Monday, May 31, 2010

One Week to Go!

Our new cistern lid
We have been in East Timor now for nearly 8 weeks. On Wednesday the 9th we return to Oz for a family reunion and work and then come back to East Timor with a group of 8 Salvos. We have been trying to fix the loo for this team which involved painting a makeshift plywood cistern lid with paint. Serenity was keen to help so I gave her the oil based paint and away she went. She then dutifully cleaned the brush in the kitchen sink with water which was a disaster. Her hands were completely covered with oily paint that needed thinners to get off (a painful experience). Now she knows there are two paints in this world – one of which deserves a little more respect.

Cynthia has been very busy on a sewing project. She has found some very suitable material but had some trouble last week just trying to get enough thread especially since Samuel takes off to remote locations leaving her stranded with the kids. But she is nearly finished and ready to trial her product with the Timorese women.
We are all feeling much better with only Serenity and Israel having a lingering eye infection and various other minor and mysterious tropical ailments. Thanks for those who pray for us.

Samuel’s big job in this last week was to prepare supplies to load a truck to go to Los Palos. The Los Palos project is to make a building which will house a pastor’s family as well as provide a training centre for the youth. It takes about 6-7 hours to get to Los Palos from where we live in the capital of Dili. The price of a delivery truck varied from between $200-$500. At these prices we wanted to make sure the truck was full and actually got there. Of course, any attempt at being organised and efficient in this country is like trying to catch the wind. Aaah, but I may as well try. So we began stock piling steel mesh, reo, heaps of roofing timber, plywood (ceiling), roofing iron and besser blocks. In the meantime we haggled around for a truck and found a young man to return with his 4 tonne rock truck the next morning at 2 am! Well being in Timor, you are not really sure whether that means 2 am or somewhere before or just after sunrise. I stayed up until 11pm trying to sort out all the receipts for the project (as well as 2 other building projects running simultaneously with this one). I was planning to sleep in the truck. It turns out the truck driver decided to just stay up and play cards, got bored and arrived at our house – honk, honk!- at 1.30am! After 1 ½ hours of loading we came to the realisation that over $4000 worth of gear just wasn’t going to fit. So we loaded up our small truck as well and by 4am we were ready to go – no breakfast. Down the road we met up with the American missionary who currently directs the Nazarenes. We had previously loaded his ute with as much iron as we could, plus a water tank and drum. Things were going reasonably well apart from reo continually sliding off the truck and then a little disaster – a bearing got so hot on the big truck that grease and steam spewed out of the bearing cap and the tube burst. Changing this and another 2 flats set us back 3 hours. There was no attempt to back off the bearing on the wheel.
Convoy to Los Palos
At last our little convoy set off again and we eventually made it to Los Palos. (Add in another flat on arrival at Los Palos – brings it to 4 again, you might be beginning to think that the roads are a bit rough around here). I was very sleepy by the time I rolled in but there was heaps of construction work, planning, checking and training to do before crashing to bed. The next morning I did the waste water plumbing and finished off the windows and doors with the boys. My Timorese mate did most of the drive home that day which was a little exciting. We passed a rolled car and another accident. So I thank God for a successful mission and getting back home safely.
Nazarene Youth Centre

Pastor Samuel and wife, Pastor Uli, and bub very excited - about their new home 

Another highlight of the week was meeting with Carlos the Bible translator and buying over 1000 scriptures to distribute for about $420.

Hope you had a nice week.

Bibles from Wycliffe Bible translators

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sick, sick, sick

Rosina - a girl who lives with Anen's family preparing a meal next door

The video here shows our neighbours laying the foundation to build a beach villa to rent for income - its an investment project that we hope will provide income for this poor family.  We haven't got the money to complete this but we do have some interest in someone investing in it.

