Monday, December 26, 2011

oz and a reward

381717_192807094145681_127511660675225_387195_1913018846_n  We have returned to Australia for several weeks to try to sort out our stuff there.  We hope for God to do something amazing to help us continue to offer housing for people in need in Australia.  The women’s group in Belle Kria got back to the Sunset Fair on their own to 392077_192809520812105_127511660675225_387217_1541935781_ncontinue the stall (unknown to us).  It is exciting to see that they believe in the work with us not there.  Another surprise to see on the Sunset Fair Facebook site were pics of the girls with the stall they’d set up and receiving an award on the final night for “Creative Handcrafts”.
You can read more about this on the Bellekria website. 

We were also able to pass on about 15 cloth pads to Pastor Uli in Los Palos. She assists a number of families, and was able to explain the use and donate to a number of family groups.

While on news from Bellekria, here is a picture of Nona receiving a certificate for basic machine skills.  After 3 months of being in the team she has gone from not being able to sew or even hold scissors or use a ruler to now being able to cut out material and sew up a child’s dress.  She has her own personal issues to cope with.  For a time she was so depressed about the marriage she has been forced into that she went down to the beach and considered committing suicide.  The women were able to comfort her and provide support and something to look forward to in coming to work each day.
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  Here are some pics of the last 2 weeks of the homeschool group.  One week was hosted by Angela (the
MAF wife, and she taught the kids how to create lovely christmas cards.
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The last week (4 days before we came back to Oz) was my (Cynthia’s) turn to run a homeschooling afternoon.  I gave them some inspiration and they spent an hour creating a wonderful obstacle course in the front yard.  It included  coconut shell stepping stones, a rolly bamboo bridge, a rope swing “over a lake of lava” and speedy jigsaw code breaker.  They had lots of fun.
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Finally here is a little piture of us with Emmy, standing out the front of Sonrei House where we live.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Returning to Oz

This is our final week in East Timor for 2011. It was a pretty rough journey at the start. We thank God for looking after us and for building the house we now live and work in. We have had great opportunities to help people here in East Timor and have done lots of fun things.  Its been great to have a number of visitors and teams come over to help their neighbours. 
I included a random little video for your entertainment.  Dont get too excited though...

100_0944The kids are REALLY looking forward to getting back to oz.  We have a few tropical diseases we’d like to knock off while we’re there.  We’ve been having a bit of a chess craze here and Israel is giving his dad a run for his money.  Serenity is growing up into a fine young lady and will be a bit sad to leave Taffy the cat and Buddy the dog behind.  
Some updates:
IMGP0367 The sewing room Belle Kria has done its last run to the market.  Our truck wanted to put on its best performance for its final run – almost empty of fuel, no oil so the engine tried seizing up, and a main fuse broke a needed a bit of dodgey adjustment to get home.  I have decided to sell the old girl for $2500 (apologies to Tweed Salvos).  The market night was quiet but the girls made a few sales.
The building team is a substantial way through building the block wall for the Nazarene Church in Dili. 
A final report was made to Wycliffe Bible Translators regarding Bible distribution.  We will have distributed about 1200 of their scriptures by the end of the year and about 1200 New Testaments translated by the Catholic Church.  We also hope to coordinate a big Bible distribution trip with Mateus while we are away. He will take approximately 300 or so scriptures to deliver to churches in the Viqueque area. It will be about a 2 week journey.
Tobias is off on another trade run.  He made about $150 profit on his 2nd run (an improvement on the $40 profit from his 1st run).  He swapped a goat for some rice to the value of $50 and I sold it for $75 to some guys in our village planning to buy a wife.  They were hoping for a price of $600 but it turns out she’s a bit more exxy at $6000 plus 6 cows.  You gotta be careful who you date around here.  The value of a girl depends a lot on where she comes from.  Anyway, back to Tobias, we hope he returns safely this Wednesday with another load and we’ll talk about how he might continue while we are gone.
Mateus continues to build his school at Liquidoe.  The big news is that he finally took Mateus - School Director proudly displaying freshly printed shirts donated by South Grafton Public Schoolthe school shirts up that were   donated from South Grafton Public School.  This was very exciting for them.  Instead of going to school in rags they wear a new shirt and really feel like its a proper program.  Thanks heaps to South Grafton Public School and the Grafton Community Church for this donation.
100_3185 Sese is using funds we supplied to him (ultimately from nice folks in oz) to continue building his training centre.  He bought concrete blocks and is working hard with local volunteers to raise the walls.  This will be for a discipleship training centre for the new organisation he is heading up called “Fini Transformasaun”  or “Seeds of Change”. IMGP0270
We’ll supply funds for the water tank and corn seed silo tomorrow and arrange their transport to Los Palos while we’re in oz.  Thanks to donations from the Palmerston Crossroads Church in NT. 
Other stuff will be wound down while we are away.  We hope to return next January but have some serious issues with the Lismore housing project.  We need a miracle.  Anyone know a miracle worker?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tweak a man to Fish

