In May 2018, I stayed at Sundermeier Home (SH) during a medical mission trip to Timor-Leste. After the house-parents Uncle Joseph and Aunty Grace (MMS missionaries) shared about their sabbatical plans for 2019, God prompted me to return to bridge the gap. With the blessings of my parents, my new boss and my church’s mission committee, I left for Timor-Leste on 2 Feb 2019. This was my fifth and longest trip there, and it was also my first Chinese New Year away from my family.
I spent a fruitful 12 weeks in Timor-Leste as a MITE participant—11 weeks in SH and one week in Hera at St Paul Methodist School standing in for David (MMS missionary) while he was away in Singapore. Relief-teaching was an eye-opening experience. I had a fruitful time of bonding with Jessie, Joy, Isaiah and the schoolchildren. I even had the chance to sit in my first microlet. Though at times the experience was tiring and trying, the Lord’s protection and grace granted me strength and joy to serve and love these younger brothers and sisters.
In SH, together with Rudy (MMS missionary), I oversaw the running of the hostel, and the physical wellbeing, study, spiritual nurturing and discipline of the hostelites, as well as ensuring that the beloved house dogs and cats (Ash, Husky, Melody and Jaspar) were fed! Every week, Rudy and I drove an hour and 15 minutes to Dili to get groceries. I always enjoyed the car rides as I got to see the beautiful greenery, sea and sky of Timor-Leste.
At SH, Papa Joe and Mama Grace—as they were affectionately called—had set a schedule of duties and activities for all hostelites. Each of them was rostered for dish washing, area cleaning and gardening. Some senior ones helped with cooking, and leading worship and devotion.
A typical day started at 6 a.m. After worship and breakfast, I prepared lunch before giving English and Mathematics lessons to the Year 1s. Two Year 2s assisted me to translate to their local dialect, Tetum. After the Year 2s and 3s returned from school, they rested for a while before a period of study, then took turns to complete their chores. At 7 p.m., there was group prayer before dinner, and the day was rounded off at 8 p.m. with a short group worship and devotion, then more study time. There was an extended time of prayer and praise every Friday evening. Lights out was at 10.30 p.m.
With no official lessons on the weekend, the hostelites completed their general cleaning duties in the morning and had a games session in the afternoon. On Sundays, we went to a nearby church for service, after which we would have our own hostel service at 11 a.m. with a team of the hostelites leading worship, and Rudy or I giving the messages. The hostelites were allowed free time during the evening on weekends, during which they would watch movies or relax with a guitar at the front porch.
During the farewell cum appreciation session on the night before I left, the sadness of leaving this special place hit me. I was touched by the sincere words of one of the leaders who came up to share. He had changed for the better over the three months and I was glad to have contributed to this change.
Evelyn Kong has been a member of Aldersgate Methodist Church for 18 years, where she currently leads a cell group of young adults. Outside church, she serves the community as a senior staff nurse.
Photos courtesy of Evelyn Kong