This week most of us were sick most of the time. The sickness seems to be some sort of fever that leads to a cough and lung congestion. We all seemed to get this to varying degrees. Israel also got a bad eye infection (the mucus drying on his eyelids and gluing them shut while he slept) as well as a heat rash. Cynthia found this week very hard as she was weak with her sickness and also worried about caring for the kids. On top of this, the blinkers on the truck died (ants got into the flasher unit) and Samuel spent ages going around town looking for the simple replacement part. After 2 days he came home with something that would “make-do” but unfortunately rewired it incorrectly, fried it, melted the battery terminals in the process and spent another couple of days going through the wiring. (God please send a mechanic!) He checked one last dingey spare parts shop and found another “close-enough” part, wired it in and hey presto, it worked! I get pretty frustrated when a 15 minute job takes 4 days but our life and times are in God’s hands. Glory to Him.
a tonne of timber for Los Palos roof

In these times its hard to find the good bits that make you think its worth while but then we think of the projects going on around us - the Los Palos training centre is moving forward and the builder was able to lay most of the foundation; Anen our poor neighbour has started laying the foundation for his beach villa rental project and Maun Je has started a new villa as well with another Aussie investor who has seen our work (very exciting that past work is growing!) plus lots of other stuff - this gives us encouragement to keep going.  In the end though, we give thanks to Jesus for his love.
Our first villa project with Maun Je - back in 2008
Anen in his family begin a new beachside villa

Monday, May 17, 2010

After 5 weeks in Timor

What happened this week 15/05/10

Last Sunday we spent at home with the kids having a rest and recovering from sickness. Samuel went to the morning Catholic service next door but the priest did not come. They sang some songs, said some prayers and read from the Bible and finished up early. Serenity has just got a fever and we expect it to last another 4-5 days. On Sunday afternoon (being mother's day) Samuel splashed out and bought a chook to make a roast dinner in a simple Dutch oven - check out the video. Cynthia has been working on a sewing project and is trialling her ideas with Nilda and asking other ladies who are interested for their opinions. Sunday being mother's Day, Cynthia had a go at cooking her first loaf of bread but had a bit of trouble with the whole yeast thing.

Samuel's week has been spent a little like this:

Monday - preparing plywood and timber for Soraya's cupboards at a Christian school.

Tuesday - going to Hera to install the cupboard's with Anen and Julio. Tuesday night pulling out the radiator that sprung a leak and teaching Timorese how to solder the radiator

Wednesday - putting the radiator back in to find another leak, getting supplies for the Nazarene Church in the truck (steel, timber, tools etc), leaving on a 3 day trip to inspect 2 different projects: water with World Vision in Baucau and the Nazarene Training Centre in Los Palos Its a 7 hour drive to Los Palos.

Thursday - Inspecting World Vision water projects to potentially resolve some water issues (they are considering employing Samuel), Going on to Los Palos and marking out the foundations and setting up a building team. 
Friday - return home, swim, mark out foundations for new micro-finance project with Anen, seeing a neighbour who is about to die and spending time with his family.

Saturday - fixing up the radiator again, meeting with Timorese builder, family time, internet.

I suppose it was a busy week but it didn't seem too bad except for being away from family.

A few stories about the week...

It was great putting in the cupboards at the school. We cut all the plywood and some of the timber in Dili and then take it out for installation which takes about 5 hours. It seems pretty quick to Soraya. She asked for these storage shelves for teaching gear about 6 weeks ago when I was still in Oz and then magically it appeared in one day. The road to Hera is a 'national highway' but it is atrocious! We dropped into a boghole about 70cm deep and 10m long. I didn't go too slow as I wanted the momentum to get through the hole but I think it was here that something flung up into the radiator fan and punched a hole into the radiator. On the way back we tried a different route which was being repaired after a massive landslide. We had to put rocks in the back of the truck for traction to get up the slippery hill and on the way down the other side we had to wait at very boggy road works while filling the radiator. I dropped in at a shop on the way home to pick up solder and a soldering iron for later in the night. One of the neighbours is a second year mechanic student but as yet has not had a chance to work on a car, so he enjoyed the whole radiator experience.