Ok, I’m still stuck on this sweet little line I heard in the land of the rich:  “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a life time.” Here in East Timor it seems hard to find IMGP0338a person who doesn’t already have some skill.  When it comes to fishing, they already seem to know how to catch a fish.  I actually think this has broader implications than fishing.  Its part of this whole struggle that we have to know how to help these people (if we should help them at all) in the land some might call “poor”.  It seems to me that our greatest successes (on an economic development front) come from adding to what they already have rather than trying to teach them something totally new.  I find that improving the lives of these people is about listening to their ideas and dreams and helping them at the precise point at which they get stuck.  This might be providing a boat for a fisherman or a sewing machine for a lady or coordinating a building contract for a builder or a silo for a farmer.  Usually though, it involves more than just some simple injection of finance.  But the point is, its often not about teaching them something brand new.  For the boat and fishing saga, we have taken a slightly different tack and gone into trading.  We have found a young man, Tobias, who was labouring for us building bamboo fences.  He showed an interest in the outboard when I was washing it and it turns out that he used to bring fish from the island and sell it in Dili.  I am ever the one to try and knock off a few birds with the one stone so we ended up cutting a deal like this:  we trade rice, kero, plastic, Bibles and other things for fish and bamboo from the island.  You may remember that it is illegal to cut and bring in bamboo to Dili without appropriate letters (which are very difficult to get).  But there are no guards on the beach!  For us this solves a problem of getting our hands on a renewable building product and it provides food for the islanders without them having to use up their hard earned cash.  In a sense it opens up work opportunities for a number of fisherman and farmers on the island.  The catch is, can we mIMGP0340ake it financially viable.  On Tobias’ first run it was at a cost of $122 and he returned with $163 worth of goods making a humble profit of $41 which we split 50/50.  (We need to cover boat maintenance and he needs a wage).  Its not much, but its a vast improvement on the straight fishing venture which cost $115 and returned nothing (in large part due to the less than responsible Timorese man we were trying to help).  Tobias is also using some of the fishing gear supplied by Geoff, Nick and Graham.  He’s just finished he’s second run which we haven’t counted up but so far its looking ok.  There are still a lot of things to iron out before we can say its a winner.  For example, on this second run he tried to come back Saturday morning but got stuck in a rain storm and ended up arriving in at nightfall on the beach with a fridge load of fish which is quite hard to sell at that time.  He spent all Sunday trying to sell it and will still be trying to sell the fish today which is fast going bad.  This incurs extra cost of buying ice to keep the fish.  Also it goes hard against my religious grain of wanting to keep Sunday as a day of rest.  His trading meant he IMGP0342missed church on Sunday.  I said a prayer or two to the living God.  I believe He is merciful and we’ll definitely be looking for a better trading plan.  Oh, and on an environmental front, he brought back two good sized bugs (like crayfish) with massive egg sacks under the tail – oops.  Dont tell any of my hippy friends – I hope they are as merciful as God is. 

