Global Ministry in East Timor: A Passion to Serve, An Invitation to Give

 

August 2016

Greetings from East Timor MN Conference!

East Timor ClinicYikes…so much to tell it’s hard to know where to start….  We moved to Lospalos last week and Monica started working on Monday.  They had sixty patients at the clinic on a Monday morning, which is pretty typical.  We’ve also met with a number of local community leaders to let them know we’re here and what we’re doing, etc.  Hannah and Simon are settling in as well: learning language through playing with friends, old and new.

One of my jobs is to work with the director of IPTL’s social outreach ministry, so I’m working with her on a project proposal for a community-based health program funded by Uniting Church of Australia to be implemented by Clinic Immanuel Lospalos. We hope to start it in the next couple weeks.

Hannah LiddleMoving in here in Lospalos has been somewhat of a trial (understatement).  A day after we got here, I got quite sick for 4 days and was hardly able to leave the bed.  So many things to do to make our place livable yet all I could do was lie useless in bed!  A lesson in humility.  So things are still kind of chaotic.  The good news is that the kids really stepped up: doing laundry by hand, helping with cooking and chores, encouraging me with jokes and telling me to “keep a positive attitude dad!”  Wow… we are really growing together as a family!  Thankfully I’m feeling somewhat better now and we’re getting back on track.

We’ll be going to Dili this weekend to have “fun with visas.”  Yes, the process of obtaining a working visa in Timor is, well… “fun.”  We’re also going to wrap up the proposal for the community-based health programI mentioned above.  If you want to keep up with what we’re doing, you can “like” our blog (www.timorsite.wordpress.com) and or friend us on FB.

As always, we’re thankful for your support and prayers.

Tom, Monica, Hannah and Simon


 

July 2015

As a Conference we have an amazing opportunity to be part of the global ministries of our wider United Church of Christ. Two of our own in the Minnesota Conference, Rev. Tom and Dr. Monica Liddle have been appointed by our Common Global Ministries Board of the UCC and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to serve a 4-year term with the Protestant Church of East Timor (IPTL). Now you can help ensure their work on our behalf comes to fruition.

The new funding model of Common Global Ministries requires that a significant amount of money to support missionary appointments is raised before missionaries can begin their service. That’s where we in the MN Conference have a unique opportunity.

The Board of Directors of the Minnesota Conference has recently voted to commit $50,000 to the Liddle’s global mission appointment. The Board has also issued a challenge to the congregations and individuals of the Minnesota Conference to support this mission, pledging a dollar for dollar match up to an additional $50,000 that the wider Conference raises.

Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister says, “The Liddles’ work in E. Timor will be transformative for them, for our partner church and communities in E. Timor, and for all of us in the Minnesota Conference. I hope congregations and individuals will consider being part of this incredible opportunity to engage in God’s global mission.”

Look at this document about the Liddles Description of appointment.  At the bottom of their document you will find information on how to contact Tom and Monica to speak to your congregation or answer any questions you may have about this ministry.


 

Did you know that the United Church of Christ is engaged in global ministries through partnerships in 84 countries around the world? Did you know that we have 140 mission personnel serving on our behalf?

The Minnesota Conference has been blessed to engage in global ministries in a variety of ways through the years. We have enjoyed our partnership with the SE Mindanao Jurisdiction of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines since 1987, and Don and Mary Jane Westra (Fergus Falls) are currently serving as mission personnel in Honduras. Now we have a wonderful opportunity to financially support the missionary appointments of two of our own, Rev. Tom and Dr. Monica Liddle (members of Peace UCC- Duluth).

Tom and Monica have been appointed as mission personnel to serve with the Protestant Church of East Timor, an established partner of our Common Global Ministries with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). This opportunity for Tom and Monica represents a deep and abiding call, an opportunity to return to a place they love. They share with us below how their love for East Timor began, and offer a glimpse of the work they hope to continue there if needed funds are successfully raised.