World Vision have a few rather large water projects in Baucau. Without going into too much detail, I'll just say they are not working well ... at all. I'd love to have a go at fixing them but I am perhaps a little too strange for World Vision. We'll see what they think next week.   Pic is of us inspecting ram pumps

It was great to lay out the foundations for the very exciting Los Palos Training Centre project. They have the land and the money and are ready to go. Last week I said to them that I could not take on their project but that I would help wherever I could. It was very hard for me to say "no" to them and "yes" to World Vision. But after we made the decision, the Los Palos guys rang me up and said an American was happy to come over for 3 weeks. So we've cooked up a crazy plan to get a Timorese builder to work with the Los Palos church to lay a foundation. The American will then, with help, erect the walls, then I'll storm in and whack on the roof with the Tweed Heads Salvo crew (I haven't told them yet - it'll be tough living conditions). I slept Thursday night at Los Palos. Last time I was with my family and had the best room and mattress. This time, on my own, I got demoted to the dank youth centre which smelt damp and musty and had mozzies flying around with no nets. I slept on a very thin, well-used "kapok" mat made from fluffy seeds a little like cotton buds. I was woken at 4am to leave for Dili - 7 hours away.

So how do you sit next to a man and say, "I have no medicine for your condition, you need to prepare to meet God." Lets just say that you do it with tears. This is Maun Silvero. He has been a severe alcholic for many years and his liver has so many holes that his body is leaking on the inside and swelling up with fluid. The hospital told him not to go back. His condition is deteriorating even though he apparently stopped drinking 3 months ago. I dont think he has long. So I went and prayed with him, and read Psalm 23. He said a long prayer asking that God might forgive him. I think God will be kind to him. He has had a very hard life. His family is extremely poor. There is a wife, 2 sons (young men, perhaps not of the most respectable manner), 3 daughters Laura (15), Anna-Maria (9) and Asika (4). There are some very good prospects for providing for them through an investment which I have started to discuss with Anen. Anyone got some money to invest? Failing that, I suppose prostitution could be a viable alternative.
We sent Nilda to buy a live chicken to prepare chicken soup for the dying man. She came back just as we sat down to lunch with a beaming smile and a cute speckled chicken which she gently put on the table in front of Cynthia to see if we approved. I said it would be fine and suggested she take it outside to be 'prepared'. Poor Cynthia!

The pic below shows Maria, a servant girl who we helped to get a small part time job with Mission Aviation Fellowship.

Cynthia's thoughts

Things that have changed since last time

• heaps more birds! lots of little sparrows, some large hawks, just can hear birds singing in the mornings - lovely. We really missed them last time, and as we were preparing to leave the government launched an education thing about not killing birds, and protecting them, and banning slingshots.

• A few of the "kiosks" (the local corner stores or windows of every 7th house:) ) now have fridges and sell cold drinks, and a few even have freezers with frozen meat etc! WOW!

We went to hera today (Tue 11th May) so Samuel could build the shelves at Sorayas school. We took Anen from next door. On the way we also took 2 neighbours who travel every day to Hera to go to Uni. The main road over the hill has been closed for quite a while, with landslips and mudslides. So the longer coast road has been in constant use by trucks and buses. With a very long wet 'wet season' the conition of the coast road has been deterioating regulary. Today at the worst spot we had to drive through about 80cm water. Our little truck is very low so the water sprayed up all around us. The number plate got bent up at the front and a mudguard broke a little more.

We arrived at the school and Samuel and Anen, along with another helper, began to unload the truck and start building. I sat in the principals office (Sorayas desk area) and went through some schoolwork with Serenity for an hour or so. Israel did some activity sheets with 4 year old Sofia (Sorayas adopted daughter). Then Branca took me and the kids back to their house to do some more school, play and eat.

