Two Assemblies of God churches in Sydney are aiding the nation in the aftermath of devastating ethnic violence.

When the citizens of the fledgling nation of East Timor, northwest of Australia, voted overwhelmingly in August 1999 for independence from Indonesia, they paid the ultimate cost. Indonesian forces made a scorched-earth withdrawal, murdering Timorese and pillaging property of all value. Much of the land, including up to 90 percent of the capital, Dili, was left in ruin.

In the wake of the devastation, two Assemblies of God churches in Sydney, Australia, have linked with a Christian-aid agency to help bring relief to the traumatized nation. Though both churches plan longer-term missions involvement there, economic revival is an urgent priority. Michael Murphy, senior pastor of Shire Christian Centre, found a community in shock on his first visit to East Timor a month after the vote.

"The devastation was like nothing I've seen before, and the way the East Timorese had been pillaged was very spiteful," he said. "I walked through many of the homes, and even the [water] pipes had been taken. Every last bit of value had been ripped from the homes."

In October 2000 Shire joined Sydney's largest church, Hillsong, in a fund-raising run that brought in $50,000 to help the East Timorese economy. Among the runners were 30 paratroopers of the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment, who, along with other Australian Defence Force units, carried out a highly acclaimed peacekeeping deployment in East Timor.

Shire and Hillsong work closely with Sydney-based Opportunity International Australia, a Christian overseas-aid organization that manages the funds raised. Opportunity's "micro enterprise development" program offers small business loans to the developing world's poorest people. Opportunity staff survived an office bombing and so far have helped more than 600 East Timorese build businesses as diverse as fishing, tailoring, carpentry and hairdressing.

Among the beneficiaries is Ana da Silva, whose story typifies many. When pro-Indonesian militia burned down her home and hairdressing salon in Dili, Ana and her family fled to the harbor, where, with thousands of others, she begged for a boatlift to safety. There the militia singled out her teen-age son, falsely accused him of belonging to the resistance and murdered him before her eyes.

Eventually returning to Dili, Ana's business assets amounted to a crimping iron and a hairdryer. A first Opportunity loan of 5 million rupiah ($550 U.S.) enabled her to rebuild her salon, and with a second loan she bought hairdressing chairs and hair products. Up to 90 percent of loan recipients are women, said Simon Lynch, Opportunity's managing director for East Timor and a Shire congregation member.

"In East Timor there has been a lot of loss of life among the male population, but we've also found out over time that the women often carry the brunt of the poverty, and generally the money that's earned in businesses run by women tends to get spent on the family," he said.

Opportunity's clients are organized into "trust banks," groups of up to 30 who are asked to co-guarantee each other's loans. They meet regularly to make repayments and receive training and mentoring. The default rate, Lynch said, is less than 1 percent.

Marketing manager Nicole Partridge said Opportunity aims to give the needy a "hand-up," not a "handout."

"Loans help them establish responsibility and accountability for the money. If they want to expand the business and get a loan from a local bank, they have a credit rating--we can give them references."

Like Murphy, Hillsong's senior associate pastor Jonathan Wilson has made several visits to East Timor and has spoken with loan recipients. Pleased with the benefits flowing through Opportunity, both men are now thinking beyond economics.

"We've been looking at starting a church plant in Dili, possibly an English-speaking service. Many of the people want to learn English," Wilson said. "We would be looking at something that would reflect the heart and spirit of Hillsong Church."

Hillsong Church, known for its worship songs, had held seven previous fund-raising runs, enabling Opportunity to fund 35,000 small businesses in Ghana, West Africa.

Best Magazine Deal. Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Charisma, SpiritLed Woman and Ministry Today, all for $24. YES - I want this deal!

3 Reasons Why you should read Life in the Spirit. 1) Get to know the Holy Spirit. 2) Learn to enter God's presence 3) Hear God's voice clearly! Click Here to draw closer to God!

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
View/Add Comments
  • Roadblock

    6 Roadblocks That Will Stop Your Spiritual Growth

    God wants you to grow in your faith, but many of us get stuck along the way.

  • 2017 is the year that swords will clash.

    Prophetic Word: 2017 Will Bring a Clashing of Heaven and Hell

    "This is a time to cross over and not pull back."

  • Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    I have been puzzled about the subject of inner healing for some time.

  • Bishop Eddie Long died at 63.

    Bishop Eddie Long Dead at 63

    "Although his transition leaves a void for those of us who loved him dearly, we can celebrate ...

  • The devil will try to silence you in any way he can. Don't give him the satisfaction.

    Satan's 2 Most Potent Lies to Render You Ineffective

    There's something in you so powerful that Satan doesn't want it out. Kyle Winkler reveals ...

  • Cindy Jacobs

    2017: Year of the Breakthrough

    "There will be a significant increase in miracles and signs and wonders."

  • Foot washing

    Shaking the Gates of Hell With a Basin of Water and a Towel

    "When I saw His foot, I knew He had come to take back territory the enemy had stolen from His ...

  • Growing relationship

    2017 Prophetic Word: The Supernatural Key to Growing Your Relationship With God

    It's vital that we understand what comes from God and what comes from the devil.

  • Are you willing to volunteer for God's offensive army?

    Prophetic Word: Preparing for God's World War 3

    God is searching for soldiers of the cross who are willing to volunteer for His offensive army.

  • Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Follow God on the most fulfilling journey of your life with Encounter the Holy Spirit! Break away from past hurts and press into the One who wants a personal encounter with you.

  • Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Reach your full potential and be led by His Spirit. In His Presence takes you to a deeper understanding of who God is and how he communicates with us.

  • Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Receive the power and gifts that come through the Holy Spirit Baptism. Don’t go empty-handed; accept all that He has for you! His power is available to those who ask.

  • Put on the Full Armor of God

    Put on the Full Armor of God

    Break every stronghold with the power of the Holy Spirit. Use the power of your tongue to declare and decree the Word of God. Witness heaven move on your behalf.

Use Desktop Layout
Charisma Magazine — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit