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Just in time! The Big Picture Bible reaches Timor-Leste

CMS missionaries Chris and Grace Adams have made the decision to stay in Timor-Leste during the COVID-19 crisis. Here they outline the situation where they are serving, and share great news of a long-term project that is at last bearing fruit: the Tetun language edition of The Big Picture Story Bible. 

Timor-Leste isn’t exempt from the world-wide spread of COVID-19. People here have tested positive, though Timor-Leste must rely on outside medical aid for the required tests. Basic medical facilities, communal living arrangements and common cases of tuberculosis and lung diseases make communities here particularly vulnerable. The government has just announced border closure and closure of schools. 

We have decided to stay

Our church gathered physically for Sunday service recently—the last time for the foreseeable future. Directly across the road from the church is a central medical clinic that has been designated the quarantine zone for infected patients. There is a concern for those who are infected that they would be under threat by the community. People are now in a state of alert. 

Our decision is to stay in Timor-Leste with our community here through this storm as long as possible. We would like our CMS friends and others to pray for opportunities to speak of the hope and security we have in Christ. Please pray that we may walk with the Lord every step of the way and trust in Him. 

Just in time: A Bible Story book in the Tetun language 

Just before the high alert resulting from the announcement of the first positive case of COVID-19 in Timor-Leste, we managed to have a Scripture Union (SU) working committee meeting. Our main agenda was to plan for the book launch for the Tetun edition of David Helm’s The Big Picture Story Bible. 

The launch was planned for a Saturday, inviting only the representatives of selected churches and Christian organizations to minimize numbers in response to COVID-19. However we were quickly forced to cancel the launch due to the requirement for social distancing. Our current challenge is to promote the book via alternative routes and begin the sales. 

One of the pastors in the committee informed us that he has been asked by the Department of Education to provide a national curriculum for Religion as a subject for Protestant schools. Having glanced at our children’s Bible, he requested whether it could become an official textbook for Protestant schools across the nation. He also asked our SU ministry team to help develop a curriculum to submit to the Department of Education. 

The next move

This is a good step, although the majority of public schools in Timor-Leste are strongly Catholic. However, there are a few Protestant schools in Dili (the capital) and several on Atauro Island (3-4 hours by ferry from Dili), as this island is mostly Protestant. The pastor from our committee serves in the dominant denomination from Atauro Island, and that denomination is highly engaged with the Timorese government. 

We are thankful for the partnership between this pastor and the government to make Jesus known through our book and curriculum in Protestant schools in Timor-Leste. There is a real possibility that now, The Big Picture Story Bible will be seriously considered for use in Catholic-majority public schools. This is our current hope and prayer, and we ask that you would join us in asking God for this to happen. 

PRAY 

Praise God that he has brought stories of himself to his people through the Tetun version of The Big Picture Story Bible. Pray that many children in the Timor-Leste public school system will hear of his great power and love for them through the illustrated stories.