I had more than a passing interest in the success of the evening as I had visited the Mission in the mountains outside Dili in East Timor with Father Steve two years ago. This trip wasn’t exactly a baptism of fire, but it was definitely an immersion in an environment so different from anything I had ever experienced, and one that I totally enjoyed.
Whether it was having electricity for only a couple of hours each night; or splashing a pail of cold water (that had come by hose from a mountain spring) over my naked body each morning; I freely accepted it as what one does in primitive circumstances. I took all of it it in my stride. This immersion in activities so foreign, coupled with being treated like a welcome guest, has its own sense of luxury. Money can’t buy this! But money can provide these happy, undemanding East Timorese with a few of the basic necessities of life.
And so it was last night, that almost 200 people were similarly inspired to dig deep to help the efforts of the mission, and they hadn’t even been there. Much of this is the work of Steve Sinn who inspires benefactors, large and small with his passion
On reflection of my 2009 visit . . . Father Bong drives in a clapped-out old Toyota 4WD on treacherous dirt roads, often ungraded, around the mountain communities. He dispenses not only spiritual sustenance but conducts his Mobile Medical Clinic treating the sick, and training the local people in matters of health and hygiene. And the only mechanic working on the Australian Defence Force cast-off 4WD is a recent graduate of a Trades School in Dili. Was I taking my life in my hands accompanying Bong and others around the mountains? Perhaps, but I reckon He ‘up there’ might have had an eye out for us.
Sister Rita runs a Secondary School for more than 200 children, many of whom walk two hours each way every day to attend classes – except when there’s no water from the stream up the hill for them to drink, or to run the toilets, and they have to be sent home. Can you imagine?
And smiling volunteers squat beside the tank stand to wash and peel vegetables; then boil them up with a dash of soy protein and load the pots of nutritious steaming food into the back of the 4WD. Children from these mountain communities come with their clean tin plate and fork tied in a plastic bag a couple of times a week to partake. On the other days, the little children may have only boiled up old roots in the evening, after their mother has returned from working in the fields. And they smile! And they welcome you as an honoured guest! And thank you for not forgetting them.
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