6.21.2008

One More Email

Hey all,

I suspect this will be our last communication from Angola. We are once again in the capital city, Luanda. We will spend our last week here meeting with several leaders and missionaries from different church groups and exploring the cost and conditions of living in Luanda.

Over the past week we spent a couple days in Huambo - perhaps the second largest city in Angola - where no missionaries are currently working. The city was affected heavily by the civil war that ended in 2002 and is rebuilding quickly.

We flew from Huambo to Luena - a smaller provincial capital - where we spent two days with a group of Angolans who became Christians in Zambia while fleeing the war. They returned and began worshiping together, but have faced many difficulties in a country that now seems strange to them. We worshiped with them on Sunday; Danny and I both delivered messages to the church (two sermons in one service!).

From there we traveled to a third provincial capital, Malange, and spent two days there. Our team took a much needed day to relax and recuperate; several of us were sick and we were all very tired from our travel (thankfully, we recovered quickly from our sicknesses - I suspect a strange looking sausage was the culprit in my case). We also spent a few hours with the small ICA congregation there.

Keep praying for us as we finish out the final week of our research trip. We are still excited about the door God is opening for us here, but we do miss all our family and friends back home (and good old fashioned cheeseburgers!). We look forward to sharing more with you about all that we have learned.

In His Service,Robert and Teague

6.12.2008

Emails that Robert is Sending

Here are the two emails that Robert has sent so far for those of you who are not getting them...

1)

Hey all,

Today marks one week on the road to and through Angola. So far we are excited about what we have seen and learned. We arrived in Luanda (the capital) early in the morning on Saturday. We spent the day getting situated, visiting with the Baptist missionaries who are housing us in Luanda, and visiting with Charles - our Angolan friend who became a Christian while living as a refugee of the war in Zambia. He has since returned to live in Luanda and has been a great friend to us! He did all the paperwork in Angola for our visas that allow us to be here. He will also travel with us for the majority of our travels to be our guide, our translator, and to introduce us to several contacts that we have made here.

On Sunday in Angola, we worshiped with the non-denominational church group here who has invited us to be here (we cannot enter the country without a formal invitation). This group of Christians began in Africa among Ãngolan refugess as a movement for Christian unity through a focus on Scripture. I preached a message from 1 John - through a translator. They are very excited to have us here and recognize that there is much work to be done Angola. There are few churches and the Christians here need teaching and training so that the church may grow!

We spent Monday meeting with various leaders within the small church group - who, coincidentally, call themselves the Churches of Christ in Angola. They have 13 small congregations in Luanda (a city of 6 million) and about 20 other congregations throughout the country - though they are almost exclusively limited to the Northeast portion of the country. We see a great opportunity to help this small movement that is so similar to our own heritage! We will spend more time with them to find out where the greatest needs are, what has worked and what has not worked, and to develop a strategy for our future work here.

We traveled on Wednesday to our next destination, Benguela. The trip took a whole day during which our taxi driver had to replace both wheel barrings on the cab (giving us much time to sight see). At one point, the luggage flew out the back door because the latch was not secured. Everyone laughed as I jumped out of the moving vehicle and chased down our bags before they could disappear. It was quite a sight!

We are currently making contacts in Benguela with one church that we have found here and several expatriots who may help us find out more about how the city functions, what living is like, etc.

We are thinking of you all! Keep praying for us!

Robert and Teague

2)

Greetings All!

God continues to bless our time in Angola. We spent four days in Benguela. During that time we worshiped with the one small (11 members) ICA church and visited with them about the struggles of starting a new church in the city and the needs of the people in Benguela. The church has struggled to grow – in number and in spiritual depth – in Angola because there is so little emphasis on study and training. Each church leader with who we have visited recognizes this as a major need of the church – for both members and church leaders. Even where the church acknowledges this need, there are few resources available. The same phenomenon is true of medical needs, primary and secondary schools, and businesses here. Few people see the value of education and opportunities for education are scarce.