    Tobias seems an honest man and I pray that God will bless him hugely and we can find a way for him and the many families that will benefit from this concept.  So thats my take on the “teach a man to fish” line.  I am not sure that its so much about teaching them to fish but looking at the skills they already have and tweaking the process to make it work, perhaps thats it:  “tweak a man to fish”


Monday, November 14, 2011

The Passion for Los Palos

IMGP0254 This week we have had the privilege of Geoff, Graham and Nick visiting us from Darwin. They had two main aims for this 10 day trip: to improve the water supply for Pastor Samuel in Los Palos and show the “Passion” movie to some of his house church groups. After much discussion on how to go about making the water more reliable for the church we settled on buying two more 1100L tanks. Transport is now a serious difficulty since our truck is no longer able to make the trip to Los Palos. We travelled around the streets of Dili to find that the main shops had sold out of all tanks. By mid morning we figured we’d missed our slim opportunity to buy tanks and put them on top of a bus to Los Palos so we abandoned the idea and decided to go for buying a corrugated zincalum tank in Baucau, a major town half way to Los Palos. The other preparation was to purchase a data projector, DVD player, speakers and other electrical equipment as well as the DVD for showing the Passion movie. With all this equipment loaded into a borrowed vehicle we set off for Los Palos. Its about a 6 hour journey to cover the 220km with some spectacular views along the way. We follow the northern coast of the country and turn up into the mountains toward the end of the road. Los Palos is situated in a large catchment that drains to a mountain lake at the eastern end of the country.
IMGP0269 We found all the gear we needed for the tank stands in Los Palos and began work on these. One was an extension of a stand I had made last year which they thought was a little on the wobbly side. Picky, picky! A few diagonal bracings sorted that out. The other stand was to be a concrete base for the metal tank. In my mind this, of course, was going to be a circular base. The boys were more than a little surprised at considering anything other than a square. Coming from the hills of Lismore, I think straight lines are over-rated, curves are beautiful. It took a fair amount of coaxing and cracking of jokes to bring them around, but finally they let me make a circle.  I am almost positive that somewhere through the process they began standing back and admiring the beauty of a curve.

Pastor Samuel happily waters their community garden with the new tap installed by Graham.  The young people have a few beds to grow vegetables for the group as well as some to sell to gain a small income. 

Showing the Passion movie proved a little more tricky. The first night was fraught with electrical problems. The electrical wiring in the house where we were screening the movie was all but completely fried. Rusty connections and melted fittings meant his fuse switch regularly tripped and proved unusable in its current condition. A crowd had already gathered and I had my tools so frantically set to work trying to make the wires somewhat usable and not get myself fried in the process. Meanwhile the boys set up the little generator from the church. This actually worked for the first 3rd of the movie although we could smell something melting. Eventually the voltage regulator sent up a plume of smoke. I removed it from the equation and then the DVD player got immediately fried. By then we worked out the generator had serious carburettor issues and wouldn’t start. P1010152We then wired the system straight into the house fuse switch bypassing the house wiring altogether and used a borrowed DVD player that turned out not working. In a last effort we shorted the blown fuse in the other DVD player but when it started sparking we figured it was the end of the night. The locals really wanted to see the film so we decided to come back the following night better armed. The next morning I rewired their house while Nick did an overhaul on the carby. We decided in the end to take a bigger generator owned by the church. The boys bought another DVD player and voltage regulator and we showed the movie with no problems. A number of people came up to receive Bibles at the end of the night and then wandered off into the darkness including one child who happened to carry off the key to our car. After an extensive search we left the car and walked the 5km back home (very embarrassing for yours truly who was the last one with the key). By the following morning church folk had scoured the village knocking on doors and miraculously the key materialised to my great relief. During this time I got to talk to a couple of families about purchasing a 2000L air-tight silo to save their harvest of corn. We figure that with the sIMGP0238ales from the first harvest they can repay the cost of the silo. They are a hardworking community. One 70+ year old  gentleman had turned over about 2 acres of field by hand with a metal rod from an axle shaft. I have never seen a piece of steel so shiny just from continual daily use. Much of their corn will be eaten by weevils within the first 2 months of harvest. A silo like this will increase their effective storage by 10 times.
The last night of viewing was at a house church run at the town markets. People at the markets run small stalls selling clothes, vegetables and other items. Many families sleep in their small shops as it is their only home. The movie was screened outside on a wall of one of the market buildings. The night was going well until 5 young men took it upon themselves to try to stop the movie. They started throwing rocks onto the nearby roof and into the crowd. The crowd quickly dispersed in fear and several of us took off into the darkness in the direction from where the rocks were coming. We met with boisterous, partly drank and angry young men who demanded we stop the film. Fortunately some young men in our church who had been saved from a life of violence boldly stood their ground against these men and sent them off. They returned soon after walking angrily around the place where we were showing the movie. Our Darwin boys made a formidable guard around the the gear being almost 50% bigger than the Timor guys. While we tried to negotiate some sort of agreement, the crowd got in on the act and started demanding that they let the movie continue. Eventually the young men settled down or walked away and gave us no more trouble that night. The Timorese here really identified with the suffering they saw as Jesus was being tortured. They have experienced a lot of torture and bloodshed in their life. At the end of the movie Pastor Samuel gave a short message and the remaining Bibles we had were quickly snatched up. The families in the market and also across Los Palos live in a volatile environment like this continually. We hope that the message of Jesus will help to bring them hope and peace.  IMGP0243 (600 x 450)
P1010200 (600 x 450)
On Saturday the Darwin boys hired a ca r and drove up the mountain to help Mateus level the building site for his school in Liquidoe.
On Monday, we went out fishing to test some gear they brought over for the boat. We hope we can snag a big fish on it.  I am working with a new Timorese man to get the fishing business going.  He is making a trade run to Atauro which I’ll tell you about sometime.  Here he is taking rice, kero, and plastic sheet to trade for bamboo and fish.  The drum is from “Drums on Farms” donated by MAF and is being taken to the island to assist in corn storage.
We really appreciated guys like Graham, Nick and Geoff who give of their time, their money and their heart to encourage us and support us in our work. Thanks guys.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The rain-is-a-coming, Oh, Yeah!

