An Amazing Year

2010 was an amazing year for our family. Our son Simon was born in Lospalos, East Timor on February 15th, 2010, six years to the day after his sister.

2010 was an amazing year for our family.  Our son Simon was born in Lospalos, East Timor on February 15th, 2010, six years to the day after his sister.  Hannah completed her first year of school and became fluent in Tetum.  Monica and Tom continued to nestle into the community in Lospalos.  The local pastors and clinic staff alike have opened themselves in support of our family, and we know we are fortunate for this circle of men and women, as we strive to do the work that we are called to do here...work that is not so easy.

East Timor is not yet 10 years old as a truly independent country.  The need for capable leadership is evident everywhere: in education, in infrastructure, in small business development, in the Protestant Church, and certainly, in health care.  While Monica's Global Ministries assignment was to work as a doctor in the clinic in Lospalos, a more detailed description of her job has been a work in progress.  Shortly after Simon was born, the one trained nurse the clinic had took an administrative job in Dili, the capital city in East Timor.  Monica became responsible for overseeing all the daily clinical activities, and ensuring compliance with the local Ministry of Health authorities regarding clinic programs and protocols. 

As a church-based ministry, Clinic Immanuel provides free health care to all in the district.  Many patients come from distances of 2 or 3 hours' drive to be examined, and receive treatment free of charge.  Laboratory services include malaria and tuberculosis testing, basic urinalysis, and pregnancy testing.  In addition to basic medicines like Tylenol, vitamins, antacids and antibiotics, patients receive treatment for malaria and tuberculosis at the clinic as well.  Monica has made improvements in the laboratory by providing oversight to the lab work as well as facilitating additional training for the laboratory coordinator.  Likewise, she has continued to work with the TB coordinator to provide proper treatment and follow-up for TB patients, who need 6 to 8 months of consistent treatment.   

With a staff of six local Timorese, Monica provides (brief!) consultation to an average 60 to 80 patients each day.  While most patients suffer minor illnesses, infections such as worms or diarrhea take on new gravity when combined with significant malnutrition.  Each week, patients come in with symptoms suggestive of pulmonary tuberculosis, which is still a scourge in Timor.  The clinic is able to provide quality sputum screening, or refer patients for a chest x-ray if necessary.

From a small gift of seed money, the clinic began a feeding program for underweight patients in July.  The staff had the idea to augment the government malnutrition program, which targets only severely malnourished children under five, by providing a daily meal to patients in need.  Our system works like this: patients that come for general consultation are assessed for nutritional status.  Children or adults who are underweight are offered, indeed encouraged, to come each morning for a meal of nutritious, freshly prepared food.  The staff rotates cooking.  Foods provided include hard-boiled eggs, mung beans, rice and milk.  A highlight of each day for Monica is taking a short break with Simon around 10:30 each morning, and walking through the feeding room: mothers smile while small children, wide-eyed, quietly feast on bowls of warm food.  Of all the work in the clinic each day, Monica believes this simple task, Feeding the Children, is most significant.   

Last year Tom and local church leaders began a program of visitation in rural areas.  One of the major goals of the Protestant Church of Timor Leste (IPTL) is strengthening the church at the congregational level and building leadership for the future.  Tom's work is tied to helping organize that effort at the local level.  After the war, many families moved back to rural areas, some with no churches.  We are working with them to organize gatherings for worship and community support.  We spend two days a week visiting IPTL members and encouraging them to be involved in the church as it seeks to reinvent itself after decades of war and conflict.  As we visit and talk with members, the long term consequences of war are ever before us, strengthening our conviction that humanity's habit of resolving conflict with war is always a dead end, and the fall out lasts many years after fighting stops.

At the Synod level Tom also continues to help church leaders with the implementation of programs which have received funding from international church partners such as Global Ministries.  This work involves building capacity in planning, organization and management.  IPTL is in a rebuilding phase so everything moves pretty slowly and the future is both exciting and daunting at the same time.

We continue to be grateful for the opportunity to serve with our partners in the IPTL.  Days go by and troubles arise, but with God's grace and a sense of humor we press on with joy in the work that God has called us to.

Tom and Monica Liddle
East Timor

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).

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