From 22 June to 02 July 2018, a few members of the Greater Sydney Conference staff embarked on a mission that took them north over the vast centre of Australia to the small nation of Timor-Leste (or East Timor). Much like Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Timor-Leste shares a sub-continental landmass with Indonesia.
A developing country with a history of repeated invasions and hostile takeovers, it’s easy to find ones self confused there: its name sounds French, the official languages are Portuguese and Tetun, and its local currency is both the US Dollar (bills) and the Indonesian Rupiah (coins). Not confusing, however, is the gentle, friendliness of the people, nor the blaring fact that dire work has yet to be done there.
While the country does have natural gas and oil reserves, the economics does not trickle down. Many people survive on a meager salary of US88c per day, with monthly wages averaging $US120-150. Still, a large percentage of the population is addicted to nicotine. Unregulated and inexpensive––at US10c a cigarette–– over 65 per cent of males and over 25 per cent of females, both including children as young as 10, smoke. Kickstarting Stop Smoking programs was one reason why we went. The other reason was to support our fellow Adventists.
A predominately Catholic nation, it is extremely difficult to spread the Adventist message. Extreme in that Adventists there are routinely threatened, assaulted and abused. Unemployment in the church is also high due to members refusing to work on Sabbath, and students face expulsion for refusing to attend school. We could not fix many of the problems, but what we could do, we did. Our second goal was to establish goodwill in the community and help beautify the church. An additional $AU10k was given to the Mission to repair damage done to the church roof and to staff a pastor and a teacher for the year.
The mission trip was part of a new Australian Union Conference initiative to support both the Laos and Timor Leste Missions.
By Joyce Taylor