Although one may have to look beneath the surface to see the positive in this tropical non-paradise, there are advantages to living in Dili as compared to say, Michigan. Let me see if I can call them to mind as I sit in front of the fan (that means the electricity is ON!)
First, one has a GREAT appreciation for things modern that make living in a very hot climate bearable, such as fans and cold water and of course, the aforementioned, electricity (I am ready to write an ode to Ben Franklin). We cannot, absolutely cannot, fathom how missionaries of previous generations lived without any relief, including the Canossians who wore long-sleeved black wool habits (they are surely all in heaven now). I am sure the sisters here want to canonize the superior who finally figured out they needed white cotton short-sleeved tops with skirts just below the knee. She deserves some applause at the very least.
Next on the list of positives, as you are all turning up your thermostats and trying to keep your heating bills as low as possible, we are throwing buckets upon buckets of cool water on ourselves attempting to lower our body temperature, which is at least much cheaper. As you try to find a matching glove, mitten, sock etc. to cover all exposed skin from the biting cold and wrestle with boots, scarves, hats, snow pants, ski boots to prepare yourselves for shoveling the driveway or venturing out, we have the simple choice of this sandal or that sandal, this cotton short-sleeved top or that one and did I sweat enough in this yet to hand wash it again?
I am beginning to see less and less of how miserably poor the people are (corrugated iron-roofed shacks are the norm) and more of how the system is actually working. That system includes garbage control or management or some such category. My first reaction to all of the garbage in piles everywhere and throughout the drainage system was real revulsion. And the Lord must be laughing at the placement of the neighborhood dump two doors down from our home. Anyone who knows me knows my obsession with litter and this has been a true battle for me, to ignore the pile every time we walk past it, with the dogs and children rummaging through it all. I am beginning to see that the once per week pick up, more or less, is actually a system and that it does rid the city of most of the garbage more or less for a few moments (the piles are back within a day). And, I truly see how hardworking some of the people are who farm the land with ancient hoes or build rich men’s houses with shovels and hammers in the high heat of the day. I think less about those who seem to sit all day and begin to see the worker bees doing what they can. The materialism and madness of the shopping malls at Christmas time, a clear negative of Michigan. Dili? No problemo. No malls, no tinsel, no cinemas with bad films (no cinemas period!), no skating rinks, or any form of commercial entertainment whatsoever, no toys, no wrapping and no feasting. The total lack of material advantages is definitely a good thing about living in Dili. It does, as they say, focus the mind on all things necessary.
Which gets me to my point of all this. Are there advantages to living in Dili? It appears that they are not material, if there are any, and that is surely the case. I could write for pages of all that I am learning in the spiritual realm about myself and my weakness and my total reliance on the Holy Spirit to survive this strange place to which we have been called. Our prayer life deepens and broadens, and we daily laugh at the real struggle it is to simply make it through a hot, hot day again. This very morning, as I woke with a positive thought about living each day with joy, I immediately stepped over a large cockroach in the bedroom doorway. “Oh happy day!” But we DID laugh. We greatly appreciate your prayers and know it is because of them that we have survived thus far. If we all pray together, we may just make it through today. That’s as far as our spiritual energy extends, and that may be as it should be. Please get me through this day, O Lord. [posted by Rory]