Samuel is out of town, and has asked me to do a bit of a blog update for him.  He plans to return tomorrow night and will try to add a new update over the weekend.  So here are a few highlights of the last week or so.
We have had 2 heavy downpours suggesting that the rainy season is beginning.  DSCF3197Our garden is full of bok choy. ( this means we eat lots of green leafy veges much to Israel and serenity’s disappointment :) )  We also have a number of tomato plants in various sizes, a few coming out in flowers, and some watermelon and cucumber seedlings.  We have been able to share some veges already, which is a lovely feeling isn’t it?
Our boat went on its first camping adventure.  Some friends hired it for 4 days planning a trip east along the coast.  The night before they left one of the friends pulled out ill, and Samuel asked if he could join them, so off they went.IMGP0073Serenity Israel and I stayed home (read “not exactly excited by the thought of seasickness and sleeping on sand”).  Mind you, we ended up joining them all for one night at the end of the trip.  We survived.
They found some lovely camping spots tucked away, some great snorkelling and beautiful views of the island!IMGP0098IMGP0164They saw dolphins, a whale, and later a group of wild monkeys playing on a hill.
Back home, the sewing room is plodding along.  We had Ange turn up again after 8 months maternity leave.  She finds her way from the other side of town each day – dedication.  She is the eldest daughter of one of our neighbours and has some great creativity.DSCF3159_renamed_5213
Samuel also whipped up a set of lockers for motorbike helmets.  This is to be installed at the Seeds of Life office.  Building the frame wasn’t too stressful, but fitting 15 doors took some perseverance.    DSCF3198 (600 x 400)           
Other things – Israel just finished a course of antibiotics, and serenity is battling a re-occurring earache.  We seem to get it under control with regular drops of a water/vinegar mix but then she goes swimming again and….anyway she is attempting not to swim for 2 weeks starting today.  Wish her luck…the water is perfect – flat, warm, shallow.
Oh and how can i forget?  We have been spoilt with some lovely whale watching – me and the kids have seen about 5 in 3 days from our dining room.  Yesterday a huge one was cruising west about 200m out.  We studied some identification details and are pretty convinced it was a blue whale, although it may have been a fin whale (similar to the blue whale but a bit smaller.)  Just awesome!

