October 1 was an exciting day. We picked up three friends from our local church in Duluth, Minnesota, at the Dili International airport. Andy, Jill and Jessica put their busy lives on hold for a few weeks and entered “Timor Time.” First, we took them to Atauru Island, a small tropical island a one-hour boat ride from Dili. There we took two days for them to get over jetlag while snorkeling over world-class coral reefs and relaxing in hammocks. Then it was back to Dili and off to Lospalos. Our small truck isn’t big enough to carry us all over the bumpy road home, so Andy went with Monica and Hannah on the bus. They left Dili at 9pm and got into Lospalos by 7am, while the rest of us left at a leisurely morning time to arrive home mid-afternoon. Andy loved the overnight ride!
During the next week our three friends took in life in Lospalos – the opposite of the world’s typical rat-race. They spent time in the clinic with Monica and the staff, visited small farms and took walks. They joined Tom and colleague, Pastor Ayang, on two of our weekly home worship visits. Through these experiences our three friends witnessed firsthand bits of Timorese hospitality, faith, and daily life. Andy also helped Tom with a construction project on the clinic, and they picked up some locally made crafts which support livelihoods for Timorese women and their families. The best part, though, for us at least, were the many talks we had. Living in Lospalos we are in many ways isolated from the “modern world,” and connections with English speaking friends are limited to our infrequent trips to Dili.
These past ten days the Liddles have been in Dili. It’s that time of year: Visa Renewal Time. In East Timor, this means chest Xrays, blood tests for communicable diseases, fingerprints at the Department of Justice, and multiple trips to the IPTL Synod office for various documents. It also means standing and waiting in hot, muggy, crowded offices with hordes of others, both Timorese and internationals, also hoop-jumping to fulfill their various bureaucratic tasks. It makes this time for us a truly unique, annual spiritual pilrimage.
Yet another highlight this month has been a 4-day theological seminar with all of IPTL’s pastors, which Tom helped to organize and lead, along with an Indonesian theologian and Deenabandhu Manchala, our Executive Minister from Global Ministries. The three of us facilitated Bible studies, presentations and small group work, all with the aim of helping our friends in IPTL clarify their theological orientation and sharpen their sense of mission.
As we enter November we are down to four months left in our assignment. The notion of moving back to the US is both exciting and daunting for all of us. We are ready to be nearer to family, yet having become accustomed to this place and people, it already hurts to think of leaving. Nevertheless, we believe that our connections will continue here. And we continue to be grateful for the claim this special place has made on our lives.
Tom and Monica