Easter happened here in Lospalos even without the Easter Bunny.
Instead, we hosted the Lospalos Easter Youth Event: 80 youth, 5 pastors. 1 goat, 10 frozen chickens, 90 kilos of rice, lots of vegetables. 1 water well, 2 toilets, and in the end, only 1 garbage can of trash.
Youth from the eastern part of Timor gathered here in our church compound for 48 hours of singing, playing, eating and learning together. Some kids rode buses and open bed trucks for 6 hours on bumpy, curvy roads to come. Church women cooked over open fires all day and night, and there was plenty to go around for every meal. Kitchen duty for the kids meant boys hauling up water from the well and girls prepping vegetables and washing dishes in buckets beside the well, at night by moonlight.
The day before our guests arrived, our local youth were preparing the space, and one kid went to use the church toilet. She came back and reported that the toilet overflowed. On further assessment, it was decided that the toilet was “full”, and thus, unusable. This meant that 1 of the 2 toilets we were planning on the kids using, was no good. As you can imagine, this presented a dilemma, considering 50 guests were slated to descend on us the following day. Tom and I were immediately concerned about the “tee arbiriu”, or “random pooping”, issue, thinking that kids would just head over to the banana trees behind the church to do their business. But, no one else was as concerned as we were, and soon, a solution suitable to all using the private toilets available was devised. It worked, too.
Clinic staff and I performed a theatre piece on gonorrhea. This segued into a broader talk on sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, and safe sex. We had recently diagnosed a young man in the clinic with gonorrhea (thanks to Amena Cristovao’s laboratory skills), and we used the story in our drama. Pretty certain the youth had never heard the word “gonorrhea” before now, so I made sure the staff repeated it profusely during the show. Tom thought our sex talk was one of the highlights of the youth event; I hope the kids thought so, too. At least, I hope they remember something about STIs.
The first night, all the girls slept, for a little bit, on the church floor and on the wooden pews. At midnight when they were starting to settle down, none of the female pastors were bedding down in the church, and Hannah came home distressed that no adult was there. I foolishly volunteered to sleep there, somehow thinking I might get to sleep with about 50 teenage girls and their cell phones. You can imagine how happy I was when I found earplugs in my sweatshirt pocket! Alas, I had just fallen asleep when Hannah came shaking me awake, because someone had to pee and I was holding all the keys (the girls were locked in the church for security). I got up to let the girl out to go in the grass, but the chatter continued through the night, and my earplugs were never to find my ears again.
On the last day of the event, we had a conflict. Someone’s computer speaker had been stolen. It was decided that there would be a bag check, and I was included in checking some of the girls’ bags. Now imagine the duffle most teens would bring for a 3-day co-ed gig. I searched one girl’s bag, and the only thing inside was a single shirt and a comb. If Tom and I ever thought we were minimalists, we don’t know the meaning of the word when we compare ourselves to Timorese, whether kids or adults.
Anyway, the bag check “worked”, because the taker stealthily returned the stolen property amidst the searching, and we ended the event on a high note of forgiveness and grace. For me, this event reminded me Why we are here in East Timor: to offer our gifts, and to receive the gift of community that comes when you gather people in one place for a few days, with a goat, a few chickens, lots of rice, and a well full of water.