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Rev Mery Kolimon with women from a gardening group, supported by the local church to help people earn an income after Cyclone Seroja destroyed homes and businesses. Photo: GMIT (Evangelical Church of Timor)

Becoming the good news in Timor—a profile on Rev Dr Mery Kolimon

The Evangelical Church of Timor’s first female Moderator, Rev Dr Mery Kolimon, has a vision for the church to be fully immersed in society and ensure the good news transforms the lives of those in the country. UnitingWorld’s Cath Taylor profiles Rev Dr Mery Kolimon and explores the important work being done by the church in response to cyclones, COVID-19 and poverty.

Rev Dr Mery Kolimon, West Timor: “We cannot just preach the good news. We must become it.”

Even before she was conceived, Mery Kolimon had a calling.

Her parents—Timorese nationals from one of Indonesia’s most beautiful archipelagos—dedicated their first child to God’s work even before Mery’s mother fell pregnant. It was a promise with a profound impact.

Rev Dr Mery Kolimon is the first female Moderator of the Evangelical Church of Timor, leading a church deeply committed to helping transform every aspect of the society it serves.

“I’m glad that my parents promised me to the church and to the world,” Mery says, via a Zoom call squeezed in between many others. She is recovering personally from COVID-19 and leading a team responding not only to the pandemic, but to the worst cyclone in West Timor’s history. 

“I believe the role of the church is to be actively immersed in every part of our society—the economy, environment, socially, politically and spiritually. It’s not enough for us to teach or proclaim the good news. We must work hard to become it for those around us.”

It’s an absolutely no-holds-barred approach to the meaning of faith, refreshingly clear about the role of the Christian church. In a country where COVID-19 is decimating the population and the economy, and where poverty has always stalked families and hollowed out dreams, Mery’s vision of the good news leaves no room for debates between word and deed.

“We are here to strengthen people’s faith and spirituality, but we can’t be only busy with ourselves,” Mery says. “Malnutrition, human trafficking, poverty, disaster—how is the church the good news in all of this?”

The answer lies in the way the church is responding to its context. Churches offer prayer, trauma counselling and activities to engage children who lost everything in the recent cyclone. Their preaching focuses on finding God in suffering, care for creation and environmental stewardship. They help re-train those who are in desperate need of income, offering small business start-up loans and education on everything from livestock breeding to marketing. They’ve been actively assessing disaster-struck regions to support government efforts to provide help, and on the ground providing their own resources like solar lamps, food, clean water, school uniforms and building material. And they’ve been in touch with other partners in the region to find out how to build back better.

In other words, they’re a people with an impact upon every aspect of life. Their ministry really matters.

As the first female Moderator of the Evangelical Church of Timor, Mery is often asked what she wants her legacy to be. The Evangelical Church of Timor has a long history of women’s engagement in ministry, with ordination of women beginning in 1959. But what would a church led by a woman in the top job look like?

“I don’t know if its about gender as much as it is about power,” Mery responds. “I see my role as being about empowering others, about how power is managed especially for those who have the least. This has always been the way of Jesus—standing with those who are poor, bringing liberation to those with heavy burdens.”

Each year the Evangelical Church in West Timor chooses a passage of scripture to guide its ministry for the next twelve months. This year, Mery says Ezekiel 37:10 has provided the vision the church needs.

“God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy that the dry bones in the valley would come back to life,” she says. “That’s our role—to breathe life back into that which seems dry and hopeless. We are building something new for the child who dreams of going to school and can’t afford the fees … for the family looking for hope … for the earth itself as we look for ecological renewal.”

Mery and the Evangelical Church of Timor are one among many partners who have similar holistic, inspiring approaches to their life together.

This month, UnitingWorld is highlighting their work and asks for your prayer and giving as we live the gospel among our global neighbours. Find out more at www.unitingworld.org.au/goodnews

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