aforementioned dramas. The evil spirits really know how to put up a fight. But I know a good bloke who once made a stand and died in the effort. When all seemed lost he came back to life. I’m holding out for a miracle from him.

We have drawn up a chart of our structure which I will endeavour to get on this blog.  It shows the different things we are involved in, hope you can read it and if you cant I am sure it looks impressive:
We are returning back to Oz on October 30.  Thats just over a week away.  Those who are familiar with my stupidity will know that I will be working myself to the bone.  Predestination - gotta love it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thanks so much!

Perhaps a strange thing to write on our blog but we have just checked our bank account and found a few sneaky folks have slipped us some more donations.  We want to thankyou so much for your help and we pray that we will use this money faithfully and wisely.


A team from Darwin arrives

After a jam packed 2 weeks it is hard to know how to keep you up to date with all that has been going on. So we will do it by brief points:

A team of 5 people came from a Baptist Church in Darwin – Crossroads Christian Church? (I think I got that name wrong, how embarrassing.) In 10 days they did 4 main jobs:

1. A reno job on the office of Wycliffe Bible Translators – the poor bloke was trying to translate the Bible in a dark little room stuffed with boxes. So the boys put in shelves, gave it a lick of paint, installed a large fluoro light and delivered some new furniture – a desk, comfy chair and pin board. Sr Carlos is very happy and it gives him a lift in his work.

Nick, James and Graham - hot sweaty in the office with Sr Carlos the Bible translator and his wife.
2. Trip to the island of Atauro (cue wicked laugh – ‘Aha,ha,ha,ha,haaa’) very nice big boat going over. We checked in on Dunalva’s Preschool building project which deserves far more time than I am putting into it. They are up to the walls. She is so brave and I wish I could get out there with my tools. We then walked several km’s around the rocky coastline with 70 odd scriptures in our packs to visit Maquili. We discussed a small development project with them. They want to buy a coconut shredding machine to make oil to sell. It’s a big vision involving pigs and biogas (my pet subject). The boys are happy to enter a microfinance arrangement with them if they can come up with a decent business plan. This will take the place of my chook pen idea. Oh, well. We returned on a dawn voyage in a small boat that regular visitors to this blog know only too well. The novel thing this time was that we actually got the boat driver to deliver us right to our beach front from the island. Very cool, shame you weren’t there.

3. Finishing work on the Los Palos Youth Training Centre – the guys finished some tiling, tidied up the electrical work, installed the waste water plumbing, doors, kitchen bench top and even found time to make a very cool cob (mud and straw) oven to assist in cooking. Its an experiment (like our whole life) based on the Patsari oven for poor communities in Mexico. We’ll send some cool pics when we get them.

4. Installing an insulated ceiling with fans!!!! for Cynthia’s sewing room. Woohoo.

As well as all this, the team has been very encouraging for us as a family. The 12 yr old boy and 17 year old girl had a great time with our kids. Inlcude 2-3 days travel time and you can imagine it was hectic. Whats new.

Cynthia is selling more bags than her sewing group can make. She just received her first order of 100 cloth pads for women through HIAM Health. Woohoo.

God bless,


Monday, September 20, 2010

A normal week

Kids on the beach - Israel in the water, Serenity and her Aussie friend, Emily, playing in the sand.

This week it seems we have just been going along on our mundane normal life. Not many interesting stories to tell. Just the same old, same old. We get our runs of sickness such as diarheao and headaches etc. The kids are doing well although they seem to be suffering from not getting enough dad-time. We got our first (and only) bit of mail this year from the post which I thought was a bit of a miracle. I bought up the whole supply of wholemeal bread made in East Timor that I know of – all two loaves.

The community work is progressing. Now that they are getting the idea that we are coming back, they are starting to talk about ideas to try. Simeao took seeds, buckets and watering cans to Tibar to help the growers get going.

The community in Maquili is a bit uncertain about doing a chicken pen project so I have decided to run a chicken pen at our own home and see if we can make it economically viable before moving the business to them. We hope to source materials and chooks from Maquili.

Beraka are slowly getting the idea of the importance of water and are planning to build a holding tank towards the top of the line. We are helping with design and transport of materials.

More drums are going up to the farms to store corn safe from rats and grubs.

The beach house project is going well although a little behind schedule.  We hope the team coming can stay in the first unit next week.

A team is coming from Darwin next week which we are looking forward to so we’ll spend a bit of time preparing for that – I’m cooking up a bit of an adventure for them. Stay tuned…

The sewing room is going well and Cynthia is putting a new girl on next week. The challenge now is to find some buyers for the products, especially some organisations who think the women’s product is worthwhile.

