Month: October 2018

Sunday morning meal

But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I have I give you; In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth stand up and walk.”  Acts 3:6

In Timor-Leste over 40% of kids under 5 are malnourished.  Clinic Immanuel and Immanuel Church can’t solve that.  This is a community of the poor serving the poor.  But poverty does not preclude serving in ways that give life.  The Clinic together with the church has a simple feeding program for Sunday school kids.  The meal not only provides much needed healthy food, it also teaches youth that Christian faith leads to action on behalf of others.

Here are a few pics from todays meal.


In Timor-Leste over 40% of kids under 5 are malnourished.  Protein is the main thing lacking.


Members of the youth group serve the meal and learn what it means to be “doers of the word.” (James 1:22)


Kids enjoying a hearty porridge of mung beans, milk and bananas.


Kids get weighed before eating so clinic staff can keep track of their weight.

What a week!

The sound of metal grinding on metal is never a good thing with a car.  Rattling stuff isn’t much better.  Yet when we pulled into Baucau Friday afternoon I heard both.  I’d turned off the AC and rolled down the window for a bit of fresh air after what we affectionately call “the angry backrub.” The “angry backrub” is 4 hours of driving over a dusty washboard road between Dili and Baucau where the average speed is 20-30 km hour.

We’d been in Dili since Sunday to get our young friend Leyla registered for a midwifery program starting in January, and to renew our visa.  Getting Leyla registered was easy; if all goes well, she will pass her basic entrance exam and her blood tests, and we will have another young person off on an adventure of learning and discovery.


Leyla and Hannah enjoying breakfast at a roadside stop

The visa renewal was a different story.  Describing it charitably, I’d call it an annual spiritual pilgrimage wherein we learn about patience and going with the flow.  Each year there are different requirements in a process that is never 100% clear but always involves multiple steps to obtain the necessary documents. The office is only open for a few hours every morning and different officials there tell you different things about the what, when and how of the process.  This year the hang-up was a letter from the Ministry of Education certifying that the kids were in fact students in Timor Leste.  We spent two days trying to get a letter and finally resolved to head back to Lospalos with the hope that the plan we made through a friend of a friend to get a letter written would pan-out and we could have someone from the church turn in the letter on our behalf.  That is, if we could convince the immigration officials to go ahead and take the kids’ pictures (the last requirement) so that they wouldn’t have to come back to Dili yet again.

When we walked into the office Friday morning (aka “Day 5 of Trying) accompanied by our good friend Rev. Juliana, we were happy to see that a particularly unsympathetic immigration official we’d encountered several times during the week was not working.  We decided to try turning the documents in again without the required letter. It worked!  She looked through the documents, we paid, they took the pictures and that was it.  We were on our way back to Lospalos.

The route through the town of Baucau provides a welcome bit of pavement and it was easy to hear that indeed something was both loose and grinding in the right rear wheel.  I hoped it was a stuck pebble or something. I tried my first trick: driving backwards and forwards a few times.  Sometimes if it’s a stuck rock it will pop out.  Didn’t work.  We rolled on down through Baucau to the church in the village of Buruma where our friends Meri and Duarte are pastors.  Given that the brakes were still working I briefly entertained the idea of continuing to Lospalos.  Boy would it be nice to be at home in our own beds!  But it was late in the day and the prospect of car trouble in a remote area at night was unappealing.  Been there, done that.

When we pulled into the church compound I jacked up the car and took the wheel off.  I pulled the brake drum off.  It wasn’t a pebble I found, but rather multiple loose parts of the brake system lying there in the drum.  Some were broken.  Initially I figured there would be replacement parts available there in Baucau, but I was wrong. Locals told me I’d have to go to Dili. So the next day I got to do an unexpected endurance day to fetch car parts while Monica and the kids enjoyed an unexpected and most welcome day at the world’s best pool (still enduring from the Portuguese colonial era).


