Month: April 2018

Remembering Carlos Madrazo

A significant part of our experience in Timor-Leste was working for several years with fellow Global Ministries mission co-worker Carlos Madrazo.  We were sad to learn a few days ago that he has died.  We first met Carlos in 2009.  At the time he’d been in Timor for about 3 years I think. Carlos was what I’d call a missionary’s missionary.  He was born in the Philippines and served various U.S. based church organizations in Nepal, China, Indonesia, Timor-Leste and North America.  At least those are the places I remember and heard him tell stories about.  There may have been others.  Carlos had a PhD. and other such credentials, but he was a humble man.  He was always more interested in relating to village farmers and rural church pastors than bigwigs of any kind.  As long as I knew him at least, Carlos Madrazo was about the grassroots.


Carlos with Hannah in 2009

When we met Carlos he was about 75 but you’d never have known it.  He was full of enthusiasm, energy and had a vital (if sometimes inconvenient!) sense of humor.  Knowing we had a 5 year-old daughter, when we got to Timor-Leste he presented us with two pet turtles as a welcome gift – just what you need when you arrive bleary-eyed in a new country!  Carlos was a friend and mentor for us and a grandpa figure for our kids Hannah and Simon.


Carlos with Simon in 2012 

Carlos’s assignment in Timor-Leste, like the other places he served, was around agricultural development and organizational management.  One of the many things he did here was accompany our IPTL partners in figuring out how many congregations and members they had and developing a strategic plan for their ministry.  Timor-Leste is a rugged and rural country and at the time it was just emerging from the Indonesian occupation.  Things were chaotic, communication was difficult and the only way to do such work then — or now — was to go to the villages.

Over the years Carlos made it to every single one of IPTL’s 50 + congregations, most of which are in rural mountain areas many hours outside the capitol Dili.  He’d drive his Mitsubishi Pajero up and down Timor’s mountains like a stunt man.  No doubt many prayers were uttered in the passenger seat of that car!  It was a tiny jeep-type SUV but when he was in the village he’d sleep in the back seat and live on instant noodles, coffee and cassava leaves.

What I remember most about Carlos was his affectionate manner and humorous way of relating to people. Aside from being a jokester he loved to take pictures of people and make them into slide shows put to music. Before he left a village he would show them to people.  It was something that always lifted their spirits. It was his one of his ways of proclaiming the joy and freedom of the gospel wherever he went.


With leaders of Immanuel Church on one of Carlos’s trips to Lospalos 

During the years our service in Timor-Leste overlapped, on trips to Dili I always looked forward to a beer with Carlos in one of Dili’s several Filipino-owned bars.  Aside from the chance to process the challenges we faced in our work, the guy loved to socialize and sing karaoke – and he was good! On Sunday’s he had no use for worship Dili’s big churches.  He’d always drive out of town at least an hour to visit a rural congregation, enjoy Timor’s stunning scenery and find out how the crops were doing.

Like all of us, Carlos had his quirks.  At times he was stubborn as a mule and hard to work with.  But he had a heart of gold.  He was passionate about justice for the poor and serving others in the way of Christ.  Although aspects of him were very American (he was a proud Eagle Scout), he loved living and serving in Asia.  Even in his late 70s he was still up for the challenge of learning new languages and using his talents as a farmer and organizer to help people live more self-sufficient, dignified lives.

Rest in peace Carlos. You will be missed.



Partnership For God’s Justice

What are global church partnerships for? What are they based on?

There are historical reasons of course, i.e. ties to churches and institutions started by missionaries of a previous generation. Up until recently churches in America and Europe supported them financially. Nowadays this is hardly needed or possible. As the church grows in the global South most of our partners hardly need financial assistance. And with diminishing church involvement in Europe and America we can hardly afford it. So historical partnerships are’t the center of why we should be in partnership in the 21st century.


In early April we took a trip to Kupang Indonesia, which is on the opposite end of the island of Timor. The occasion was a conference called “Partnership for God’s Justice.” The specific topic was how, through grassroots partnerships, churches can work together and with other organizations to confront human trafficking and modern slavery. The meeting was convened by Global Ministries and hosted by GMIT, the largest Protestant denomination in West Timor.

desain konferensi copy

The basic premise is that church partnerships nowadays should be issue-based. Actually, the title suggests an even more fundamental premise: that God is the primal agent of partnership. God is the one who calls humanity to partner with God for the work of justice. What we do in partnership together is a response to God’s call, God’s historic acts of liberation and God’s ongoing work to set people free. The church should be the first to understand and embody this. Yet, I feel like often times the church is on the sidelines while God is working in and through any and all means to bend the world a little more toward the image of the New Jerusalem we find at the end of the Bible. So that’s one thing: churches have to partner with secular and multi-religious groups to confront issues of injustice.

We started out the conference with some reflections on the nature of God’s justice as opposed to generic or philosophical notions of justice. Remembering the biblical story, it’s easy to see that God’s justice is a biased justice. It’s a justice in favor of the slaves in Egypt. It’s a justice in favor of the poor, the oppressed and the outcast.

