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March trip to Angola intended to improve communications

March trip to Angola intended to improve communications

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

March trip to Angola intended to improve communications

Feb. 3, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0438}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

When a team of six from the Florida Conference travels to the East Angola Conference in March, they will be taking some much-needed communications technology with them.

LAKELAND — The Rev. Tom Norton helps coordinate AMEN (Amateur Methodist Emergency Network) Radio, which operates from the Florida Conference offices and helps keep communications going between various recovery and relief groups during disasters. Norton is disaster response coordinator for the Gulf Central District of the Florida Conference and pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg. A UMNS photo by John Gordon, Photo #06-305.
"It's commercial radio ... so that the bishop will be able to contact his district superintendents and vice versa," said the Rev. Tom Norton, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg and a member of the team.

The trip, scheduled to begin March 27, is another venture in a partnership between the two conferences that began in 2003.

The equipment the team will take to Bishop José Quipungo's conference includes 10 commercial-grade radio systems. The quality of these particular radios is good enough for use in locations such as offshore oil rigs, according to Norton.

"We're talking heavy-duty, rugged gear, so it won't break down on them," Norton said.

The use of radio communications is important in Angola because telephone service is intermittent and such features as conference calls are very expensive. Although cellular phone service is growing, it is also pricey, according to Norton.

Norton, who has experience as a licensed radio operator, will install the system for Quipungo and his district superintendents. He emphasized this is not ham or amateur radio.

"We are getting the latest equipment out, and it'll be basically plug and play, so that everything's as automated as it can be," Norton said.

In addition to the two-way communications at the district level, the new radio systems will enable Quipungo to set up a broadcast schedule that could include such communications as conference-wide announcements or a Bible study or sermon series.

The radios will also enhance the area's emergency communications during any disasters or medical crises. Citizens who purchase a relatively inexpensive short-wave listening radio would be able to tune in to sideband radio and listen to the East Angola Conference broadcasts, Norton said.

"That means that hopefully, in the future, we can get radios like that to individual churches and villages so they can listen to what's going on," Norton said.

To operate the new commercial system, the East Angola Conference will be purchasing two frequencies at a cost of $4,000 per year. Each frequency must be licensed through the Angolan government. One frequency will likely be used for daytime communications, and the other for nighttime, Norton said.

The equipment was purchased through funds made available from the Florida Conference, Norton said. Icel Rodriguez, assistant director of the mission and justice ministries of the Florida Conference Connectional Ministries office, estimates the total cost to set up the system is approximately $24,000.

Traveling with Norton is the Rev. Steve Price of Harvest United Methodist Church in Bradenton, Nancy Berzins of Shepherd's Community United Methodist Church in Lakeland, Ed Chappell of Lakewood United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, the Rev. St. Clair Moore of Rogers United Methodist Church in Bradenton, and Rodriguez, staff liaison for the Florida-East Angola Conference Partnership and coordinator of the trip.

Price is putting together liturgy training for the East Angola Conference, while Chappell will be providing financial training. Moore is in charge of training on evangelism, and Berzins will teach about women's ministry. Rodriguez will work with children at the orphanage in Malange.

Additional goals for the trip include building relationships, as well as seeking ways to connect Florida churches with East Angolan churches, Rodriguez said.  Funding for the trip will come from the Florida Conference budget.

This article relates to East Angola-Florida Conference Partnership.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Viera, Fla.