East Angola Conference seeks 12 partner churches



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

East Angola Conference seeks 12 partner churches

May 9, 2008  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011 
tparham@flumc.org  Orlando {0851}

An e-Review Feature
By Steven Skelley**

After five years, four trips to Angola and a little more than $560,000 raised, the Florida Conference has a new goal in its partnership with the East Angola Conference of The United Methodist Church: finding at least 12 Florida Conference churches that will commit to a relationship with United Methodist churches in Angola.

Children from First United Methodist Church, Saurimo, in the East Angola Conference get to know Florida Conference United Methodists who traveled to Angola in January. Saurimo is the provincial capital of Lunda Sul, Angola. Photo by the Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin. Photo #08-0850.

Twelve churches in the East Angola Conference are already waiting to meet their Florida partners.

The East Angola/Florida Partnership began in 2003 after a three-person team from the Florida Conference visited Angola and met with East Angola Conference leaders to discuss their needs, many created by the country’s 27-year civil war. Since then, funds raised through special offerings collected at the annual conference events have helped rebuild parts of Quéssua, an area that was a thriving missionary and spiritual center of The United Methodist Church in Angola before the war.

This latest goal of the partnership is not to find Florida churches to support Angolan churches, but to form church-to-church partnerships that benefit both, strengthening the overall relationship and enabling communities of faith to pray for, learn from and grow with each other.

Florida churches interested in making that goal a reality are invited to learn more at a special luncheon during the 2008 Florida Annual Conference Event May 28-31 at the Lakeland Center.

This year’s annual conference offering will again support the work of the partnership, with 60 percent designated for partnership initiatives. 

The main priority for the funds is to support the reopening of the theological school at Quéssua, according to the Rev. Steve Price, chairman of the partnership’s task force and co-pastor of Harvest United Methodist Church in Bradenton. He said the funds will be used to provide scholarships that enable students from around Angola and neighboring countries to attend the theological school.

The scholarships will help cover costs for tuition, room and board, and materials, which the students would not otherwise be able to afford. The goal of their training is to equip them to be the church leaders of the future for the region.

The Quéssua complex also includes Quéssua United Methodist Church, which conference funds helped rebuild, a school for boys and girls, a hospital, a school of domestic sciences, dormitories for students, and residences for missionaries and school and hospital administrators.

Icel Rodriguez, associate director of the Florida Conference’s Global Mission and Justice Ministries, and her husband, the Rev. Armando Rodriguez, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Lakeland, thank the conference for its support during the 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event, after being commissioned to serve as persons-in-mission in East Angola. The two will leave for Angola in the summer of 2009. Photo by Greg Moore. Photo #08-0851.

Florida Conference funds have also been used to dig a well, improve the East Angola Conference’s communications, and purchase a generator, bicycles for pastors, sewing machines for women’s training centers and medicine for a clinic.

Icel Rodriguez, associate director of the Florida Conference’s Global Mission and Justice Ministries, said in an interview “little by little, life is coming back to Quéssua.”

“It really started coming back once the church was rebuilt,” she said.

Icel and her husband, the Rev. Armando Rodriguez, pastor of Christ United
Methodist Church in Lakeland, are scheduled to serve as persons-in-mission in East Angola beginning in the summer of 2009. Armando will teach in Quéssua’s theological school, and Icel will help develop and oversee self-sustainable development projects in remote rural areas of East Angola. She will also promote church-to-church relationships between Florida and Angolan churches and begin preparing the way for teams from Florida to visit the East Angola Conference. Their 20-year old daughter, Amanda, will join them, taking a year off from school to help teach English and communications and mentor orphans at the East Angola Conference Orphanage.

The Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin, director of the mission and justice ministries, with special emphasis on global life and learning, led a team of six from Florida to Angola in January. “The response from Angola’s local churches was overwhelming,” he said.

The president of the United Methodist Women of First United Methodist Church, Saurimo, in the East Angola Conference helps ties a head scarf for Mary Gestrich, a member of a Florida Conference team that traveled to Angola in January. Photo by the Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin. Photo #08-0852.

Traveling in teams of two, Rankin and the team members went from village to village, attending worship services at local United Methodist churches and listening to and receiving requests from the Angolan people. 

“Their needs are basic: potable water, health clinics, agricultural projects for food production, primary school buildings, construction of sanctuaries or improvements,” Rankin said. “It was an exhausting experience, yet rich with possibilities.”

Soon, Rankin said, Florida churches that agree to partner with Angolan churches will be part of those possibilities.

The East Angola/Florida Partnership luncheon is May 30, noon-1:30 p.m., in the Lake Parker Room at the Lakeland Center. The cost is $5. Individuals who would like more information or to make reservations may contact Heidi Leib at hleib@flumc.org or 800-282-8011, extension 192.

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*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Skelley is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.




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