Well, America has a new president, and it’s a new year. Here in East Timor, we have settled in to our new normal here in Lospalos, none too soon. It has been a more painful than usual transition period for us, despite returning to a familiar place. We did expect a rocky path back to Timor. But as you know, when you are actually experiencing things, not just imagining how they might be, well, reality sometimes hurts.
Cold showers and poor internet connections aside, Lospalos has welcomed us back. After a pretty slow start at the clinic since last July, when we arrived, the rainy season seems to have brought many more sick people to our doors since the start of the new year. I am now rotating all 6 clinic staff in the consultation room with me. Only two women have the skills and knowledge of basic health workers at this time. But, the others have worked for 5 to 14 years in this clinic, seeing hundreds of sick people each week. They are interested in learning, I am interested in teaching, so we will work to get all 6 competent at the basics of identifying and treating the most important things: diarrhea and pneumonia in the under 5-year-olds; anemia and malnutrition; and of course, tuberculosis.
Simon started first grade today. He now speaks Tetum, again, and will be learning Portuguese because his new school is run by Portuguese instructors. He may return to America with four languages under his belt in a few years. He seems to have found a little posse of boys about his age to run around with after school, too. It seems that we are finally about to have a “routine” for the first time since we left America.
Tom, now officially assigned as the pastor here in Lospalos since December, is drawing back to the church many lay leaders who had somehow disappeared over the past 2 – 3 years. More people have been coming to church since Christmas. And the best part: more of the youth have been showing up lately, too.
Tom and I realize how blessed we are to have our family here together in this off-the-beaten-path place. But, our kids don’t necessarily see the “blessing” that we see. Despite Hannah having cultivated dear friends when we were here before, despite Simon having been born here, 4 years in America has made re-growing new roots here tough for the kids. Nonetheless, Hannah, 12, is a “glass half full” kid. She still misses her Minnesota friends dearly, but she is figuring out how to be, here in this place with so little opportunity for kids. She has a cat and two chickens. She has nearly read the whole Rick Riordan series. She is helping teach Sunday school with her two old friends. She loves to pull fresh fruit from the trees in our yard, and eat them with buddies, and she and Leila, 17, cook rice and vegetables every day for the clinic staff to eat. Maybe she would rather be in middle school in Roseville, Minnesota. For now, she’s OK, and she’s seeing the other side of life. We give thanks for the privilege of being here.
Monica Liddle serves with the Protestant Church of East Timor. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.