Conference looks to strengthen ties to East Angola



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Conference looks to strengthen ties to East Angola

April 19, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011 
tparham@flumc.org  Orlando {0659}

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

LAKELAND — Every cent collected during the offering that will be taken at the 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event June 6-9 in Lakeland has the potential to make a big difference in the lives of United Methodists a continent away.

Eighty percent of the annual offering will go toward the East Angola-Florida Conference Partnership; 20 percent will go toward the Council of Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty (BICAP).

Funds collected at previous annual conference events have made it possible for the East Angola area to emerge from darkness into the light of a new day after many years of civil war. Since 2004 the Florida Conference has raised more than $355,000 for the East Angola Conference of The United Methodist Church.

When the East Angola/Florida Partnership began in 2004, Quéssua United Methodist Church was in disrepair and unable to be used as a house of worship. Years of civil war had ravaged the Quéssua complex and surrounding area, severly damaging or destroying many of the buidlings that comprised the once-thriving spiritual center of The United Methodist Church in Angola. Photo by Michael Wacht. Photo #07-0567. Web photo only.

The Rev. Steve Price, chairman of the partnership task team, visited East Angola in March 2006 with a team from Florida and said what he witnessed as a direct result of funding from the Florida Conference is amazing.

“I had the chance to see what is happening as a result of the partnership,” said Price, who serves as co-pastor of Harvest United Methodist Church in Bradenton. “The main thing is the reconstruction of Quéssua (United Methodist Church). They are now able to worship in the sanctuary. It is the first building that has been completely restored. It is so vitally important in the life of their conference.”

Growth and rebirth

A focus of the conference’s partnership efforts, which began in February 2003 after a three-person team from Florida visited the East Angola Conference, has been helping rebuild Quéssua, a once thriving missionary and spiritual center of The United Methodist Church in Angola, located near the city of Malange.

Funds from the Florida Conference helped the East Angola Conference rebuild Quéssua United Methodist Church, renewing it to the spiritual center it was before being nearly destroyed by years of civil war. Photo by Armando Rodriquez. Photo #07-0568.
Many of the area’s buildings were destroyed during the country’s 27-year civil war. The complex included Quéssua United Methodist Church, an elementary school for boys and girls, residences for missionaries and school and hospital administrators, dormitories for students, and a hospital, college, school of domestic sciences and theological seminary.

Money raised by the Florida Conference is being used to rebuild many of those structures, and work on the church has been completed.

Florida Conference funds have also been used to dig a well and purchase a generator for the Hope of Africa School in Malange, bicycles for area pastors, sewing machines for the Malange Women’s Training Center and medicine for the Quéssua Medical Clinic. Money will also be set aside to assist with salaries for teachers at the seminary and improvements in that conference’s communications ministry.

When team members visited in 2006 they delivered medicine, clothing and toys. They also took commercial-grade radio equipment with them, which they installed in Malange. The system capabilities included AM radio, upper and lower sideband, and data communications, such as facsimile, all much needed in a country that has limited telephone service and experiences daily disruptions in electricity. The new equipment enables the conference’s district superintendents and bishop to more easily communicate with each other.

While in Malange, the team also provided training sessions for pastors and church members, including teaching on finance and administration, women’s ministry, evangelism and pastoral leadership, and children’s ministry and activities.

Icel S. Rodríguez, associate director for the conference’s Global Mission and Justice Ministries, joined Price on the trip and said the difference the partnership is making in the lives of East Angolans can’t be ignored.

In March 2006 when a team from the Florida Conference visited Angola, reconstruction had not yet begun on the School of Theology at Quéssua, left little more than a shell by the country's civil war. Photo by Armando Rodriquez. Photo #07-0569.

Like Price, she expressed awe in seeing the completion of the Quéssua sanctuary. “What was once a shell, with the interior gone, is complete,” Rodríguez said. “Work at the parsonage, the orphanage and the School of Theology is close to completion.”

Rodríguez said Quéssua is vital to both the region’s United Methodists and to many non-United Methodists who were educated there, such as government workers. And with money from the Florida Conference, Quéssua is once again able to offer a place where people can learn a trade, increasing their self-sufficiency.

Today, the School of Theology at Quéssua is nearly rebuilt, thanks in part to funds given for its reconstruction by Florida United Methodists through offerings collected during the annual conference events that have taken place since the launch of the East Angola/Florida Partnership in February 2004. Photo #07-0570. Photo by Morais Quissico. Web photo only.
“Little by little life is coming back to Quéssua,” Rodríguez said. “It really started coming back once the church was rebuilt. When we started working there, there was nothing.”

Continuing the commitment

Additional funds from the partnership are being used to help reconstruct the orphanage and theological school, purchase supplies for the children, make capital purchases for self-sustaining projects, and support the work of missionaries.

Price said it is important that funding continues.

“These are our brothers and sisters in the other part of the world,” he said. “Not only were their lives destroyed as a direct result of the civil war, they received multiple challenges and managed to survive an oppressive situation.”

Acting on that belief, Price’s church began its own partnership with an orphanage in Malange that housed 25 children at the time the church became involved. The orphanage could easily have housed an additional 25 children if more funding had been available.

What began as a dream for 50 families in the church to make a financial commitment that amounted to $1 a day for a year and would provide the additional funds the orphanage needed quickly became a reality in 2005. Those families renewed their pledge and agreed to continue the financial commitment in 2006. Price said the informal partnership, as well as the formal one the conference has with the people of East Angola, is important.

The Quéssua complex was a thriving spiritual and missionary center for The United Methodist Church in Angola before the country's civil war, but it also provided education for many Angolans. Many of Angola's leaders are considered “sons of Quéssua” because they were educated at the United Methodist schools. The country’s first president, Dr. Agostinho Neto, was a United Methodist and son of a pastor. Photo #07-0571. Photo by Armando Rodriquez.
“We here in Florida have been blessed, and it’s a blessing to be able to bless others,” he said. “It’s a gift and privilege to be able to share these blessings with others who will be able to bless their communities.”

Information about the offering and a bulletin insert explaining its purpose and how churches can contribute is available at http://www.flumc2.org/page.asp?PKValue=1163. Churches are urged to share the insert with members of their congregation.

Money collected from the offering for the Council of Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty will support the distribution of backpacks filled with school supplies for Florida Children, sponsored by the Florida Conference’s Children’s Harvest and outreach ministries.

Other offerings to be collected

Two additional offerings will be collected at the conference event, including the Ministerial Education Fund, which each year provides financial assistance to help an average of 60 to 80 students attend seminary, and the laity offering, which benefits the general work of the Board of Lay Ministry, including the cost of holding the laity session at the conference event.

More information about this year’s event, themed “From Generation to Generation,” is also available at http://www.flumc2.org/page.asp?PKValue=1163.

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This article relates to East Angola/Florida Partnership and Florida Annual Conference Event.

*Parham is 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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