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Melba's Mission Journal: The Orphanage in Malange, Angola

Melba's Mission Journal: The Orphanage in Malange, Angola

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Melba's Mission Journal: The Orphanage in Malange, Angola

Jan. 18, 2005    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0230}

NOTE:  A headshot of Whitaker is available at

An e-Review Commentary
By Melba Whitaker**

MALANGE, Angola — A young girl at the orphanage here stands by her bed, one of many in a long row of bunk beds covered with mosquito netting and housing the children's few belongings. Photo by Melba Whitaker, Photo #05-0137.
One of the first things Bishop José Quipungo did when he was elected bishop of the Eastern Angola Conference in 2000 was build an orphanage behind the conference building in Malange, which also houses his living quarters, the Hospital of Quéssua (a two-room clinic where Dr. Laurinda Quipungo practices medicine) and the offices of the conference and district staff. This orphanage is a concrete building that includes a cafeteria, a restroom with one toilet (no running water) and three rooms that are wall-to-wall bunk beds. Presently, the number of children in the orphanage is 29, though it often ranges up to 50 children, ages 4 to 20.

There is no room for any more children, though children come every week asking for housing, but there is literally no room in the inn. There are many orphans as a result of the country's 30-year civil war, which ended in 2002.

The first time I visited the orphanage in January 2003, I traveled with the Rev. Dr. Geraldine McClellan, superintendent of the Gainesville District, and Mike Wacht, director of communications for the conference. We were welcomed with song and bouquets of flowers. The children looked slightly underfed, but were happy to have a place to live and food to eat. At that time, funding of the orphanage came from the money Dr. Quipungo's patients paid her.

As we toured the dorm rooms we noticed there was room for more children. The rooms had only bunk beds, and the children's personal belongings were odds and ends they had picked up. The only clothing they had was what they wore. It was evident Bishop and Dr. Quipungo, as well as the rest of the conference staff, who all shared in the children's care, loved them.

MALANGE, Angola — Children at the orphanage here sing for Bishop Timothy and Melba Whitaker during their visit in November last year. Photo by Melba Whitaker, Photo #05-0138.

When Tim (Florida Conference Bishop Tim Whitaker) and I made plans to go to Angola in November 2004, I took the opportunity to take things for the children. The women who worked in the orphanage had asked us to send clothing and toys. I asked the staff at the Florida United Methodist Conference Center in Lakeland if they would help collect toys and clothing, and by the time I left there were two huge boxes of dresses, shirts, pants, flip-flops, flutes, whistles, balls, African-American dolls, matchbox cars and trucks, harmonicas, coloring books, crayons, children's books in Portuguese (which we didn't see any of in 2003), jump ropes, beads and numerous other toys. The Florida Conference Cabinet and United Methodist Foundation had contributed funds, enabling us to deliver $2,300 to Bishop Quipungo for needs at the orphanage. 

What a great time we had giving out the toys and clothing! There was enough for everyone to receive several things, even though the number of children had grown since I was there last. They immediately began putting on their new clothes, and the rest of the week the girls carried their dolls everywhere, strapping them on their backs the way women carry babies. As they walked back to their rooms that evening all the flutes were being played - a joyful noise in the quiet darkness. The next day the boys were out with their new soccer balls. We didn't know whether they would know what to do with the jump ropes, but as soon as we pulled them out, the girls were frantically raising their hands for them. Later that week, one of the children was reading one of the books to a younger child. Giving is so much more fun than receiving!

MALANGE, Angola — Teachers at the Women's Center, located at the Eastern Angola Conference Center here, stand next to some of their handiwork. The women teach the girls in the orphanage to sew and cook. The only sewing machines that work are two treadle machines bought with funds from the Florida Conference in 2003. Photo by Melba Whitaker, Photo #05-0139.

Later that week we visited the Women's Center that is also located in the conference building. It is a large room with two treadle sewing machines (purchased by the Florida Conference) and a stove. All of the girls in the orphanage and some from the community learn to sew and cook there. They make the uniforms for the students at the Hope for Africa School, which was built with monies from United Methodists in the United States.

With these skills, the girls in the orphanage will be able to keep house and also make things to sell that will generate an income for them and their future families. In fact, the older girls cook for the rest of the children there.

Each day during the week, the staff gathers for worship at 8 a.m., and if the children are not in school, they often come and participate. Part of the responsibility of maintaining this orphanage is the spiritual training of the children. This aspect of their lives is taken very seriously. Having the children around helps to humanize all of the work that goes on at the conference center. The staff is constantly reminded they are servant leaders, serving the smallest and neediest among them. If any one on the staff has a few free minutes, they may kick the soccer ball to the children, ask the children to help with some task and visit with the children. The children come to Dr. Laurinda Quipungo for any medical needs and know any of their needs will be met. I imagine the respite the children offer the staff in the way of play lessens the stress of their jobs. 

This is just one orphanage. Bishop Quipungo would like to build more orphanages around his conference because the need is so great. Taking on an orphanage is a big responsibility, involving providing for the children's educational, vocational, spiritual and physical well-being. The Eastern Angola Conference takes seriously Jesus' call to "Let the little children come to me."


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.