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Long-awaited Adventist school set to open in East Timor with 32 students

Enthusiastic interest in the country’s first Adventist school stems from a community approach; School is one of three 13th Sabbath School offering recipients on September 26.

Long-awaited Adventist school set to open in East Timor with 32 students

Timor Leste missionary Manuel Lonoza (center) and church members teach community children new games. [Photo courtesy of Janette Lonoza.]

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For some children, the start of a school year is a dreaded time as they leave behind their summer fun. However, students at the new Timor-Leste Adventist International School (TAIS) in Dili can’t wait for opening day on September 28 based on this week’s enrollment response.

School staff anticipated approximately ten Kindergarten/International School Preparation (K/ISP) students and a smaller number for the grade 1, English-only class for this first year. English as a Second Language (ESL) classes were to be offered in the afternoon. However, the staff was surprised when almost thirty children enrolled for the K/ISP class during the September 21-23 registration.

Since the school’s temporary building is small, it can only accommodate a few classes at a time. In spite of this challenge, the staff didn’t want to turn away interested students and parents. They will instead offer both morning and afternoon K/ISP sessions to accommodate all the students.

Timor-Leste Mission (TLM) administrators credit the unexpected enrollment total to a community approach that involves building relationships and meeting practical needs in the community. Missionary couple Janette and Manuel Lonoza arrived in late June and quickly began making friends with the community children. In July they partnered with church members and One Year in Mission-Timor Leste to introduce informal game times to the children.

Next, K/ISP teacher Janette, assistant Maria Morais and the rest of the team offered a free children’s ESL program based on a similar program developed by the Lonozas in the Philippines.  Grade 1 teacher Stephanie Haddad and Principal Mai-Rhea Whitty quickly joined in after their arrivals. The other component involved TAIS staff visiting homes of potential students and holding an informational meeting for parents. In addition, church members shared news about the school with friends and family.

These activities are stage 1 of the school’s development plan. Next year, the plan is to add grades 3 and 4 for stage 2. In order to do this, a larger, permanent building is needed. Members have been praying for such an Adventist school for years. Donations from the upcoming September 26 Sabbath School offering for 13th Sabbath will hopefully make this a reality.

The two other offering projects from this quarter’s featured Southern Asia-Pacific Division are a nursing school in Bangladesh and a church in Sri Lanka. 

Although the Adventist church began its work in Timor-Leste in the 1970s, a twenty-year occupation of the island by Indonesia halted its activity.  Thus, the first Adventist church was finally established in 1992. Organized as a field in 2009 and a mission in 2011, the Adventist church continues its growth in the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste with one official church in the capital of Dili and over 500 members in the country.  Predominantly Catholic, Timor-Leste is one of only two Christian countries in the Southern Asia-Pacific Division.