When we sat down to lunch they said that some vehicles were starting to get through on the hill road, so in the afternoon we decided to give it a try. We picked up an elderly woman and her granddaughter who were trying to get to Dili. Half way up the hill we got to the bad patch where a machine had been working. Unfortunately it had rained lightly in the afternoon so the soft dirt surface had become a slippery slide. Our first attempt didnt get very far, so Samuel reversed a fair distance, and then he and Anen thought to fill the back of the truck with rocks to give some weight to the rear driving wheels. We got a bigger run up, and Samuel put the pedal to the medal. Off we went! bumping, squealing (me) and revving the poor little engine. The truck got slower and slower but we crept up towards the last bend, and finally made it back onto the tar. Praise the Lord!

Over the top of the hill and around a bend we came upon a short line of trucks and a bus. We first assumed they were empty and drove past them, but as we drove past them some men below at the bend waved us back and we realised that they were waiting for some dare devil desperate vehicles trying to make it up the hill. The road here was a muddy mess on a sharp right hand steep bend. So we reversed behind the bus and began to wait. There seemed to be endless wave of hands to say wait another vehicle is coming. First a microlet (van-minibus-holding up to 25 people at a time) came around the bend slipping and sliding and amazingly churned its way up hill followed by the crowd of passengers picking their own way through the mud. Then a 4wd would slowly come through, then a long wait, then the road working machine would get into place and chain itself to a stuck vehicle and pull it through the whole section, then another 4wd, then the machine pulled another vehicle - a 4wd with a driver who thinks the 4wd is broken because they dont know that you actually need to turn the knobs on the wheels. After they were pulled through Samuel ran up to them to try to educate them- not sure if they believed him (broken broken!) He even turned one himself and tried to show them, but by then thankfully they had stopped the hour long parade of up vehicles and now decided that the down vehicles could have their turn.

I forgot to mention that when we first stopped to wait we could all hear a hsssss sound like gas escaping. Of course the truck has no gas.... So the hsssss was the water escaping from the radiator - perhaps the strain of the uphill journey had forced a small leak into a major hole. So Anen and Samuel quickly filled it with about 3 litres of water. It had become completely empty! After we got down the hill and back to Dili (a few 100m) we stopped again and put a bit more in. Oh the joys. I felt a bit sorry for the old lady and her granddaughter (and also by this time another male relative perched in the back of the tray), as the trip had been quite eventful for them, but needless to say when we dropped them off where they wanted to go, she very sincerely opened her purse to give us the few coins it would have cost by microlet! We waved it aside, and i took it to mean that the trip mustnt have been too shocking for her.

Back home, and all the neighbouring young men hovered around to assist Samuel remove the radiator. Including digging the earth away to slide it out. One of them is studying to be a mechanic and up until this time had not even touched a car! He was keen to be involved so Samuel gave him a bit of time and let him have a go at soldering up the hole. Of course it was evening by the time we arrived home so most of the work was done by torch. I (in my generosity) offered to let them bring the radiator onto the dining table so they could use the bright light from the $8 aussie globe we bought – the brightest light in the house.

In the evening Samuel was chatting to Anen about the house project at Los Palos. He knew of a local (someone from Beto Tasi,) who had previously worked for an Aussie owned company and who had learned a few of the more desirable skills in regards to laying concrete blocks. Samuel was very interested as he really wants the block laying to be straight and even. Knowing that the following morning he needed to do lots of things –like reinstall the radiator, and buy supplies etc, he ducked off with Anen to visit this brick layer at 9:30pm. Considering our neighbours are often asleep soon after 9pm, I firstly voiced my concerns, Samuel was still keen, so then I uttered a few prayers that he would still be awake.

God answered, and Samuel returned excited. Carlos (the bricklayer) was quite willing to work at the distant location of Los Palos, and could even visit the place this Friday with Samuel to start on the foundations. Praise God! A nice way to end a long eventful day.

A difficult choice

So Samuel had been asked to build a new home for the Timorese pastors of the Nazarene church in Los Palos. The American Nazarene missionary (Pastor Warren just turned 63, and leaving Timor in July after 10 years service here) has some money for the materials, but not much to help us with living costs. We would have to live there for 2-3 months if Samuel was building it, as it takes a full day to drive there, and commuting just would'nt work. On top of that the housing options are very limited. There used to be a "motel" of sorts. But it cost $20/person /night and would work out too expensive, and then word is it has closed down. A dry suitable living spot would be hard to find.

