It has been a burden of mine to visit Alto Chicapa, Central Angola, for many years. I had first met some of the brethren from that region back in 1998 when I started having monthly meetings in Saurimo for those who had fled from the war. They had always said that when the war was over and they had been able to return to their villages they would love to be visited. This I was able to do in July, and trust that this brief account will stir up informed prayer for the work of the Lord in Angola.
Having arrived in Saurimo, it took a couple of days to prepare the Land Rover and supplies for this trip out into the bush: it is always a good policy to travel as well prepared as possible for whatever situation may arise. During this visit a young brother from the Fourmarks assembly in Hampshire, Tom Singleton, accompanied me. Two Angolan brethren, Pedro Sajoia (who was taught and greatly influenced by our late brother George Wiseman), and a younger brother, Domingos Matus, also travelled with us.
We arrived in Cacolo, about 4 hours from Saurimo, where we had a meeting that afternoon. Brethren from 21 assemblies were present, and it was good to see so many familiar faces once again sitting under the teaching of the Scriptures. That evening, as is our usual practice, we met with the elders to try and help them in some of the issues that they face and to encourage them. It was a very moving time as brother after brother rose to his feet to tell of the poverty of the believers in the Alto Chicapa/Sautar region of Central Angola. What was good to hear was not "our needs", and, believe me, they have many, but their concern for their fellow brothers and sisters needs. Even though peace still exists in the country, it is obvious that the basic necessities of life have still not reached that part of the deep interior.
Alto Chicapa is 120km from Cacolo, and it appears that these dear believers were walking to Cacolo to carry water from the river to earn money and, when they earned enough, buying salt and then walking back the 120km to their homes in Alto Chicapa. I had enough money on me to buy a few of the basics, and the following morning after the 6am meeting, we managed to buy 40kg of salt and a box of soap. We wondered what would that be amongst so many, but it was all we could do. That morning we left Cacolo for Alto Chicapa. It was the dry season, so, thankfully, it was passable, but the steep hills and boulder-strewn tracks were a real test for the Land Rover. We had 5 river crossings on wooden fragile looking bridges and the steep climbs up the hills were very challenging to say the least.
Eventually we made it to Alto Chicapa by late afternoon. There was not much to see for, as usual, the war had destroyed the town, but one could see that it once had been a picturesque place. Human remains were still in evidence on the abandoned runway, and by all accounts the fighting in the latter end of 2001 had been fierce. The folk had started to build again, mud and wattle huts were everywhere, but otherwise it is quite a bleak place on top of a hill, thus the name Alto! It is 1,800m above sea level, windy, and, being the dry season, there was a lot of dust. Nevertheless, we hadnt come for the views, and it was really very emotional to see many of the elders who were with me in Saurimo during the war years now back home seeking to start a work for the Lord.
Despite being ignorant of much Scripture truth, their continuance and steadfastness in the faith through years of death, destruction and fleeing continues to be a real challenge to me. These dear believers have lost wives, husbands, sons, daughters in terrible ways, have seen atrocities that would occupy hours at any human rights tribunal, and yet have remained faithful to the Lord, wanting to know how they should be living and serving Him in their communities.
The meetings were in a makeshift shelter of branches and tarpaulins, with a dirt floor, and logs for chairs. The attentiveness for the Word of God was keen, and we believe that as a result of the four days spent amongst them many were encouraged and taught as we dealt with issues ranging from the believers life to church truths. It was especially good to see the local government administrator and his adjutant present on Sunday afternoon. When using the "Two Ways Two Destinies" chart in Chokwe I was able to present the gospel and was pleased to hear that he had felt really challenged by what he had heard.
We took a lot of Bibles and hymnbooks with us, along with books and commentaries, but it was soon very obvious that very few had enough money to purchase anything, so we reduced them to under half price, thus enabling some to buy. It would be easy to hand out literature free - we would certainly be popular - but with limited supplies it is essential that what is available goes to those who can use them and read them. The believers from Sautar, who had walked two days to get to Alto Chicapa, had no money, and had been busy borrowing money from all and sundry in order to buy some Bibles. Hearing of this, and not wanting them to get into debt, we gave them 40 Bibles, 40 hymnbooks and a good selection of books to take back. We are indebted to the Angolan Literature Fund, which enables us to meet such needs.
May the Lord of the harvest challenge hearts for this needy land of Angola which was once in the forefront of assembly missionary work.