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Conference allows Florida, Eastern Angola to connect (May 4, 2004)

Conference allows Florida, Eastern Angola to connect (May 4, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference allows Florida, Eastern Angola to connect

May 4, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0067}

An e-Review Feature
By Michael Wacht*

PITTSBURGH - The Florida and Eastern Angola conferences are nearly half a world apart, but the 2004 United Methodist General Conference here has placed the two conferences' delegations side-by-side and given them a chance to strengthen their connection and relationship.
Florida and Eastern Angola established a relationship through the Council of Bishops' Initiative on Children and Poverty and Hope for the Children of Africa that officially began in January 2003 when a three-person team from the Florida Conference traveled to Angola for two weeks.
The Florida Conference's General Conference delegation includes 15 laity and 15 clergy, plus two lay and two clergy alternate delegates. The Eastern Angola Conference has sent one lay and one clergy delegate.

The two delegations sit near each other in the General Conference's main assembly and have had multiple opportunities to connect during the first week of the conference.
Florida Area Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker and his wife, Melba, dined with Eastern Angola Area Bishop José Quipungo and his wife, Dr. Laurinda Quipungo, and a member of the Eastern Angola delegation April 28. The two bishops were able to discuss plans for shared ministry opportunities between the two conferences.
Melba Whitaker asked the Quipungos for the opportunity to provide community-based health-care training for the Angolans, which would teach local women the basics of health care so they can provide care to their families and neighbors.
The training is designed to be effective with students regardless of their literacy or education level. It teaches infant-care, parenting and sanitation skills, as well as how to combat basic illnesses, like diarrhea, which is the second leading cause of death among children in Angola.
"It's all about mother/child survival," Melba Whitaker said. "It's a perfect marriage between what we've been doing as clergy spouses in the Florida Conference and what we're doing in Angola. In the long run, it will improve the health of the people."
Whitaker has taken two groups of clergy spouses on tours of community-based health-care ministries in Brazil and Guatemala.
Florida now plans to raise funds to send two trainers to Malange, Angola, to teach local women how to provide community-based health care. Dr. Quipungo, a physician who has been trying to start a similar program herself, will recruit local women for the program.
The two conferences' delegates were also able to meet April 29. Bill Walker, a lay delegate from St. Andrew's United Methodist Church in Winter Park, invited Angolan District Superintendent the Rev. Carlos Tchihuto and Madalena Magita, the Eastern Angola Conference's lay delegate, to attend a Florida delegation meeting.
Tchihuto greeted Florida's delegates and thanked them for embracing the relationship with Eastern Angola. Through a translator he said his country has many grave problems, including lack of health care, education, housing and churches. The years of war have "completely destroyed my country," he said, adding their faith in God and trust in the Florida Conference's help give them hope.
Bishop Whitaker said it's good for the delegates to meet each other here. "It's an opportunity for persons from Florida and persons from Angola to see, meet and get to know each other," he said. "This is not just an institutional relationship, but it becomes a personal relationship."
Whitaker said this lawmaking gathering gives delegates a chance to "experience the oneness of the church" and added, "Back at home, United Methodists in Angola seem so far and separated from us. When we come together, we can experience what we have in common and how we belong to each other."

For additional coverage of the news and events taking place at General Conference visit the Florida Conference Web site at


This article relates to General Conference.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service. He is also a member of the Florida Conference delegation.