"A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race." Joseph Smith

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Build My People, Build My Nation"

Our LDS Charities exploratory trip to Timor-Leste was largely to meet with government and NGO (non-government organizations) agencies to learn more about the work they are doing that might coincide well with LDS Charities.  We wanted to know what kind of needs there are and how LDS Charities can help.

Our first meetings were with the Australian and United States Embassies.  They were very welcoming to LDSC and shared recommendations and possible contacts for us. 

We next met with the East Timor Development Agency, which we blogged about in our previous post.  They have a most powerful logo. 

The logo shows a picture of a clay pot with a crocodile on it (no – that is not a gecko, I was told!!)  The crocodile is important to Timor-Leste tradition. It was a crocodile that made the island, the story goes, and there are salt-water crocodiles that line the coast (this is for reals).  So this pot on the logo – it was broken in many pieces, representing the warring factions and various tribes of the country, but is now held together by nationalism and an independent country. The matrix of dots and lines in the circle surrounding it represents the many organizations, initiatives and agencies coming together to form a network of support to help develop and grow the country. The three colors behind the logo represent the colors of the flag of the resistance movement that led the country to freedom. Below the logo are the Tetum words:
“Build my people.  Build my nation.”

And that’s just what they are doing. And what LDS Charities wants to do too. 

We visited the Centro Nacional de ReabilitaĆ§Ć£o,  (CNR) – the National Rehabilitation Center. They work with the Ministry of Health to prepare wheelchairs for the disabled, and were happy to hear of our wheelchair initiatives. 

This little wheelchair-bound girl outside the office caught my eye and I couldn't help but stop and try to bring a smile to her face.

We visited the tais market. Tais (pronounced “ties”) is a traditional woven cloth made solely by women in Timor-Leste, with dyes authentically made from local bark, flowers, and other natural substances to produce the vibrant colors.  Each tribe has its own unique Tais pattern and colors, not unlike Scottish kilts. 

Tais showing the Timorese flag in the background

A single tais can take from several days up to a year to create, depending on the complexity of design and colors used.

One of our grandsons wanted to donate some toys to the children of Timor-Leste when he found out we were going there. Time to stop and give a couple of toy cars to some boys at the market. At first they were shy, but it ended up being quite a scene once everyone got the hang of it!  

Timor-Leste is a Christian nation, 96% Catholic. In 1996, the Indonesian government commissioned the 27 meter statue of Cristo Rei (Christ, the King),
Elder Coffey climbs up to the Cristo Rei statue
made up of 27 copper sections, (Timor-Leste was the 27th province of Indonesia) as a gift to the people. At the time, Timor-Leste was still considered a province of Indonesia, and the gift was a recognition of the 20th year of its integration into Indonesia from previous Portuguese occupation. This gift, even amidst the years of struggle, invasion and annihilation

There are 597 steps to reach the top. In case you want to try it.  The view is worth it - just try doing it in as cool of a time of year as possible.  (July is the coolest month - highs are only around 88 degrees or so.)

Elder and Sister Coffey with Tino Mac.  Cristo Rei is in the background.
We still have well over 100 steps to go to the top.

View from Cristo Rei, with Dili, the capital, in the far background

And the sunsets are gorgeous.  People come from all over just to watch the sunset. It's amazing how quickly we fell in love with Timor-Leste. What a blessing for LDS Charities to be able to be a part of the wonders of the Land of Discovery.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Sun Is Rising In Timor-Leste

It is 5:15 am.  The Muslim call to prayer pierces through the darkness of the still morning air, stirring the sleepy city to its knees.  We roll over in bed in our hotel room, trying to catch a little more badly needed sleep. The feral cats picked up their howling where they left off the night before, followed by a barking dog and the crowing of roosters, each heralding in the new day. There is no going back to sleep.  It's morning in Bali.  

Stopping in Bali just long enough for an overnight layover, we continue on our way to Dili in Timor-Leste.  We're spending several days here as part of a team checking into potential humanitarian projects. We've never been south of the equator before. This is a new and exciting experience for both of us. 

Our team consisted of Celestino Mac, a native of Timor-Leste and a member of the Church now living in Australia, Brent Daire of Australia, who served in the army in philanthropic work in Timor-Leste sortly after the conflict, and Elder Coffey and myself. 

