WEC has been working in East Timor for many years, but for a long time there was only one worker. Louise Laufter arrived in 1989, and in 1991 started a medical clinic in Los Palos. She did a great job, retiring in 2008 when she was over 80 years old.
East Timor (Timor-Leste) is Australia’s second-nearest neighbour with, according to the Census of 2015, a total population of 1,167,242. After 24 years of occupation by the Indonesians, in 1999 East Timor gained its independence. Meanwhile the 23 people groups have been divided by the mountainous terrain, language and culture differences, and also generations of hatred and enmity between individuals and clans.
More than 90% of the population is nominally Catholic, but this is often only a veneer over traditional animistic and occult practices. The Protestant Church is small. Even people who have been baptised may still be bound by occult powers. The Timorese are a hurting people. They need clear, biblical teaching and prayer in the name of Jesus to release them from the powers that bind them.
In the year 2000 more missionaries arrived, and in 2003 Esperança (Hope) Ministry started. At Esperança children participate in children’s clubs. The ministry also provides English, Portuguese and computer classes for young people. When we have personnel we can provide classes for women, in cooking and craft. Thelly, an Indonesian missionary, uses her house as a base for ministry to children in the community. This ministry, Petra Kids, focuses mainly on kids under six years old, but once a week older children have a similar program to Esperança. Recently the Lord has added people to our team and we are able to do more with the children around us.
We tried church planting in two different locations. In one, after seven years, we felt it was time to stop the ministry as life in the community improved and people were not open to the gospel. In the other place the missionary who started the work left and we handed it over to a local church. Today a Timorese pastor and his wife are working in this area, and reaching youth also. They have initiated Sunday services and the ministry there is growing.
With more people joining the team, we want to reach into areas where there are still no churches.
Since 2010 WEC East Timor has been providing material in the local language, Tetun. Tetun is common throughout the country and is the language most used in church services. We have been able to produce evangelistic videos, music video clips for youth and children, magazines and also children’s books. At the moment we don’t have people with the skills to continue this ministry, but we continue to distribute what we have produced.
This is a new ministry. There is no Bible College in the country so my husband Dayan and some missionaries from other organisations have developed a basic training program. Last year we adopted a more formal structure and finished the first year with 16 students. This year there are 24 new students, making a current total of 40 participants. Students are happy to learn more from the Word of God.
There are many needs and opportunities in the country. Jesus is the only one who can bring the hope that the nation needs.