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!