WEC in Timor-Leste
Existing WEC ministries
Over the years WEC has tried to co-operate and encourage unity amongst churches and missions with mixed success.
Current ministries include:
- A church planting outreach to Beraka (40 mins drive from Dili). It has involved weekly children's meetings outside the house of a key contact, taking two members of the village for community development training and seeking to encourage them in initiating development within the village themselves.
- Regular twice weekly visits to people in their homes and advice and help with medical problems have helped in building relationships. Facilitating help for the community to install poly pipe to replace an ageing and leaking village made bamboo pipeline to bring water from the upstream spring to their houses and this is working well. However people are very fearful, suspicious, and hesitant in case they offend the spirits.
- Another church planting outreach to Atabae (2hrs drive from Dili) is beginning. A local house has been renovated as a base. We began teaching Portuguese classes once a week after school hours, and found the headmaster very encouraging and helpful. The challenge now will be to find other ways to build friendships and to communicate the gospel meaningfully.
- Project Esperanca continues to have a real impact on the community of Fatuhada, a suburb in Dili. Up to 150 children and young people attend kids clubs and classes there each week. Opposition by the Catholics to the programs, to using scripture and singing Christian songs has been overcome and the community appreciating the value to the children, have prevented attempts to close them down. TV programs of the children doing dance and gospel drama have been produced and shown a number of times on Dili Television. The Portuguese and English teaching classes are accredited with the Government Education Department.
- The translation, printing and distribution of Christian booklets and video in Tetun for children and young people.
- WEC also supports the Bible translation through the distribution of the portions of the Bible already translated.
WEC ministries planned for the future
As workers become available it is planned to commence church planting in other unreached districts, and commence a mobile children’s ministry.
Opportunities to serve in Timor-Leste
The door is open for more workers to join us both long- and short-term. Currently there is a need for:
- Church planters,
- Co-ordinator for short termers and teams,
- Those able to teach English, computing, music, sports, Bible clubs, etc
- Children’s ministry
- Resources ministry (video making, book translation, bible studies production)
The nation of Timor-Leste
The nation's religious background
East Timor is one of the newest nations of the world having gained its independence in 2002.
Previously it had been ruled for hundreds of years by Portugal and then Indonesia. From 1512 to 1974, the Portuguese were the ruling colonial power of this mountainous eastern end of the island of Timor. They left suddenly in 1974 and civil war broke out between different parties in East Timor, and in 1975 Indonesian troops came and declared it to be the 27th province of Indonesia. Timorese resistance led to a decade of fighting and thousands were killed. In August 1999 over 75% of the Timorese voted for independence, and as a result pro-Indonesian militia went on the rampage, burning, killing and looting. Normal life came to a halt as 70% of the buildings and infra-structure was destroyed and many of the traumatized population fled to the mountains. UN Peacekeepers helped stabilize the situation and assisted in getting a democratically elected government in place, with Independence being declared in 2002. In the years since, there have still been internal factions and rivalry that has erupted in violence, but now gradually the country is becoming more settled and is slowly rebuilding.
The Portuguese influence and early Catholic missionaries has resulted in more than 90% of the population being nominally Catholic, and East Timor becoming one of only two Asian nations with a Catholic majority. However this is often only a veneer over traditional animistic practices. Most people live in constant fear and bondage to evil spirits, and do not know of the freedom that Jesus can bring.
The current challenges to the gospel
The Catholics and the country's leaders do not see the need for a break with traditional religion and combine the two. Some Catholic buildings even have the spiritist symbols permanently on top of the top of the church building. Some Government occasions like opening new buildings etc include spiritist practices. Consequently most local people don't realise how much they are under spiritual bondage and that there is an alternative to living in fear of the spirits. The spiritual powers combined with the might of the Catholic Church have a very strong hold over people, making it extremely difficult for people to break free. Even when someone starts to show interest in new developments, when there is a sickness or other difficulty in the family, the other villagers use that to pressure the person/s to give up for the safety and welfare of their family!
The state of the national church
The Protestant churches are small but growing. However nominalism and lack of understanding of the gospel is prevalent. Even people who have been baptised in some of the denominations are still bound by occult powers.
The Evangelical churches are small, and despite efforts of numerous groups to encourage unity, remain very much separate entities doing their own thing, lack a real combined voice and carry little weight in the country. Any attempt by evangelicals to aid, help and assist local people is met with opposition by the local priests who preach against them and warn them not to associate with them or to attend gatherings.
There is a great need for biblically trained and spiritually active pastors, and for born again Christians to demonstrate the power of God at work in and through them. We need people to really pray for a break through, for some power encounters where God will demonstrate His love and power, to help people see that He is God, and that there is freedom and liberty in following and walking with him.
There is no complete Bible in the local language (Tetun), Wycliffe has been working on it and some portions of the Bible has been translated. There is a version of New Testament in Liturgic Tetun which is not easy to understand for many. From the Old Testament, so far only the book of Genesis has been translated. Most church leaders use Indonesian Bible, and few the Portuguese Bible.
Unreached people groups
Timor’s peoples remain mostly ignorant of the gospel; none can be considered adequately evangelized. Specific outreach to each of the 19 indigenous peoples is needed. Pioneer church planters are needed to work in all districts of the country. More details on JoshuaProject.net