David: I hate saying goodbyes, especially those that have a finality about them. John Paul told Sr. Guilhermina that he didn’t want to come to the airport because it was too hard to say goodbye. I understand.
Our final days in Dili were full of activity. We finished exams on Friday and then pushed hard to get them marked. There was the multilayered task of finding a good home for much of what we had acquired and brought – the printer, books, dvds, lamps, magazines, batteries, the remaining food, clothes we were not bringing back. The materials we had developed over a year of classes had to be copied to various flash drives. We had several farewell occasions with our expat friends, including a session at the Dili Club watching the Rugby World Cup with many of the resident Kiwis. There were goodbyes to be made at our two Bible studies and at church on our last Sunday.
We had a final time with the Canossian sisters at Balide and Comoro, always generous with their hospitality and gratitude. We tried to squeeze in a meal with the sisters at Becora but it couldn’t be done. It was John Paul’s seventh birthday on Sunday at Balide, a happy coincidence since we have a particular fondness for him. We promised to let him stay with us when he comes to school in America. The Comoro sisters hosted us for our “last supper” on Monday. They performed a song for us which is posted on the music page. It was moving to realize how much we had become a part of this place.
Providentially, we had an unexpected and rousing send-off at school, though that may have been just the way it felt to us. Monday happened to be a school holiday, the eighth birthday of IPDC.
After a school-wide Mass [sound clips posted on the music page], we shared the spotlight and felt like celebrities as we were asked to speak and have our pictures taken with our students. It was an emotionally moving time, surrounded by now familiar faces with names that didn’t seem nearly so alien. Their beautiful smiles were much in evidence as Rory passed out English New Testaments and advice to the best students.
Certainly some of the hardest goodbyes were at the airport. We immensely respect Sr. Guilhermina, Sr. Aurora, and Sr. Zinya and think of them as friends. Over the past year we have had many conversations with them about the challenges that confront the school and the Timorese people. We consider it a high honor to have shared in their work. Though it could never be characterized as easy, it has been an experience, an education, that we wouldn’t trade for anything.
Rory: As I took my first run since Perth, I was overwhelmed with the blessings we have received in this past eventful year. That I had such health as to run, such beauty to run in, such support to get this far (physically, spiritually and socially) and with the anticipation of meeting not only my wonderful children, their spouses, and our dear friends, but the addition of two blessings from heaven, Peter and James Hoipkemier. Well, it is almost beyond words. It is beyond words, but we must yet acknowledge the grace we have received and acknowledge the support you have given and the love we have felt this past year.
Our final moments in Dili were filled with friends and Canossians. Two dinner parties, much laughter and song and the giving of gifts (“Can we fit this into our 20kg limit?”). Friends took me to coffee, came over for final goodbyes and to wish us well. Four sisters were at the airport to see us off and to have final photos. Each goodbye raised the question of change, love, heavenly treasures and that which moths can eat and time will rust.
At these moments one realizes fully that life is about love, acceptance and change. It is about taking what we have been given and passing it along, using the gifts the Lord has given, showing who He is through our gifts, not stepping back but always up, keeping our eyes open, seeing the invisible people, being present to children, forgiving ourselves our failures and the failures of others, taking oneself lightly (GKC) even as one lifts up the crosses placed upon us and realizing that He who took up His cross is ultimately bearing the weight of the world on His shoulders.
Looking very much forward to meeting again!