 

November 18, 2015

From Rev. Tom Liddle & Monica Liddle, ND, LM:

We would like to recognize the churches in the Minnesota Conference who have expressed interest in our Global Ministries mission appointment to East Timor, both through financial support and through invitations to share with congregations about our past and future service. Peace UCC Duluth, our home church, has provided unending spiritual and financial support for our work since our first assignment to East Timor in 2009, and they continue to generously give. Deepest thanks, Peace.

Since the summer, when the MN Conference highlighted our appointment with a challenge to fundraising, churches have continued to step up and invite us to preach and speak. Sincere thanks to New Brighton UCC, Congregational Church of Faribault, Union Congregational in St. Louis Park, MacAlaster Plymouth United Church in St. Paul, First Congregational Church in Minneapolis, Pilgrim Congregational in Duluth, and Cherokee Park United Church in West St. Paul for your interest and support of our global ministry in East Timor. And, to Congregational UCC Rochester, Peace UCC Rochester, and St. Paul’s UCC for the invitations to speak in the near future.

Special and profound thanks to First Congregational UCC of Wadena, who has provided years of support to the education and training of Timorese student Amena Cristovao. Amena arrived in Minnesota in 2012, and has nearly completed her studies at Lake Superior College in Duluth as a Medical Laboratory Technician. Thank you, Wadena, for your multiple contributions in her support.

To the individuals who have heard our appeal for support to serve in the wide world, and to bring back the messages our partners have to share, Thank You. We pray that we will be on the ground in East Timor early in the new year.


September 30, 2015

From Monica Liddle, ND, LM:

70% of women in East Timor give birth at home without a trained birth attendant, and often far from a clinic or a midwife with life-saving resources and skills. In 2011 we began a prenatal care program at Clinic Immanuel in Lospalos to increase local women’s access to maternity care, and to develop essential skills within our own staff of community health workers.
None of the five women with whom I worked had any maternity training, but all were eager to learn, so I began by teaching them basics: making sure they knew how to take patients’ blood pressure, and the significance of abnormal readings in pregnancy; measuring uterine fundal height and understanding expected growth in pregnancy; the importance of iron supplementation in pregnancy.

I worked with the local hospital laboratory to begin screening pregnant women for HIV and Hepatitis B. While these tests were available, they were not routinely performed in the Lospalos Hospital maternity clinic. In the first 30 women we screened, we found a mother who tested positive for the Hepatitis B virus.

Fortunately, the local hospital had Hepatitis B vaccine to give to the baby after delivery. Unfortunately, no pharmacy, clinic or hospital in the entire country had Hepatitis B immune globulin, which is essential to give to the newborn immediately after birth to prevent maternal-fetal transmission of the virus, except for the Bairo Pite Clinic in Dili.

So on our next trip to Dili, a 5 ½ hour drive, we stopped there, where Dr. Dan Murphy was happy to loan us a small cooler and provide a dose of immune globulin for our Lospalos baby, who was soon to be born. The morning this mother delivered, her husband came to Clinic Immanuel to inform us, as he had been instructed to do, and I went right over to the hospital to administer the medicines to their newborn. A Cuban doctor was pleasantly surprised I was there, and together, we used the moment as a teaching experience for the Timorese interns.

In East Timor, approximately 3% to 8% of the population carries the Hepatitis B virus, which is all too easily transmitted during birth. Babies are at high risk of become chronically infected and eventually developing liver disease, including liver cancer. But in low-resource countries, basic screening for infections like HIV and hepatitis in pregnant women is fraught with difficulty. Are the test reagents available locally? Does the mother understand and agree to testing? And, what do we do if we find a positive test, but have no resources to manage the patient thereafter? Why even bother?

We do bother, because for one community, for one family, for one baby, our efforts can make a difference.