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Monotony

DSCF3087 (600 x 400) This week seems to have been the same monotonous run of work, keeping Timorese employed, supplying Bibles, fielding new requests, fixing things that have broken and managing sickness and injuries. Seems a bit boring but I’ll try to pull out some interesting stories.
The girls discovered straw hats.
One story is a Nigerian Doctor who called me a bit out of the blue to ask for help to build a shed for his plastic bottle recycling plant so he can earn money to support his Epilepsy treatment and advocacy organisation. Make sense? He’s a big man with a big heart. I’ll see if I can find time to see him this week. He has 40 tonnes of bottles stacked up – mountains! Did you know that they sell for 50c a kilo? While meeting me at home, he got to check out Cynthia who was suffering a fever and tonsillitis. Also, he’s part of a small local church and was very happy to receive a box of scriptures giving me the same expression I’ve heard so often, “Wow we’ve been wanting to find scriptures in Tetun for so long but didn’t know where to get them. This is amazing!”
I was also helping folks to buy all their gear for a good solar system for their library in the mountains – a bit of an art to assemble a workable system in this country. At the end of the day we dropped off their gear at Ahisaun (a disability centre) and I just happened to be introduced as the man who distributes Bibles to a Catholic priest there DSCF3071 (600 x 400)who works in Hata-bulico (quite remote mountain town). He is from an Indonesian island called Flores. He was very keen to get some Bibles so he followed me home and I gave him 50 New Testaments and some other scriptures for his Bible study groups including one of the precious last remaining copies of Genesis (the only OT scripture available). It turns out that his name is in the epilogue of the New Testament as one of the Priests who checked the translation. This is an important connection for me to ensure I can continue buying Bibles from the Catholic distributor without getting too hassled.
Padre Adriano from Flores, working in the mountains of Hata-bulico
The following night, at the markets, I met a girl working with PALMS (Catholic volunteer agency) who seemed rather desperate to build a fence in ... Hatabulico! Small world. The problem they face is that animals are getting to the village spring and they want to protect it as well as their vegetable gardens. I’m hoping I can help them with a bamboo fence. I am so wrapped in bamboo! There are three things you need here to grow a garden, three things to secure food for your family – 1. A good water supply, 2. A good fence, and 3. A willing heart to work. If you can help the Timorese with these three fundamental things then they can grow good gardens. We packed up from the markets to come home to find the truck had died yet again. After a couple of hours I called my mate, Anen, who came and wobbled a piece of wire in the engine bay where a fuse should have been and had the truck started in 2 minutes flat. I rumbled into home after 1 am. The vehicles are a bit of a drama – three flat tyres this week and the accelerator cable snapped on the Suzuki. Last week, the brakes on the truck started smoking and I had to reset one side including pulling apart the slave cylinder. Still struggling with it.
Started building the chook pen this week as a demonstration concept on how to keep chooks more in a more viable way. 6ft fence made from ... bamboo! I have taught boys who have taught other boys who now work for me making fences.
Finalised drawings for submission to government for the new conference centre for the Nazarene Church. We hope to get them water this week and then start on their land drainage problem because the rains have just started. (Our ‘you-beaut’ all-natural thatched roof leaks, doh!)
The family has been sick and its been difficult for Cynthia. She’s a brave lass. The kids are also pining for the sweet delicacies of the mother country.DSCF3059 (600 x 400)Israel working hard in our new veggie patch. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Truth About Rango

