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Melba's Mission Journal: Worship at Damba United Methodist Church (July 13, 2004)

Melba's Mission Journal: Worship at Damba United Methodist Church (July 13, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Melba's Mission Journal: Worship at Damba United Methodist Church

July 13, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0109}

NOTE:  A headshot of Whitaker is available at

An e-Review Commentary
By Melba Whitaker**

In January of 2003, I had the marvelous opportunity to visit the Eastern Angola Conference with the Rev. Geraldine McClellan, district superintendent of the Gainesville District, and Mike Wacht, the head of our conference's communication department. Over the next several months, I will be sharing with you my experiences of this visit. We were blessed to have Bishop José and Dr. Laurinda Quipungo with us during the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event. Their witness of God's work in East Angola was very moving.  As we move deeper into a relationship with the Eastern Angola Conference, I hope that my musings will enhance your understanding of the life and ministry of East Angola.

Damba Refugee Village

DAMBA, East Angola — Children of the refugee village here stand in front of one of the village's mud houses. About 10,000 people live here after relocating during the country's 30-year civil war. Photo by Melba Whitaker, Photo #04-0042.

This Sunday's visit to Damba was one of the highlights of the trip for me. We rode out to this large refugee village of about 10,000 people over deeply rutted roads. The village consisted of thousands mud houses with thatched roofs, a communal building, a Catholic church, some run-down buildings left from the time of Portuguese rule and a bombed out United Methodist Church. People had come here to this village as they escaped from the 30-year civil war that raged throughout east Angola. 

We were ushered into a communal building that we assumed was the church. Leaders welcomed us with speeches and hospitality. Bishop Quipungo had asked Geraldine to preach that day and when he turned to her to speak, she thought that was the time to preach, so she did! Only when we were leaving the communal house did she realize that the church service was yet to come and she still had to preach!  
We walked over to the church with people following us, and we could hear the beautiful acappella singing of the villagers. Children were running to church while the adults followed carrying plastic chairs to sit on during the worship service. Women were dressed in their Sunday best with every color in God's creation swaying to the beat of the music. The United Methodist Church was a large shell of a building with no roof or windows. People were jammed in and the aisle was strewn with branches, which we later learned was a mosquito repellant for the mosquitoes that carry the deadly malaria prevalent in the area. We walked down the aisle and sat behind the pulpit. There were choirs from the church and also from the Catholic Church. Children were everywhere anxious to get a look at the visitors from across the ocean, which they had never seen. After introductions, the choirs sang-it was a treat to hear the harmony and the wonderful strong voices. We all had an opportunity to speak and then Geraldine preached for a second time that morning! There was plastic over where we were sitting that protected us from the heat of the sun and a huge tree that sheltered many in the congregation. The service was very liturgical with the Apostle's Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the doxology and familiar hymns sung in Portuguese. It was truly a wonderful day of worship with brothers and sisters here in the bush of central Angola.  

DAMBA, East Angola — Large plastic tubs of food are brought by the children here to the altar during the worship service's offering time. The food is given to the pastor to help support him and his family. Pastors in the Eastern Angola Conference do not receive a salary. Photo by Melba Whitaker, Photo #04-0041.

When the offering was collected, people were putting in Kwanza bills that amount to about 15 cents. Large plastic tubs were passed among the children. They placed their offerings of ears of corn, kernels of corn, small bags of meal, rice, loose beans, a melon, and other bits of food. All of this was brought forward and placed together next to the altar. I was reminded of the Bible story of the widow's mite-giving generously from what you have, even if it is a small amount. This was given to the pastor, as none of the pastors in the East Angola Conference receive a salary. This food would enable the pastor's family to survive.
After the service we drove back to the communal house and had lunch prepared by the village women. Delicious chicken and tomatoes were served with other things that we ate with relish. We had cokes to drink that were brought in on young girls' heads by the caseload. The communal meal was celebrated with joy!
Before we left Dr. Laurinda Quipungo, a pediatrician, presented the leaders of Damba with a shoebox that was filled with medications. The village was thrilled to have this medicine as they are miles from the nearest clinic or hospital and to get to either of them they have to walk. Our team had brought with us a large amount of over-the-counter medication to give to Dr. Quipungo. This pitiful donation included vitamins, aspirin, children's Tylenol, eardrops and other medications that Dr. Quipungo had requested. We were overwhelmed at the needs of the people and their gratitude for the small offerings we brought.
Worshipping in Damba was truly a God-filled time where we shared in the Word of God, the music of children and adults, and the blessing that God continues to work in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Africa.
If you would like to contribute to the offering for East Angola, you can make a check out to your local church, designated for the Eastern Angola Conference, Advance #810. 


This commentary relates to Missions.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Whitaker coordinates the Florida Conference's Children's Harvest ministry and leads conference clergy spouses in mission trips around the world as part of an initiative by spouses of United Methodist bishops to promote and support mission activities.