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Serving Timor-Leste

CMS missionaries Chris and Julie Dean have served in Timor-Leste since 2021. Checkpoint asked Chris to talk about their journey to serving in cross-cultural mission.

Julie and I have always had an interest in cross-cultural mission. We have loved to hear the stories of missionaries on Home Assignment, especially of how God was at work throughout the world, to bring people to a saving knowledge of himself through the gospel.  

In fellowship with our local church, we became personally committed to supporting cross-cultural mission, and missionaries. This commitment expressed itself in various ways including praying for unreached people groups, giving to mission and connecting with missionaries on Home Assignment and on location.  

Why commit to this service? 

In partnering with missionaries in different ways, we were often blessed by the encouragement of our mutual faith in Jesus. Our desire to be faithful witnesses to the Lord Jesus in our own culture was strengthened by partnering with missionaries serving Jesus faithfully in their location.  

Most missionaries we knew were very normal Christians. Nonetheless we were inspired by their examples of following Jesus where he called them. Often we talked and prayed together about whether one day God might lead us into cross-cultural mission. We remained open to this possibility through the various stages of our family’s life: from being young marrieds initially experiencing difficulty conceiving; through the blessing of two sons, in God’s timing; through parenting, everyday employment, and serving together in the local congregation; through theological education, church-planting, and bi-vocational work (as a pastor and part-time optometrist).  

In 2018, during annual leave from our parish, we visited missionary friends serving in Japan. For the first time, we saw men, women, and children literally worshipping idols. This was a confronting yet galvanising experience. In Japan, God brought home to us in a new way the utter tragedy of the lostness of those outside of Christ. They are “without hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Through this experience, and through prayer and conversations with our missionary friends, we felt compelled to offer for cross-cultural missionary service.  

Where to serve? 

As we had decided as a couple on the primary question of whether to serve as missionaries, we applied to CMS. But we were very open-minded regarding a secondary question—location.  

As we sought input from CMS, Timor-Leste emerged as potentially a good fit for us. I had done some volunteer eyecare work there, in Timor-Leste’s early years of independence. We had an understanding of Roman Catholicism (Timor-Leste’s majority religion), particularly through my Catholic upbringing. The language (Tetun) was apparently not too difficult to learn (taking into account that we are both over 50). My experience as a Presbyterian minister could also be strategic, as CMS works in partnership with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Timor-Leste. 

Chris prays over kids at the Sunday service in the village of Aflikai in Timor-Leste.

In God’s providence, we have been in Timor-Leste since September 2021. We’ve learned first-hand that although Roman Catholicism is the majority religion, the prevailing worldview here remains traditional Timorese animism. Most Timorese live in fear of spirits and seek to appease them or gain power from them. There is a great need to proclaim the gospel of God’s liberating grace through Jesus to the Timorese people, and to raise up, disciple, train and mentor pastors, evangelists and other Timorese gospel workers. 

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For decades the Deans have had a heart for cross-cultural mission. Are you open to God’s leading? Find out more about the journey to going with CMS.