Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Realization of a Lifelong Dream

This post is written as a sort of surprise for my family. Mom, Dad, Livie, I hope you enjoy it!

My dad is a scuba instructor, and as long as I can remember I have read dive magazines while eating breakfast. I’ve seen cuddle fish, lion fish, nudibranchs, and scorpion fish, but only in pictures; until this week.

For my birthday, the Grilo’s gave me a gift certificate that covered 50% of the cost of an open-water dive course. So, this week, Miguel and I worked really hard and fast at school so I could take the course in the afternoons.  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I was in the water from 2:30pm until 6:00pm, the first day in the pool, and the last two days in the ocean.  On Sunday I wrote the four quizzes and final exam, and, praise the Lord, passed with 100% in all of them.

Even though the sensation of breathing underwater was a little bit unnerving at first, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. My first dive in the ocean was breath-taking, and after all four training dives, I’ve seen about 15 lion fish, several scorpion fish, jelly fish as long as my body, huge bat fish, angel fish, parrot fish, butterfly fish, large schools of snappers, clown fish, cuddle fish, anemones, giant clams, soft corals, hard corals, fans, sponges, cute little nudibranchs, flounders, crabs, live cowrie shells bigger than my fist, many kinds of starfish, and many things that I cannot name. The diving here is some of the best in the world, and it is just down the road from where I am staying. I am so blessed!  

As your senses delight in the attractive loveliness of the earth, think of the world that is to come, that shall never know the blight of sin and death; where the face of nature will no more wear the shadow of the curse. Let your imagination picture the home of the saved, and remember that it will be more glorious than your brightest imagination can portray. In the varied gifts of God in nature we see but the faintest gleaming of his glory. It is written, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." [1 Corinthians 2:9.]     The poet and the naturalist have many things to say about nature, but it is the Christian who enjoys the beauty of the earth with the highest appreciation, because he recognizes his Father's handiwork, and perceives his love in flower and shrub and tree. No one can fully appreciate the significance of hill and vale, river and sea, who does not look upon them as an expression of God's love to man.  {CE 55.3}  


The weekend of my birthday was quite incredible. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Tour de France, right? Well here in Timor, we have the Tour de Timor. It’s a biking race, and it took place a couple weeks ago. Last year Paulo did it, but he couldn’t do it this year because part of it was on Sabbath. Anyway, the Sunday after my birthday, Paulo’s biking club/team planned a "fun ride" for whoever wanted to come, but especially for kids. Paulo, Miguel and I went, and it was a blast.

You're probably wondering where I got a bike, helmet, and everything else needed for biking. I certainly didn’t bring my bike in my carry-on. The Grilo's have a biker friend, João Luís Gustavo de Matosme, who is very kind and generous (he also has written several books, is incredibly intelligent, was the one who planned and placed the country borders between Timor and Indonesia, etc). Anyway, he came to the little supper/vespers that we have every Friday night (which also served as my birthday dinner), and when I played violin for vespers he was really impressed. When he found out that I was looking to borrow a bike for the ride on Sunday, he decided to loan me one of his (the wheels alone are $1000, and the gears are $2000; I don't even want to know how much the whole thing is! It's so light I can pick it up with one hand!). He also gave me a water bottle that can be carried on the bike, a pair of socks for biking, and a pair of men's biking shorts (they work fine for girls too, they just have a funky pad in the crotch for extra protection. I'd hate to feel the bike seat without the pad though, it is quite hard).

