Oct. 17, 2008
Greetings from Angola!
After arriving here on October 3 we went almost immediately to the Annual Conference Session of the West Angola Conference, which was held in a northern province of Ndalantando, Oct. 5-12. Our team (Laura, Selena and Emily Heffernan; Donna Van Maanen; Rob Jennings-Teats; and I) are all well and our cups overfloweth with new learnings, new sights, and beautiful music!
Please greet your churches from the Angolan United Methodist Churches in Angola, who send their greetings and prayers to California-Nevada churches.
The Annual Conference Session of the West Angola UM Conference was a great place to hear about the ministries and the mission context of our brothers and sisters in Angola. We learned about their efforts to pay pastors and the real challenges faced in their first year to setting up an apportionment system to provide sufficient funds to pay pastors salaries. It surprised them to hear that we in the U.S. also struggle to meet our budget and to make the apportionment system work for us, too. We had many conversations about it being a spiritual issue, not just an economic issue.
The West Angola leaders are working hard to convince pastors and lay leaders that this can work—but only if large, wealthier churches are willing to help the small, rural churches. I had a chance to speak briefly about the apportionments being a covenant, like the covenant that God has made with us through Jesus Christ. And, from those who have much, much is required. (It isn’t too hard to know where we fall in that continuum of responsibility!)
We have had some great conversations about church growth and social evangelism approaches that are used here in Angola. I learned a lot about the ways the church here provides training to people to evangelize through personal invitations to friends, family, coworkers, and also through street evangelism techniques. I asked one youth leader what her experience was about the success of the two different approaches, and I was surprised when she said they were equally effective to involve young people in the church here.
The churches in Angola deliberately reach out to different age groups, meeting people in the midst of their day-to-day realities. For example, the evangelism to young adults specifically prioritizes helping the young adults (ages 25-35) to get their first jobs, as it is critical for them to establish work at that time if they are going to be successfully integrated into society and have the opportunity to provide for a family. The evangelism focuses on Bible studies, fellowship, and music for spiritual development—without neglecting the reality of physical needs of life.
The UMVIM team will return to California-Nevada this coming Thursday, but I will stay another week for additional connections with leaders here. After taking a couple of days to visit friends in East Angola UM Conference and to review the progress of the Pastor Salary Plan set up there by the Yellowstone Conference, I will return to Luanda. Immediately after my return, I am planning to go to Huombo Province, early next week, to make a connection with the school/community center that is supported by the Children and Poverty Initiative and the Angola Partnership committees.
Rob Jennings-Teat, Laura Heffernan, Donna Van Maanen and I have come up some great ideas to make the connection with Angola real to our churches through this school project and also the Agricultural Irrigation Farm Project that Bishop Domingos has asked California-Nevada to support. We will travel tomorrow to see the farm and speak with the project manager, Antonhio Sozinho. Each of us is looking forward to meeting with Board of Missions, Angola Partnership, Children and Poverty, and the Board of Discipleship about our proposed plan for integrating our Angola Partnership into the life of our California-Nevada conference!
Please keep us in your prayers as we continue to represent the churches in California-Nevada Conference and the Western Jurisdiction, too. Daily we are blessed abundantly and challenged mightily to be the people and the church that God calls us to be.
Grace e Paz,