Daur and Dili are separated by a distance of only 127 kilometers, but represent a separation far greater than that. Today we will travel between the two.
Our second morning in Samé commences in much the same way as the first. The rooster starts his crowing before the light. Apparently he is set for 5.03am, for this is the time at which he has started work each morning, according to Robert Benn. In the distance his colleagues respond in kind, whether by emulation, encouragement or competition. After daylight the tumbling rooftop chickens also repeat yesterday’s performance and then the sound of household life takes prominence.
Rob Duncanson has again taken the rooster option with regard to rising and this morning is rewarded with a satisfactory photograph of the dawn. RB must have been one of those responsible for the sound of much splashing water because he is looking bright and refreshed. His diligence in not staying up last night has been rewarded. Gary Ware greets the morning in his usual fashion, as late as possible.
Yesterday, around dusk, we had been taken by Daniel to a local clinic. It bears government markings, but is also supported by a foundation funded by the generosity of Dutch and Australian benefactors. The building is almost brand new, its construction having only been completed late last year. It has a dispensary, consulting room, treatment room and laboratory. There is a mobile clinic, a part of the work, which visits around the local region. Though operational, the clinic is beset with problems at a management level and these have shaken the confidence of the benefactors of the Board. It may take a new Board to be formed in order for the work of the clinic to grow.
Our final visit in the Samé region will be to the Duar congregation. Our motorcade today is the truck, laden with about twenty passengers, the Hilux with six extras in the back tray and the Pajero. A young man named Chris has been traveling with us. He has finally gathered up the courage to ask for his own copy of Timotio, a request we gladly fulfill. I ask him particularly about the page which contains John 3:16 in Tetun. He patiently explains the various English words translated out to me. We have driven out of the Samé Township in a south westerly direction for about twelve kilometers, which takes twenty minutes as the road is quite good. At this point we pull off the road in the usual fashion and I look for the crowd and the structure in which they worship. There is nothing to be seen. With all three vehicles present we follow two wheel tracks off into the bush.
We drive at a very deliberate pace along the track. The undergrowth is quite dense and easily reaches as high as the roof of the car, so we cannot see much of our surrounds. The greenery is making a strong attempt to overcome the incursion which the road represents. Small shrubs grow in the wheel tracks, Branches grasp out toward each other across the space, scratching against the sides of the vehicles. We emerge from the bush, but we have not arrived. We are on the banks of the river Karmulun.
The rivers we have seen have been small free flowing streams running along paths in much wider beds. These beds are full of gravel and basket-ball size (and larger) river stones. In the wet season, the forty meter width will be a raging torrent. Today we must cross about twelve meters of wheel deep running water. The truck precedes us, itself preceded by a couple of young men who sound depth and locate the best path. We follow, Arlindo wisely engaging the four-wheel drive. RD and GW get out watching the Pajero make its way across as well. All three vehicles on the other side, the dense plantlife envelops us again. As we continue I promise never to take issue with the assigned location of our next Presbytery or Assembly meeting.
Suddenly we enter a large clearing. The field is flat, and huts are spread around it. Toward the middle a substantial wooden framework is covered by a steel roof. People stand at the front of it in anticipation. We have arrived in Daur. Since we turned off the road we have traveled five kilometers. It has taken thirty minutes.
As we walk from the cars to our welcome three young men break into song. Two of them play guitar and their words begin to express the appreciation which is universally expressed for our presence. Though the various welcomes have shared elements they have all been marked with individual expression, as well.
We have scarves placed over our necks. These, the last we will receive from a local church all bear the red, yellow, black and white national colours of Timor Leste. This conveys the degree to which our hosts want to convey the sense of unity they feel with the Presbyterian churches of the world and particularly the Presbyterian Church of Australia.
The meeting, as it turns out, has a slightly more comprehensive element built in. As our final meeting visit, the program has sought to include and reiterate the appreciation felt for our other visits. Most of the other Congregations have representatives.