God bless for now,


Watering gear and seeds to help boost family gardens.

Beach house - getting a verandah roof made of palm leaves

Drums heading up to the mountains.  Each is numbered for tracking.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Getting Organised

Click on this video to check out village life (about 4Mb)

This week we have put on some new “staff”. Sounds all official, but really I wonder if we are just mucking around. Cynthia has found a great young woman called Sinta for the sewing room. Cynthia finds it hard to teach in a group setting so she has taken on Sinta as an employee to work in the sewing room. We hope that she’ll be confident enough to become a coordinator of this project and bring in other suitable women to be able to sew products. This week they have been working on women’s products as well as sewing up bags for school kids to carry their books. Cynthia is working hard on the numbers to try to make this a financially viable endeavour (so it pays for itself). Serenity is also proving to be one of the best sewers amongst the women. She is even on the payroll (is this child labour?).

Cynth in her element - materials, threads and sewing machines
Sinta - our new up coming Sewing group coordinator - she's a great worker.
Cynthia with Laura in the sewing room.  2 years ago she nearly died of dengue, this year her father died of alcohol poisoning.
I have put on a guy fresh out of uni to do community development. His name is Simeao. It’s a new area that we are going into and sort of riding on the back of water projects – its like the next step after getting water into a community. My hope is that if he can carry some of the responsibility, training and implementation then I can be freed up to do other stuff. (I get a bit busy.) I introduced him to the community of Beraka and we had a long talk with the community about why the water system is not going as it should. It seems there’s just one man at the top of the system who wants the water to go his way and to no one else. Pray for him. We have organised for the construction of a small dispersal tank to hopefully deal with this problem. They have a serious problem with evironmental degradation – many trees are being cut down for firewood and the creek has caused massive erosion in the last wet season covering good land with river rock making it unusable for crops. There are some good opportunites to provide seed and we are considering a small loans project to get in some vegies to sell to market. Simeao and I also went to his home community of Maquili on the island.

Simeao - uni graduate who is my new Community Development worker, checking out the rocky slopes on teh island.
It’s a fascinating village. They make awesome fish traps and seem quick to learn and try new things. They are already implementing some great ideas such as diverting precious waste water into banana and paw paw gardens and using quality composting toilets. I negotiated with one man to provide a $400 loan to build a chicken pen as a small business endeavour. All going well, he can sell chooks or eggs and pay back the loan over 2 years. Part of Simeao’s work will be to monitor this area of microfinance as well as provide education for the communities. (No harm in dreaming.)

On the roof of the beach villas with a labourer we employ - Juli
The beach house project is still going ahead. I put in a couple of days to give them a boost on the roof – it’s a bit technical with valleys and hips. We’ve put on another builder to help with this work. We hope to get one ready at least for a team coming in 2 weeks from Darwin.

Amau - Maun Je's second in charge.  A real nice guy who now becomes our head builder.
Scriptures are slowly getting distributed on an adhoc basis. We are also getting out our little activity book designed for primary school kids. Its been pretty exciting but unfortunately our wizz bang new printer is being very temperamental. We got it rigged up in a dodgey sort of way to external ink tanks so it seems the ink ink is running out externally everywhere!

Our truck made its first trip into the mountains this week to deliver drums to farmers for rat and weavel free storage. This is the work of an organisation called Drums on Farms. We are assisting with transport. It’s a two way street where they get cheap transport and we get enough money to pay for fuel, a driver and extra money that will help keep the truck maintained for all the work we do. Anen is training up a young man to take on the role of driver which we desperately need to free up both Anen and I. His name is Natalino and I hope that he will be also able to drive Simeao with supplies to community development projects as well as (dream big) support a vegie run to bring all those wonderful vegies from the community to the city.

It’s a big plan for a little guy. I suppose its just a little plan for a big God.

We finally got a tap rigged up to a basic water dispenser. Israel is fascinated with this contraption from which you can just put your cup under, turn it on and get a drink.

God bless, enjoy your week. Be grateful if drinking water comes out of your tap today.
Our back yard, yeah its tuff.

