A Visit Earlier This Year

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In the beginning of 2016 we, Beverley H., Caroline H., her son Roy, Nateeka and I hired a 4WD vehicle and dear friends from Dili drove us to Gleno to visit Garden of Hope Ministries. Even though most of us were on a very tight travel schedule, we were determined to go and see our Gleno friends and decided to organise a day trip.

We made a few stops along the way to enjoy the view and some of us needed to give their tummies some rest from the motion produced by the winding mountain road… We arrived in time for lunch and enjoyed fellowship over a cup of strong Gleno coffee. We played with the primary school students and some of us caught up with “our” children.

Before we knew it, the time had come to return to Dili before it got dark and the “good-byes” were a mix of glad and sad . Only I had the luxury of feeling 100% happy as I had plans to return for an extended stay in a week’s time.

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I did return to Gleno by public transport called “mikrolet”, which is short for “mini van with so many passengers that one can’t move and has no need for a seat belt even if there were one”. I had made the most of the 4WD trip earlier and transported supplies/equipment then. Therefore I could travel light, hugging my small backpack all the way to Gleno. The town is only 45 km or so from Dili but Gleno is cool, less dusty and less smoky. The air is also thinner. As the trip can take 2 hours is truly feels like “a world away”.

The new school year had begun earlier in January and everything was going well  – with 50 students in kindy/pre-primary and 33 students in the primary school. The big news was that for the first time most preschoolers continued on at Garden of Hope in Year 1 (19 students) instead of transferring to the government school. It is a vote of confidence in the school by the parents and very encouraging for everyone.

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Apart from catching up with the staff and taking new photos of every person, I had meetings with the head of the Education department in the Gleno district, and with principles/representatives of a couple of the government schools. I like that our school is proactive in building/maintaining good relationships with other educators, even though it did feel a little like I am being “shown off” and seen by others as the answer to some of their problems. I always get requests for computers and to “please come back or send someone to teach their staff English”. I think this may be an indication of the state of the Education Department in Timor Leste.

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It is always wonderful to stay with Pastor Agostinho’s family and all the extra children in their care. There are usually 18+ people staying here. We had much to talk about, to share God’s Word and pray, and to do activities together. I was able to take some more medical supplies to Gleno and place into the very careful hands of Dr. Leonilde who is in charge of a clinic higher up in the mountains.

After five years of studying agronomy, Pastor Agostinho has passed his final exams and finished writing and publishing his thesis (yes, in Timor one has to write a thesis for a bachelor degree). He does not graduate, though, until he receives his certificate at a graduation ceremony in the future. Despite this obstacle, Pr. Agostinho has found employment with GCCA, an EU founded/funded NGO that runs an agriculture program throughout Timor Leste. He enjoys the work and his income is a great blessing for his family – all the diligent studying is bearing more fruit… I had to laugh, though, at Pastor’s amazement that the employer expects his to be at work at 8 am sharp and work all day with only an hour for lunch. The Timorese are not at all lazy but they are not used to being so time-oriented. The Western way is making more inroads… and I think it is not necessarily always a good thing.

Elke Graham


Here is a printable copy of this newsletter – dear-sponsors-and-friends-01-12-2016

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