It all started with 4 Canadians getting off the plane in El-tari airport Kupang. One of the first things they must have gotten a hold of is our remote control, and set our pace in the “fast forward” mode! Their name tags read: Felicia Vandervelde , Dan Shulenberg, Jake…. and Anna…… Together they formed the first Canadian “Wings to Work” team! If you have not heard about these trips, they are short term mission trips where young and not so young people get the opportunity to share and be actively involved with the mission (aid) work done amongst the people of West Timor Indonesia. The main motivation behind these trips for the team is to get to know, encourage and show Christian love to fellow brothers and sisters. On the more practical side the team is also assigned to a “building job” where the team works closely together with the locals and the New Hope orphans. Working alongside the locals is such a testimony of brotherly love which is much more important and valuable than to be getting the job done! A lot of time is also spent in getting to know and hanging out with the New Hope orphans, volleyball and soccer are sure to be icebreakers! One of the biggest challenges for the teams usually is facing the cultural differences, from small things such as having rice for breakfast to spending a night (or two) in a far off village at one of the Reformed mission posts. Although very primitive a definite highlight of the trip was visiting and experiencing a bit of life with the members of the mission post in Phili. We enjoyed the always beautiful mountain views on the way there, which somehow are more beautiful seen from the back of a cattle truck. Upon arrival the congregation members were called together in no time, and introductions were made, supper was discussed and decided was that a not so happy little pig was to show up roasted for our supper! Even though the killing process (which you tend to “skip” in Canada) was a little grueling to watch, the meat did taste delicious! Our stomachs filled, tents pitched and soon we all drifted off to………………no we didn’t, the ground was VERY hard, and it was VERY cold! Dan and Jake obviously from experience had chosen the better spot and slept soundless in the car. Oh well,nothing a cup of coffee and a beautiful sunrise can’t fix in the morning! It being Sunday we had the privilege and joy of worshipping together our mighty and gracious God. The worship service was conducted in the house of our host family, because it got a little bit tight inside, some of us ended up sitting outside, but even that couldn’t take away the eagerness and expectation to hear the word of the Lord preached. After time spent in fellowship and having enjoyed so more food, decided was to start a hunt for young coconuts. On the way we made a stop at a grapefruit tree, (some of us didn’t get any further!) and enjoyed the most delicious grapefruits ever! We also discovered a cashew tree, and them being in season we were fortunate to bring home a whole sack of UN -cracked cashews, ever tried opening one? The full sack still sitting at our home would explain enough I would say! One of the items never missing on a trip into the villages is a bag with medication, there is always a shortage of simple over the counter medication in the villages, and always an over the limit amount of minor wounds and illnesses untreated. Upon our return from the village gardens, we conducted a health clinic which was well attended, a lot of vitamins, pain relief, anti biotic and de worm medication was distributed. Another item always present on such trips is a bag full of 2nd hand clothing donated from Australia to be distributed amongst the congregation members. After this, time came to say our farewells which involved a lot of nose rubbing, another interesting experience! We headed back for the city of Soe, where we enjoyed a much more restful sleep in one of the local hotels. Early next day we headed for the most beautiful and refreshing waterfalls of Timor in Oehalla. A quick lunch there, and back to Kupang, stopping on the way at the local market to get a go at the art of bargaining. A couple more hours on the road, and we were all very happy to see “home sweet home” again! A would be highlight of the trip was a night at the moonlit beach to witness turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs. This egg lying apparently happens only at specific times in the year, and that at a very irregular base. Most people here that live close to the beach have had a taste of turtle egg, it is not a delicacy, but added protein to their diet. This seemed unreal to the team members, as most westerners know that turtles are almost extinct! On the night it seemed most likely for turtles to come ashore according to the locals, we headed for the beach in the afternoon for a bbq at the beach, where after we would head out with a boat that would bring us to a small Island where turtles are known to come ashore. While we enjoyed the fish, the sand flies feasted themselves on us! But nothing small like a sand fly could take away the excitement of witnessing a real life session of “national Geographic’s”! How disappointed we were when the boat which was supposed to take us to the island failed to start! After several attempts and the now so much more annoying sand flies bugging us, it was decided to head home and have another try the following night at a different beach. The next night the team with a couple of the young people headed out again very optimistic, but to their great disappointment no turtle came within sight. To look at it from the positive side, a good reason to visit Timor again!