Monday, September 6, 2010

From the Ashes

It has been a difficult and emotional time for us in these last two weeks with the sudden death of our good friend Maun Je. Personally, I really felt the need to wind back a number of our projects and just spend time with the family group we live with who have lost a good friend, brother, father – basically the patriarchal leader here. You may remember that earlier this year we lost another father to alcohol related liver damage. There are only three houses in our ‘cluster’ – of the three families, two of the men have died leaving behind two widows, 9 children and about 10 other young people (from their mountain families) being supported through school. All this responsibility rests in the hands of the last remaining man – Anen, a 27 year old young man with his own wife and two young children. I have been slowly growing to trust and admire Anen over this year, being the neighbour on our other side.  Now as we stand side by side at our friend’s grave (right outside our front door) our friendship is forged stronger. On top of all this, we are in the thick of an investment project with Anen that is literally dramatically life changing for them in terms of finances. The problem is that Maun Je was our head builder. He was the sort of man that, when he walked on site, you could breathe a sigh of relief knowing that everything was going to be ok.  Now he is gone we must find strength in Jesus, that great and humble builder, the one who is always 'onsite'.   I believe that when someone dies, God knows whats going on.  Its just that I dont.  But I trust in Him and know that it is no good sitting down.  We must stand up, thank God that we are alive, pick up the tools and go back to work.  A number of Aussies have visited us in the last couple of weeks.  We thank God for them.  It is because of their encouragement and other donations (for which we are truly grateful) that we have decided to to get organised and become a more determined force in our struggle for people's lives here.  As part of this "getting organised" we have decided to appoint coordinators over various areas of our work and take on 3 new staff (we currently employ around 4-6 people).  With God's help we will rise from the ashes with a new resolution.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sorrow and service

We had two Aussie men arriving Monday morning the 16th
We were a bit concerned about the arrival of these men as our truck was still in at the mechanics waiting for the brakes to be installed.  We had waited 3 weeks for the parts to arrive from Australia, and then they were too big, so they had to be filed down and adapted etc.  We were asking God to let it be ready so we could take the men to Los Palos for the week. 

Then our neighbour developed a severe headache in the early hours of Sunday morning.  He awoke with a scream, got out of bed and vomited, then walked a little way before falling over.  He improved slightly, enough to lay on a couch.  The severe headache persisted all day with no help from medication..  We urged and urged them to go to hospital, but he and the family resisted.  We put Serenity and Israel to bed, and sat up at the table trying to pray, read, sing.  I (Cynthia) heard some strange noises, and soon realised it was Maun Je's breathing - laboured and gasping.  I knew then it would not be long.  I started to cry.  I was so angry and sorrowful, I could not stop sobbing.  Samuel took me up to bed where I sobbed for a while before quieting down.  Samuel soon returned and urgently insisted i get up and get the children into the car.  As soon as the family became aware that Maun Je had stopped breathing they would commence their loud wailing throughout the night and the next day.  We both knew i was in no state to remain waiting for that to commence.  As we drove away all i felt was anger.  But the further we drove, the calmer i felt.  I no longer had to wait for the start of the wailing.  we called a lovely missionary who lived 5 mins away (thankfully she was still awake at 11:30pm).  She welcomed us around, and Samuel dropped me off to try and get some sleep there with the kids.  I lay weeping for a long time and finally drifted off for a few hours sleep before waking before dawn.  I knew there was no way he had lived.  Tragically he died around 11:30pm that night.  It was such an intense shock to us all.  He was Samuels’s best friend here and assisted Samuel in many projects.  He was fit and strong and didn’t smoke or drink alcohol.  He left 6 children behind in ages from 13yr old twin boys to a 3 yr old girl.  We now have 2 widows out of the three families living here.  Praise God Maun Je had worked with Samuel in 2008 to create 2 apartments which will continue to provide an income for his family. 
Samuel spent the night with the mourning family and drove to the airport at 7:30am to pick up the two men.  We were able to take them to the MAF house to do some internal painting.  Samuel was busy for most of the day helping witih various jobs related to Maun Je's death. Praise God our truck was ready to use again in the afternoon.  We then drove to Hera and stayed the night.  In the morning Samuel took the men to the preschool and built a cupboard with them.  In the afternoon we drove back to Dili for the funeral.
The next morning (Wednesday) we headed to Los Palos.  Samuel, Nick and Graham worked really hard to lay tiles through almost the whole house, including the "bathroom", and also brought it to lock up stage, with front and rear doors built and installed, 5 internal doors built, all windows fly-screened and security meshed, and a new slab out the back for a laundry space.

As it takes us a full day to travel each way, they only had 3 working days at Los Palos, so they really pushed themselves, working till after 9pm on the last evening!  Sunday morning we joined in the church service and Samuel preached a great sermon (more below). We drove back to Hera on Sunday afternoon, and stayed overnight there at Branca and Sorayas house.  In the morning Samuel checked on the water projects at Beraka and we also managed to visit Sidara.  We drove to Dili, did a bit of tourist shopping and then Samuel quickly showed Nick and Graham around our place and our projects, before driving them to the airport.