First though, we pay respect to Daur. Their Congregational name is Ebenezer. They have thirty families and 154 souls. We make our words of encouragement to the local Congregation, present them with copies of Timotio and then listen to their reports to us. RB makes special reference to the faith behind the reference to Ebenezer, ‘Till now the Lord has helped us.” Their building is a wooden frame, twenty meters long and ten meters wide. The roof is gabled, but there is no covering over the ridge, the sun shines through and will end up traversing across both RD and GW before the meeting concludes. The roof iron looks like some of the thinnest we have ever seen. About two thirds of the floor is concrete, the rest remains to be completed. We see the cement waiting in an adjoining hut. The sand will be carried from the river bed, no doubt. A free standing, four sided bamboo partition wall has been erected under the roofed area, on the two thirds of the sheltered area which has a concrete floor.
The word ‘report’ sounds very formal, and because of the local culture a certain formality pervades all of these interactions. Add to this the fact that translation between English or Bahasa and Tetun (or sometimes from Tetun to Bahasa to English) almost doubles the length of these meetings from their actual content.
The organizer of the Congregation, a younger man named Martinho da Costa. His wife Celestina is expecting their fifth child. There was great concern that rain earlier in the week would prevent our visit. The people felt that our visit helped them know the reality of the fellowship that they have with God’s people. Visits are so rare that we are a tangible expression of Christian fellowship. Once we hadn’t met face to face but we have begun to meet at the throne of grace. They are sustained in their desire to witness because of this new experience of Christian fellowship. Problems abound. Their children have to walk great distances to school. If the rivers are up the children cannot come home. The mountains are really only reachable by horses, which are in short supply. (This is a change from being told about the need for motor bikes.)
An older man spoke with tears in his eyes that really said more to us than his words. A younger man, one of those who had sung and played guitar for us, spoke with great animation, (and some amount of respectful cheek) the most interesting of his requests was for a generator so that the young people would not have to hold their meetings in the dark. (One supposes they could also have louder electric music.) He felt that as they were from Daur, which sounded so much like Darwin that they were twins.
As the meeting drew to a close, representatives of other Congregations which we had visited address us again. A representative from the Hallelujah congregation, a body of twenty two families that was too distant for us to visit made a brief appeal. Arlindo would later comment that even he is limited to visiting churches that are reachable by car. Another church were simply too inaccessible to be reached and contacted with news of our visit.
Arlindo seeks to communicate to the people that our presence is not the answer to their needs or the end of their problems. In all things they must continue to look to Jesus. Leonel Marcel, who has overseen all the meetings of our visit in a most thoughtful way, thanks all who have worked to enable the visits to take place, mentions that the perception of dark times now seems to be lifting, affirms our mutual relationship in the Gospel, assures us of the prayers of the EPC congregations for the PCA and declares now that everything that could be said has been said. RB closes in prayer.
Our refreshments afterward are roasted peanuts from which we hand rub the papery husks, dried banana and coffee. Then we make our way back into the jungle, returning to Samé for lunch at the Marcel’s. While there we extend our thanks to Daniel’s mother for the hospitality she has shown to us. RB uses the words of an Indonesian song: ‘My mother’s love for me is forever unlimited. She gives without expecting to receive. Her love is like the sun which continues to shine upon the earth.’ We pass on some copies of Timotio to help her continue to share the love of God with her family.
The trip back is slow and tiring. The country side changes as we drive from region to region. At one point we stop and stand atop a mountain range, able to see down into the valleys on either side. Cloud sweeps up from the south and threatens to envelop us like a fog. The temperature has dropped to about twenty degrees, maybe eighteen. As the locals shiver and clutch their jackets tightly I stand in my light cotton shirt enjoying the freshness and am reminded of the changes that twelve winters south of the Murray have wrought in me.
Even as the night falls and darkness imposes itself, there are still numbers of people walking the road at every point, continuing their journeys without light to invisible destinations. I wait for us to finally cross the mountain that will bring us into sight of Dili. When it comes into view I remember that in the darkness of the night at Samé, I was able to look up at the Milky Way, an unnumbered array of heavenly lights. Whenever I do so I remember God’s promise of a heritage to Abraham. The gentle glow of Dili below us brings a similar thought to mind. This city needs the Gospel and in it are those who form part of Abraham’s heritage. Today in the midst of a field I have looked upon that heritage, and that heritage is also present in Dili. The challenges of sharing and nurturing the Gospel in both places are immense and vary greatly. But it is the same Gospel which must be proclaimed and received. Both in Daur and Dili.

One thought on “Day 7 (Visiting the EPC-TL Part 13)

  1. Brian says:

    God will provide if we are willing to help.

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