On the very first day for my group of six, we leave the sealed road from the coast up to the mountains and at an appointed junction, we fall-in behind Fr Bong in his carbon-belching old 4WD. His two assistants, who attend to patient ‘reception’ and ‘pharmacy’ duties travel with him in the back.
We jolt over almost impossible dirt tracks, hewn through thick bush by local villagers with pick and shovel to permit access to the outside world. And us! There we are, bones rattling, holding-on for grim death, but so excited, nonetheless. Our confident Timorese driver, Edu, manoeuvres around huge pot holes, deftly avoiding cave-ins, and using his gears to escape wheels spinning in slippery muddy patches. This evinces a few ‘holy shit’ moments not only from Juanita! Onwards, up and down and around the mountain trying to smile-away a sheer drop on one side, we finally reach the tiny village of Fatu Besi, where mothers with babes in arms and kids tugging on her skirt, and many elderly, are lining-up waiting for Fr Bong’s mobile medical clinic.
As Bong visits this particular post only once a fortnight, he also celebrates Mass in the beautiful chapel, (built by Franciscans, complete with flushing toilets and water tanks). The singing at Mass is beautiful, as though a choir has been brought-in to welcome us.
Fr Bong asks me to say a few words about our visit. I respond with the message of our being neighbours, wishing to be good neighbours who exchange kindnesses and ‘share’ with each other. Amazingly, this seems to strike at the heart. After the final Blessing, every person in the church comes up to each of us in turn, takes our hand, and kisses it, or bows respectfully, touching our hands with their heads. Moving!
Fr Bong writes to us: ‘Peace, Michael! I just want to let you and your group know how thankful and inspired the railaco mission community, most especially i, of your visit and the gifts you bring! Gifts of yourself and all else you brought with you, from the medical, clothes, to toys & tooth brushes affirms that we are all together in the mission! May the Lord bless you and nurture the best in all of you! Thank you!!!