We have all gone to Angola! Well, not exactly. Armando and Icel Rodriguez, along with their daughter Amanda, have arrived in Angola as missioners from the Florida Conference, but they represent all of us. Let's pray for them and read about their experiences over the next year.
It is springtime in Angola. When Armando and Icel leave the port and capital city of Luanda, where it is warm and humid much of the year, they will travel for about four hours on a new road to Malange, a provincial capital and the location of the headquarters of the East Angola Conference of The United Methodist Church. Malange has a wonderful climate with mild days of low humidity and cool nights. It is located in a beautiful region of wide plains surrounded by low mountains.
Eventually they plan to move into a house in Quessua, a small village located some miles outside of Malange. Quessua is located on a wooded ridge which looks over a broad area. The center is a church which our conference helped rebuild after it was destroyed during the civil war. Also, there is an orphanage and the school of theology. There is an elementary school and a large agricultural school run by the government there. There was a break-in at the house, and it needs to be secured before the Rodriguez's move in.
Armando will be teaching New Testament at the school of theology. One of the greatest needs of our Church in Africa is theological training of pastors and laity. Our Church is beginning to invest money in developing the resources for this training. There is a different system of theological education in Africa. Unlike America, where we have thirteen accredited seminaries, Africa depends on small schools without any system of Western academic accreditation to accomplish the task of theological training. (I am not implying that the Western system is necessarily superior, for it is often more bound to secular standards of academic guilds and institutions than to the Church and its mission.) I suspect that we shall have a much better understanding of the needs for theological education in Angola and Africa as a result of Armando's work during this next year.
Icel will be making arrangements to receive teams from local congregations in Florida to come to Angola. It will probably not be easy to make these arrangements since Malange and the East Angola Conference will have limited capabilities to accommodate visitors. I am sure Icel will find a way. Having Floridians there to see for themselves will be a tremendous boost to our partnership, and it will be a transformative experience for those who visit.
I am hoping that, as a result of all of this intense activity during this next year, we shall have a better understanding of the whole East Angola Conference and how we might participate in its mission. This conference covers a huge area, and many parts of it are quite remote,from the deserts of Namibia in the south to the jungles of the Congo in the north. I think missioners living there and being a part of the conference will gather a better perspective on the needs of the entire conference than those of us who visit for a week or so merely gain impressions of the Malange vicinity.
Thanks to all who are contributing financially to support the Rodriguez's. If you wish to help, you may contact the Treasurer's Office.