Brent Daire (left) and Tino Mac - part of our exploratory team to Dili

Dili is a small city with a population of nearly 200,000.  Theoretically, it would only take 20 minutes to get from one end of town to the other.  But that isn't going to happen today. The official speed limit is 25 mph, and its a good thing! Cars, bikes, motorcycles, dogs, chunks of concrete, construction and people create formidable barriers to smooth driving.  

But everywhere, the people seem optimistic, hopeful, happy. There is a growing sense of nationalism and pride. For one, they are happy to be alive. Secondly, they are ecstatic to be free.

Resistance Museum -
Courtesy of Flikr.com/ Ellen Forsythe
We stood in the Resistance Museum watching the video of the massacre that moved the world into action.  A broken people, a fallen land, a violent moment in time representing hundreds of thousands of lives massacred in warring brutality. But giving up was never an option for the independence-craving people of Timor-Leste.

We met with Dr. Dan Murphy of the Bairo Medical Clinic.  Dr. Murphy arrived in Dili in 1999 and walked through the still-smoldering ashes of a country deeply entrenched
in brutal conflict.  Finding an abandoned Indonesian clinic, he rummaged through the scattered items, found some bandages and other supplies, and opened his free clinic.  Now a recipient of multiple international awards for his service, he continues his tireless work, seeing up to 300 patients, personally, each day.  

Patients sitting outside,
 waiting to be seen by Dr. Dan

Dr. Dan Murphy of the Bairo Pite Clinic

Palmira Pires, director of the East Timor Development Agency, walks with great difficulty from a debilitating disability, but hides it well.  Her time away from Timor-Leste during the conflict led her to Australia, where she learned Western thought and practices.  Returning to her country, she brought a vision and a passion to rebuild her country, her land and her people by instilling self-reliance principles and job opportunities.

 Palmira Pires, director of ETDA, with the exploratory team

Tino Mac standing with students learning how to cook.

Everyone we spoke to had a story.  Some fled Timor-Leste as babies with their families.  Some were born abroad and heard their story from the older generation.  Some have never been found.

Santa Cruz Cemetery, the site of the massacre that changed the tide of the war.

But many who survived are coming back.  And they are rebuilding their country. Hundreds of non-government organizations are there helping.  We hope LDS Charities can help in some way too.

Here is Dili!  

Weaving the traditional tais cloth

There are too many to fit inside, so they just hang onto the doors and enjoy the ride!

At the Tais Market - with local woven goods

Typical homes

 The need is huge. We met great humanitarian partners for future projects. The work is great. And the people are full of smiles.

Courtesy of Flikr.com/Kate B. Dixon

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Goat Head - Anyone?

We have been very busy the last several months with special projects from the Area Presidency. Much of what we do is behind the scene work that is non-publishable material.  Exciting work, with sometimes long hours and inspiring content. But non-publishable just the same.  :)  At least for now.

So while you are waiting for the next exciting publishable post, we thought we'd share about some of the delicious, and not so delicious, foods that we encounter here on our mission.  

I'm amazed at the gorgeous array of color, smells, and variety of fruits and vegetables at the open markets. 

Mangosteins are some of my absolute favorite fruits here.  A semi-hard thick shell with succulent, whitish translucent segments inside.

The sugar apple was not so much of a favorite - but worth trying.... once.

But the bakeries are full of wonderful smells every morning - filling the air with sweet aromas as people fill the streets on their way to work, grabbing something quick in lieu of making breakfast at home.

A Hong Kong tradition - egg tarts.  They look like mini lemon pies, but they are filled with an egg custard that is only very slightly sweet.  They are delicious!

Photo courtesy of Glen Waverly/Flickr.com

On your way home for dinner, you can pick up some rotisserie duck or Shanghai-style steamed chicken.

Or seafood - lots of that here. Fresh in the open markets, or in little cuttlefish balls which are sold everywhere, or the ever popular octopus legs - shown below on wooden skewers.

A common attraction at open markets are the heads and other body parts of the freshly butchered animals.  Besides being for sale, it helps buyers see how fresh the meat still is. Goat head - anyone?

But for us, our all time favorite remains dumplings, steamed in
 bamboo baskets and sold everywhere.

And finally, when we get tired of all the excitement, we resort to one of our favorite Western restaurants  - for a safe Italian dinner at Al Dentes. Here we celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary.  What a joy to be serving a mission with the best companion in the world!