In a small rural town named Dungannon, in the heart of Northern Ireland, lives a man named Gilbert. "Since I was saved in Israel in 1975," writes Gilbert "I have felt burdened to reach out with the gospel wherever I have lived."
Now retired from his work in local hospitals and palliative care, Gilbert has dedicated more time to outreach.
He distributes gospel literature from a trailer pulled by his car or occasionally from a display table in the streets. He enjoys visiting agricultural shows and vintage rallies and uses these occasions to tell the story of Jesus.
Gilbert explains, "Dungannon has attracted a lot of overseas workers in recent years from most eastern European countries, working mainly in the agricultural industry and in local factories. Many are Portuguese speakers. The Timorese, who hold Portuguese passports, have increased in number in this area, and walking in the town, are the most obvious of the overseas immigrants due to their colour."
Kenny McKee from GRN UK provided Gilbert with recordings in the Tetun Dili (or 'Tetum Prasa') language. In Dili, the capital city of Timor-Leste (East Timor), Tetun and Portuguese combined to form Tetun Dili. One of Timor-Leste's official languages, Tetun Dili is becoming the country's preferred lingua franca. GRN's Tetun Dili recordings were made in Darwin by Noel Bachelor in 2003.
Gilbert plays these GRN recordings from a portable CD player. "This arrests the interest of passers-by and they stop and accept literature [as well as copies of the CDs]". Such resources are difficult to come by in the Tetun Dili language. One such passer-by was a man named Frederiko, who owns a Tetun Dili Bible. Though Gilbert offered to meet with Frederiko to study the Bible with him, he has not yet heard back. Please pray for Frederiko.
How is it that Timorese have ended up in Northern Island from all the way across the world?
The Portuguese initiated trade with Timor in 1509-1511. In 1556 a group of Dominican friars established missionary work in Timor and in the 1600s Timor-Leste was converting to Catholicism.
Timor-Leste was declared a Portuguese colony in 1702 and remained a colony until 1975. It was during this period that the Tetun language became prestigious. When the Tetun monarch allied with the Portuguese, Tetuns were chosen for many administrative roles.
During Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste (1975-1999), many Timorese refugees scattered to other countries; Australia (especially Darwin), Brazil, Portugal and Ireland were among these countries. The traditional Tetun language (before it was combined with Portuguese) is still spoken by people living in rural areas.
Be encouraged! God is at work in surprising ways we cannot even comprehend. The Timorese (living 13,415km away from home) are being reached by Northern Irelanders, supplied with recordings by Australians.