Baucau Pool: constant supply of fresh water coming in

My day, though long and tiring, couldn’t have gone smoother.  I got started at 6 am and got a ride to Dili with a nice young couple in an actual car (people driving actual cars in Timor-Leste is about as weird as people driving SUV’s in urban America, but anyway…)   The night before I’d sent pictures of the parts to my American friend Curt.  By the time I got to Dili he’d located the parts.  He picked me up at the bus terminal; I bought the parts and got on a standing room only bus back to Baucau.  Total time in Dili was under 45 minutes.  Five really dusty hours later, I was back in Baucau.  Man, what fun! I’m glad I’m still doing this stuff at 47; it’s either keeping me young or wearing me out, but either way, I’m grateful!  Two more hours with the help of some local guys and a Leatherman tool, our only tool, and we had the new brakes installed.


Sunday morning we headed back to Lospalos with a nice stop for a breakfast of grilled fish and katupas.


Fresh Lobsters for sale: $10!


Fresh grilled fish for breakfast




Blessings and Woes: A Reflection for World Communion Sunday

Last week when we got back to Dili we had to renew our visas.  Part of that involved a trip to the Ministry of Finance, the only multi-story building in the country.  The ministry is a towering, architecturally modern building made of glass and shining steel.  Inside, it’s clean, air-conditioned and opulent. Out front, brown marble steps descend to the Ministériu da Finances sign embellished with a fountain and beautiful potted flowers for trim.  But from these steps one looks out on hundreds of rusty, corrugated iron shacks where thousands of Timorese live crammed into small houses with dirt floors.  From day to day they struggle to find water for washing and cooking, not to mention food for eating.


 Photo by Dan McGarry

Against this reality we have Jesus’s Blessings and Woes:

“Blessed are you who are poor,

for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who are hungry now,

for you will be filled.

Blessed are you who weep now,

for you will laugh….

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you and defame you on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

But woe to you who are rich,

for you have received your consolation.

Woe to you who are full now,

for you will be hungry.

Woe to you who are laughing now,

for you will mourn and weep.

Woe to you when people speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”

The text is consolation for the people in the shacks, which is the vast majority of Timorese. They are those who are excluded from the world’s “goodies” and are thus literally hungry on a daily basis.  But the Gospel insists that the future God will bring will be different.  Tears will turn to laughter and hunger pangs to satiation.  Holy Communion anticipates and celebrates this eschatological reality. Each time we Commune with Christ through the bread and wine we are thus invited to reflect on the world’s realities and to take sides with the oppressed.  World Communion Sunday is therefore not simply about the unity of the worldwide body of Christ, although it is that.  It’s also about the hungry oppressed people with whom Jesus is always identified.




There and Back Again

Greetings Friends!

We just returned to Lospalos after a two-month visit to the U.S.  I had intended to write a few reflections while we were there, but I never found the time.  I suppose that’s a reflection in and of itself!  Despite the fact that we were on vacation for a month I never seemed to have enough time to sit down and write something.  Needless to say the pace of life is notably faster in the U.S. than in Timor-Leste.  Indeed one of the things I value about life in Timor-Leste is its relaxed pace.


Nashville, Indiana

Now that we are back in Lospalos life has slowed back down considerably.  Back to daily work in the clinic for Monica, pastoral work for me and school for the kids.  We got our pig back too (the neighbor had been keeping her).  So now I’m learning how to process dry coconut for pig food, a labor intensive process about which I’ll say more later…

Anyway, during our trip we had some great time with family and friends in Minnesota and Indiana.  We also had the opportunity to speak in a number of churches.  It was great to reconnect with churches that have supported us, share a bit about what we’re up to and receive some encouragement.

Many thanks to the churches that invited us to speak about our work in Timor:

Galilee Lutheran

UCC New Brighton

Peace Church Duluth

First Congregational Zumbrota

Mac-Plymouth in St. Paul

Cherokee Park United Church

First Congregational Cannon Falls

And let me not forget the great people of UCC Bismarck ND!  They hosted Hannah and I for several days and showed us around a few of the many great sites in Bismarck.

We’ve had this blog going for two years now and tried to put something up monthly.  One thing I learned when we were in the States is that at least a few people actually read it!  So we’re going to try to write a bit more.  We’d like to try to do shorter posts about daily life more often.  So if there are particular things you might be interested in knowing about, please let me know via an email ( or a comment on the blog.  You may sign up for the blog and receive an email notification when there’s a new post.

Grace and Peace,