For a jersey, Paulo lent me the jersey of the person who won the Tour de Timor two years ago. He also had a spare helmet and biking gloves which I used. As for shoes, my bike has clips instead of pedals, and I don't have shoes with clips. So far I don't know anyone with the same shoe size as me, so I was stuck in that department for a bit. Then Paulo suggested using shoes with the hardest/stiffest sole I could find, and it worked. So, I rode in my brown chacco's with bright red socks! lol

The ride started around 8-8:30 on Sunday morning on the other side of town. We biked there, and when we arrived, there was already quite a mix of professional bikers riding works of art and little Timorese kids on junk bikes. It was quite an amazing sight. When we finally got going, it was incredible to see the number of bikers on the street. I think there was about 150-200, but I'm really bad at estimating crowds. Anyway, we rode through the inland part of Dili and saw some of the districts that I had never seen before and then finished by off-roading down the dry Comoro River bed. It was a blast! There wasn't much uphill, it was mostly flat, but there were lots of gravel pits and holes and water crossings and other obstacles to go over and around. I really had fun. Miguel and I were in the front while Paulo and some of the other team members helped the poorly equipped kids in the back, but near the end Miguel got tired so I stopped and waited for him. I didn't want him to get lost or fall and not have someone there. We still stayed pretty close to the front of the pack though.

Overall it was a really great experience, and if I ever have the opportunity to do something like it again, I’ll jump at the chance. Praise the Lord for the fun things that He throws into our lives! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Hi, my faithful readers!

I'm so sorry for not posting very much this week, but things have been quite busy.

Don't forget that your prayers and support are greatly needed and appreciated, and I think of you all often.

If at all possible, I will have another couple posts on here by this weekend. There has been so much to write about!

God bless you and keep you as we hasten His coming!

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Day of Thanks

I am thankful for so many things today. To start with, the Lord woke me up today, and gave me the alertness and energy I needed so that I could spend time with Him in His Word, and go running (He does it every morning! Our God is so faithful!). Also, Miguel gave me the biggest surprise! Before breakfast, while we were preparing for lunch, and in every spare moment he was working on some project that he wouldn’t let me see. Then at lunch time, he revealed his masterpiece. He had done his spelling and handwriting on his own so that I could have more time to relax and do my own things this afternoon! I was so surprised (and thrilled)! Then, to top it all off, I was able to find an internet hotspot where I could use Skype to talk to my family. It was incredible. When Olivia started playing violin for me, I started bawling. It was beautiful to hear the voices of the people I love the most. God gave me what I needed today, and so much more! I just had to share how He has blessed me. May I in turn be used by Him to bless others in this new year of life that He has given me. I am now 18. :-)

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I really like flowers. Like, a lot. If I manage to walk through a flower garden and come out the other side without having a flower in my hair (or disguising the evidence of my crime in someone else’s hair), it is only because of an extreme show of self-control.

Here in Timor, I actually haven’t seen very many flowers. We live in the city, and it’s the dry season, so there is a noticeable lack of vegetation. The flowers I have seen have been so lovely though.

On Sabbath we visited a friend’s house for potluck, and it was all I could do to keep from asking her if I could pick one of her Hibiscus’. Even as I write I’m watching Miguel and his friend play in our pool, but at the same time I’m admiring the pots of multi-colored bougainvilleas that line the poolside patio. There are pink ones, purple ones, red ones, and white ones. They’re just so beautiful.

The flowers I’m most tempted to pick, however, are the ones right outside our door. I don’t know what kind they are, and I’ve never seen them before. There are pink ones and white ones and ones whose petals are pink at the bottom and fade to white at the top. They grow close to the ground on waxy leaves, and they look sort of like tiny, wrinkly, carnations. Probably the only reason I haven’t picked one is because I’m afraid it would close soon afterwards. Every morning they dot our front yard, and every afternoon they close up. I would be so sad if I picked one and it closed.

Yet one day, I won’t have to worry about the flowers I pick closing.

“And I saw another field full of all kinds of flowers, and as I plucked them I cried out, They will never fade… And I saw the little ones climb, or if they chose, use their little wings and fly to the top of the mountains, and pluck the never-fading flowers.” (2SG 53.1)

May our Lord Jesus come quickly! As the song says, “I want to go to heaven, pick a never fading flower…”

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Storm

There’s a storm brewing. I can feel it in the air. Every morning when I go running the atmosphere feels stickier. The sky looks dark in the afternoon, and it isn’t because the sun is going down. Grey clouds churn and boil in a soupy sky. As I walked back from dropping Miguel off at his piano lesson I felt a single rain drop on my cheek. Nature is practicing - preparing herself. The wet season is coming.