Samuel had been reading through Isaiah every morning.  On Monday morning he read up to 41:9.  On Tuesday morning feeling very sad and discouraged he read only 41:10.  He asked God whether he could take it on.  Then he walked out to the breakfast table.  His phone had received a message.  It was a text from a good friend in Australia, giving some encouragement, and ending with "read 41:10".  Thanks be to God.
So do not fear; for I am with you: do not be dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteousness right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Just another week

The sewing project is still progressing.  We are making two new sewing tables for two machines.  A very kind lady in East Timor gave her Janome sewing machine for the project for which we are very grateful.  Its one of those special machines with a story - she got years ago and made her wedding dress with it.  Now it goes on another adventure and will provide some company for the other Janome donated from Australia.  Cynthia has been struggling with the pedals on the old Singers as they are very archaic and it is difficult to control the speed.  Cynthia’s mum is sending some foot pedals from Oz that should help.  Cynthia has also modified the design of her product to make it easier to sew for the ladies.  We also just interviewed a woman from the mountains to help with housework – she is desperate to get a job.  To make this a full time job, she will spend a few hours each day in the sewing room.  This will bring a different dynamic to the project as now Cynthia has an employee and also someone who is expected to be there as a job.  As with all things we are not sure how it will go but we pray that God has a plan and is in control.
I had the opportunity to visit a water project from two years ago – the “Coffee Auction” project for those who remember.  I had heard various rumours of stolen pipes, cracked tanks and fowl play so I was interested to see things for myself.  The villages are close to where I was picking up bamboo for a building project in Dili.  (Aaaah … it seems so easy.)  To get to the village we took the “short cut” – drive down to a riverbed and following it upstream, picking through the rocks and creeks for a couple of km’s before heading up a steep rough track in low range 4WD.

  I am happy to say that the rumours are mostly rumours and that the water still flows up there and they have made a number of improvements:  a new concrete water tank, extensive well watered gardens, extending the pipeline to new homes and a toilet!  I am very excited about all this.  You hear so many stories of aid projects going bad here that I actually get surprised to find that the hard work has paid off.  The elders are talking to me about further improvements and I am suggesting that now they put their money together as a community to buy their own roll of polypipe.
We did a 3 day journey to Los Palos to check out the Nazarene Training Centre.  The building is coming along although a little slow.  This week they have been running a kids club/camp in the building – 2 rooms in the new centre housed 42 children over three days.  The problem is that the town water supply stopped for 2 days so by the time we got there they were completely out of water – except the wonderful tank installed by the Tweed Salvo group which was over half full!  It continues to get water from the guttering painstakingly put up by Lucas and Alwyn.  Thanks guys.  (Washing consisted of half a scoop and toileting … ?)
Two men are coming from a Darwin church and I hope to take them out there to do doors, windows, tiling etc.  The problem is our truck is still out of action.  The brakes we waited for for 3 weeks were the wrong size.  Please pray that the thing comes back to life.
We hope to help a local organisation called “Drums on Farms” deliver used 44’s to mountain farmers to store their grain.  I plan to make some modifications so the truck can take as many drums as possible.  (Stay tuned for strange photos).
We got our wizz bang, external ink tank modified printer!  This will be awesome for making cheap copies of the activity book to accompany the Gospel of Mark.  We continue to distribute the scriptures.  We thank some folks from Grafton Salvos who put in $500 so we could buy this machine and lots of paper and ink.
Miracle of miracles, I found a 14” tyre for Israel’s bike – harder than you could imagine.  Praise God.  Sadly, I destroyed our camera when the waterproof case cracked and leaked while snorkelling.  The snorkelling shots here are the last you’ll see for a while.
Of course, this is another brief outline of the strange existence we live here.  If you want to find out more then I suppose you’ll just have to come and have a go at it yourself.  We continue to be healthy and we thank God for His gracious provision in our lives and we pray that He would bless you.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Voyage to Atauro