 

September 23, 2015

From Rev. Tim Liddle:

About a year after we had been in Timor on the last assignment, I met a young man I’ll call Jose.  Monica and I were at a Christmas youth gathering doing some workshops on health education and HIV prevention.  Jose was one of the youth leaders.  I could tell right away he was someone with burgeoning leadership capacity.  Over the next year I got to know Jose much better through various church activities.  Then, one day I got an email from another Global Ministries missionary working with the YMCA in Hong Kong.  He wanted to know if there were any youth from the church that might hare the English skills and leadership capacity to participate in a “School of Peace” in India.  The School of Peace is an initiative of Mennonite Central Committee and the YMCA of Asia.  It brings together youth from all over Asia to learn about conflict resolution, peace building, Indigenous spirituality and interfaith dialogue.  I immediately thought of Jose.

Over the next few months I worked with Jose on his application for the school, helped him improve his English skills, get his passport and secure a visa for travel to India.  Peace UCC in Duluth purchased his plane ticket.  Before he left we had a commissioning at the Synod office, and off he went.  Three months later I picked him up at the airport in Dili.  On the three hour drive back to Baucau he could barely stop talking about all he’s learned and seen.  His world had opened up.  He was a man on a mission.  He had a message of peace and interfaith cooperation to bring to youth in East Timor through his leadership in the church.  Since then he’s been to subsequent Schools of Peace and continues to teach the youth at annual Christmas and Easter gatherings. In years to come he’s hoping to host a School of Peace in East Timor.


 

September 16, 2015

From Monica Liddle:
When I served as doctor in Clinic Immanuel in Lospalos from 2009 to 2012 through our Global Ministries partner, the Protestant Church of East Timor, our clinic treated an average of 60 patients daily. Diarrhea, worms, fungal skin infections and a variety of respiratory illnesses were the usual daily diagnoses. But every week, challenging situations presented through our doors. I will share a few of these stories over the coming months to highlight the multifaceted social and cultural issues involved in providing basic health care in a country with very limited resources.

In 2012, an elementary school teacher in Lospalos came in with a chronic cough. He was tested and diagnosed by sputum smear with pulmonary tuberculosis; TB is very contagious through airborne spread when we can find it under the microscope from examining a person’s sputum. This is one of the only tests we ran in our lab in Clinic Immanuel, and arguably one of the most important tests any clinic in East Timor should perform, as TB rates are high all over the country.
The school teacher was informed of his illness and of the contagious nature of TB. He was advised to come to our clinic every weekday for 2 months to take a daily dose of medicine, which is a standard Directly Observed Treatment (DOT) protocol for TB patients around the world. After this initial intensive treatment phase, when the infection is known to be highly contagious, patients are given many more months of medicine to be taken at home independently.
Instead of coming to the clinic each morning for his daily dose of medicine, our patient did not show up, and we soon found out that he was still going to school to teach. Our clinic TB coordinator went to find him at school, and implored him to come to clinic for his medicine. She also informed the school administration of his illness. He did become more compliant with his treatment, but he also continued to teach.
In East Timor, most adults are subsistence farmers and very poor. One can imagine how a professional teacher may feel he cannot afford to risk losing his job, even at the risk of his own health. Taking time off work for illness or missing an hour of work to take a dose of daily medicine at the clinic are real “obstacles to cure”. At Clinic Immanuel in Lospalos, we found that going to the people, seeking and finding them ourselves, rather than waiting for them to show up, was often the solution to our TB patient dilemmas. Our work paid off in the patients getting the appropriate treatment, and finally improving the health of the local community by reducing the TB burden.

Monica Liddle is a registered naturopathic doctor and licensed midwife through the MN Board of Medical Practice. She will begin a second term of mission service in East Timor through Global Ministries in 2016 with her husband, Rev. Tom Liddle.


 

August 12, 2015

 