The remaining days were spent on the building site, where the New Life centre started to take shape, refreshing dips in Air Sagu and Tilong were thoroughly enjoyed, volleyball, a few day trips which included more barbecued pork and in no time the end of the trip was in sight. A huge dinner was cooked up for the farewell evening with “Beer Butt Chicken” prepared by the Canadians as “special” on the menu, and special it was! The festive mood of the farewell evening was soon replaced by the sad realization that return tickets for the team were booked for the next day. The New Hope children had a hard time to control their emotions, and more than a few shed a couple of tears! It is always so encouraging to have visitors over who are not just here to do the sightseeing, but really want to get to know the people, and be on the same level with them. We truly felt that communion of saints meeting together!
Save the Turtles……?
Things went from 5th to 4th gear for a couple of weeks, but soon we were headed to the airport again, this time to welcome Rev. Souman and his daughter Esther who planned to stay in Timor for little less than 1 month. Rev. Souman would spent most of his time teaching at the Reformed Theological College while Esther would joined in with the activities of the Australian Wings to Work team. This team of 15 Aussies aged 50+ to 4 months old stayed with us for 11 days and did loads of things! I won’t go into detail of the activities done by the Australian team, as one of their team members already wrote a beautiful summary of their time at New Hope which was published in the Australian mission news. During their stay, we also had the Harapan Baru (New Hope) family drastically extended with 8 new children arriving from Rote, Sumba and Soe! This made live go over in super fast forward for a while,trying to get them all settled in and ready for school! Just as this was sort of happening, Meldi complained about a very sore right side, and our suspicions were right……appendicitis! She had a very bad case of it, the doctor told her she should not have been a day later! She ended up staying in the hospital for a week, and is still taking it easy now. Having spent a week in Kupangs hospital I once again was made aware of how fragile life really is. On a daily bases people were brought in with all kinds of major and minor illnesses and diseases. The care was simply shocking. Children died because of diarrhea, others because there was no space for them, and most of them were turned down simply because their wallets were empty. There is no comparison to a Canadian hospital, dried blood everywhere, the supposedly “sterile” surgery room did not even have a tap to wash ones hands! One would be very unfortunate without family in the hospital for lifting the patient, bringing the patient to the surgery room, washing the patient, administering medication is all expected to be done by the family members of the patient, while the nurses hang out in the staff room! A high tolerance of pain, is also required, as this is simply “part of life” according to the hospital staff. During Meldi’s ultrasound examination the doctor told her quite bluntly that she had a tumor! This news of course both shocked Meldi and us as we expected an infected appendix. After the examination was done, and Meldi was wheeled out of the room, we asked the doctor how bad it was, oh he said, it wasn’t a tumor, that was her full bladder ! The story that really broke our hearts though is that of a lady in the ninth month of her pregnancy, being told that her baby would not survive the delivery. She told the doctor that the baby was still moving, but he simply repeated that the baby would not survive, and that he would be back the following morning to induce her, and deliver her dead baby! Apparently the cost of a caesarian section was too high for the government health plan for the poor! Sitting beside Meldi’s bed observing the hospital’s circumstances I could not prevent my mind from wandering back to the “Turtle” discussion we had. How important really is the fact that turtles, panda’s, and what all not are becoming extinct in comparison to a human life that is lost? Just recently I read a post on an internet site which seemed very right, noble and “Christian” saying the following:………………………………..Although I agree with most of it, the last part about “Saving the world” did not go down right. How deceiving it is to get caught up in trying to save the world. Daily the world warns us of the dangerous effects of global warming, thinning ozone layer, dying of the rain forests etc, and truly we have to take care of our surroundings, but as Christians we know that we can NOT save the world, for it is destined to be destroyed, to be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth where only SIN will be extinct! Instead of getting caught up and worried about a world that is dying, let us busy ourselves through our words and deeds, passing on the New Hope that is found in Him!
By the way, while we were on a short holiday in Bali together with the Soumans, we headed to the beach one day where a coca cola truck pulled a lot of interest that day. Our curious side gaining the better of us, we decided to check it out, and sure enough the beach goers could sign up to be part of the “saving the turtle” project! 140 baby turtles were about to be released into the ocean, Moses and Grace helped 2 of them make it safely into the water!
At the end of this New Hope update I like to request your prayers for Meldi who is still recovering, and also for the New Life project that has just taken shape, which hopes to provide a safe haven for unwed mothers to deliver their babies who have no other way to turn to.
Until next time,