We really loved the whole vision of the place as they plan to develop it with some dorms for young people to study.

And our hearts were very touched by the difficult living conditions of the pastor and his family. Leaking house, sometimes hungry as they only recieve a wage of $50/month. (A days wages is around $6/day, but an average monthly wage might be $80.) Pastor Samuel is a softly spoken gentle man originally from Atauro Island. His wife is also very kind and gentle. As we were leaving their house she asked me if Samuel would be returning. I said yes, thinking that she meant back from across the road. She proceeded to offer great thanks and praise to God, and I realised that she was meaning "Will Samuel be returning to help us?

In the same week World vision asked Samuel to assist with a major water project for the whole district of Baucau. This would also be for around 3 months, and we would need to be based at Baucau - 3-4hrs drive from Dili. (~halfway to Los Palos)

This position would be a paid one, with the possibility that they may assist us in finding/paying for short term accommodation. (oh for our little yellow caravan! How many times have i dreamed it over here...)

So we came to Monday morning. Samuel explained the whole decision to me. He felt that as a family we could not manage both, and he wanted me to decide, as I have been struggling with our long term difficult living situations. Oh my heart was torn. The world vision project seemed to be the wiser, easier choice, and the house at Los Palos the more spiritually acceptable and emotionally touching one. I quickly headed upstairs to pray. I read the bible using my usual "random-page-crying-out-to-God" technique. The page happened to be in acts about whether Gentiles needed to be circumcised, and how God led them to decide that no, it was not required. I prayed hard, hoping that God was encouraging me not to be so hard on myself - well I am a Gentile after all!

I tearfully expressed my various emotions to Samuel before biting the bullet and saying I would prefer the World Vision project. He then went outside to let the American missionary know that we felt we couldn’t commit to building the whole house at this time. But he said he could help with design and preparation. The missionary was very understanding and took it very well expressing that it didn’t have to be done straight away, and there was a rumour about an American carpenter coming for a while.

About 2 hours later Samuel received a phone call back from this man. He had just been told that the carpenter was definitely coming over in June for 3-4 weeks. What a miracle!

So, Samuel thinks he can organise the foundations, and prepare supplies for this American carpenter. We will leave Dili about 3 days after he arrives, so Samuel will be able to meet him and give him tools etc, and hopefully this guy can help construct the walls, and maybe we will be able to help with the roof later on.

God has provided.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Nazarene Church in Los Palos

We went to look at a job in Los Palos on Monday and Tuesday.  It is a 7 hour drive to the main town in the east of the country.  There is a local Timorese pastor and his wife there setting up a training centre for Bible study, computers, English, Portuguese etc.  Their names are Pastor Samuel and Uli.  They are living in appalling conditions.  We stayed overnight with them and it was a little devastating for Cynthia.  It rained all night.  They had put us in the driest room and even then our mattress was damp on the bottom and water was running down the walls.  For them, the water was flowing through their rooms and the kitchen inches deep and they regularly used straw "brooms" to sweep out the water.  This is not flood conditions, this is daily living.  They have very few dry clothes.  Note the second picture where they have used a bit of roofing and a string of cut up water bottles (now fallen) to try and divert the water.  There are what we might call fire ants with a nasty bite crawling around, rats and mice, electricity might come on for a few hours at night when you can fill a trough with water for your needs.  The house is very dangerous and rocks periodically fall from a poorly constructed "rock-concrete" roof beam.  On top of all this there is a wild young fellow in trouble with the police claiming that the house is his and they've got to move out.  (He's back from Indonesia where his dad - Indonesian military -  ran to after independence.  A long story)  So where do they go?  The Church has a block of land with no buildings on it.  It just needs to be built.  They have some money but not enough.  They are asking us to help but it is so remote and difficult, I am not sure.  Pray for wisdom.  World vision are also asking us to help with a massive water project having a lot of trouble (not delivering).  I am not sure what to do but I do know that wherever I turn, people really need help.  Is their anyone else over there that can come over?  If there is anyone who really believes that local pastors should be doing local ministry do you want to help them financially?  Pray for them. Pray for us.