One of the cornerstones of pastoral ministry in the Protestant Church of East Timor is the home worship service, or “kultu uma kain” in the local language. Most Timorese people are farmers and many live far from a local church and Sunday mornings often find people working in their fields rather than walking long distance to church. During the week therefore, there are always afternoon worship services in the home. Local pastors and elders walk to villages where family clans gather for worship in the home – it’s literally, “Church on the Move.” We sing, pray, read scripture, and someone will give a short sermon. It’s an opportunity for people to name the things they want to pray for in an intimate setting. Leading these services is also a way for lay people to exercise their gifts for ministry and a way for us all to grow spiritually.
When we were serving in Timor from 2009-2012 Monica and I found these family worship services very important for our ministry with our partners for several reasons. For one thing, they helped us better understand how the family system works in this cultural context. Through listening to prayers we also learned a lot about local theology and what people are concerned about. And by visiting people in their homes, these services kept us in regular contact with the reality of people’s lives. These experiences in turn helped us work with clinic staff and church leaders to develop programs in the clinic where Monica worked to address health concerns in practical ways. In short, pastoral ministry in East Timor is holistic; and this Timorese version of “Church on the Move” is part of it. Ministry is concerned not only with the spiritual health of parishioners but also looks to empower local leaders and care for the whole person – mind, body and spirit.

August 5, 2015

 

From Monica Liddle:

East Timor is a hot, tropical, mountainous country 7 degrees south of the Equator that is extremely underdeveloped. A million people live there, 70% of them in rural areas where roads are at times impassible in the rainy season. Just as it is in the USA, many pastors and health care providers in East Timor prefer to work in more urban areas, leaving gaps to access of services in many remote areas. In our second term as Global Ministries mission personnel, Tom and I will continue to reach out to the 70%, bringing health care and pastoral care to these gap areas.

For me, the 70% I have in mind particularly are the women in Timor who give birth without a doctor or midwife present, and who deliver outside of a medical facility, because there is no facility for them to easily access in labor. The average woman in East Timor gives birth to five or six children, and has a lifetime risk of 1:55 of dying from birth-related causes.

Postpartum hemorrhage and hypertensive disorders are two leading causes of maternal mortality in the developing world. Simple anti-hemorrhagic medicines and a blood pressure cuff, along with a village midwife trained to use them, could save lives in East Timor. I dream of creating such a training program that reaches out to serve that rural 70%.

This tiny independent country, tucked within the Indonesian island chain, is little-known and easily overlooked. East Timor struggles with poverty, disease, and leadership challenges just as so many post-colonial countries around the world do. Our Global Ministries mission presence is an act of solidarity with these brothers and sisters in Christ who have much to teach us about resilience, community, and faith in God. Through our partners’ voices, God is indeed still speaking.

July 29, 2015

 

Tom, why do you feel called to this ministry?

Tom: Because the gospel calls us to accompany the poor in the struggle for liberation and justice. And I think our spiritual well being as a people and our vitality as a church depends on us being faithful to that call. Accompaniment implies journeying together, breaking bread together and learning from each other. It implies advocacy, yes, but most importantly, accompaniment means social proximity. Over the years I’ve been involved in ministries of accompaniment with prisoners, the homeless and church partners in the Philippines and East Timor. What I find most compelling about the ministry in Timor is our partner church’s vision of a holistic ministry that includes health care, education and small-scale agricultural development — all through the network of rural congregations. Together, Monica and I have a unique skill set that is particularly well suited to accompanying them in this kind of ministry.

What will you be doing in this term of service?

Tom: I’ll do what pastors do in East Timor. Lead worship, home prayer meetings, teach youth and do pastoral care. I’ll also help IPTL with a grassroots ministry training program for rural pastors. In addition I’ll accompany the director of IPTL’s social outreach foundation. That ministry entails developing congregation-based agricultural projects, running a rural vocational school and overseeing two outpatient clinics. I’ll also be blogging regularly about how political, business and economic forces affect common people in East Timor and sharing theological insights from the grassroots.

Why is this ministry important for MN churches?

Tom: This ministry offers local churches an opportunity to be involved in a holistic ministry of accompaniment in a particular place with a particular people. It offers the opportunity to learn about faith and life from global partners. It offers the opportunity to contribute meaningfully and specifically to ministries in health care, education and pastoral presence in a particular place. We’ll be active on social media, blogging regularly and sharing stories about the people, place and work. These stories will enrich the lives of MN churches, help them think theologically and inform how they engage in mission and global justice advocacy. In short, this ministry is a tangible expression of the UCC’s commitment to the wider world.


July 22, 2015

In East Timor God is still…Listening – and acting.