In Benguela, we spent more time with Rev. Jose Chipenda and his wife Eva. They had much to share with us about the history of the church in Angola, the current struggles of the church, and the great need for education at all levels. We believe they will be wonderful mentors for our team. We also met Dr. Jose Alfouso, a Brazilian surgeon who has spent 9 years in Benguela practicing ophthalmology (1,200 cataract surgeries per year) and training others for this field – all with a Christian perspective. He shared with us about the challenges of both living and practicing medicine here. He confirmed the need of Angolans for training in all aspects of life.

There are many aspects of life here that do not operate as they do back home (recall the long taxi trip we made a week ago!). We concluded our stay in Benguela with a short evening on the beach. Our taxi driver dropped us off and headed back to Luanda; we expected to find another cab to take us back into town. But when we returned to the road, just before dark, our search for a taxi yielded no results. After an hour and a half we finally called Silva (our taxi driver from Luanda) and asked him to turn around and come pick us up. A few minutes later, however, we saw headlights in the darkness and Rusty ran out to stop the SUV pulling out of a neighboring home. A friendly Portuguese man (he spoke fluent English!) who had spent the weekend in their beach home with his young son offered to drive us back to the compound where we were staying. We filled two cars, so we visited with Tony and his brother Joao for an hour throughout the ride. They both were born and spent most of their lives in Angola. They had a different perspective to share with us about life and the church (they were baptized in the Catholic church, but are not active members). We gathered some excellent information that we would never have discovered otherwise, and made a couple new friends. Even though God worked in this situation for good, we agreed not to return to the beach without guaranteed transportation.

We are now in Lubango where the majority of all mission work that has been done in Angola over the last 60 years has taken place. We are visiting with several experienced missionaries who have lived here more than 20 years. Teague and Jordan – both nurses – were able to spend a day in surgery in the mission hospital that was built just two years ago. We will also visit a theological seminary here that trains church leaders and an orphanage. Even in Lubango, the church has struggled to take root in the city. We have learned a great deal about the people and the church in Angola.

Tomorrow we depart for our next stop – Huambo. We appreciate your prayers!

Robert and Teague

The Road to Lubango

The plan was to leave where we were staying at 5:30am, go to the bust station, get on a bus by 8:00am and be in Lubango about 6 hours later.

The following is what really happened:

5:00am ~ Wake up
5:30am ~ Packed and ready to go
5:45am ~ Walked from where we were staying (just outside of Benguela) to the main road
6:40am ~ Charles (our translatior, guide, and selfless friend) arrives with a taxi
7:02am ~ Arrive at the bus
7:30am ~ Bus leaves (they put us on the earlier bus, we are making good time!)
8:30am ~ Bus breaks down
9:15am ~ Bus that we were originally going to take drives by and picks up ten passengers for ten seats that were empty (our seats).
12:17pm ~ On the road again...
12:26pm ~ flat tire (people dive by us holding up two fingers, indicating there are two busses that have broken down...yes, we know, thank you for pointing it out) ~ driver hitches a ride to the construction site ahead to borrow a jack.
13:28 ~ Tire on...on the road again...
13:35 ~ Returned jack to construction site
13:41 ~ Stopped in small town. Passtengers buy a lunch of chicken and fried potatoes through the bus windows.
13:47 ~ On the road again...
14:19 ~ Pause for cattle crossing
15:09 ~ Bus driver stops to chat with bus coming in the opposite direction
15:19 ~ Bathroom break at a bar
16:43 ~ Bathroom break on the side of the road (driver pretends to pull away and the men and women run back to the bus zipping their pants and pulling down their skirts)
19:43 ~ Arrive at gas station where a local missionary will pick us up ~ we´re in Lubango!!
20:00 ~ Picked up by local missionary
21:57 ~ Dinner at the missionary compound

Thankfully, we are no longer scheduled to use public transportation between cities. We will be chartering a plane with Missions Aviaton Fellowship.

