The end of the rainy season in Timor-Leste is a bit like the coming of spring in Minnesota. Of course there’s no melting snow or freeze-thaw cycles that finally, grudgingly, come to an end. And alas, there’s no fishing opener! But blue sky becomes more common, laundry is easier to get dry and one’s general sense of well-being seems to mysteriously improve from day to day.
Timor had a parliamentary election last week and that went well. I spent the day riding my bike around to local polling places to check it out. I continue to be impressed by how seriously Timorese take their democracy. They have to travel to their hometown’s to vote, which means voting is a multi-day affair for folks who live far away. Overall, the election was peaceful, with lots of participation and everyone seems to have accepted the predictable preliminary results. There were however a few surprises. A “disenfranchised youth” party won 5 seats and the new party of former president Taur Matan Ruak (People’s Liberation Party) won about 10 seats I think. Other than that, the two main parties, Fretilin and CNRT won the majority of seats.
In recent years there has been concern that there was not a significant opposition party in parliament. But disillusionment with the government’s spending on big-ticket infrastructure projects that do little to lift people out of poverty seems to be growing. The country’s oil reserves are almost taped out and investment in the basics like education, agriculture, health, water and sanitation has been minimal. The small parties making inroads suggests that public disillusionment with this (rather unfortunate) approach to development may be gaining ground.
While it seems like spring here, it’s mid-summer in Minnesota and Hannah is there enjoying it with family and friends on our behalf (I’m hoping she gets in a canoe, if not out camping, at least once!). Around Christmas, we decided to offer her the opportunity to head home for a couple months this summer to reconnect with people in Minnesota and Indiana. She’s having fun but assures me that she does in fact miss us and will in fact look forward to coming back to Timor! She’ll be back in early September with my folks who will be staying with us for a few weeks which we’re looking forward to.
Simon is also on vacation for the next few weeks. He finished the second quarter of public school in Lospalos where he studies mostly in Portuguese (and some Tetum). So these days he’s out and about playing with friends and generally enjoying being seven year-old with an unstructured life.
My time as interim pastor here at Immanuel Church is coming to an end after almost a full year. I didn’t expect that job but it’s been a great experience. One part of my assignment here is continuing education for IPTL’s pastors, and I think it would be hard to do that effectively without being involved in local church ministry myself. So I’m glad I’ll continue to be involved in that even when the new pastor takes over. Going forward though, I’ll have more time to focus on the work I’m doing in other parts of Timor-Leste. Some of that will get started this month with a IPTL pastor’s gathering in the town of Liquisa (grassroots approach to continuing education), an annual Synod meeting in Dili and the start of a mini research project in the village of Lisadila.
Some of you may know that Global Ministries has been partnering with the IPTL in running a public middle school in a rural area about 3 hours from Dili. The school has been going for 10 years and we want to find out what kind of impact it’s having in the community. So starting later this month, together with IPTL colleagues, I’ll be doing a series of interviews with graduates, parents, current students as well as some listening sessions and chats with community leaders. Ultimately, the goal is to try to figure out if what the school is currently offering is adequate or if a “course correction” of some kind is needed. Education is great, but we want the school to be a force for social transformation in this village and – ideally – throughout the country. But we’ll see how it goes. I expect to wrap up this inquiry by the end of the year and I’ll be writing more about it along the way.
Things with Clinic Immanuel continue to be in transition but steady nevertheless. Every week between 100 and 200 patents come for consultation and staff continue to treat them with dignity and respect while serving with compassion and love. Uniting World of Australia, the clinic’s main funder, has long stated that it wants the clinic to move more toward grassroots health promotion / education rather than its current clinical model. Prevention should always be the goal of course, but it’s a bit of a rocky transition because for over 25 years the clinic has been functioning basically as a standard outpatient health post. So what exactly the clinic’s role in the community will be going forward is still a bit up-in-the-air. For now though, they continue to serve the public doing both clinical care and health education.
Well, I hope that gives you a bit of a sense of how things are with the Liddle family over here in Timor-Leste. Summer is my favorite time of year in Minnesota so I am particularly missing the land of 10,000 lakes about now (wave of nostalgia pours over)…!