Click on the video below to view - 3Mb

Monday morning I left for the island of Atauro (Ata-oo-roh, I still don’t think I can really say that word right).  It is difficult to explain what it means to get to this island and back especially during this time they call the windy season.  I went down to a certain beach in Dili and found the ‘boat’ Dunalva was using.  Dunalva is a dynamic, Brazilian missionary hoping to build a preschool on the island. The boats are like enlarged open canoes with outriggers.  They are based on a dug-out log with planks extended up the sides and driven by a very nice looking 15Hp Yamaha.  After waiting a rather disorganised 2 hrs we finally ‘board’ and go about 200m where we pass an incoming boat waving to us to turn back in rather persuasive gestures.  It appears that the sea is too rough and the Timorese who just crossed the sea were looking a few shades paler than their normal coffee-coloured skin.  Its great to have access to the latest weather update.  After 4 hrs the skipper figures the sea should be ok and we set out as a small fleet of about 5 canoes working on the theory that if one gets into trouble the others should be able to help.  I’m not sure about the logic on this but I think it runs deep in our human psyche that if things are going to go bad we want company.  Dunalva didn’t come (she is a very brave lady), so I headed off with a bunch of strangers to an unknown destination to people I’d never met before.  It turns out that the voyage wasn’t so bad, so to speak.  We passed a whale snorting along, a large pod of dolphins doing their tricks and I will never fathom how the flying fish work.  Its not just an elongated jump and glide sort of thing.  These guys are really flying – up to 100m following the contour of the sea and making turns.  God is amazing.  On a small boat you really feel connected with the sea.  Strange how beauty is found on the edge of danger.  I finally reach my destination, introduce myself and meet the local pastor who leads me through a cassava patch to some land where they want to build a preschool.  As we discuss the building design and the lay of the land, I get the feeling that the planning stage is at a point of disarray.  I tell him to come the following day with the local men and to make sure they bring some digging tools and machetes so we can talk, decide and start.  Nothing like a bit of action.

a prayer to start
discussing plans in the board room

 The following day we pray, talk, set out the foundations and begin to dig.  Dunalva arrived from a rather high sea (poor thing).  I figure I can head home now that they know what to do.  The method for returning is to wake up at 1 am and go down to a certain beach where the canoes should come from another village and head back to Dili.  But alas the sea is too high.  I try again the following morning, praying earnestly to God and missing my family.  One boat finally glides in from the dark at 3.30 am and we set out for the mainland under a rising moon leaving a trail of jewels in the sea (otherwise known as phosphorescence – nice touch, God).  The plan is to return in a couple of weeks with a couple of successive teams of men from churches in WA to build the walls and roof with the locals.
the team at Atauro with Brazilians, Adenise and Dunalva
     During this time, Cynthia is busy training up the women in the sewing room (as well as being a mum, teacher, nurse etc etc).  This is coming along very well although we struggle with the archaic machines.  You have to treat them just right, otherwise they are very temperamental.   It is difficult for the women to use a machine.  In their daily life they are still grinding corn maize with a log and chopping coconut husks to cook with on a fire on the ground.  This whirring piece of shiny metal we call a sewing machine is a whole different ball game.  But they are beginning to produce small items such as a pin cushion and purse.  For each item Cynthia charges 25c and gives them a gift such as a set of pins or small scissors.  Cynthia is actually really struggling with teaching them and is not sure how they can possibly get to a level of competent sewing.

Cynth and some ladies learning to sew
    The truck is still stuck at the mechanic waiting for brakes to get off the docks.  We have found a printer for making up activity books for the gospel of Mark and are just waiting for it to be modified.  We have all been healthy which is a real blessing and its nice to be together as a family.  Serenity is trying to read a chapter book borrowed from a friend.  Israel tried to convince me to buy a plastic machine gun – I declined, boys!  This coming week we hope to return to Los Palos and prepare work for a couple of Aussies coming from a Darwin church.

May God give you a good week and keep you safe.


“You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox.”  Psalm 92:10

(Well it meant something to me at the time, did you know that ‘wild ox’ here is really the unicorn, check it out in the King Jim)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Launch of the Sewing Group