6.05.2008

The Road to Benguela

I am in an internet cafe in Benguela. To get to Benguela from Luanda you drive down a paved road for approximately 6 hours (or so we were told) along the coast. The drive was beautiful, ocean to our right at times, rivers to cross, palm trees, mud huts, people in colorful clothing carring their things on their heads, mountains, corn fields, I could go on and on.

The drive was quite an experience. We hired an Angolan taxi driver named Silva to take us down to Benguela and around town while we are here. Picture a blue and white van (that looks somewhat like a Volkswagen van, but a litte bigger. We sit on padded benches that are not padded enough because we can feel a large bar under our bottoms running the length of each bench. It is a very bumpy ride when we are not on paved road.

Our driver picked us up around noon yesterday and we went to pick up his "friend" (we learned who he was a little further down the road) that was going with us (we didnt know why at the time). When we opened the back of the van to put their things in the back of the van took several slams to get it shut~there was something up with the latch. We finally got it closed and we were off...a little way down the road the back of the van opened and out flew all of our luggage into the street. We yelled to stop the driver and Robert was over the back seat out the back door to get the luggage before the driver had even come to a complete stop. We got all of our luggage back in the back and tied the door shut with some roap that Jordan happened to have in her bag. We spent a lot of time laughing about the event as we continued our road trip. My backpack has a small injury, that will be patched when we get back to the states :)

As we turned from a neighborhood road to the main road, our driver decided to make his own path through the oncoming traffic...picture four lanes of traffic alternating directions...it was quite a sight. In the states I would be pretty scared for my life if this happened. Here in Angola it is normal, the cars and trucks and motorcycles part like the red sea for you when you drive into oncoming traffic :)

We drove on and discovered that the radiator had a leak and kept overheating. So, we stopped about every hour or so to put more water in it. During one of these stops we had a chance to walk down to a small village on the beach and look around for at least an hour~a slight delay. We ended up driving in the dark...

Our driver made a unexpected stop further down the road. This is when we found out who the mysterious passenger was. He was the mechanic! We needed to stop because the left front wheen bearing needed to be replaced. So we stopped for about an hour to replace it (in the dark)and we were on our way again. At this point we were pretty sure that we would not make it to Benguela until very late and night.

An hour or two more down the road we made another stop just outside the town of Sumbe. No, it was not to add water to the radiator...it was to replace the wheel bearing on the right front wheel this time!! We decided to stop for the night at a hotel in Sumbe called Hotel Ritz.

The mechanic made the repairs overnight, while we got about 5 hours of sleep, and we made it to Benguela the next morning!

(I completed this entry on 6/12 in an internet cafe in Lubango~I was not able to spell check, so please forgive me!)

6.03.2008

We have had an eventful time in Angola so far. We are currently in the capital city of Luanda. Luanda is a large, busy, packed with people city with lots of traffic and huge piles of trash everywhere! The weather has been nice--probably in the high 70s and 80s and it cools down a lot in the evening.

Because I am sharing a slow Internet connection with 7 other people I will give you a quick picture of what has been going on...

Church went well Sunday. We were warmly welcomed by the church in Luanda--they had us sit on the stage during church and they provided a meal for us after church. Robert did a great job preaching with a translator (only one in Portuguese) and he developed a mysterious accent when preaching (Remind me to tell you about that later).

We have been spending our time meeting with church leaders and missionaries, exploring local markets and supermarkets, riding the bumpy roads (it remind me of the Indiana Jones Ride at Disney) with our crazy taxi driver in the crazy Luanda traffic, visiting the ministry of religious affairs, learning a little Portuguese, and just getting a general feel for the city. This is not the only time we will spend in the capitol, we will come back for about a week at the end of the trip.

We are staying at a Baptist missionary's guest house. It has been very comfortable so far, we just need to make sure we conserve water while we are here. The only real difficulty that we have had is that Robert was a little dehydrated today and needed to stay home because he felt very sick. He gulped down the Gatorade we brought and is feeling much better this evening.

Tomorrow we have a long drive to Benguela.