Friday, September 4, 2015

Elder Holland Dedicates the Land of Timor-Leste

We are grateful that LDS Charities will be able to partner with the wonderful people of Timor-Leste in bringing self-reliance, hope and healing through humanitarian work.  We are so excited for Elder and Sister Johnson and the humanitarian outreach they will be able to do. It is an exciting time!

Our trip to Timor-Leste was an incredible blessing.  We were blessed to be there for the dedication of the land of Timor-Leste by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.  Read about his visit which was printed in the Church News  HERE.

We had the blessing of going ahead of time and setting up all the arrangements for Elder Holland's visit - airport pickup, hotel, transportation, visits, meals, etc.  Elder and Sister Johnson, the in-country couple, worked with us in all the details and arrangements.  It was sometimes hard to sleep at night.  An apostle was coming and we would be his escort for two days! 

Tino Mac, a Timorese member of the Church now living in Australia who helped us so much in our June Exploratory Trip, emailed us to let us know he was coming back to Dili for a 2 week trip.  Tino knew nothing of the events coming to Timor-Leste, and knew nothing of the dates surrounding them, nor anything about an apostolic visit.  But his mother wanted to return to Dili to see cousins, so Tino arranged to come to Dili – arriving, unbeknownst to him, on the exact same day as Elder Holland.  But by the hand of the Lord, once again Tino was in the right place at the right time.  By divine decree, Tino Mac would be at the dedication of his native land. 
The dedication took place on August 21, 2015.

When Elder Holland arrived at the airport, we were there to greet him. Accompanying him were Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Seventy and President of the Asia Area and his wife Sister Susan L. Gong, Elder Randy D. Funk, of the Seventy and 1st Counselor in the Area Presidency and his wife Sister Andrea C. Funk. What a thrill it was to greet Elder Holland.  He reached out and patted Dad’s face upon greeting him, a warm handshake and hug for me – a warm, compassionate and kind servant of the Lord.

Greeting Elder Holland at the airport - with Sister Johnson and Sister Coffey

Early in the morning of August 21st, 2015, the group assembled and was driven by van to Cristo Rei. 

We walked up 290 of the 597 steps, coming to the first landing. 

Elder Holland pauses on the way up to enjoy the view.

The first landing area on the way up to Cristo Rei, where the dedication took place.
 This photo was taken before the dedication service.
At this spot, you can see both sides of the overlook, with Dili and its beaches on one side and Backside Beach on the other.  The morning was comfortable. The sun was very bright creating sharp shadows.  The place was deserted and quiet except for a few groundskeepers and several fishermen on their way to Backside Beach. 

The air was quiet and against the backdrop of Cristo Rei, the dedication service began.

Tino Mac and his mother Lili Mac, with Elder and Sister Coffey

These are just facts, just words on a piece of paper.  It is simply not possible to infuse the reader with the spirit of this sacred occasion.   

Elder Holland mentioned that now was the dry season of Timor-Leste, but when the rains come, they will bring new life and beauty to the land.  In the same way, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be like refreshing rain, bringing new life and spiritual beauty to the people.  August is the dry season in Timor-Leste. It hadn’t rained in a long time. It was a very applicable analogy.

Sister Gong, Elder Gong, Lili Mac, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Tino Mac, Elder Funk, Sister Funk,
Elder Johnson, Sister Johnson, Elder Coffey, Sister Coffey

Group photo at the hotel 

We had the opportunity to interview Elder Holland at the hotel after the dedication.
Following the dedication, we escorted the group to the airport. We provided lunch boxes for their return trip.  Sister Johnson made oatmeal-raisin cookies which were included in the lunch.  Here is a photo of them showing their appreciation for the cookies. They voted the lunch as the "best box lunch ever!"  

As Elder Holland turned to leave, he gave warm embraces to us all.  But with Dad he stopped.  In a picture that will be etched in my mind forever, he cupped Dad’s face with both hands, leaned in close and held him, affectionately thanking him for all he had done for this event.  The tenderness, fatherly affection of love and grace – it was as if time stood still.  Suddenly I realized what a great photo that would be and frantically looked for the camera.  It was around Dad’s neck!  In an instant the moment was gone, and the picture opportunity was lost, but the image of him clasping Dads face in his hands will be forever ingrained in my memory. 

And then they were gone.  It’s been a lingering of sweetness in our hearts ever since.  A sacred tenderness, a rich deep gratitude to have been included in such a sacred, historic experience. It will be one that will never be forgotten.

That night it rained heavily - the first time in a very long time.

Elder Coffey expressed it this way: "I learned that an analogy spoken of rain can be a reality of physical rain in a time of normally no rain.  And I believe Heavenly Father sent the rain on the evening of 21 August 2015 to let us all know that He heard the words of His servant  and will honor them with blessings from heaven upon the people of Timor-Leste.

"I learned that even when you want a challenge and have the vision to magnify a potential assignment, that assignment may not be given to you – and you can be sure that the Lord wants it that way.  It is fun to watch the Lord’s work unfold, to be part of it is fascinating.  What a privilege to be a missionary in Asia!"

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