Local ladies gather to open the sewing room

The highlight of this week would have to be the launch of Cynthia’s sewing project. Cynthia spent some time getting to know the style of her archaic sewing machines while waiting for Samuel to prepare the workshop in which to put the machines. We arranged with our Timorese neighbours to use one of their front rooms. It is a great room about 4.5m x 5.5m that seems just right for the project. We arranged some Timorese boys to block up an open wall, put in a couple of doors and paint it white. While this was happening, we built a large central cutting table. Then Anen, the owner, put in some power points and lighting and we were ready to go. I bought some cans of sprite and biscuits to have a little launching party. We shifted in the 3 machines and a small stud press and laid out different materials for the women to look at. We had a little ‘house warming’ party and about 10-12 women (young and old) came in. Cynthia was a bit shy and not keen on doing a speech so Samuel made a little speech and Cynthia “opened the can of sprite” which is a little ritual in this country for kicking something off. The women were very interested in looking at the different materials and seeing how the press worked but mostly they wanted to sit at the machines and have a go. I will insert Cynthia’s comment here: “Oh the frustration! It was like letting 8 year old boys into the wood working room at high school, and letting them try out all the machinery!” I would rather liken it to a bunch of 8 year old girls – suffice it to say there was a little bit of hogging going on. At this point Cynthia realises that teaching is not really her thing so now she’s freaking out a little about how she’s going to bring them to a level where they can produce a reliable product. We have hooked up an electric motor onto the treadle machines but I am convinced they still think they need to press their foot up and down in a rhythmic motion to get the thing to work. Time will tell how the whole thing will go but Cynthia is just an awesome person and I am really excited about the whole endeavour.

In other developments this week – the World Vision contract is definitely off (they left me high and dry, sniff). I think I am just a little too weird – enough navel gazing. But we have come to a spot where we realise that financially we cannot maintain our ‘living on thin air’ existence for much longer so unfortunately I am going to head out and look for paid work. This is a bit of a struggle because we really came here to serve God helping the poor. Anyway, because God is good I never seem to need to look far.

Security has been a bit of a theme this week. A mission house connected with WEC was broken into in Dili. The lady woke up in the night to see the thief half way out the window with her laptop – needless to say her vocal chords got a good work out. I went around the following afternoon with Brad from Mission Aviation Fellowship and we nailed up some boards to improve her security. I’m also mid way through putting security doors on our friends’ house – the lady there is the linguist working with the Bible translation.
Anen and bub with our locally sourced 'bamboo' yet to become a ceiling
The beachside investment project is moving ahead, foundations are in for the next two villas and the roof beams are going up on the 1st one.

I have agreed to take on oversight of the building of a preschool for a Brazilian missionary lady working on the island of Atauro. Most missionaries here are ladies so I ask the question, “Where are the men?!” I could do with some help. Anyway, $10,000 has been donated on condition that the project is managed by an aussie. The upshot is that if I turned it down the money would be sent back to oz and the poor kids would miss out. So tomorrow I cross the ocean again – the beginning of many sea voyages in less than satisfactory vessels. Perhaps I should put in some flippers…

God bless and have a great week,



Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rest and Recovery

This week has been an attempt at rest and recovery. I think I’m still trying to work out what that means. Suffice it to say that I avoided taking on anything new, sort of. I think we could stay pretty busy for the next couple of months just trying to do all the stuff we are involved in. But you’ve got to ask yourself – is it worth it?

We bit the bullet this week (well not literally – but in case you’re wondering we still have a live round hanging around from a dive with the team) so we bit the bullet and splashed out and bought some sewing machines. Picture in your mind your great grandmother sitting at an old treadle singer sewing machine and you’d be pretty close to the mark. We have two of these Singer sewing machines and a clunky, cheap looking over-locker. We spent an extra $15 to buy a little electric motor which gets bolted to the side so you don’t have to push with your foot. We have also worked out with a neighbour to use one of their large front rooms to set up a sweat sho… no…I mean, sewing shop. But it doesn’t really matter where you are here its pretty sweaty. We are blocking up one of the walls and arranging a couple of doors to make it more secure. Cynthia hopes to set up a small sewing project to give the women some skills and possibly an income. The plan is to start with making products for women’s hygiene. Cynthia has already bought some specialised material from Australia for this. The local women were very excited when our truck rocked up with 3 machines. Next week we hope to paint the new room and set it up. We sincerely thank those kind women from Australia who donated money for the purchase of machines and supplies.

A small disaster struck this week – it seems we’ve lost our truck for some time. The Salvo group left me with $400 to fix the brakes. I took it to the mechanic and tried to impress on him the importance of being sure that spare parts were available before dismantling the wheels and brakes as I didn’t want to be stuck without it, waiting a couple of weeks for parts to come into the country. So, ofcourse, the thing was pulled apart and they couldn’t find spare parts. Yesterday I asked God for help and about an hour later a friend rung up and said they had just bought another car and wondered if we wanted to use their old one for a couple of months before they sold it – thank you Lord. My prayer now is that it would be fixed in time for some tradies coming from a Baptist Church in Darwin so we can do some more work at Los Palos.

On a happier note, I have finally finished an activity book to go with the Gospel of Mark. The plan is to distribute the Gospel in schools with the activity book so teachers can use it as a resource. The book has one page for each chapter and includes puzzles, activities and colouring in. I hope that with this idea we may be able to set up a team to go from school to school. But we shall see how things go.