We should not simply view such people as objects for our help though. They are not to be seen as candidates for our charity as we seek to assuage our guilt for being privileged. Rather, what we need to see is that they are people who are sinned against by a world driven by greed, power and wealth. Wrenching poverty is most often the root cause of human trafficking and poverty of this kind the result of sinful structures, institutions and ideologies. When people don’t have hope for a future in their own place, or when crisis strikes, they become vulnerable to traffickers or dubious migrant work. Often they agree to leave to go to a new place and once they get there they find that the good deal they heard about is actually non-existent. What they end up with is on a spectrum from a raw deal with low pay and long hours to forced prostitution or outright slavery. And none of it is easy to get out of.


Part of a warm welcome we received visiting Emmanuel Church in a small village outside Kupang.  Dancing and singing were elaborate! 


Members of the congregation showed us their papaya plantation.  They view agricultural development as part of combating human trafficking because it encourages young people to stay in Indonesia rather than migrating to Malaysia for work on palm oil plantations.

So we learned that our response to human trafficking has to be holistic. Rural pastors in West Timor are focusing on developing agricultural projects so that young people don’t feel the need to move abroad to look for work. And part of that is restoring the dignity to rural life and farming. Indonesian activists we met with told tales of legislative work and street outreach connecting girls forced into prostitution with human rights advocates. And while we were in Kupang, the corpse of an Indonesian migrant worker came in on a flight from Malaysia. Most of our delegation went to the airport to receive the corpse and console the family, all the while demanding that the Indonesian government act to protect migrant workers and prosecute traffickers.


Global Ministries partners from all across Southern Asia

It all sounds quite heavy and actually, it was. I often tell Hannah a quote I read somewhere: “The truth will set you free…but first it makes you miserable.” It was that kind of a week.   We had been aware of human trafficking but not engaged in confronting it through our partnership with the Protestant Church in Timor Leste. Now we are. And so it was also a week of inspiration and learning as we connected with people from 11 different countries who find hope in the struggle for justice on this issue.

Save Bairo Pite Clinic

Friends, please consider reading and responding to the appeal below.  Maybe someone could post it to FB since I closed my account.  Bairo Pite is a critical part of East Timor’s health infrastructure.  Monica and I are good friends with Dan and Clinic Immanuel Lospalos refers patients there.

Save the Bairo Pite Clinic!

GOAL: 3000 monthly supporters ($10 dollars/month)


Choose a gift option$10 monthly Patron
Promote This Campaign

Start Your Own Campaign for Save the Bairo Pite Clinic

The Bairo Pite clinic needs your help!

After almost two decades of serving the impoverished community’s health needs, Timor-Leste’s government is no longer able to provide the clinic with financial support. As of the 5th of April 2018, most of the services it provides (including the care for malnourished children, maternal and infant health, and the treatment of HIV, TB, and leprosy) have been suspended, making it much more difficult for the thousands of people it was treating each week to obtain quality medical care. Through an ongoing donation of $10 a month you can help the Bairo Pite clinic continue its vital work well into the future.

The Bairo Pite Clinic?

Up until last week, the Bairo Pite Clinic had been providing free health care to the poor of Timor-Leste since 1999. Not your average NGO, its founder, Dr. Dan Murphy, finished medical school in the early 1970s and since then has spent much of his career using his skills to address human suffering in Mozambique, Laos, Nicaragua and among migrant farm workers in the USA. He arrived in Dili in 1998, just as the traumatic final chapter of Timor-Leste’sindependence struggle was beginning to unfold.

Conditions in Timor-Leste have improved since those dark days, but in spite of the heroic and ongoing efforts of many capable Timorese medical staff and public servants, often aided by volunteers from throughout the world, the health situation in Asia’s newest nation remains dire, especially for the majority who make their living as subsistence farmers in its mountains. Infant and maternal mortality is persistently high and many of the surviving children grow up stunted due to chronic malnutrition. Preventable and treatable infectiousdiseases such as leprosy, tuberculosis and malaria continue to cause widespread suffering and death. In the mountains, advanced medical care that has given hope to patients with catastrophic illnesses such as cancer in much of the world is simply not available.

Dr. Dan Murphy set up the clinic in 1999 by making use of a building left to ruin from the conflict in Dili and consulting anyone in need with the meagre resources that he could gather.Since then it has grown into one of the young county’s trusted sources of medical care, employing 80 local staff and providing free health care to up to 300 patients each day. Over the years it has hosted around 1000 international medical students and trained some 40 nurses, 26 midwives, and 26 lay-midwives, whose exploits in helping bring vital natal care to remote villages are very appreciable. Far from setting itself apart from Timor-Leste’s expanding health system, the clinic has become a reliable partner and ally to Timor-Leste’s medical establishment, helping provide essential clinical experience to many local medical staff whose continuing hard work and dedication make the dream of a more self reliant and healthy Timor a possibility.

How things stand

In April 2018 the clinic announced it had not been able to secure funding going forward and that most of its functions would be been suspended indefinitely.

The clinic’s founder, Dr Dan, has informed us that as of 2018 it would cost around $1000 a day to run the clinic optimally, and through this fund raising effort we hope to find a way to cover that. We are looking for 3000 people to make an ongoing donation of $10 a month to ensure that regardless of the political situation (someone which is Timor-Leste is rarely certain or stable) it can continue its lifesaving work.

        $10 a month. That’s $2.50 a week. Please consider helping us out. As         they say in Tetum, “hamutuk ita bele”, together we can.

Some interesting references

Dr Dan tells his story to the inquisitive people of Reddit.

And for Ted X in Dili!