Well, it’s late October and it appears that the rainy season is upon us. Normally it starts sometime in November or December but people around Lospalos are already planting corn, so there seems to be a sense that the rains have come to stay.
The rainy season can bring relief from the heat in some parts of Timor, but in general it makes life more challenging. It’s harder to get clothes dry, infectious diseases increase, clean water is harder to come by and travel is more difficult. Nevertheless, despite the mud and standing water that characterize Timor’s roads during the rainy season, people will make long journeys to their home precincts to vote in local elections on Friday October 28th.
We continue to re-settle into life here in Timor. Both kids have proven resilient despite the newness and challenge of living in a place so different. Hannah has found her stride in home schooling and Simon is picking up language day by day. Monica is working with her Timorese colleagues in Immanuel Clinic and together they are moving forward on a health promotion program in a remote village. I’m serving as interim pastor in Immanuel Church and helping organize ministry in IPTL congregations throughout the district. Of course, challenges of various sorts abound in all aspects of our lives. And yet we find that each day God surprises us with a dose of grace, humor and presence.
Sunday afternoon Alberto, the local pastoral intern, and I were doing some Bible sharing with the few youth who showed up on a rainy afternoon. All of a sudden two strangers walked up to the church door. Greg, a Brazilian, and Joyce, from Malaysia, were traveling all over Southeast Asia. They had arrived in Dili the day before and on Sunday made the 8-hour bumpy bus ride out to Lospalos. The two traveled light; each with just a small backpack.
“We’re looking for a place to stay” Greg said.
“Like a guesthouse?” I asked.
“No,” he said, “we don’t usually pay for accommodation, we like to stay with families. We don’t need a room or even a shower.”
After a brief discussion about our options for hosting them on the church compound, Alberto decided to invite them to stay in the parsonage with him. It’s a big house but quite run-down. Nevertheless, the couple was pleased to receive the hospitality. In the evening we shared a meal together and heard of their adventure traveling the world relying on the hospitality of locals. This is one of the things I love about living in a remote corner of Southeast Asia. It’s rare that travelers show up; but when they do, they’re interesting, adventurous people with stories to tell!
A few years ago a Christmas tree farmer from Duluth, Minnesota sent me an email asking if he could visit. I said sure, assuming that he never would. A month later he showed up unannounced in Lospalos having traveled overland from Kupang, Indonesia! He stayed for a week and helped with a construction project before heading on to Myanmar.
Another time I was sitting in my house when I heard what sounded like a foreigner speaking Fataluku outside – a rare thing indeed. I looked and sure enough, there was this British guy chatting with some locals. When I talked to him later I was even more surprised to learn that he’d never even been to Timor! He’d learned Fataluku by hosting immigrants from Lospalos, many of whom move to England and Ireland in search of work.
Greg and Joyce embodied a spirit of grace and simplicity. Despite the rain and rough travel, they were committed to relying on local hospitality, kindness and generosity. Some would call them naïve of course, but what we saw in them was a wisdom born of trust, discovery and open-heartedness. Their visit I’d say was the highlight of our week.
We all know that the world can be a scary and troubling place. When we look around it’s quite easy to see scarcity rather than abundance and to experience anxiety rather that trust. But Greg and Joyce reminded us of something we are also continually discovering: that the world is surprisingly reliable, kindness and generosity are always available, and grace truly does abound.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2
Tom and Monica Liddle serve with the Protestant Church of East Timor. Their appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.