Conference brings Angolan students to Florida to study, share

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference brings Angolan students to Florida to study, share

May 6, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando  {0288}

An e-Review Feature
By John M. De Marco**

LAKELAND — Florida Southern College (FSC) and the Florida Conference will soon play host to two students from the East Angola Conference, and churches across Florida will be blessed by their testimonies.

MALANGE, Angola — Francisco Cautama (left) reviews literature from Florida Southern College (FSC) with his translator during a visit with Bishop Timothy W. and Melba Whitaker last November. Cautama is one of two Angolan students who will be studying at FSC this fall as part of the East Angola-Florida Conference Partnership. Photo by Melba Whitaker, Photo #05-0160.

Francisco Cautama and Alcides Martins, both 21 years old, will reside in Florida during the 2005-2006 school year and are slated to stay in the state for about 18 months. They will live at Florida Southern College, study English and work at the Florida Conference Center in Lakeland. Conference leaders are still working to secure travel visas for the pair, who are expected to arrive in Florida in August at the earliest.

Cautama is the East Angola Conference youth director, while Martins is youth director of that conference's Malange District. Plans call for them to visit Florida Conference churches during two weekends each month. 

MALANGE, Angola — Alcides Martins reviews literature from Florida Southern College (FSC) during a visit with Bishop Timothy W. and Melba Whitaker last November. He is one of two Angolan students who will be studying at FSC this fall as part of the East Angola-Florida Conference Partnership. Photo by Melba Whitaker, Photo #05-0161.

The trip is part of a partnership between the Florida and East Angola conferences that began in February 2003 under the umbrella of the Hope for the Children of Africa initiative. The United Methodist Council of Bishops asked the Florida Conference to turn its attention to East Angola after completing construction of the Bishop Cornelius L. and Dorothye Henderson Secondary School in Mozambique.

Offerings collected at each Florida Annual Conference event will go toward projects in the East Angola Conference, including rebuilding Quéssua, an area that was once a thriving missionary and spiritual center of the United Methodist Church in Angola. It's located near the city of Malange, and many of the area's buildings were destroyed during the country's 27-year civil war. The complex included Quéssua United Methodist Church, an elementary school for boys and girls, residences for missionaries and school and hospital administrators, dormitories for students and a hospital, college, school of domestic sciences and theological seminary.

Money raised by the Florida Conference has already been used to purchase bicycles for 35 pastors, sewing machines for the Malange Women's Training Center and medicine for the Quéssua Medical Clinic in Malange. Money has also been set aside to assist with salaries for teachers at the seminary and improvements in the conference's communications ministry.

At the "One Body One Spirit" 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event June 2-5, 80 percent of the offering will go toward funding projects of the East Angola-Florida Conference Partnership, including rebuilding the theological school and bringing Cautama and Martins to Florida. The Florida Conference is covering the cost of their transportation to Florida, visa costs and living expenses while they are in the United States. FSC is providing in-kind instruction and dormitory space.
Bishop Timothy W. and Melba Whitaker spent time with the two students when they visited Angola last November to attend the rededication of Quéssua United Methodist Church and strengthen the partnership between the two conferences.

Cautama shared that he is the youngest of seven children and hopes to become an attorney. He plays basketball and soccer and sings gospel music. During his time in Florida he hopes to learn about church and conference finances. He is currently secretary for the board of finance for the East Angola Conference, where Bishop José Quipungo has young adults working at the conference level with the hopes of training them to become competent church leaders.

Martins' mother is a pastor in the East Angola Conference. When he returns to Angola after the next school year he plans to focus on developing the Christian education department for the conference, which will include writing educational literature for all ages. Martins hopes to focus his time in Florida on computers and communication, in conjunction with Christian education.

ANGOLA — Alcides Martins joins Bishop Timothy W. and Melba Whitaker and other members of the East Angola Conference staff on a trip to Kalandula Falls during the Whitakers' visit to Angola last November. Photo by Melba Whitaker, Photo #05-0162.

During the Whitakers' visit Bishop Whitaker asked the staff of the East Angola Conference how lay people in Angola were responding to the gospel. Melba Whitaker said Martins replied, "People recognize in Jesus that there is someone who will share their burdens and understands their poverty."

Melba said both young men are excited about the possibility of traveling across the conference, as well as visiting different areas of the United States on breaks.

Michael Crawford, FSC's director of church relations, said having the students at FSC is a "great opportunity."

"When I came to Florida Southern two years ago, it was to broaden the college's perception of its connectedness to the conference and the conference's perception of its connectedness to the college," Crawford said. "One of my goals is that if this particular pilot program goes well, maybe we could export it to other United Methodist colleges in other conferences. Other schools could reach out to their Central Conference counterparts."

Crawford said he believes all parties involved at the campus level will be enriched by the presence of the Angolan students.

"I think it's going to be an invaluable experience on both parts — for these young men to experience what we have to offer here, but also the interaction that our students will get from these students. Any time we can expose Florida Southern students to a diverse culture, I think that's healthy," he said. "I hope there will be lasting relationships that are built between these students and our young men."

The college is hoping to pair Cautama and Martins with students who can serve as guides through the process.

"These young men are being exposed to not just the college, but western civilization from a uniquely Lakeland perspective. I don't want it to just be older church folks they can call, but people their own age, to ask things like, 'What does this particular slang term mean?' When they're watching a television show, to say, 'What do these things mean?' "

Melba Whitaker says the two will do well in the United States. "They are wonderful young men who will represent East Angola very well."


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a commissioned minister of the Florida Conference and a freelance writer, speaker and consultant.

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