Perspectives from Timor

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Recently I visited Timor-Leste as chair of the ADRA Australia board of directors. An 80-minute flight north of Darwin, Timor has 1.3 million inhabitants and is the 160th smallest country by landmass in the world. They speak 32 distinct dialects and two main languages, Tetun and Portuguese. 97 per cent of the population is Roman Catholic (mixed with animism)—the second highest ratio of Catholics to population behind only Vatican City! The monthly minimum wage is $US130! It’s a challenging environment with limited financial literacy along with poor soil management leading to the inability to escape subsistence living. Yet Timor’s citizens are happy, generous and caring. I wonder if we’d be the same if Australia lost ground economically . . . 

Timor has only 365 active Seventh-day Adventist members. The desire for independence, first from Portugal and then from Indonesia, was synonymous with the country’s majority faith and to leave it means disconnecting from family and community. It’s hard to do! Our Church punches above its size because of two key mission entities and the leverage they provide. First, we run five English schools in Timor! Australians like Peter Koolik have been instrumental in making those schools a reality and we thank Greater Sydney and Northern Australian Conference leadership and members for partnering with Timor Mission in supporting Adventist education. Timor needs more Adventist volunteer teachers and if you’re wanting a mission experience, then this could be perfect. Second is ADRA. Country director Virginia Pycroft and her team of 49 have a direct impact on more than 12,000 people! Donations we give to ADRA Australia enable projects like education on farming, modern soil management, savings and loan co-ops, clean water regeneration and developing entrepreneurship—improving the financial literacy and lives of those who take part in the projects. National leaders visit ADRA projects and acknowledge Seventh-day Adventism and its equipping of their people—opening hearts to the sharing of our belief that Jesus came to free those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18,19) and is coming back soon. 

I’m excited about our partnership with the Southern Asia Pacific Division that enables us to minister in Timor-Leste, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. Mission at home, mission overseas to share the good news of Jesus’ love and soon coming.

Terry Johnson is the Australian Union Conference president

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