It’s 3 January 2013 – the official first day of the mission trip.
We all got up bright and early, packed our bags and made our way to the All Seasons Hotel restaurant for an early breakfast, before loading up two taxis for the trip to Denpasar Airport.
Gary, our team leader, had already been in the village for a week.
When we got to the airport, we found out that our flight had been delayed, so we took the opportunity to have an impromptu team meeting, sans our leader, which kind of made it difficult to decide anything concrete about the program.
Even though our entire week had been planned out in the form of an itinerary, we were short on details and weren’t really sure whether the ideas we had proposed were actually suitable for the villagers. I was again reminded however of the maxim “blessed are the flexible”. We were just going to have to pray hard and just “wing it”.
Stef, our admin person, had nonetheless produced a very pretty colour-coded document, with each of us being designated our areas of responsibility. I have to say, I was really impressed by Stef’s maturity – for a person her age, her organisational skills and foresight were well beyond her years.
We finally got onto the plane for the 2 hour flight to Dili, the capital of East Timor. I was actually quite nervous about flying Merpati Air (a subsidiary of Garuda). Surprisingly, the in-flight meal was pretty decent, which at least distracted me from my anxiety for a while. Ling was surprisingly calm, because in the past, she had been nervous about flying. Most of the time, she was more concerned about her seat not locking into the upright position and periodically leaning into Ernie, who was sitting behind her.
As our plane approached the airport in Dili, my anxiety grew as I realised we were coming in pretty fast. When the plane made contact with the runway, there was significant braking and when it finally slowed down and turned, I realised that we had actually used up the entire length of the runway. Good thing I could only see out the side of the plane until then!
When we had collected our luggage, we could see Agung and Gary on the other side of customs, smiles flashing to welcome us.
After a few customary words, Agung led us into the carpark of the airport where we laid eyes for the first time on our transport vehicle for the week. It looked, um, functional. Agung and Gary exhibited superhuman strength and great balance as they loaded 8 people’s luggage onto the roof of the Land Cruiser before the human cargo got loaded into the back of the SUV.
Then our first stop: the shopping mall!
Because this was going to be our only time in Dili until the end of the mission trip, we had to stock up on snacks and the all-important bottled water.
We often take things like water for granted. But we were sure that not only was the water in Timor unsafe for drinking, we were concerned that we couldn’t even brush our teeth or wash our contact lenses in it, so thank God for bottled water. And thank God it was only 30 cents a bottle.
Whilst we shopped for supplies, Wen, Ernie and Shi-En promptly hit the food court. They were hungry and it was only 4 pm. And here is an important spiritual principle which I shared with our team – when you are hungry enough, you can bring forward something reserved for a future time into your present!
After we bought our supplies, we drove to the centre of Dili where we (or rather, the rest of us) had dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It was pretty good Chinese food. Even in the remotest parts of the world, you are bound to find Chinese people. In fact, I think the shopping mall from which we had just come was Chinese-owned. Later on during the week, we would see a Chinese-owned general store right in the heart of the village!
After dinner, we made our way to Tibar Resort, where we would stay during the week.
On the way there, on the outskirts of Dili, we passed a large piece of land earmarked for Pelican Paradise – a six star resort being built by a Christian businessman. It’s great to think that even though what we were doing was very much relational and grassroots, on the other end of the spectrum, there were projects such as this which will ultimately bring socio-economic transformation to the nation on a large scale.
We reached Tibar in the evening – a “resort” featuring 6 or 7 wooden huts built on the side of a hill, overlooking the ocean. The view was pretty spectacular and our individual huts were very comfortable. This is what we called a “soft landing” into missions. So far, so good…
After we all freshened up, we convened in my hut for a time of worship, prayer and ministry. This was for me a crucial part of why I was there. As I have said in previous posts, one of my life themes is Jeremiah 1:5-8, which is the calling of Jeremiah for the nations. And I believe, like John Piper says, worship is the fuel and goal of missions, so it is only appropriate that we begin a mission trip by focussing on God and worshipping. Over the duration of the trip, there would be many more times of intense worship and intercession, which not only brought focus, but also forged unity for us as a team.
And one of the things I began to learn about Agung’s secret is this: before he is a missionary, he is first a worshipper. You can tell by his posture of yieldedness as he worships.
At the end of the day, worship always brings perspective. It puts God and His kingdom cause into a place of priority and whatever else we have to do becomes secondary. Lack of planning? Pssh…. With God, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Bring it on!