Staff and Student Trips to Timor-Leste

For the first time in 2012, a group of students from Whitefriars College travelled to Timor-Leste to meet the people there and gain an appreciation of the daily life of a Timorese person. Below is a video summarising their experience.

In 2013, a second group of students travelled to Timor-Leste. Read on to share the experience of one student who visited Timor-Leste this year.


A Whole New World

Luke Murphy, 25 November 2013

I’m sure many of you will relate the title of my reflection to the song from the Disney film ‘Aladdin’ and in many ways the song has significance to my time in Timor Leste during the September holidays this year. In the song, Aladdin is illustrating how big and exciting the world is outside of Jasmine’s castle. We here in Australia are privileged to live on one of the First World continents of the world. Many of us have never travelled to a 3rd world country. The closest many have come to doing this is either donating through charities or watching documentaries on the television. However, the world around us is so different to what we see in the media or read. I learnt this the moment I landed in East Timor on the 23rd September 2013. I had expected Dili, the capital of East Timor to be quiet, poor and basically uninhabited. I was so very wrong. The streets are full of cars and trucks. There are 1000s upon 1000s of people walking through the streets or selling food or clothing from tiny stalls and the air is filled with the rich scent of burning wood and oil. There were young children, possibly only 5 years old, walking along the highway on their way to school. Their clothes were immaculate. So, I’ve only been in Dili for about an hour and already I see a place that is so different to what we think of back here in Australia.

If there was one thing I loved most about staying with the Carmelites in East Timor, was the table-fellowship. The moment we arrived at the monastery in Hera, we were greeted with smiling faces and firm handshakes by the brothers who lived there. They always made sure we were well and called us ‘brother.’ I felt an overwhelming happiness and felt comfortable in their presence.

During the first part of my experience I was to stay in Dili with Adam Thuys, Leigh Biggerstaff and Mr Joshua Vujcich where we began to look at the history of East Timor. I never knew that this country had so much war and destruction. First the Portuguese moved in, and then the Indonesians. I felt like crying after visiting one of the old prisons used to torture the Timorese during the Indonesian reign. None of this information can be found easily in Australia, which saddens me the most, for if we do not learn from history, we’ll most likely repeat it. As well as the prison, we visited the monuments that are around Dili. We visited the Pope John Paul Statue, in commemoration to the Pope visiting East Timor in the 1990s. We also visited the Christo-Rei, a statue of Jesus Christ on top of the world. It is similar to the one standing in Rio Brazil. There were many other places we visited, however this reflection would be too long if I included them all.

The second half of my experience took me to the community of Zumalai, an hour’s flight from Dili. It was here that I began the mission statement I had made the week previously at Whitefriars College. In Zumalai, we were to teach the children English at school for one week, 3 to 4 hours a day. The children in Zumalai are the most beautiful people I have ever known. They have near to nothing except for a few possessions and the clothes on their backs, yet they are always happy. I never saw one of them cry or fight. They simply wanted to learn. I helped teach the English translation of religious symbols in RE Class, and taught them to sing some traditional Australian songs like ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. My time and experiences in Zumalai will never be forgotten.

I end this reflection with the passage from the Gospel of Luke, ‘The Mission of the Seventy’ (Lk10:1-8) referring to verses 1-2:

‘After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The Harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”‘

This passage denotes what I was sent out to do in Timor Leste. We were sent out to make the world a better place and create better lives for those we met. During my stay in Zumalai, Br Antonio looked me in the eye and quietly said to me ‘go back and tell everyone what you have seen here’. I have kept my promise to him by writing on this webpage, but this is only the beginning of my journey. I will never stop speaking about my experiences, because the moment I do, is the moment everyone will forget.