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Missioners to Angola settle into ministry, daily life

Missioners to Angola settle into ministry, daily life

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Missioners to Angola settle into ministry, daily life

By Jenna De Marco | Jan. 7, 2010 {1115}

While the Angolan town of Quéssua continues its rebuilding process, the Rodriguez family began its own form of building last year.

Amanda Rodriguez visits with boys from Quéssua Boarding School on the porch of her family's home in Angola. Photo by Armando Rodriguez. Photo #10-1355.

Since arriving in Angola in September, the Rev. Dr. Armando and Icel Rodriguez have been establishing relationships and settling into their roles as Florida Conference missioners to the East Angola Conference. The couple will live in Angola for one year as part of the East Angola/Florida partnership, which began in 2004. Their 21-year-old daughter, Amanda, is with them through United Methodist Volunteers in Mission.

The family now has their long-awaited work visas, valid until September 2010. They also have drivers’ licenses and periodically borrow a local missionary’s car for weekend grocery shopping. Other daily activities, such as computer work or laundry, depend on the availability of power or water, Icel said. A typical day includes four hours of electricity in the morning and three hours in the evening.

The family’s initial one-month stay in a fully furnished apartment in nearby Malange gave them enough time to set up their current home in Quéssua. They now have the basics — two beds, a stove, refrigerator, washing machine, kitchen cabinet, and dining table and chairs.

“Things here are twice, sometimes three times, more expensive than in the United States,” Icel said through e-mail. “Armando has done a great job negotiating lower prices, though.”

They communicate with the rest of the world through e-mail and a periodic blog about their experience ( Armando, Icel and Amanda weave historical, as well as humorous, details throughout their news.

A former middle school at Quéssua lies in ruins. Photo by Armando Rodriguez. Photo #10-1356.

Restoring buildings, lives

Although it took a month to furnish their house, that time was brief compared to what it will take to rebuild Quéssua. Three decades of civil war destroyed or damaged many of the buildings that made up this former educational, missionary and spiritual hub of The United Methodist Church in Angola. But progress is being made, Armando said, in a recent blog that focused on the significance of newly paved roads.

“This is the first time ever that roads will be paved here,” Armando wrote. “For a compound that was left in ruins during the war, paved roads are prominent signs of hope.”

The process of restoration is very noticeable, Icel said, since her last visit in 2006. In addition to the road paving and a rebuilt Quéssua United Methodist Church, several schools and homes have been reconstructed in the past few years.

Workers prepare the road to Quéssua for paving. The asphalt for the road, which begins at the Rodgriquezes' home, was laid in November. The Angolan government is paving the road and others with the help of Chinese constructors. Photo by Armando Rodriguez. Photo #10-1357.

“As we visited Quéssua soon after our arrival … the sight from the distance of the compound, with its peach-colored buildings, was the greatest and sweetest surprise,” Icel said.

Important as the physical rebuilding may be, “there is a lot to do to rebuild people’s lives — things that go way beyond the reconstruction of the buildings,” Icel said.

The Rodriguez family’s official and unofficial roles in Angola support the rebirth occurring in Quéssua. Icel’s duties include establishing a home base for future visits from Florida Conference mission teams, as well as continuing as director of the Florida Conference’s global mission ministry. Armando teaches at the School of Theology in Quéssua, and Amanda mentors orphans and teaches English to secondary school students. But these job descriptions only partly describe the events that fill their days.

“We constantly have visitors in the house,” Icel said. “A retired pastor knocks at our door almost every morning to check on us as he goes to work in the field. … Visitors are never announced, but should always be expected.”

The family has become “mom, dad and sister,” Icel said, to a group of more than 40 boys from the Quéssua Boarding School, which includes orphans and youth leaders from other districts. Most attend a nearby “Hope for Africa” middle school, while a few are students at the secondary school, Colegio de Quéssua.

“All of them are a joy to be around,” Icel said. “They have been through a lot in their young lives, but continue to be joyful devoted Christians.”

Visitors begin arriving

Improving the dining facilities of the Quéssua Boarding School is the goal for the first Florida Conference mission team, scheduled to visit Angola Jan. 14-28. Led by Greg Harford of the Florida Conference Disaster Recovery Ministry, the team will help build a kitchen and dining room for the boarding school. While details for the project are still being developed, photos of the school’s outdoor cooking facilities have demonstrated the need for improved amenities, Harford said.

The Rodriguezes’ home is among the buildings that have been renovated at Quéssua. Photo by Armando Rodriguez. Photo #10-1358.

In addition to working on the planned project, Harford is looking forward to meeting the local people, sharing meals with them and experiencing God’s movement.

“I have traveled to many places on mission trips, but this one is special,” Harford said. “Everywhere I have turned in the Scriptures — and even in the secular world — has pointed me in this direction. I truly feel that God has great adventures for this team.”

Other team members include the Rev. Beth Fogle-Miller, director of Florida Conference Connectional Ministries; the Rev. Annette Pendergrass, North Central District Superintendent, and her husband Scott Pendergrass of First United Methodist Church, Ormond Beach; Rafael Rivera of First United Methodist Church, Winter Garden; and Sandi Goodman of First United Methodist Church, Homestead. The team will stay in a house near the Rodriguez family and be followed by one team per month from Florida Conference churches through June 2010, Icel said.

Overall, the Rodriguez family has adjusted well to its new routine in Angola, Icel said, and has remained healthy, except for a few colds. They acknowledge God’s work for any acts of service they provide.

“God, and only God, is to be credited for whatever we have accomplished in Angola,” Icel said. “The Lord has opened wide doors in front of us. … We fully enjoy our ministry in Angola ‘for it is God who works in us to will and to act according to his good purpose.’ ”

Blog updates are found at Photos chronicling the Rodriguez family’s experiences are available at

More stories about the work at Quéssua and the East Angola/Florida Partnership are found at

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.