Last Christmas there was civil strife over a planned Christmas celebration in our next destination, Besusu. Out of a sense of caution, our motorcade was joined with a car from the UN security force. Four uniformed armed officials drove ahead of us the thirty kilometers from Betano to Besusu. So, to visualize, a UN Landcruiser, (driven by a Muslim from Gambia), blue lights flashing; a large truck carrying up to sixty singing young people swaying over every pot-hole; eight or so motor cycles laden with a variety of passengers; Arlindo’s Hilux and then Daniel’s Pajero. It seems that the Moderator General should arrive at the next General Assembly in nothing less!
The road is not so good. But as we make a sharp left hand turn we become aware of the fact we that we will drive parallel to the ocean. The tide is in and the water is so azure in colour that it is almost possible to mistake it for a large blue lake in my home town. We are told that there is no protection from island or reef, so the water is too rough for much fishing or anything else. The calmer conditions today make for beautiful scenery. After thirty or forty minutes we arrive in Besusu. We see more cows than just about anywhere else and the pigs seem larger. The architecture changes again: the bamboo huts are square, larger on the whole, many times built off the ground on bamboo frames and the roofs are thatched with bamboo leaves. As we get out of our vehicles a song of welcome invites us to come forward for a presentation of scarves. We take our seats under a canvas stretched over a long wooden frame, about fifteen meters long and six meters wide. The canvas is set outside of a small bamboo hut.
The first speaker represents a change in our usual format. Local civil official, Antonio Magelains, addresses us. He is eager to affirm that this church is indeed a legitimate and welcome part of the community. Despite the hostilities the church experience over Christmas time, they should not expect anything like that to happen again. As the Protestant community, they have the right to have their faith taught to their children in the local school as part of their religious education course. The visit of representatives of the Presbyterian Church of Australia plays a little part in impressing this local leader that this church, though only recently begun, has deep roots. The idea that our UN escort is a Muslim and our civic welcome is given by a Catholic only underlines the power of God as He cares for His own in ways beyond our wildest imaginings.
Antonio Carmo, the organizer of the congregation provides us with their report. The work began last year, primarily due to the encouragement of Leo Marcel. They now have seventeen families, with one hundred and fifty souls. Apparently the local authorities have gifted them some land, but the present church is too small. (A bamboo hut, ten meters by five meters.) The local people are of very limited means, primary producers, whose children attend primary school, with scattered secondary school attendance. If you can believe it, the whole church own two Bahasa language Bibles between them, and share them for reading via a roster system. Most of us own at least two Bible each!
Their youth leader, Mariano, addresses us with confidence and grace. He has graduated senior high school, and expresses a greeting to the young people of our church, and mentions that music instruments would be helpful for the congregation to express their praises. Another man, Alfredo, simply wants to express thanks to us, for this is the first time someone has come.
After the usual formalities and gift of Timotios, we share refreshments. The simple means of the district can be sensed. With coffee or tea we can eat dried banana, fried banana or fresh banana. The fresh banana is the sweetest we have eaten so far. Before we depart we present copies of Timotio to Antonio, the civil authority and to a woman official who had accompanied him. They receive them with delight. We also need a photo of RB with his UN bodyguards. I can’t believe that RD actually said that they should all stand against the car and he would start shooting.
Anyway, the whole singing, swaying, horn-tooting procession makes its way back to Betano for lunch. A generous provision of rice and local dishes featuring beef and chicken are eaten. RD learns that green chili sambal can be hotter than red chili. Outside another hundred or so eat as well. After lunch there is more time for fun. The sound of children singing can be heard. Others rush over to join the throng. There in the midst of this mass towers RB. They sing, they answer his questions, learn about kangaroos. Their eyes shine and their mouths smile broadly.
After lunch Arlindo promises to take us back to the ocean. The tide has gone out, the level of the water seems to have dropped three or four meters. The sand is a grey colour, littered with small stones and shells. A breeze blows up from the South, the swell gently breaks against the beach. The children run down before us frolicking in the shallows and exploring the exposed rocks. But I must touch the ocean.
Arlindo explained earlier that during his political exile in Canada he had come to the waters of the Newfoundland Sound. There he had touched the water and drew strength and peace from the fact that the same water touched his homeland. So, with my feet still firmly on this land of new friends and Christian fellowship I touch the ocean and feel the connection with my home and loved ones, remembering that we are all one in Christ and that our true home is with Him. From this point our journey now leads toward home. Today we touched the Ocean.

2 thoughts on “Day 6, Part 2 (Vistiting the EPC-TL Part 12)

  1. Brian says:

    You brought tears to my eyes.

  2. Brian says:

    You brought tears to my eyesknowing that God has provided us with this connection.

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