There are some teenagers who live in a small house on the Immanuel Church Lospalos property.
There are some teenagers who live in a small house on the Immanuel Church Lospalos property. Their families, who are members of the Protestant Church in Timor Leste, live in villages that do not have schools past primary education. So, one of the ministries of Immanuel Church is to provide housing free of charge to students so that they may live in Lospalos and continue their education.
One of the students, Helena, 16, came to me with a request. A family relation was sick, and could I go visit him and help him? A simple enough request, indeed. Yet, I hesitated, as most things are not quite as easy as they sound in Lospalos, Timor Leste.
It turned out that Helena's big sister, Berta, was asking for my help; the patient was the brother of Berta's husband. Upon talking to Berta directly, I learned that her brother-in-law had been very sick for a month, though Berta didn't know exactly what was wrong with him. He was staying in a village about an hour and a half drive from Lospalos, and Berta said there was no public or private transportation available to bring him to medical care.
The following day, I spoke with the clinic staff about the situation. At first, they suggested that with a seriously ill patient, it would be best to have the local ambulance get the patient and take him directly to the Lospalos hospital. Then, one staff said that she had just heard that the two local ambulances were both out of commission, and this rumor was quickly verified.
So, that afternoon Tom and I and the patient's brother drove out to the village of Serelau, down a very bumpy road with exquisitely beautiful terrain. We arrived at the house where Pedro, 20, was staying. He was emaciated. He spoke softly so that I had to lean close to hear him speak. He told me he had been sick for one month with bloody diarrhea, having 10 or more stools daily. He had been treated at a clinic, but his symptoms had not improved. It took about five minutes to gather his belongings. A crowd of family and friends surrounded the car as we prepared to drive back to Lospalos. Pedro shed tears as people handed him a few dollars, offering whatever they could. I sensed the tears were a mixture of gratitude to his community, and perhaps an ounce of hope that he might soon get well.
Three weeks later, Pedro stepped off the bus from Baucau and into Clinic Immanuel. He had had quite a harrowing journey, but he was visibly better—still gaunt, but at least now he had light in his eyes again. Pedro had spent 9 days in the Lospalos hospital before being transferred to the regional hospital, two hours away, in Baucau. In Baucau, Pedro was diagnosed with tuberculosis and treated promptly. One month after beginning TB treatment, Pedro had gained 20 pounds. Whereas before treatment, he could not eat and felt faint just walking across the room, one month later, he walked seven kilometers to the clinic for his follow-up appointment and seven kilometers back home again, in one day.
In service as a missionary doctor with Global Ministries, I find that stories like Pedro's are all too common. Still, they serve as a constant reminder of the realities of life in a developing country. People who live in places where the road infrastructure is poor are at times unable to access health care that they want and need. The necessity to carry water from a spring to your home adds to the challenge of maintaining good hygiene.
To the clinic staff, Pedro's story is not so remarkable. For Timorese people, living in a village far from a clinic or hospital is normal. Tuberculosis is a disease that has touched most people's lives here, if only because a neighbor was sick and died from TB.
As a Global Ministries missionary, I am called to care for sick people, and to do what I can with the resources that I have. I am also called to bear witness to the people's stories. In remembrance of our brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world, thank you for your prayers.
Global Ministries Missionary in 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).