Eastern Angolan bishop and wife share stories of ministry in Africa (June 5, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Eastern Angolan bishop and wife share stories of ministry in Africa

June 5, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0087}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

DAYTONA BEACH — Referencing the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event’s “A Light to the Nations” theme in his evening sermon June 3 Bishop José Quipungo told delegates the light does not go out when the conference ends. He said the light “is always, is forever; it is not one day, one week, month or year.” Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #04-0030.

DAYTONA BEACH — Bishop José Quipungo traveled a long way to ask Florida Conference delegates if they are ready and willing to save the lives of others in Africa, especially Eastern Angola.

Quipungo presides over the Eastern Angola Annual Conference, which has 45 churches in five districts, most led by local pastors.

Quipungo gave the evening sermons June 3 and June 4.

After relaying the story of the Good Samaritan during the service Wednesday, Quipungo reminded attendees they must be obedient to God.

“As members of the Florida Conference what does this mean?” he asked. “Noah was faithful and obedient to God. God listens when we are obedient.”

 Quipungo questioned what God was asking of Christians around the world.

“What is God asking? For us to save the lives of others?” he said. “Who is ready to save the lives in Africa, especially in East Angola? It is possible but it is not easy.

“To be a Good Samaritan means to go, to leave, to see and to have to listen to what God wants us to do now.”

Using the theme of the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event, “A Light to the Nations,” Quipungo said the light does not go out when the conference ends. He said the light to the nations “is always, is forever, it is not one day, one week, month or year.”

Encouraging members of the Florida Conference to reach out to others, Quipungo said he has no doubt thousands of miles cannot break the bond of being in the family of Christ.

“Who is your neighbor? Who is my neighbor?” he asked. “I am sure that all of you are my neighbor.”

Thursday before Quipungo gave the evening sermon, his wife, Dr. Laurinda Vidal Quipungo, a physician, spoke of meeting Melba Whitaker, wife of Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, at a bishops’ spouses meeting and how the two women formed a bond that led to an exploratory meeting of representatives from the Florida Conference to East Angola in early 2003.

Speaking through an interpreter Dr. Quipungo spoke of the hardships facing her homeland and how her husband left a secular job to follow God’s call and enter into the ministry. “We encountered difficulties,” she said. “We started with nothing.”

When they arrived at their first church appointment Dr. Quipungo said the floor of the church was made of rocks and the congregation was forced to sit on stones. She said she did not know that to follow God would require such sacrifices.

After Quipungo was elected bishop he was assigned to the Eastern Angola Conference and  the family moved to the city of Malange in the central part of the country.

During Angola’s 27-year civil war, which began after its independence in 1975 and ended in 2002, the United Methodist Church suffered when rebels targeted the denomination’s establishments, bombing and destroying church buildings, parsonages and schools.

“I cried,” Dr. Quipungo said. “I had no home; we were in the street. Everything was destroyed.”

Not only was the church in disarray, but the people were sick and hungry. Dr. Quipungo made the daunting sacrifice of taking her last paycheck from her previous employment and buying food and medicine for the people, instead of taking care of her family.

“The spirit of God speaks stronger,” she said. “You just give everything to God and His will will be done.”

When Quipungo followed his wife around the city he encouraged Christians to tap into being members of the family of God. He asked if anyone knew what it means to be in the family of God.

“It means sharing together His [God’s] message and doing God’s will,” he said. “This is what it means to be the family of God.”

In addition to being in the family of God, Christians must also do God’s will, Quipungo said. He said it is possible to do God’s will but it’s not an easy thing.

“When we do God’s will, we endanger our lives,” he said. “You remember the life of Jesus Christ. He died on the cross. When we want to do something, there must be sacrifice.”

In March 2003 Quipungo said a caravan from his church set out to visit a village 94 miles from Malange. Knowing there were landmines hidden on the roads, the Quipungos took the lead in the caravan and arrived at 11 p.m. in the village, which had not received visitors in more than 30 years.

Even though it was late the people turned out to welcome the strangers and celebrated hearing the word of God, Quipungo said.

“Just as those people are part of the family of God,” Quipungo said, “the Florida Conference and the East Angola Conference share an unbreakable bond.”

“I am your family, and you are my family,” he said. “The spirit of God is here with us. You are my family, and I really, really feel I am your family because we are here together.”

A three-person team from the Florida Conference traveled to Eastern Angola Jan. 28-Feb. 11, 2003, on a fact-finding and relationship-building visit sponsored by the Florida Conference’s task force on the Council of Bishop’s Initiative on Children and Poverty (BICAP) and Hope for the Children of Africa. The team included Melba Whitaker, the Rev. Dr. Geraldine McClellan, superintendent of the Gainesville District, and Michael Wacht, the conference’s director of communications.

The team visited churches, schools, hospitals and villages in the Malange District and spent time talking with Quipungo and Eastern Angola’s district superintendents and conference staff to begin building relationships with the people there and discover their needs and priorities.

The Council of Bishops has asked the Florida Conference to shift its attention to the Eastern Angola Conference now that Florida has completed fund-raising for the Bishop Cornelius L. and Dorothye Henderson Secondary School in Mozambique.

The Quipungos have five children, Arsénio, Arez, Divino, Elisa and Esperança.

To view daily photos of the event’s activities and business visit http://www.flumc.org/ac2004/index.htm.


This article relates to the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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