UN to the Rescue!

Ok, here's an interesting story about the UN doing a rescue job in our village.  This is not to bag the UN so much.  I think they do a lot of necessary things somewhere.  So we have a UN worker who lives nearby.  He's a very nice man with a long term association with Timor.  He was driving home late Saturday night in his UN 4WD and ran off into the deep ditch very badly.  Next morning he calls the UN security rescue crew, who (with great damage to the car) gets the car out of the ditch.  It is a massive tow truck.  The driver, (a large sweaty Croation) then proceeds to turn around and comes all the way down to our house and enters the small windy track to the beach between our poor neighbour's garden and the local cemetery.  4 hours later, he is totally wedged between some graves he has run over and a tree.  The UN police arrive to oversee the swelling crowd of disgruntled and bewildered villagers and provide "technical' assistance to the driver.  They constitute a various mix of Asian, European and African cultures all with their own cultural tendencies and hand signals.  (common language is English, none of them speak Tetun).  As you can imagine, the Croatian driver gets sweatier and even more stuck.  He is now just staying clear of the graves but destroying trees and the fence along the other side.  4 hours later they call in a massive forklift to shift the back end of the truck around the trees.  Another 2 hours and the truck is out - at one time the truck and forklift were driving together in a weird articulated combo.  The villagers as yet have received no help or compensation for the damage even though it is promised.  The neighbour, whose husband is dying, asked if I could bring some nails so she could fix her fence.  Hmmm...

Teaching maths

Samuel had a weeks work teaching some maths to some agriculture staff working for Seeds of Life (see links page).

Some of the staff went from late year 6 level to perhaps year 9 and above.  It was lots of fun teaching them.  Since they were ag scientists studying peanuts - we got to eat a few peanuts to demonstrate % of crop lost.  Great to get a paying job as we were living on the edge last week.
Interestingly, across the road from this building was a massive government warehouse filled with rice.  The villagers can pay $12 a sack to their chief and supposedly the government will deliver the rice.  This is about their 4th week of waiting.  The rice seems to only get delivered to businesses to resell to the people at $15 a sack.  All this rice is imported from Indonesia.  Hmmm...

Bathroom delight!

Well i typed this up on the 19th April, and today is the first time the internet has worked well for me, so i thought id stick it up after i added some photos to the last post.

I felt quite enthused by a lovely first-day-of-term schooling experience so as a treat I thought I would devote some time to scrubbing the toilet floor tiles. You may have seen how stained they were on a previous photo.

I had found some bleach on the weekend and was keen to get stuck into it. Over1 hour later I was exhausted, sweating profusely and mildly affected by the bleach fumes – with barely anything to show for it! The bleach didn’t seem to work!

 I was devastated! Here is this disgusting bathroom and I have to live with it and be embarrassed when visitors come…cant we just re-tile the whole thing? Put in a new toilet, and while we are at it lets just rebuild the whole bathroom? This house is stupid! Do I have to live here? (by now I am crying – well I am a woman after all…) Samuel had returned from a frustrating paper chase in Dili, to find me sprawled on our bed upstairs, physically and emotionally wrecked. Poor Guy, God bless him. He patiently listened to my various complaints, then headed down to have a turn at scrubbing.
A few minutes later he called me downstairs.

Wouldn’t you know it? The tiles were sparkling clean!!! ARGHH (insert mixed thoughts here)

However it wasn’t a case of “a mans stronger”, It turns out that the other Indonesian cleaning product I bought (expecting it to be disinfectant) is a super toxic tile renewal formula! Just pour it on, watch it sizzle and wipe off the stains!

WOW! Maybe some of those tv adds are true! Ill have to bring a bottle of this stuff home to Australia...

So I guess I can stay here after all… at least for a little while. ;)