The Protestant Church of East Timor (IPTL) is a Reformed Church in a largely Roman Catholic country of one million people. Although IPTL has a congregation in each town center, most of its 55 congregations are scattered throughout the mountainous rural countryside. Through its social outreach foundation, the IPTL supports two outpatient clinics, a vocational school and a variety of small-scale agricultural projects. Most pastors serve multiple congregations, traveling long distances in order to lead worship and provide pastoral care and community leadership.
After four centuries of Portuguese colonization and 25 years of occupation by the Indonesian military, the people of East Timor voted for independence in a UN-sponsored referendum in1999. The Indonesian military responded by destroying much of the country’s infrastructure as they left the country. At the time, most of IPTL’s clergy were Indonesian and were forced out by the military, leaving IPTL with only a few ordained Timorese pastors. Since that time, the IPTL has been working to rebuild its churches and develop new leaders for its congregations while making a positive contribution to East Timor’s development through its social outreach foundation.
Monica and Tom Liddle’s involvement in East Timor began in 2003 when they spent months working at the Bairo Pite Clinic in the capitol city Dili. At that time Monica had recently earned her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle, WA, and was completing Bastyr’s midwifery program. They returned to Timor in 2008 as Global Ministries volunteers, working in a rural health clinic, and then served with the IPTL as Global Ministries mission personnel from 2009 to 2012. During that period, Tom led a major renovation of Clinic Immanuel Lospalos, worked with local pastors to develop a rural visitation program, and assisted IPTL’s Synod with program implementation. Monica worked as the doctor in Clinic Immanuel Lospalos, providing direct patient care as well as training the clinic staff of five Timorese women in basic medical skills. Together with the staff, she started programs in maternity, nutrition and community health outreach.
After returning to the U.S. in 2012, Tom completed a Master of Divinity degree while Monica worked in a family health and birth center in St. Paul, MN. Tom was ordained as a minister in the United Church of Christ in March 2015. Based on their commitment to East Timor and their ongoing commitment to the people of the IPTL, the Liddles re-applied to Global Ministries, hoping to return to East Timor with their two children to continue their work with the IPTL. After receiving an invitation from the IPTL, the Common Global Ministries Board approved the Liddles for missionary service in East Timor pending funding for their positions.
The IPTL has requested Tom’s assistance in two main areas: developing pastoral leaders for rural congregations and assisting with its social outreach foundation which runs two clinics and a rural vocational school. Tom is an excellent candidate for this position as he is familiar with the culture, context and languages of East Timor, speaking East Timor’s most common language, Tetum, fluently. Tom is a pastor, skilled carpenter and an emergency medical technician (EMT).
Monica Liddle is invited to continue her service as the doctor in Clinic Immanuel in Lospalos. In that role, she will provide direct care to patients, provide leadership and on-going training to the clinic staff, and work with local health authorities in the areas of maternity care, nutrition, and public health, especially related to tuberculosis. In this upcoming term of service, Monica hopes to build bridges in remote communities where access to basic health care is sparse. As a naturopathic physician and midwife, Monica is uniquely suited for the work in East Timor, where over 70% of women give birth at home, where 40% of children under five years of age are stunted due to poor nutrition, and where the cultural context and belief system has a profound impact on health issues and outcomes. Monica speaks the common language, Tetum, has strong relationships within the communities and health care systems in the Lospalos district, and is passionate about using a holistic model of health care focused on improving health through meeting peoples’ most basic needs, both physically and spiritually.
Global Ministries must raise the entirety of the funds required to cover the Liddles’ four-year appointment and their six-month home assignment in the U.S. at the conclusion of their time in East Timor. This is the fourth personalized fundraising campaign Global Ministries has carried out as it moves toward a funding mechanism that links mission personnel more directly to congregations and individuals. The new funding mechanism gives individuals, local churches, UCC Conferences and Disciples Regions a direct relationship in the ministry of a partner church by supporting mission personnel serving with partners.
Global Ministries welcomes gifts to support the appointment of Tom and Monica Liddle in East Timor.