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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! and so glad it all came together so well and that you had a great time with the T.H. guys. Seeing the joy on the faces of the ladies was beautiful. I'm so pleased that you were able to get those machines Cynthia, can't wait to hear how it all pans out.