A set of three beach side villas is moving ahead as an investment to help a couple of our neighbours. The roof timbers are going up on the first one and the foundations are being built for the next two. The challenge will be to make sure they are finished and rented out in the next 2-3months in case we need to come home. We did this for a neighbour 2 years ago and he has just built his own third beach house and this week we helped him find an Aussie tenant. We are excited that this happened with very little input from us and that he is moving forward independently.

A specific need we have seen is for a very flexible person or couple from the building industry to come over and assist/oversee the construction of a preschool for a Brazilian missionary on an island for a couple of months. The money is available for materials but on the condition that a responsible person is overseeing the work. An attractive adventure package can be arranged and I hear that the Brazilian is a good cook. Contact us if you’re interested.

So that has been our week of rest and recovery – it has been quite nice actually, on the balance of things, so to speak.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tweed Heads Salvos Team in Los Palos!

For the last two weeks we have had a team from the Tweed Heads Salvation Army Corps which has been very exciting and tiring for us.  It is the first time we have had a team in this country.  We are excited that the Salvation Army has been exposed to East Timor – Australia’s last neighbour who does not yet have a Salvation Army presence.  The video below shows what we were up to (around 9Mb - click on the video to start downloading it while you read).  Photos dont seem to be uploading well.

The challenge for the team was to put a roof on a new building for the Nazarene church in Los Palos.  But of course we had to jam pack the trip with heaps of other stuff.  First off, a swim at our beach (except for one team member who inadvertently got locked in the house by our Timorese neighbours – sorry Clint!)

Then we visited Sr Carlos who translates the Bible with Wycliffe Bible Translators.  We were all touched by his difficult working conditions and even I was brought to tears trying to show them the reality of what it means to live for God in this country.  We picked up around 800 scriptures for the team to distribute.
The 2nd day we headed off to Beraka to improve their water system.  The polypipe had been filling with little pebbles since they made some adjustments to the design.  The task was to chat with the chief and hopefully convince him that the idea of a small header tank to catch the pebbles was worth doing.  I was pretty nervous about this but the chief showed up, the chat went well and we all went up to the beautiful waterfall to install a header tank.  On our return we gave them some scriptures and read a story.  I still need to get back and see the finished job as we had to leave before the concrete had set.  Heading home, we dropped off more scriptures for Soraya and Branca at Hera and Cynthia got a chance to give some samples of her Women’s project to Branca to try out with the local women in Sidara.

The trip to Los Palos is a very long and “interesting trip” and there were quite a number of times the team felt led to whisper quiet prayers as our truck wound its way along cliff edge roads.  Of course we had to break the trip with a snorkel at K41 – one of the most awesome places to snorkel.

  Then there were all the usual oddities of a road trip in East Timor such as buffalo, rice paddies, strange vehicles, roadside produce and heaps of kids excited about a strange truckload of foreigners.  Oh, and a little spot of late monsoonal rain that managed to drench the matresses.  But that’s ok considering the truck that was in front of us carrying some of the building gear was held up by armed men.  (I thought it best not to let the team know until now – if they get to read this.)  One of the most interesting bits of cargo I was carrying was 4 lengths of guttering.  The Timorese pastor had heard of this engineering phenomenon and asked if it might be possible to get some on the new building.  After racking my brain over our 3 week break for some makeshift guttering idea, I actually came across some proper guttering in a shop in Dili!  Wonders never cease.

The team arrived exhausted and excited and then entered what was to be their home for the next 10 days in disbelief – the toughest thing was just being wet with little hope of getting dry.  We came to the conclusion that this roof job was actually quite important to meeting a basic human need – to be dry.  Unfortunately, roofing in the rain is a little difficult.  The roofing iron which we prefer to call alfoil tends to collapse in front of you for fear it might be trodden on.  It doesn’t get easier when it gets wet.  We had around 12 – 15 bodies on the job and only 1 reliable ladder.  So of course I was reduced to balancing on tiny pieces of rotten wood posing as a ladder.  The locals were somewhat bewildered by my strange building technique but as the roof took shape they began to marvel at its beautiful simplicity (ok – so I like my technique.)  The team, being town folk (I don’t hold that against them) stood up to the challenge quite well.  They soldiered on through the week in the rain and mud and got the roof pretty much done for the Sunday Church service which was a special time of praise to God.  Through the week we got to go to a local Bible study which was interesting.  On the way there was a bit of trouble in the street, I went into the crowd to try to work out how safe things were only to discover it was a gang thing and it was best that we look for cover.  I tried my best to call the team together but things were quickly getting out of hand.  It wasn’t until a wild Timorese man ran full throttle down the street with a machete bent on using it that my sweet town folk got the message.  It seems machetes speak multiple languages.  I will never forget the site of Leanne, not a young lass in our team, on the wrong side of a large drain, leaping over it and dashing across a boggy yard with surprising dexterity to join the group taking cover by a building.

