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Global mission today is about serving as a ‘critical presence’

In three years as mission partners with the UCC-Disciples Global Ministries in East Timor, Tom and Monica Liddle helped improve conditions at Imanuel Clinic in Lospalos.

Tom and Monica Liddle
Simon, Monica, Hannah and Tom Liddle visit Westminster UCC.

They shared their experiences on a visit to six UCC and Disciples congregations in the Northwest from Aug. 4 to 20.   They were also at the Disciples’ kids and junior camps at Gwinwood and family camp at N-Sid-Sen.

The Liddles and their children, Hannah, 8, and Simon, 2, went to Eagle Harbor UCC in Bainbridge Island; Broadview UCC, University Congregational and Horizon House in Seattle; Englewood Christian in Yakima, and Westminster UCC and North Hill Christian in Spokane.

Invited by the Protestant Church of East Timor, Tom helped with rural visitation, Sunday school, youth groups, preaching, teaching English ,and rebuilding the roof and painting Clinic Imanuel, a ministry established in 1991.

Monica was the only health care provider at Imanuel, a primary care center for a region of 20,000 people.  She oversaw patient care, including prenatal care, tuberculosis, malaria and malnutrition. 

She also provided on-th-job training for staff in clinical, administrative, accounting and computer work.

Tom and Monica, both 39,  grew up in Columbus, Indiana.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Prescott, Ariz., College in 1995 and was an instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School through college and until moving to Seattle in 1997, where he was a carpenter.  He now plans to study at St. Paul Lutheran Seminary in Minnesota.

Monica graduated from the University of Arizona in 1994 and studied naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle, earning a doctorate in 2002 and completing a certificate in naturopathic midwifery in 2003.  She had a family practice in Duluth, where they attended a UCC church until leaving for East Timor in 2009.

They saw their mission as joining “God, who is on a mission to bring love, healing and wholeness to the world.”

Their role was to participate in the mission of the Protestant Church of East Timor.

They also saw their role as going to a new place and making new friends.  They believe one way to know more about God is through friendships.  So they learned more about God and hope their friends also learned about God through their presence, work and caring.

To work and make friends, they had to learn the East Timorese language of Tetum, the primary of 35 languages along with Portuguese.

“Mission work today is about being a critical presence in places we are needed, where ecumenical partners invite us to come to meet a concrete, crucial need,” she explained.

Beyond friendships, that presence included being in solidarity and partnership, giving and receiving gifts.

Clinic staff see 1,200 to 1,500 patients a month.  Medical and lab services are free.

Along with seeing 60 of the patients each week herself, Monica demonstrated for staff new directions in health care that were applicable there.  She helped five women on staff learn some basics of medicine, including how to do lab tests for malaria and tuberculosis.

 About 40 percent of children are underweight from malnutrition.  Poor sanitary conditions and lack of clean water led to health problems. 

“To heal and cure people, you have to find the root cause, which is poverty—not enough food and no access to clean water,” said Monica.

One boy was so malnourished he had diarrhea for six weeks before coming.

Visiting homes, Monica saw that six children living in a shack might eat only once a day. 

A girl came twice, once with malaria and pneumonia, then with worms and diarrhea. 

The Liddles helped their housekeeper’s family install a toilet and inside water.

Many people share their homes or rooms with family members who have tuberculosis,” she said.  “Most do not understand that germs spread by coughs.  They also don’t know it can be treated and if treated they must take medicine for eight months. Because many don’t complete the medicine, there are resistant strains.”

At the hospital two blocks from the clinic, midwives were losing patients.  They did not take blood pressure, test for HIV or anemia.  So Monica started a prenatal clinic to do basic maternity care.

The Liddles told some history of East Timor.  Portuguese and Dutch, who colonized Indonesia, fought over Timor for its sandalwood. They split the island.  Although Indonesia became independent in 1945, the Portuguese did not leave East Timor until 1975. The next day Indonesia invaded, supported by western powers.

About 97 percent of the people are Catholic.  Protestants are Dutch Reformed.  Other religions are indigenous and Islam.  Under Indonesian occupation, the church grew rapidly, supporting pastors and educators, but when they left in 1999, they no longer supported community leaders.

“The nation of one million people—half under 15—experienced 20 years of occupation and genocide,” she said.  Only 50 percent are literate. Now it wants to use its natural resources to benefit the young people, Monica said.

With support of Global Ministries, the Liddles have arranged for one clinic worker, Amena, to study in a three-year medical laboratory technician program at Lake Superior College in Duluth.

She will take intensive English so she can keep up in class, plus pre-med math and science courses before beginning the program.  In exchange for sponsorship, Amena will then complete a three-year contract at Clinic Imanuel.

For information, call 651-395-9691 or email

Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © September 2012





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