Cross-Cultural Travels, part 3

Day Seven: Return to Our Roots

Our first visit on the seventh day of our trip was the congregation where it all began. The first I.C.A. congregation planted by refugees returning from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, began just north of Damba in a neighborhood called “Catorze” (meaning “14”). Now the congregation consists of less than 15 adult members, primarily from one family. In the absence of a pastor, a father-son team leads the congregation, Mayala André and Bwaka André. We spent several minutes touring the grounds with these brothers and then set out for the northern border town of Maquela do Zombo.

Catorze Church

Pastor Bula from Damba (center) and the two couples that lead the Catorze congregation

Two I.C.A. congregations exist in Maquela. In the early afternoon we arrived at the first. We met Pastor Domingos Tomás and ate lunch. After lunch, Banda had a closed meeting with the local leadership while the rest of us chatted outside. Several of the other delegates began to grow concerned that we would be late for our next scheduled appointment with the Municipal Administrator. It seems that timeliness becomes much more important when visiting someone of high status, though individuals of high status are rarely on time themselves (never, in my experience thus far). Someone entered the building to advise Banda of the time. Banda acknowledged the warning and calmly stated that his purpose was first and foremost the people of God, and that visiting government officials would only come after that purpose was fulfilled. This statement met some alarm among the other delegates who heard the report, but Danny, Nathan, and I quietly admired Banda’s carefully adjusted propriety.

During Banda’s meeting, the “young people” of the congregation (generally speaking, anyone between the ages of 16 and 35) met under a tree outside for a discussion led by Jonas (who we picked up in Damba) and Makiesse (who had just joined us that same day), the director of I.C.A.’s one-year ministry training school (E.T.O.I.C.A.). Jonas and Makiesse stressed the importance of regular Bible study and sincere involvement in the daily life of the church. Makiesse also recruited people for E.T.O.I.C.A. Nathan, Danny and I joined this conversation and shared our own thoughts. We were encouraged by the enthusiasm of these young men and women.

We left for the government offices at an hour when most government officials have gone home for the day (after 3 PM). As we expected, the Assistant Administrator was not present (and the Administrator was on holiday – a theme for the trip) but they directed us to his home. We arrived at a beautiful old-Portuguese mansion and were invited inside to sit in a large living room with ornate furniture and a high ceiling. The Assistant Administrator entered to greet us and apologized for the setting (ironically), then we went through the usual process while seated on plush sofas.

Departing the mansion, we drove to the Ministry of Culture. The official had left for the weekend (it was Friday) and they asked us to come back on Monday. Banda explained that we were returning to Luanda on Monday. They suggested that we return to Luanda after our meeting with Minister of Culture. Banda thanked them for their help. We walked outside and he assured us that we would not extend our trip for this meeting.

We returned relatively early to the church. Nathan, Danny, and I set out in search of fuel for the vehicles, but the only pump in town was out of diesel and gasoline. We deliberated for a few minutes about whether to purchase some of the fuel for sale in 2 liter bottles at an adjacent market stall that was very likely diluted with water. A Portuguese motorist, working for a mining company, saw us at the pump and stopped to meet us. He advised us against using the bottled fuel. We determined that we could make it through the next day’s travel with our jerry can reserve and returned to the church building.

We enjoyed a dinner of the usual fare. Our hosts kept a bucket of cold water full for us in an outdoor room for bathing. After a bit of relaxation, we rolled out our sleeping bags on the straw mats provided and slept.

 

Day Eight: Into the Wilderness

The day’s agenda included two visits to churches located some distance outside the city in opposite directions. We set out west to reach the first congregation, traversing a much rougher road than others we had traveled thus far on the trip. Two hours later we arrived at a small village, Malele, composed of about two dozen mud brick homes with thatch roofs. The church building stood at the edge of town looking over a steep hill that descended to a river and rose again to form taller hills in the distance. The church members share a plot of land on the closest part of this expanse where they have planted cassava.

