Report About Our Visit to Angola
Along with Jorge and Kathy de Campos, Beverly and I visited our partnering churches in Portuguese-speaking Angola. The faithfulness of the Angolan brethren is in the class of those listed in Hebrews 11. They have endured war, poverty, betrayal, and now persecution. Yet they have remained faithful, almost 6,000 of them scattered throughout the nation of Angola. From last Friday through Monday, we worked through a full schedule that included Sabbath services, Bible studies, meetings with their council, a women's seminar, leadership training, visits to primary schools that they operate, and simply fellowshipping with people of like faith and practice. Local radio and national television reporters even stayed for Sabbath services and then interviewed us.
On the Sabbath, 1,873 people attended the combined services at the Vidrul congregation in Luanda, Angola. This is the largest group that I have spoken to since the start of the United Church of God.
The relationship between UCG and the Angolan church is remarkable in that we have extensive knowledge of these people going back to 1993. Both of our churches have gone through similar fiery spiritual trials in our history. They are called the "Worldwide Church of God" since that's where and when they first became associated with what we currently teach.
We arrived Friday morning in Luanda at 5:30 a.m. from Germany. We were met by their leaders at the airport, who immediately took us to their main church hall. The main office of the church is at this location in a separate building, as well as their six-classroom primary school called "Living Waters." In the city of Luanda, which has a population of 5 million, they have 15 congregations, each having its own church building.
We were warmly greeted by a welcoming song and many brethren who came for this Friday morning reception. Two lovely young girls dressed in all white dresses gave our wives two beautiful bouquets of flowers.
We then proceeded to the hall where the choir sang another beautiful song. A prayer was given to God in gratitude for our visit and pastor Paulino João Foi gave a welcoming speech. In it, he mentioned how the church in Angola had passed 20 years in a spiritual wilderness thinking that they were the only physical group remaining faithful to God. They never let go of hope—knowing that God would answer their prayers, sooner or later. God's answer to that prayer came when they made the first contact with United Church of God in late 2015. One of their members found the United Church of God on the Internet and contacted Jorge de Campos who has traveled to and communicated with them over the past four years. I have posted a brief history of the church in Angola on our Travel Blog.
The Angolans are grateful for the "building of bridges" that has occurred since then, as the UCG Council Chairman's letter stated in early 2016. Pastor Paulino added that the church in Angola was thankful for the spiritual help they have received with great care and sacrifice. It has strengthened the church in the study of the Word and of the gospel. The United Church of God has a sizable amount of literature translated into Portuguese that includes 36 booklets and the 28-page bi-monthly magazine A Boa Nova. He also mentioned that we are united through the Spirit in Christ's doctrine and that the church in Angola is ready to listen to the orientation that Christ will give them though UCG's leadership with the intended desire of continued unity with the members of the body (1 Corinthians 12:13 1 Corinthians 12:13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
American King James Version×).
I thanked the church in Angola for their faithful dedication to God all these years. I also reiterated that we look forward to a continued relationship in the years ahead. Following this, we personally greeted every single one of the more than 100 members who were there.
Later in the afternoon, we met with the leadership to discuss the planned activities and to address a number of questions some of the men asked me about how we came into the Truth and my first few years in the ministry. We had an enjoyable afternoon of becoming acquainted with one another personally.
We arrived at the church hall just before 9 a.m. for the 10 a.m. Sabbath service. We were met with a surprise welcome by people lined up to greet us. The people usually meet for an hour before church services for singing. I had to stay closely tethered to Jorge for Portuguese-to-English translation. Jorge was the only person who could effectively translate for us.
The people are very nice looking and very friendly. The women do not wear jewelry and they dress very modestly. Just before services, a power failure silenced the public address system and electric piano. But very quickly, a generator was fired up and services started punctually at 10 a.m. After the introductory hymns came the official start with a prayer followed by the sermonette and special music, which were mostly choirs of youth and adults.
The service format was like ours in the United Church of God. Since they have been involved with the Worldwide Church of God from their beginning, they have continued as we do. They know our songs and sing from our UCG hymns with gusto; I even feel they sang some Dwight Armstrong hymns better than some of us! It was pleasant to hear our familiar melodies. Corbin Rose included the Portuguese lyrics in UCG's Hymnal mobile app.
The sermonette was delivered by their chairman, Paulino Foi, who spoke about us being a family as well as citizens of God's Kingdom: "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19 Ephesians 2:19Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
American King James Version×).
Then I delivered my sermon that was entirely from the first chapter of Ephesians. So both of us were on track in the first part of Ephesians! Interestingly, when Jorge de Campos gave a Bible Study in the afternoon after the youth activity, he quoted extensively from Ephesians 5.
The Angolan press corps was there when we arrived in the morning. They had been invited to come, and they did! They stayed through the whole service and interviewed us afterwards (both for television and radio), along with pastor Avelino Bumba. I emphasized that we have had a relationship with these people for several decades and that I had wanted to come and meet them in person. Among other questions they asked us were:
- What are you doing in Angola and what is the purpose of your visit?
- How are you going to work with the church here in Angola?
- What is the message that you are preaching?
- What is your Church's mission?
- How did you find the faith of these people to be?
The TV interview was broadcast over satellite TV in Angola on Sunday.
The afternoon meeting started with a youth and young people's program of music, scripture quoting and poetry. Everyone was very engaged. Then there were more hymns and the day closed around 5 p.m. after Jorge's Bible Study on Christ's love for the Church. As we closed the Bible Study, men and women rejoiced greatly as if it were a mini-feast.
On Sunday, July 28, we conducted three sessions of training for the brethren in Angola. The early morning session from 9:30 until 11 a.m. was an open session of questions and answers which I started by giving the history of the United Church of God, and a brief history of the Church of God overall. Jorge also added how the Portuguese website in the section "Who We Are" (Quem Somos) also has historical details of the Church from the days of the apostles through the modern day history of the Church.
Other questions asked were related to UCG's commitment to holding fast to the faith once delivered to the saints. One elder asked how we were going to be sure that the Church will protect us from doctrinal detours. I explained how we came to our Fundamental Beliefs and how our Constitution and Code of Ethics protect us from abuse. More than 300 people were present.
Presentation to the Ladies
Then followed what I considered to be one of the highlight presentations of our visit. Kathy de Campos and Bev Kubik held a two-and-a-half-hour session with 200 ladies that allowed them to share their challenges in Angola, particularly in society with children in school as they hold onto the faith. They also discussed how to train their children and manage their households. We were very impressed with their commitment to God's way and the training and support that the ladies have implemented in their 15 congregations around Luanda.
The discussion also progressed through a number of biblical examples of various ladies mentioned in the Bible and lessons we can gather from them. The session concluded with 10 virtues based on Proverbs 31 and other scriptures. I concluded the day with a training lecture about discipleship and service.
Our last day was no less jam-packed than the first three. We first went to another congregation called "Boa Esperança" (Good Hope) where they operate a primary school with 550 children. We walked through the classrooms and visited with the headmaster and teachers. Their annual school calendar respects all the Holy Days and the Feast of Tabernacles.
We then returned to Vidrul for the final meetings. Their ministry requested a session on our Code of Ethics, which I presented. Our final meeting was a board meeting with their Council of Elders and board in which we discussed their challenges and our working together.
Finally, to the airport and the long flight home. I thank our indefatigable Jorge de Campos for his translation, sacrifice and love for these people. Unforgettable!
You can follow more detailed reports about our visit to Angola at http://v2.travelark.org/travel-blog/victorkubik/26.