We saw the movie Rango the other day.  It was pirated, but that’s all they sell in the shops in this country.  I hope that this blog may entice a couple of people to pay to see the movie and hence I will justify my pirated copy through free advertisement.  Anyway, although the thing is a little quirky, I found myself associating with the character – Rango.  I mean, I am just a little odd, I have walked into a world in which the “source of societal discontentment” is often water and then I pretend that I am the man who can save the day even though I have little idea of how to do it.  There is a sinister side to the water and ultimately there is evil lurking around the corner, controlling the water, oppressing the people and strangling their crops.  To save the day you have  to eyeball the evil and make your stand even though you know you are dealing with a very powerful figure.  I’m sure I will die one day, probably from infection.  Funny movie but very real.  Of course this all only makes sense with God in the background, weaving his magic, revealing his power.  
DSCF3053These are garden beds put in by the Nazarene church youth in an attempt to get some income.  These are full of dead vegies – hope that dried up when their bore failed.  Its now late into the dry season and their bore was not bashed down far enough.  I am trying to help them get the bore down further.  Just on the quiet, I’ve never done boring work before.  The farm I grew up on relied on a spring further up the hill and the water came down by gravity.  But now, in true naive style I have been dubbed the expert.  We employed a guy to do the work but the chain on the pulley he uses to pull up the bore pipe snapped and he has given up.  I bought a three tonne pulley (block and endless chain type) and with a bit of grunting in the bottom of the dry well with a Timorese and 200 mozzies we somehow managed to pull out the pipe. 
The simple way to make a bore in this country is to bash a 40mm diameter steel pipe into the ground as far as you can.  Then pull out the pipe however you can and clean out the dirt stuck inside.  Repeat this process until you hit water – preferably in a sandy layer.  Then pull out the pipe,  clean it one last time and bash the bottom end flat into a “spear” shape.  You cut some grooves just above the spear end to let water seep in and then bash the pipe into the ground to stay.  Because this bore pipe did not go far enough down we had to cut off the spear and bash it down and add another length to the pipe with a joiner.  This is where I made my fatal flaw.  I didn’t tighten the join up properly.  We bashed the join about 2.4m down into the ground and the join came apart.  Now our options are to bash a whole new pipe or, if brave and dumb enough, climb down the bottom of the well and try to dig down to the join put a chain on it and pull it out.  It is possible, so long as the whole thing doesn’t collapse.  Save on burial costs I suppose.  Perhaps some heroes are just idiots who happened to survive.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Soibada – Mary’s Heart

They say that Soibada was once planned to be the capital of East Timor. It is right in the heart of the country and is home to the national sanctuary for Mary, the mother of Jesus. In its hay day it was the centre of excellence and the main training centre for Priests. Many famous folks like Jose Ramos Horta spent schooling days here.

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My family in ruins!
Those days are gone now and the town is left with the ancient ruins of a bygone era. There is an incredible feel as you wander through the deserted old stone buildings. The Timorese boys led us into dark and dusty rooms with the old relics of the church. One boy motioned to a body under a blanket and said in all seriousness, “That’s the dead lady.” Cautiously I lifted up the blanket to find a statue of Jesus, crucified. I was surprised – perhaps a little horrified. That here in this place after such teaching, they still didn’t know who had died for them. sister rosa and i with bag of cloth pad kits
In Soibada, there is a children’s home which we visited with our friends – Darren and Celeste, and Josh, Josiah and Renee. A couple of lovely nuns here look after around 40 kids. Darren and Celeste brought up a heap of stationary for the kids and checked out the laptops that they brought last time they were up. We were able to give some women’s sanitary pads from Cynthia’s sewing room kindly donated by funds from friends of Celeste (she’s been busy fundraising in Melbourne). I also got to take them around 70 scriptures and share a story with the kids on the gospel of Mark.  The juice was running so I got the kids to act out some scenes which they really enjoyed.  I walked around with Sister Mary, one of the nuns and asked what their needs were.  She said that water was very difficult for them.  There are lots of issues surrounding their water difficulty.  We found two potential sites to dig for water but unfortunately these sites were sacred and couldn’t be touched.  It was looking grim when Sister Mary finally mentioned that they have a little problem with their kitchen in that when they sweep the floor a puddle of water forms always in the same spot coming from underneath the concrete.  This is downhill from a potential spring – it would be funny if God heard Sister Mary’s heart and gave them water right there in their kitchen.  I am not sure though if I will ever get back to help them with their water problem.  Many issues like this don’t have a quick fix.  It is better to walk with them over time to truly know the problem and give more time to help them through it.  Never the less it was great to be there and encourage them in their ministry and see how they operate.  I pray that God looks kindly on this children’s home and blesses Mary’s heart.