Miguel and I are excited. We’ve already shook hands and agreed that when the first downpour comes, we will run out and play in it. I love rain, and I especially love warm, tropical rain. Last night we got a small sprinkle, an appetizer I guess. We had fun with it anyway.

Timor’s wet season isn’t the only storm that is brewing though. Have you noticed the signs? I have. I’ve seen it in nature, in the economy, in relationships and felt it in the spiritual realm. It’s real, and it’s coming.

“The storm is coming, the storm that will try every man's faith of what sort it is. Believers must now be firmly rooted in Christ or else they will be led astray by some phase of error” (LDE 64.3). 
“The darkest hour of the church's struggle with the powers of evil is that which immediately precedes the day of her final deliverance. But none who trust in God need fear; for ‘when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall,’ God will be to His church ‘a refuge from the storm.’ Isaiah 25:4.” (PK 725.2)

The Lord's our Rock, in Him we hide,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Monday, September 17, 2012


I haven’t written for the last couple days for several reasons. One is that I’ve been busy. Another reason is that the internet has been too poor to access my blog, and on top of that, I haven’t felt like writing because I’ve been sick. All weekend I couldn’t eat anything, but today I’ve started to eat canned fruit and white rice. I’m actually feeling quite normal.

Our cat, Panther, however, took a trip to the vet today. He’s been sick all weekend too, but he has an infection. His leg is swollen, he has a fever, and he’s been moping around the house with me. We make good company.

Of course, for the trip to the vet, we had to drive. I don’t know if any of you have ever had to go driving with a cat, but in my experience, cats are terrified of driving. You generally have to keep them in a cage for the entire trip to keep them from scratching you and making a mess of the car.

We don’t have a cage. Not only that, but Paulo and I were the only one’s available to go to the vet, so that meant that one of us would drive while the other held the cat. The only car at home was stick. So far, I only drive automatic, and besides, I don’t know my way to the veterinary office. I got the cat, Paulo got the car.

The experience of holding Panther on the way to the vet was most certainly memorable. I don’t think I will forget that experience for quite a while, or at least not until the smell of cat pee fades from my skirt. What struck me the most though was something that I saw just outside the veterinary office.

On the dirt road in front of the office there were several dogs (there are animals everywhere here). As we pulled up and parked they all walked away lazily except for one. A small white dog slithered away as quickly as he could, misery and fear all over his face. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more revoltingly grotesque and yet achingly pitiable animal.

Bent backwards, twisted, and misshapen, his legs trailed behind him as he pulled himself along with his front legs. I’ve seen dogs scoot around on their bottoms before, but this was different. At first I just thought that his back legs were broken. It looked like his femurs had been snapped backwards and his hips dislocated. Then Paulo pointed it out to me. The dog could only move from the shoulders up. His back must have been broken, and he was paralyzed from the upper back down. I was horrified.

Here we were, right outside the veterinary office, a place where animals come to be healed, and there was this display of such agony. As I thought about this dog and his physical condition despite his proximity to relief, a flood of impressions filled my mind. Sitting outside a church doesn’t make a sinner whole. And just as the dog wouldn’t be healed even if he was sitting inside the veterinary clinic, I won’t be healed if I simply sit in church every Sabbath. This dog needed extreme help. Actually, he needed more than that. The only way to relieve him from his miserable life would be to put him down. It is the same for me. I must die to truly live, but I have something that this dog doesn’t have: a Savior.

Sin causes separation, suffering, sickness, injustice - everything bad and undesirable, and in its finality, it brings forth death.  There is no cure, or explanation for it. Its only remedy is complete eradication and destruction. Yet through Christ, the death of sin is transformed into the rebirth of a new person. Praise the Lord! Neither physical death nor death to self have to be the end for me. I can be filled with new life, a new heart, and the mind of Christ.

