It was on the 26th of July that we began the plane trip to Timor, with the desire to share, to be available and to be of service. The Timor 2017 Mission had already begun in the Portuguese Province a few months ago, assembling the group, and holding training meetings in Porto and in Lisbon. We were supported by the generous commitment of sisters and co-workers, children, young people and families associated with our works, and friends who shared our mission through donations and prayer.
In Timor, at Dili airport, we were joyfully and warmly welcomed by the Sisters Teresa de Jesus and Palmira, who accompanied us on the journey to Zumalai. It was night when we arrived at our destination. Waiting for us were Sr. Margarida, Br. Antonio of the Carmelite community, and dozens of children and adolescents. The smiles, hugs, words of welcome quickly made us feel “in family”!
Every morning, usually at 6:30 a.m., we participated in the parish Mass and then we went back to work with the students of the School, giving classes from the 1st to the 9th years, in the areas of Portuguese, sports activities, educational games and films, music, human and Christian formation. Later, at the end of the afternoon, we gave support to a group of adults teaching / learning Portuguese. Together with the teaching at the School, we collaborated with parish activities—liturgy, the rosary with the children in the evening, and two moments of prayer at night, open to the parish community. After dinner, we shared group prayer, the evaluation of the day, and the planning of the next day’s activities.
We also enjoyed pleasant outings on foot or in trucks and vans: in the locality, in contact with the people of Zumalai; Raimea and Suai; and on the eve of our return to Portugal in the city of Dili. There were culturally interesting and particularly moving visits to places that commemorate the death and massacre of the Timorese people.
A few days after leaving Zumalai, we were given a farewell party at the Catholic School. As we had anticipated, the farewell moment was difficult, particularly as we saw the children around us in tears, hugging us and one another. In Dili, on the morning of the departure, Sisters Palmira and Teresa joined us in prayer. We shared a sense of gratitude to God for what we had lived, shared, and received. Our “thank you!” was expressed to our Sisters for welcoming us, for the presence and constant support, for the witness of faith and fidelity to the mission of making God known and loved, in a close and simple relationship with the people.
We returned home with bags almost empty, but with a heart full of gratitude! Gratitude for having lived a poor experience in means, but rich in the essential, for the shared gifts, for the joy in simplicity, for the transformation we experienced, for the marks of life that we have left and for those that we have brought and will remain forever engraved on us!
Ana Luisa Pinto, RSCM