When I was serving with the Protestant Church in East Timor, one of the many things I learned is that God truly is living and active. That may sound like a strange insight; after all, in the UCC we’re always talking about how “God is Still Speaking.” But living with our partners in East Timor, I learned what I think may be an even more important insight for U.S. churches: “God is Still Listening.” That is, God really is alive and active. God is one who hears prayer, has a stake in the world, and does indeed act – regardless of whether one has the money and social capital to be an agent of change.

When we were serving with the Protestant Church of East Timor, prayer infused everything we did: meals, work, travel, fellowship and ministry of any kind. For one thing it was a regular and powerful reminder that life itself is a free and unmerited gift of God. And it also reminded us that the tasks we faced in ministry — although often difficult and vexing — were grounded in something much bigger than ourselves, and that God would do something with whatever we had to offer.

I think sometimes we perceive of God as a reflection of our highest values rather than as the living, active, and inscrutable God we meet in the Bible. When we do that it’s easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking that God has no agency; “no hands and feet but our own.” And that theology makes working for social change over the long term difficult. If we think it’s all up to us, burnout, cynicism or joyless activism often follow.

But when we recognize and have faith that God is truly living and active (as the Bible redundantly testifies) we’re empowered to live and act, as we feel called. Part of that is the faith that even when our efforts seem partial and insufficient, God is indeed at work being God; working in and through our pastoral efforts to bend history toward God’s intended aim. And that in turn gives us hope; and I know for me at least, a deep sense of joy.


 

July 15, 2015

 

“Tom and Monica Liddle to Return to East Timor with Global Ministries”Liddle family

East Timor. We found ourselves here in March 2003. Just months before, we hadn’t heard of this tiny half-island nation in Southeast Asia. But the Bairo Pite Clinic in Dili, the capital city, turned out to be an ideal location for us at the time: for Monica to deliver babies in an out-of-hospital setting in a developing country, and for Tom to use his carpentry skills to make improvements to the clinic buildings, which were in poor shape after Timor’s 24-year struggle for independence from Indonesian rule. Despite the tropical heat and the daily confrontation with so much suffering we witnessed in the clinic, we felt strangely at home in this place.

After 9 weeks in East Timor, we returned and moved from Seattle to Duluth, where we joined Peace UCC. Tom became involved in both the local and national settings of the church while we lived in Duluth. We discovered that Global Ministries had a partnership in East Timor.

As an experiment in international life and work, we returned to East Timor as Global Ministries short-term volunteers in 2008. In the village of Triloka, we had the feeling that we had somehow come home.

Then in 2009, the Protestant Church of East Timor (IPTL) was in need of a doctor for its outpatient clinic in Lospalos, and made a request for someone from Global Ministries. Within six months of the call, we sold our house and our cars, Monica closed a successful practice in naturopathic medicine and midwifery, Tom quit his carpentry job, and we moved from Duluth to Timor with our five year old daughter, Hannah. Six months later our son Simon was born in Lospalos.

For the next three years we accompanied our partner church in its pastoral and health ministries. Tom worked with local pastors on outreach to rural congregations, re-roofed and mosquito-proofed the clinic, and ran our household. In the clinic Monica saw on average 60 patients each day, and together with a staff of five Timorese women started programs in nutrition, maternity, and outreach to rural communities while teaching the staff administrative and basic medical skills.

Since our return to St. Paul in 2012, Tom has earned his Master of Divinity degree and he is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Monica has been working at Health Foundations Family Health and Birth Center, providing out-of-hospital maternity services. In January, IPTL asked Global Ministries to send us back to continue our pastoral and health ministries with them. With your support, we will meet this call.

Rev. Tom and Dr. Monica Liddle

St. Paul, MN

The Minnesota Conference is inviting you – congregations & individuals – to financially support the mission appointment of Tom and Monica to East Timor. Gifts to support this appointment may be sent to Common Global Ministries, PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206-1986 and specified for Tom and Monica Liddle appointment. Want to know more? Contact Tom and Monica to speak at your church.