“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” –Romans 6:5-8 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


This is a bit after the fact, but I just realized that I never posted the good news on here. I got my clothes back!!! Remember the ones that the laundry lady took? Well, I don’t know why she took so long with them, and one of my things came back with a suspicious price tag pinned to it, but I have all of them back. Praise the Lord! He even cares about my clothes!!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Post On Teaching...

Some of you are probably thinking. "O.K. So, she went over there to teach, right? And I haven't read a thing about teaching." Yeah, I know. It's just that there have been so many other exciting and new things going on that I haven't paused long enough to write a post on teaching, but here it comes. 
I got so excited when I first looked at the curriculum I would be using this year. It is almost exactly what I did in fifth grade! God is so good. Whenever I teach Miguel something I have a major deja vu moment, and it makes things so much easier (another nice thing is that Miguel and my little sister have a lot of things in common, so I almost feel like I already know him...well, almost anyway). 
God is so good, and He has given me so much to equip and prepare me for this job. So much of my life has made me feel at home here. My Latino side totally meshes with the lifestyle of my new Portuguese family. Paulo even reminds me of my dad. Ruth reminds me of a mix of my Tia Mabel and my prima, Erika, and like I said earlier, Miguel often reminds me of Olivia.
All that said, I still get lonely, I’m still tired, and teaching is still harder than I thought it would be. How do I convey information in a way that is understandable to a ten year old? How do I inspire him to love learning, to take initiative, to be proactive? How do I bring to him the reality and friendship of Jesus? Sometimes it seems like too much, and worry and doubt start to crowd my mind. Am I really doing any good?
Yet I know God has called me here, and I know that He equips those whom He calls. I know that He can use me, and I have faith that He will do things through me that I may never see or realize.
A good friend of mine sent me an email recently, and in it there was this quote: “"The humblest and poorest of the disciples of Jesus can be a blessing to others. They may not realize that they are doing any special good, but by their unconscious influence they may start waves of blessing that will widen and deepen, and the blessed results they may never know until the day of final reward. They do not feel or know that they are doing anything great. They are not required to weary themselves with anxiety about success. They have only to go forward quietly, doing faithfully the work that God's providence assigns, and their life will not be in vain" (from Steps to Christ).
May God help me go forward quietly, ever faithful to what He has called me, even if I don’t see immediate results.

Friday, September 7, 2012

An Unexpected Visitor

Hillary Clinton came to visit today. Unfortunately I didn't get to meet her, or even to see her, but I did hear the sirens of her armed escort as she drove by our compound. We live basically next door to the US embassy, so she was pretty close by.
All the main roads were blocked off for the entire seven hours that she spent on our island. It was impossible to get anywhere. Road raged Timorese honked their horns and crowded together, two per lane. The city was a wreck outside her field of view.
Everything she saw, however, was perfect. The American embassy, which has the biggest swimming pool on the island, was decked out for her coming. Now that I think of it, last week they laid new tar in front of the US embassy. Even the roads she drove on were freshly paved.
So, why all this fuss? Why was Clinton even here, on this insignificant and far-away island of the South Pacific? Apparently Timor-leste has oil.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Driving Again!

Today I got my picture taken for my international driver's license! I'm so excited! Another monumental occurrence on the streets of Dili today was my first lesson/experience in parallel parking (that just shows you how green a driver I really am). It was actually quite fun, and not too terribly challenging. So far the hardest thing has been that they don't mark one-way streets here, and there are a lot of one way streets. It is an adventure, that's for sure. Praise the Lord for His travelling mercies!

