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Almost at the Finish Line, a Dream Comes True

Almost at the Finish Line, a Dream Comes True

The Angola Blog

Since our arrival in Quéssua, we always wanted to visit districts outside Malanje.  In a country that almost doubles the state of Texas in territorial extension, the East Angola Conference of the United Methodist Church serves more than 60% of the nation. However, due to lack of transportation, our ministry has been confined to the district of Malanje. Members from other regions requested our presence and support ever since we first arrived. Other districts, they say, rarely receive visitors or help.

This situation changed last week, when a pick-up truck was made available to us. We immediately enlisted the help of Jorge, Gomes, and Salvador, three leaders of the Internato (Boarding House), and made plans for a quick visit to Saurimo, capital city of Lunda Sul, the easternmost province before entering into the Democratic Republic of Congo. There we have one of our biggest churches in the east, vibrant, and the home of several Internato students. Icel and I decided that even a one-day visit to worship with our sisters and brothers there would be worth the trip.
As usual when travelling by road, the only difficulties in the 10-hour trip were the time-consuming police check points. But the beautiful landscapes did not disappoint us. Particularly majestic is the “Baixa de Cassanje,” an immense, low-lying valley that can be seen from the high-altitude road. This once was the largest cotton-production zone of Angola, and the scenario of a massacre that victimized thousands of farmers who rebelled against slavery-like work conditions during colonial times.  Bishop Quipungo and wife Laurinda themselves are from this area and barely escaped the slaughter while children. It was awe-inspiring to contemplate its beauty and to know so much history. 
Finally in Saurimo, the first thing that struck us was the cleanliness of the city. We also found a modern and picturesque inn, its rooms equipped with cable TV. After catching up on the World Soccer Cup, the night of rest prepared us for the church service on the following Sunday morning.

The future sanctuary is being built around the existing one, three times larger.

“The East Angola Conference is much larger than Malanje. We gladly greet you here so that you can see by yourselves.” These were the words of Pastor Isaiah welcoming us to Central Saurimo UMC. And indeed he is right. This church is experiencing so much growth that they started to build a new sanctuary, three times larger than the current one. They are simply raising the walls around the perimeter of the existing sanctuary so that they do not have to tear it down…for now (see picture).  The attendance of close to two hundred, and an offering of nearly $300, did not

Almost 200 people gathered for worship

satisfy pastor Isaiah. He told us that, because it was father’s day (celebrated as in the US on the third Sunday in June), many church members were traveling. Nevertheless, in reality the church was almost packed.  The music did not disappoint us either. Overflowing resilience, the tunes reflected the rhythms and language of the local Chockwe culture. There were two choirs, one music group with drums and electric guitars, two soloists, and a third men’s choir formed just to sing on Father’s day. The service was bilingual (Chockwe and Portuguese) and even the sermon had to be translated into Chockwe given that many people are not fluent in the Angolan national language.

In about a week and a half Icel and I will head back to Florida. We thank God that allowed us to take this short trip and to get to know other United Methodists in Angola. We told them that the love and prayers of the Florida conference are with them. In return, we are the bearers of the love and warm greetings of a broader group of Angolans. “Please, come back soon,” they told us as we were leaving.  And we promised we would try.  There is so much we need to learn from them, and so much strength that they can give our spirits. They will be in our prayers, as Florida will be in theirs.

Together with local pastor and with the District Superintendent of Lunda Sul.
Our three guides and leaders of the Internato, possibly future pastors. From left to right, Jorge, Gomes, Armando, Salvador, and Icel.