We were required to leave the country for four days to get our long-term visa. With the collapse of a bridge on the coastal road to Indonesia, our plan was changed from driving to West Timor to flying to Bali. Do I hear a collective awwwwwhhhhhh, too bad? Yes, sometimes the life of the missionary is really tough.
Staying with the sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows at their Domus Marie guesthouse has been a tremendous relief from the strains of Dili. We have A/C, flush toilets, a real shower and the cleanest environment we have experienced since leaving Rome. The tile floors here simply glisten. One cannot appreciate clean floors properly until one has lived in Dili, where the hourly battle against dust and dirt is never won, only continued.
Two Canossian sisters picked us up at the airport and then gave us a brief tour of Denpasar. It ended at a beachfront restaurant with the best grilled fish I have ever tasted. We sat with candlelights shimmering, listening to the waves rolling in and viewing hillside lights twinkling in the night. Truly delightful in all ways and I felt most humbled that the Lord would provide such enchantments for our spiritual and physical pleasure.
Our abode here is a ten minute walk from Kuta beach. Kuta is the destination of middle-class tourists and convention-goers from all over the world, but mostly Australia. Their fat, white bodies are strikingly unappealing after seeing nothing but lean and hungry Timorese for four months. I find myself wondering why someone so fat could possibly think they can wear a bikini? But, I digress from the most important events of this respite.
The local Catholic church has come as a great and wonderful surprise. St. Francis Xavier is beautiful, just four years old and built to a surprisingly large scale. It has elegant, suggestive Balinese lines and a polished floor that has the amazing qualities of a reflecting pool. We met a delightful sister the first day who is starting a new order to serve the poor, Regina Angelorum. She appears to be the Mother Teresa of Bali and has waited 8 years to begin her work.
The priests here celebrate the Mass in a most inspiring manner and the sung responses are the best we have ever heard in spite of the language barrier. But the BEST part of all is a huge Balinese gong which is struck three times at the raising of Jesus in the consecration. It is so startlingly PERFECT! David and I just broke out in smiles the first time with a united YES, this is it. Why doesn’t every church have a gong? Bong, bong, bong. Pay attention, this is where it is happening and happening right now. Nothing else matters, pay attention!
Celebrating Ash Wednesday in a center of hedonistic pleasures must have some spiritual significance, but we are working that one out as we go. Running on the beach each morning, daily mass, and spiritual reading have made these five days much more rejuvenating than we could ever have expected. Maybe I won’t struggle with the heat and dirt of Dili upon our return. We shall see. [posted by Rory]
More tales from Bali to follow…