Monday, September 3, 2012


Here in Timor we drive on the left side of the road, and yes, I said we. I plan to get my International Driver’s License either this week or next week, and today I took a practice drive. After Miguel’s tennis lesson  this afternoon,  Paulo, Miguel, and I went to an empty lot so I could get used to the car that I will be using while I’m here (they have an extra car for me to use).  I drove around an old race track, did a u-turn and a couple other maneuvers, tried driving on typical Timorese terrain (really rough), and headed for the main road.
There is a little village about 14 km outside of Dili, and that was my first stop. Dodging motorcycles, taxis, children, chickens, dogs, pigs, and potholes all the way, we finally made it to our destination in the next town. After stopping there, I drove back to Dili. The road, although littered with distractions and hedged in on one side by a crumbling cliff, has the most beautiful view of the sea on the other side. Brightly colored fishing boats bobbed in the waves crashing against the rocks a few feet away from my tires. Across the small bay grow thick mangrove trees where saltwater crocodiles make their home. I can’t believe I live here and that I drove there today.
In Dili, I stopped at the mall, did some shopping (for clothes that disappeared in the laundry), and then drove home. It was an incredible experience and very fun. I think the most intimidating things were the narrow roads (sometimes with three vehicles for two lanes) and the left handed round-about that I went through. Thankfully, the pace is slow, so it is actually not too hard to maneuver my little car between the trucks and motorbikes. And the biggest blessing was that the Lord helped me. He kept me calm and confidant and safe, and I know that only He could have done that.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Missing You!

Hey, by the way, although I am having a great time, I just thought I'd let you all know that today I was missing you. All of you. Friends, family, just someone who isn't new. Someone I already know and who speaks proper English. I'm thinking of you and praying for you and I so appreciate it when you pray for me. :)

My Last Stop Before My New Home

This was supposed to be posted a few days ago with my other travel notes, but the internet was having problems and it didn't work. Sorry that it is so late and out of order
Singapore: (about 1:00am) As I write this, I am sitting alone in a rather deserted Singapore airport. I’m actually rather lost, and I don’t know where to go or what to do, so I decided to relieve my nerves by writing a bit. I tried to figure out where I’m supposed to go when it is closer to my departure time, but my flight isn’t showing up on the screen things yet, and I think that is just because I still have at least seven hours until I need to head toward my gate. I tried calling home, but my phone keeps telling me that my phone plan doesn’t allow outgoing calls. I tried emailing, but the only way to get free wifi is through the information desk. I’m sitting across from it right now, but, since it is about 1:00am here, there is no one there to help me. I looked for a lounge or safe place to sleep, but nothing was convincing. Either it looked safe but was a smoking area, or it wasn’t a smoking area and didn’t look safe. Maybe I’m just not good at looking, but I don’t want to get lost, and it is nice to write, so I think I just sit here till the information desk opens.
(about 4:00am)Since I last wrote, I have been able to find a very nice bathroom, and a bunch of computers that are set up for public wifi use. Praise the Lord! I even got to chat with Allie, although I haven’t made any direct contact with my family (I was able to send them an email).  While I was at the desk of computers, I had my Timor Air verification printout in my hand. When I left to go have my devotions, I forgot it on the desk. For part of my devotions I write out my prayers in a journal (I have found this so effective!), and just as I was asking the Lord to keep me from forgetting or loosing anything, two policemen came riding up on mopeds. Of course, I was rather nervous, and I didn’t really know what they wanted at first, but I had just been asking the Lord to help me to trust Him, so I wasn’t too frightened. In broken and thickly accented English the police asked to check my boarding pass and passport. I gave them my passport and then realized that I didn’t have my verification printout for my ticket to Timor, and I hadn’t gotten my boarding pass  yet, so I didn’t have that either. I told them right out that I had lost it, but that I thought I might have left it by the computers (praise the Lord for giving me honesty and a good memory!). The policemen walked with me to the computers, and sure enough, there were my papers, however, a couple Asian men had been having a discussion and had used my papers for drawing diagrams and making calculations. Thankfully the policemen just laughed, gave me my documents, and told me exactly where I needed to go to get my boarding pass. And that’s where I am right now; sitting in front of the counter that issues boarding passes, waiting for it to open, because nothing is open at four in the morning. Lol! PtL! Praise the Lord for answering prayers just as they are being written.   


