It was a Tuesday afternoon in the village of Ililapa, Timor Leste, about a 7km, 30 minute drive from the town of Lospalos where we serve with our mission partners in the Protestant Church of Timor Leste (IPTL).
It was a Tuesday afternoon in the village of Ililapa, Timor Leste, about a 7km, 30 minute drive from the town of Lospalos where we serve with our mission partners in the Protestant Church of Timor Leste (IPTL). Our visit to Ililapa was part of Global Ministries' commitment to walking with our partners in the IPTL as they seek to rebuild the church in this new nation still emerging from the ashes of hundreds of years of foreign occupation.
Three of us from Immanuel Church, Lospalos, brought a children’s program during the kids 3 week school break. It was 4pm and about 10 kids were at the small church waiting. Our activity was simple: stories from the Bible, songs, prayers, paper and coloring materials – but the kids were overjoyed at the opportunity to color, sing and hear stories. They were focused and diligent; indeed it was an opportunity they rarely have as children of subsistence farmers in this remote corner of the world. I enjoyed watching the kids color and felt the story come alive as a shy kid finished her painting and reviewed the story with me – a gift of trust and connection I won't soon forget.
I'm often struck by a sense of God's presence when I visit village churches with the friends I walk with here. But it is not because of anything the world would call “success;” indeed ministry in Timor Leste is often very discouraging for our partners. Rather it is a glimpse of the Holy that often appears at the most unexpected times; a reminder that Jesus comes to us at the edges, the margins, through places and people forgotten about and left behind. It's also a reminder of Jesus' teaching that seemingly futile efforts – half mustard seeds I call them - can be the very substance of the Reign of God in our midst.
We know the small congregation of Ililapa well, so our visit ended with a brief check in with people in their homes: how's the new baby with the infected belly button? Is Pedro getting his TB medicine every day? How's his appetite? What about the garden? The animals? Be sure to come to the clinic for this or that – and in the meantime, drink more water! It's a joy and a privilege to be part of a family of faith that reaches out from our doorsteps “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Tom and Monica Liddle serve with the Protestant Church of East Timor. Tom serves as a facilitator for church programs; teaching English and helping with worship leadership in village churches. Monica works as a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) in Immanuel Clinic Lospalos, which is run by the FUSONA, the relief and development wing of the IPTL. Monica's appointment is supported by One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS).