My 2013 visit to Debora

On 25 June, Rosemary Winderlich returned to Deborah Orphanage in Indonesia for her tenth time as an LCA Mission International volunteer. Since 2005 Rosemary has travelled to this remote area in the middle of North Sumatra to teach the children life skills, including English.

The water pump was broken (again), so the children walked between two and three kilometres to the river, then back up a steep hill with the wet washing. Each night, after the Muslims finished worship, the children walked down to the village to carry water back in buckets, on their heads. I had a private tank for water for toilet and washing, and being from Australia had no problem conserving water. Last time I walked to the river, but this year, as I had a sore back, I used the bak mandi, which the children filled for me.

When Ramadan holidays began, English classes started. All children worked together for two hours, then the advanced ones continued. Lessons were tailored to meet needs. Ages of the residents of Debora range from nineteen to five! The older children help ‘bring up’ the younger ones. We all clapped and affirmed someone who tried hard to speak or pray in English. Class was limited because of water matters, and the children were tired from carrying and walking.

I can speak Indonesian but the children often speak Batak. Too fast for me! Recently a couple came to visit. They spoke clearly so I could follow and I joined in. Big reaction! The children all beamed at me saying ‘Very good oppung!’ They were so proud of me!

There are many needs at Debora. There are no knives, no panjangs (bush knives for gardening); not enough chairs, cups, saucepans; only a few light globes. I went shopping.

The kitchen was impressive with a new tiled floor and new roof.

Beautiful new toilets were in limited use – water had to be carried to flush them. We anxiously waited for the pump technician to come.

A truck-load of green firewood arrived last week. The boys spent hours each day splitting it with one broken bush knife and just bashing it, then stacking it to dry.

It was rainy and the children got fevers one after the other. I cooked up lemon, ginger and chilli drink with honey for myself and the worst sufferers. Each day someone new was sick. I bought extra fruit. The have a huge garden – coffee, cocoa, cloves – but very little was edible. Lots of pineapples had been planted.

I cooked a few times. My chicken stew and chocolate cake baked in the ashes in an old tin were successes. My fried rice wasn’t perfect as a Wok is very different from an electric frypan, but they wolfed it down. The girls and I did a bit of sewing, making small shoulder bags, but we were hampered by the time needed for water matters.

One day we had a festive dinner on the floor, then a discussion about when each child could go home for the holidays. I offered to finish classes so the children could have a week in their villages. A few were needed to stay to cook and care for two small boys.

There were no green vegetables here, though the garden is large…and there were the housefather’s geese! I asked permission to build a fence around a small area to grow greens. The children didn’t know how to build a fence, so we had to rebuild a few times. We planted greens and tomatoes.

That night it rained heavily. One boy came running to me, his face glowing, ‘Hujan, Oppung! Good for the new seeds!’ he said. It might not sound like much, but it made me very happy to see him or any child passionate about something worthwhile.

If you would like to consider the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in mission, serving in practical ways, teaching English, teaching in the seminaries and institutions of our partner churches, or in local churches, you are invited to phone Nevin on (08) 8267 7300 or email For more information, go to

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