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,