11 August 2010

AfriCom in Angola

Tim writes: Four of our team have just returned from a very full and satisfying road trip to Angola.

Full is an understatement: we drove a crazy nine thousand kilometres, much off road – that’s 135 hours in the car, an average of nine hours driving every single day. We visited seven Youth With A Mission locations - spread out over several provinces - shot twenty hours of video, and interviewed dozens of people, working 18-hour days for two weeks. We travelled as far north as Cabinda, above the mouth of the Congo River, and our total distance driven could almost have reached Cairo.

Satisfying is also an understatement: being a missions communicator is always exciting, but especially so when we get to tell the stories of ordinary people, doing quite extraordinary things. Often these people are unheard of, living in remote places, like those YWAM staff members we met working with isolated tribes in Angola’s low-lying savannah.

Angola is going through huge changes. Forty years of war ended eight years ago, since then oil has been discovered and the economy is growing fast. The infrastructure destroyed by guerrilla war is being rebuilt, roads are being tarred, new buildings are shooting up.

YWAM Angola is going through similar changes. A small team of Brazilian missionaries arrived in the country in 1991, at the height of the war. Their early years were spent in relief work, food distribution and training Angolans. Three Brazilian YWAMers died in the country in those early pioneering years. Several YWAM ministries have been thriving for more than a decade, in particular church planting and community development work among various tribes, and work among children at risk in one of the poorest communities in Lobito. These ministries have now bought land and are beginning the process of building training locations where they can teach other Angolans the skills they’ve learned over the years of work.

Given the changes in YWAM Angola it was a superb time to be travelling in the country. We visited each location, and now have footage to edit a promotional video for the YWAM teams. YWAM Angola is at the stage of moving to a new level in terms of training and multiplication. We trust that the video will help them publicise their work to raise funds, personnel and prayer.

Back in 1999, my small group leader on our Discipleship Training School in Cape Town was Brazilian, Ismael. He was in Cape Town for a year learning English, taking a break from work in Angola. Now he is YWAM Angola’s national director and he accompanied us on our trip. It was great to spend time with Ismael, to have hours to talk, and to see his leadership style up close. Most inspiring is to see the fruit of Ismael and Sibeli’s twenty years of sacrificial work in Angola. Many of the Angolans they trained are now full-time missionaries, training others.

Sixteen years ago Inacio was in the army, struggling with a drink problem. He wandered drunk into a church service, and left feeling called to full-time missions. Within months he had joined YWAM and begun working with street kids in Lobito. He married Mila and adopted eight street kids, bringing them up alongside their four biological children. Inacio started a school for neighbouring children, which the city mayor has called the best childrens’ project in the city. Today, local businesses are so impressed with the work that most of their food comes for free – Inacio showed me three freezers full of fresh fish! Every fortnight a tanker delivers water to the site, given freely by the mayor. Today, they are building a school on a new plot of land. They also plan a vocational training school, a clinic, and a training centre for people working with children at risk.

Inacio and Mila’s large family is growing up. One son is now being trained in South Africa for further work with YWAM. Another is a skilled welder, and is helping on the school construction site. Just a decade ago they were both street kids, rummaging for food in rubbish dumps.

It was inspiring to meet several Angolan YWAMers like Inacio. During this season of economic boom he has the potential to find a high-paying job. Yet he continues to follow his calling, putting faith into action. His vision to build and train others is contagious. He’s leading by example.

It was great to travel with three other AfriCom-ers. As none of them had visited Angola before it was a baptism of fire all round! In the hours on the road we had plenty of time to talk, argue, make-up again, and get to know each other much more deeply than in the office. I love my job ;-)

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