So far, the latest adventure has been my laundry. The Grilo’s have a maid who cleans their house and does their laundry. You put your laundry in a basket; the lady comes, takes the basket, washes the clothes, and supposedly returns all the clothes. Supposedly. Oh, and by the way, she doesn’t speak English or Portuguese, only Tetum.
Shortly after I arrived, I turned in my first load of laundry. I sent in all the clothes I had travelled in: my new jacket, my nice black skirt, everything. My new work out shorts and my favourite Canadian t-shirt also went in the pile. A fair amount of my meager wardrobe, not to mention a large portion of unmentionables, was taken away by the cleaning lady, never to be seen again. At least not yet, I haven’t completely given up hope. Paulo and Ruth are trying their best to get to the bottom of this bottomless laundry chute, and I’m praying that they’ll be successful. As for now, Timor Plaza, here I come! If only Timor Plaza was an American mall with American quality clothes…


One thing that has truly amazed me here is how easy it is to get people to smile. In the states I have a little game I like to play. I smile at people in stores or walking down the street, or even people I know, and try to see how many people will smile back. This game is really hard to play in America. Hardly anyone ever smiles back, and it can be discouraging.
When I came here, I didn’t play the game intentionally, at first. I play it so much at home that it has become a habit. What made me remember the game was when people would smile at me as we drove down the street. I realized that whenever I smiled while looking out the car window, everyone who caught my eye would smile back. If I wasn’t smiling, people would just stare blankly (and blank stares can be scary, haunting, annoying…it depends on who is staring). When I did smile though, it was so lovely. Little children would smile and wave and the tired faces of old women would light up.
And everyone would smile. I found it so incredible. Here, where little babies run around naked and teenagers look like they are seven because of malnutrition; here, where the birth rate is high, the literacy rate is low, and half the population lives under the poverty line ; here, in all the filth because of a great lack of clean water; here, people smile. Yet in America, where people have running water, electricity, food, BMW’s, blackberries, Wii’s, iPods, iphones, ipads, and a host of other material things, I rarely see a smile.
I have so much to be thankful for, yet I complain or think that I don’t have enough while these people smile through their trials. It is my prayer today that Jesus will help me not take for granted the blessings He has given me, and that He will show me how I can share Him and His blessings with others, even through a smile. J


Another thing I've had to learn about here has been the doors. To open the double doors to the house, you have to push on the door that you don’t want to open, and then the door that you do want to open will swing open towards you by itself. Then there are the sliding glass doors that looked to me like regular doors. I tried and tried to open them, only to see my young student slide them open with ease a few minutes later. And my bathroom door! I have to hang all my weight on it to get it to latch shut. It’s all so strange. Yet the strangeness of these doors has made me think of another strange thing: humans.
Some open up without even being touched while others need you to hang all your weight on the door to their heart before they will let you in. As I’ve learned to adapt to the doors in my new house, I pray that the Lord will teach me how to open the hearts of the people of my new country and culture. May He give me, through prayer and faith, not only the keys to the doors of heaven, but also the keys to peoples’ hearts.

Toilet Trials

Before I came to Timor-leste, I read a post about Asian toilets on Allie’s blog (Allie is a friend of mine who worked here last year). She said something about a bunch of buttons on the toilet and not knowing how to flush it. After reading her post, I thought I was prepared.
The first time I stepped into the bathroom, I noticed that the toilet was different. It didn’t have millions of buttons like the one Allie encountered, but I still wasn’t sure how to flush it. Later, when it came time to use this complicated device, I was relieved to find a little lever that looked just like what we American’s use to flush the toilet. Proud of my investigation skills and thankful for the wisdom Allie had shared with me on the art of flushing an Asian toilet, I confidently pressed down the lever, deciding to leave all those silly buttons alone. Immediately two little sticks shot out of the back of the toilet and started spraying water at me. First one would squirt a jet of cold water, then the other, then the first one, back and forth and back and forth, right at me. Quickly, I shielded myself from the offending spray with one hand while I pushed the lever with the other. Thankfully, the two water guns retreated. I had won my first fight with an Asian toilet, although my pride was severely dampened.
So, a rather wet Miss Teacher had to go ask her student how to flush the toilet, and the answer was those sneaky old buttons after all.