The village of Malele

The village of Malele

The local Soba, traditional community leaders [think: chief] to whom the Angolan government assigns official titles and responsibilities, attended our assembly. Our visit marked the first time Banda had visited this congregation. After the meeting we explored the land a bit while lunch was prepared. Then we ate together, took a group photo, and piled back into the vehicles.

We drove through Maquela and out to the northeast to reach the congregation in Kimbata, a larger village on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The terrain was rugged and included a river crossing where locals pointed out the safest route through the water. We arrived with much fanfare and met Pastor Kassowa Pedro. About 30 adults and 70 or more children attended the service. After a meal and a photo session, the congregation presented us with a sheep to add to our livestock collection. We began the trip back to Maquela, with the sheep on the roof, and reached the river crossing at dusk. Upon our arrival our hosts in Maquela prepared tea and a light snack for us. We relaxed a bit and retired for the night.

We are thankful for our vehicles!

We are thankful for our vehicles!

 

Day Nine: The Grand Conclusion

Our breakfast on Sunday morning was a special meal that included eggs and sausages (read: little hot dogs) alongside the usual fare. We showered and dressed and had an exuberant combined worship service with both of the congregations from Maquela. Banda delivered the final performance of his Nehemiah 1 sermon and each of us greeted the church with a few words of encouragement. After the service ended, we ate lunch with Pastor Domingos Tomás.Then Banda began teaching his Bible lesson about the tabernacle to a handful of church leaders while the rest of us chatted outside in the shade.

Banda and the pastors from Maquela

Banda and the pastors from Maquela

After the conclusion of these meetings, we began to load the vehicles and took a few last photographs. We had an uneventful drive back to Damba, where we would spend the night and plan to get an early start the following morning. We arranged to have the original two goats, the newly acquired sheep, a third goat (a gift from the Damba congregation), and the sacks of ground cassava delivered at 5:00 am so that we could load the vehicles early. After a light supper, we slept.

Day Ten: The Delegation Returns

At about 5:15 in the morning, Danny, Nathan and I began loading the vehicles. We put the three goats and the sheep on Danny’s roof rack. Three sacks of ground cassava (weighing at least 70 kg each) went in the back of Nathan’s truck. I carefully packed the other luggage, with a chicken on top, so that everything would fit. We added two church members to our passenger list who needed a ride to Uige, so the first leg of the voyage was a bit crowded. We stopped briefly at the market in Damba so that several people (including Nathan) could buy a small sack of caterpillars to take home. Then we hit the road. We had decided the previous evening not to eat breakfast in Damba, but to eat in the home of Pastor Domingos in Negage – or next stop.

We had a nice breakfast, said goodbye to Domingos, left one goat behind (as his share of the bounty) and drove a bit further to Uige. In Uige, we said goodbye to our extra traveling companions and Pastor Landu, and we left a second goat. Just outside of Uige, we stopped again so that several of our Angolan colleagues could buy bush meat – a special treat, which is difficult to obtain in Luanda. We stopped once more before reaching Luanda at a rural market where Papa N’Dambulula and Papa Luavo bought bananas to bring as a gift for their wives. We arrived at Banda’s home in Luanda just before 6 pm that evening.

We unloaded the luggage and left the third goat and the chicken with Banda for the Luanda delegates to share. The sheep remained with us for the journey back to Huambo. (We later ate this sheep at a meeting in Huambo with Banda and other I.C.A. leaders.) Nathan said goodbye and left to prepare for his trip to the U.S.A. later that week. Danny and I gave rides to Papa N’Dambulula and Papa Luavo on our way to a friend’s home in Luanda, where we would spend the night (and take hot showers!) before driving to Huambo the following day.

Our adventure through Uige province was a great blessing. We believe our visit generated much excitement and will open doors for future ministry. In the immediate present, the great value to our team was the insight into Angola culture. We learned much and deepened our relationships with our travel companions in ways that only such an adventure makes possible.

Click here to see pictures of the whole trip.

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1 Response to Cross-Cultural Travels, part 3

  1. Laura says:

    Robert, I so enjoyed reading this. Thanks for such a detailed report. You guys are going to have some great stories to tell one day!

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