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 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 B. Dixon

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