By Peter Rekers, Communications Coordinator, QLD Synod.
When Noela and Noel Rothery visited East Timor in 2010, they never expected the turn of events that would follow. They immediately recognised the opportunity and need to help the struggling nation by donating to help where they could. On returning to Glebe Road Uniting Church in Ipswich, west of Brisbane, the congregation began a long partnership with East Timor.
This extraordinary congregation has a long history of service and giving, so in 2011 Glebe Road Uniting Church and Ekaristi Church in Dili, East Timor signed a memorandum of understanding consolidating their relationship. A key project for Ekaristi is their school, Marcelo II Eskola, which educates around 500 children in five classrooms over three sessions each day.
Noel says the partnership works because it is based on personal relationships. “If we had just sent money to something over there and had never met them, it wouldn’t be the same. It really has changed me.”
And so, there a story could end.
But jump ahead to 12 May 2022, and Glebe Road Uniting was destroyed by fire. The congregation were devastated but determined to rebuild and continue, but they knew they needed help.
And so, a story begins. After the fire, Noel shared pictures of the damage to his friend Soffian at Ekaristi Church via WhatsApp. Soffian offered prayerful support in return. “That was really appreciated, as we were all coming to terms with the impact that the fire would have on our community life,” said Noel.
But what came next took their breath away. A few days later, to his amazement, Noel received a call from Soffian, who told him that Ekaristi Church, along with its small school and kindergarten, had pooled funds and decided to send US $2,300 (about AU $3,600) to Glebe Road Uniting to assist in the rebuilding process.
Noel was quite emotional about such a sacrificial gift from friends who have so little. He acknowledged the gift was made in response to the need of the Glebe Road congregation but also as an act of appreciation for the support Ekaristi Church has received through the partnership over the last ten years.
“They have always given back to us from their hearts in love,” said Noel. “Their faith in God and his provision for them is evident in their willingness to share what little they have.”
“Our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Timor-Leste has never been one way. What a privilege it is to walk side by side with them.”
Read more about the partnership between Glebe Road Uniting and Ekaristi Church: https://gleberd.com.au/team-timor/
Thanks to UnitingWorld for help with this article. www.unitingworld.org.au