A team from the Greater Sydney Conference took part in a variety of community outreach activities during a recent trip to Timor Leste.
The visit was part of a new Australian Union Conference initiative to support both the Laos and Timor Leste Missions.
The team, comprising 14 staff from the Conference office and two spouses, led out in a range of activities, including a health assessment at the main Dili shopping plaza, school visits to talk about the dangers of smoking to high school students, a stop smoking program, maintenance work on the main Adventist church building in Dili, and visits to a facility housing blind Timorese and to an orphanage.
More than 65 per cent of males and over 25 per cent of females in Timor Leste smoke. Cigarettes are readily available and are significantly cheaper compared to first world countries. With no legal minimum age restrictions, children as young as 10 years old can access cigarettes easily.
Being a predominately Catholic country, businesses and schools operate six days a week from Monday to Saturday. Adventist students have been threatened, abused, assaulted and expelled from school for not attending classes on Saturday. Adults have been beaten by family members for joining the Church, with some also losing their jobs.
Despite reserves of oil and gas, Timor Leste is a poor country with many people living on just US88c per day. The average wage is $US120-150 per month. Spiritualism and black magic are also widespread. However, the people are gentle, friendly and hospitable.
While evangelism is very difficult, the Mission has grown to more than 600 members across one organised church, two companies and six groups. Medical mission work has proved successful in breaking down barriers and building relationships.
“While we went to support the Mission, we were inspired by the courage, commitment and faithfulness of the members under trying and difficult circumstances,” said Conference general secretary Adrian Raethel. “This sobering trip to Timor Leste touched the soul of each person on the team.”