A ‘good crocodile’ seems like an oxymoron to most people around the world but for the East Timorese it’s the symbol of their creation story. The story concerns a young boy who helped a small crocodile to escape from a drying pool to the sea and later the crocodile helped the boy by taking him to see the world. As the crocodile knew it was dying it turned its body into the island of Timor as a home for the young man and his descendants.

‘Helping each other we overcome problems’ is the motto of Fundaҫoun Lafaek Diak (FLD), the Good Crocodile Foundation, a grassroots non-government organisation serving rural and remote East Timorese communities with no government funding but with an impressive program.

I think this motto also touches on the Jesus story, his mission and the work of the Social Justice Units of the Uniting Church right around Australia. It is certainly one of the reasons that I keep going back to East Timor.

When I first went there in 2001, through the Action by Churches Together (ACT) under their Joint Churches Emergency Group, the country was devasted by post-referendum violence and destruction and FLD was still only a registered name. However, as people from around the world rallied to help the East Timorese it became an independent nation, working through political turbulence and social conditions. It was slowly changing. FLD was established in 2004 in the Baucau District, focusing primarily on food security and health but also having a role in education and small business. Currently, the main focus of the work is health with a very large part of that being a mobile health clinic visiting remote communities who have very little, if any, access to health services. Supporting this mobile health clinic is one of the projects of the Uniting Church WA International Partnerships and Development Commission, and one of the ways the people of the Uniting Church are helping others overcome problems.

Personally, I was also in a state of change in 2001, working through divorce, chronic fatigue and spiritual malaise and I also am changing and growing in a large part through my interaction with the people of East Timor. In East Timor I have taught English, helped with report writing and setting up ways to help FLD meet its commitments to donors, visited numerous villages and facilitated, on behalf of the Melville congregation, the replanting of a now productive orange orchard destroyed during the occupation.

I am inspired by the people’s faith, dedication, persistence, kindness and willingness to help others often at their own expense. They help me grow. It’s a two-way street this legacy of the good crocodile and the Jesus mission.

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