A couple of the Team members were hairdressers and offered to train some of the locals.  It turns out that Pastor Uli, the wife, had always dreamed of learning to be a hairdresser and couldn’t contain her excitement at the idea especially when she was offered the hairdressing equipment they had brought.  The plans of God are amazing.
We had a chance to go to a local school and sing some songs, give each child a gospel of Mark and tell them a Bible story.  For most, it is their only book.
On one of our last days there we heard a massive boom just down the street.  We were told someone had found a land mine which had to be detonated.  Not very comforting as we were digging trenches that day and had to dig more in the afternoon.  So, for lunch at grace, I prayed that God would protect us in our work.  Still, it was in the back of my mind for the rest of the day with each strike of the pick.  Turns out it was only an old grenade – big noise though.
With two days to go on the job there was a mile of things I wanted to accomplish and the team was fast running out of energy.  Then God sent along a Samoan electrician quite “out of the blue” and he spent a couple of days doing electrical work to pretty much Australian standards.
We installed the guttering which ran into a tank and then gravity fed to the kitchen and bathroom – the ladies were so excited at the prospect of not having to carry water.  The house is connected to town water but, as the team found out, it only runs about 20 minutes each day and not Saturdays or Sundays (of course that bit was found out late Saturday when the team were pretty much out of water).
We finally finished up, had a big farewell and headed back to Dili.  Back home the team had a day to rest and shop and pack.  It was awesome having them here and they were very generous and giving.  We pray that God would bless them and look after them as they settle back into the rich life and work out how to go forward after such an experience.

I thank God for keeping us safe in all aspects of the trip.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Back from the Bush

We have returned from Los Palos with the Salvation Army team.  We are thankful to God that all went well.  Of course there are lots of stories so will put up a post in a few days.  This pic shows some of the team with the Pastor on the left and their new building with a roof!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Packing Again

Well here we are, last night in Oz, bags roughly packed, last minute paperwork, and 4 tired bodies.  Cynthia has been putting together a heap of materials for her sewing project and hopes to pick up some important material from Brisbane on the way through to the airport.  A wonderful lady has donated her own almost brand new sewing machine for Cynthia's project which is very exciting.  Other ladies in the community have donated enough money for 2 treadle sewing machine and an overlocker so this project is well and truly up on its way - thanks heaps for all your support.  We hope to soon send photos of a small sewing industry in action!
Samuel has been working flat out on a building project here in Lismore as well as fielding calls from East Timor for the Los Palos Training Centre.  The American, Lon who has been working on it for 3 weeks has raised the walls ready (pretty much...hopefully) for the Salvo team from Tweed to put a roof on with Samuel.  It's been a hectic 3 weeks and we haven't had nearly enough time to gather materials and research on the net for things we want to do.
The kids have had heaps of fun hanging out with the grandparents, jumping on the trampoline and riding bikes (on a thing you call concrete) as well as watching lots of cartoons.

Pray for us as we return to East Timor with our first team.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fun Run

We are half way through our 3 week visit in Australia.  Cynthia has been enjoying being able to use the internet.  She has been researching products for her sewing project.  She also had a great talk with a group of ladies who were very supportive of what she is doing.  Samuel has been working hard on a building site in Lismore. 

We have just visited Tweed Heads Salvation Army who are sending a team over with us for 2 weeks.  Its amazing to see a whole church get excited about helping people in East Timor.  On Sunday afternoon they arranged a fun run as a fundraiser for the team’s project and also to raise awareness of the work in East Timor.
Angela Cairns (who organised the fun run) with Samuel
Every sponsored entrant had to carry 2 litres of water! to experience a little of what it is like for the poorer members of our world. 
Some youth supporting the cause!
Cynthia  and Leanne, getting to know each other.  Leanne is one of the women coming over with the team.

Sylvia - the other intrepid woman brave enough to visit East Timor!
We look forward to getting back to our home church in Grafton next week before heading back to East Timor with the team.   We plan to take them to Los Palos to put a roof on the Training Centre.