He’s a theologian and professor with a medical degree, but Rev. Leonardo Garcia has been trying his hand at raising crops in Quéssua in order to supplement the diet of retired pastors near the United Methodist mission there.
He’s been doing pretty well, reports Icel Rodriguez, Global Missions director for the Florida Conference. But, she added, the boys living and studying at the Quéssua boarding house – many of them orphans – still remember fondly the days when a missionary agriculturist was stationed there in 2007 and started a farm.
“That was the time they ate the best in their life,” said Rodriguez, who worked as a missionary in Quéssua for a year with her husband, Rev. Armando Rodriguez Jr., in 2010.
“They talk about that with so much longing for those days.”
The Florida Conference-supported missionary, who hails from Cuba, is about to get some expert help from Dieudonne Kutela Katembo of the Democratic Republic of Congo, courtesy of the General Board of Global Ministries and the Yellowstone Conference in Montana.
"It’s a tale of Methodists crossing multiple cultural, geographical and political boundaries to transform a nearly forgotten corner of the world in the name of Jesus Christ.
Katembo, an agriculturist and General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) missionary, will be commissioned to serve in Quéssua during the Yellowstone Annual Conference, set for June 18-20 in Helena, Montana. He will begin visiting churches in that conference to introduce himself early this month.
Rodriguez and Sally McConnell, vital mission coordinator for the conference, said they hope the necessary paperwork will be processed so that Katembo can begin working at the mission this fall.
Quéssua was once a rich source of food crops like yuca, a staple in the region, Rodriguez said.
“This land is so vast and fruitful,” she said. “It also has the potential to impact Melange,” a more urban community near Quéssua where Methodists also conduct mission work.
McConnell said supporting a missionary in Quéssua is a natural outreach effort stemming from the Yellowstone Conference’s longstanding relationship with the East Angola Conference where the mission is located. Yellowstone’s partnership with East Angola, like Florida’s, dates to 2003.
“This has been a defining project for our conference,” McConnell said in an email to FLUMC.org. “We are one of the smallest conferences, in terms of churches and number of people, and largest geographical areas. The people of Yellowstone have embraced this partnership.”
Yellowstone support has provided $40 a month for each of 60 pastors in East Angola, and the conference expects to increase that amount this year, McConnell said. In addition, United Methodists in Montana joined with others from the Rocky Mountain Conference to buy a truck for East Angola missionary Ken Koome.
Members of the Yellowstone Conference joined Florida United Methodists last year in a visit to Quéssua. Rodriguez and McConnell said the two conferences have worked together before to help the people of Angola, a part of the world that is still recovering from a long civil war that ended in 2002.
According to information from Global Ministries, Katembo is from Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he is a member of Salem Parish UMC in the South Congo-Zambia Annual Conference. He received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from United Methodist-affiliated Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe, in 2002.
He has worked for the United Methodist Committee on Relief on food security projects and as an agricultural trainer and consultant. He also has been a farm manager.
Growing up in the church, Katembo took part in the United Methodist Youth Fellowship and his church’s social service outreach.
“My call to mission basically is to serve God through my knowledge and experience by serving others who may need help in Christ-like humility,” Katembo said. “The church has been a good servant to me, so I need to be a good servant with my qualifications in Christ-like humility.”
He and his wife, Kutela Fatuma Olangi, have five children.
A spot remains to be filled on the next Florida Conference mission team to Quéssua, scheduled for Nov. 4-18. For information, contact Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org.