Category Archives: Travel Story

Happy Birthday!

Our friends from Garden of Hope in Gleno have reached a very exciting milestone –

On the 24th November the Kindy/Pre-primary School turned 10!


We think of the beginning at other times, of course, but allow us to share our reminiscing with you at this special time…


For Sylvia and I, the connection with Gleno began in July 2007, when we went into the mountains to visit our friends Eliana and Regina. Regina and Eliana came from Brazil and had responded to the call from the Gleno Church to work alongside of them. The Church wanted to re-start their pre-school ministry and restore the building which was badly damaged during the 1999 destruction of Timor Leste. As is the case in many situations, only the lack of funds held them back. Praise God, our short visit led to a very generous donation from a congregation in Geraldton, and after a lot of hard work, the school was ready to be opened again.


01 GoH Original School Pre-renovation02 GoH Original School Concrete Work03 GoH Original School Rendering Work04 GoH Original School Security Screens05 GoH Original School Post-renovation

I clearly remember our excitement when we received the invitation to attend the opening ceremony, and the generous financial help from a friend, so that Sylvia and I both could go to Timor at such short notice. I also remember that, due to some miscommunication, we arrived in Dili on the very morning the official opening was to take place, and how we were promptly picked up at the airport and whizzed up into the mountains… (Well, we were “whizzed” rather slowly, as it took almost 2 hours to travel the 50 km to Gleno). Everyone was waiting for us, and as soon as we arrived, the proceedings began.

06 GoH Official Opening GuestsThere were speeches,  praise songs and prayer…07 GoH Official Opening VIPs09 GoH Official Opening Australian Visitors… the cutting of ribbons and a cake, the handing over of the key to the building…08 GoH Official Opening Cake Cutting… lunch for all, an inspection of the class rooms by the grown-up guests and the test run of small tables, chairs and toys by their children.10 GoH Official Opening VIPs and Missionaries

The full use of the facilities was reserved, however, for the 20 four and five year old children that started school at Garden of Hope. We even discovered that three of the students were “stowaways” and already of primary school age. – In 2007 preschools were still not common in Timor Leste and the Education Department turned its focus to formal early childhood education a little later on. 

11 GoH Official Opening First School Day 112 GoH Official Opening First School Day 2

We want to congratulate our friends in Gleno on reaching this wonderful milestone. They are the ones doing the “hard yards” day in and day out. They face most of the challenges and deal with the obstacles. They have grown tremendously and they are faithful. 

We want to thank you, the friends and supporters, for faithfully getting alongside our friends at Garden of Hope. Some of you have been part of this ministry from the beginning. 

Most importantly we want to thank our God for sustaining the school and ministry in Gleno, for providing everything that we need, for being our wisdom and anchor and strength. The Lord’s plans are the very best plans, and it is such a privilege to participate with Him to make them happen.



Elke Graham

(Garden of Hope Sponsorship Publicity & Communication)

Here is a printable copy of this newsletter – Dear Sponsors and friends – 2017.12.01

Here is a short 10 Year Anniversary video of the Garden of Hope ministry gives a glimpse into our history, our environment, the people and our growth.



Back to Garden of Hope

Early this year Sylvia Jacobs, her granddaughter Myrabelle, Nateeka White and I had the great privilege to be able to return to Garden of Hope Ministries/Gleno in the mountains of Timor Leste – or in Myrabelle’s case, to visit with them for the first time.


I made an over-night detour via a more remote mountain village called Matata to catch up with some very dear friends there and to meet with the local pastor and mayor who wanted to discuss the plans to open a small preschool in their community. The need was great, resources and a potential location were available, a local woman had been receiving training, but they lacked the funds for wages, consumables and other ongoing costs. If and how we can be involved, remains to be seen…

The Gleno Valley - Reading to the Kindy kids
The Gleno Valley – home to GoH        /      Director Clementina reading to Kindy kids

Our time in Gleno began with a weekend of hanging out with the large family at pastor’s house, sharing over food, cooking together and going to the river for a swim with the kids, the young and not so young…

A year had passed since pastor Agostinho finished his Agronomy degree but there are still great uncertainties about when/whether he can graduate. The university demands a huge amount of $$$ from each graduand to be allowed to receive their certificate and most students just don’t have that sort of money. Pastor has managed to pay a deposit but the date for the ceremony keeps changing because of ongoing meetings, negotiations and because there aren’t enough students that have paid. Hearing about this kind of seemingly unjust situation makes my emotions fluctuate between sad and “mad” and I am glad for the example that Pastor Agostinho is to me as he continues to trust in Jesus to provide and to make a way…

photo panel b
After the swim in the Gleno River           /           Cooking with Teeki, Efi and Bella

On Sunday we shared in song, prayer and God’s Word. We also brought greetings from God’s family in Australia. In the afternoon we went to visit members of the extended family – crossing little creeks, dodging feisty goats and cattle along the narrow sometimes slippery path as we went single file and eventually reached the small hut in the middle of maize and cabbage fields. Two families share this humble home – four adults and five children. I have no doubt that it would be tough to live here but everyone still exuded such joy and delight in being part of a caring community. The only expressed urgent wish was to be able to save up $150 for more sheets of iron to fix the leaking roof…

photo panel c
Pastor Agostinho sharing God’s Word   /      a humble but usually happy home

The new school year had just begun. As always, teachers and kindy students were still learning which was each child’s “real” name and which was their “play”-name. Some new students also liked their mum or older sibling close – at least for a few days… and there were the usual spectators outside the kindy classroom until the novelty wears off and everyone settles into the new routine.

Two of our “old” kindy teachers have moved to a new remote preschool that is operated by the government. The remoteness and poorly equipped facility will provide many challenges but these two teachers have gained many years of experience and training through working at Garden of Hope and are just the right people for the job. We will miss these ladies but it is wonderful to know that we can share the fruit of what is happening at “our” school.

photo panel d
Going to outside play (big sister hugs) /    Uni student Abina doing prac at GoH


Elke Graham

(Garden of Hope Sponsorship Publicity & Communication)

Here is a printable copy of this newsletter – Dear Sponsors and friends – 2017.06.11

Below is a short film about our visit…



A Visit Earlier This Year


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.


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.


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.


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