Stanley Arnot was the first assembly missionary to Angola, arriving in 1885. Many more followed, arriving in a land that had known harsh Portuguese rule since 1482. Sowing the seed of God’s Word in those early years was difficult, and not a few of the early missionaries gave their lives for Christ. There was a tremendous work done by pioneer missionaries; over 20 mission stations were established and over 60 assembly missionaries were at one time in Angola. Then came the troubles: from 1969-75 there was the war of independence from Portugal, which quickly led to civil war which lasted from 1975-2002. All this was in the permissive will of God, and today the mission station is but a relic of a colonial era long gone, but an estimated 1300 autonomous local assemblies have been established, testimony to a mighty ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.
Peace has now been established in Angola and the capital, Luanda, is now reckoned to be the most expensive city in the world in which to live, with prices for everything rocketing upward. The reality is that the vast majority of people see no benefit from the vast oil reserves and diamonds that Angola possesses. Communism has gone from the country, but not from the hearts of a people who knew nothing else for so long, and this continues to influence the practice and thinking of many. Satan, the enemy of man’s soul, hasn’t given up on Angola. He has successfully diluted the true gospel with a mixture of law-keeping and good works and, during the years of bloodshed, has won much ground with the lies and trickery of witchcraft, bringing countless thousands into the bondage of fear.
Despite its rich history of missionary work and the foundation that was laid by men and women who suffered much for the sake of the gospel, the modern Angola is in great need of the truth of God’s unchangeable Word being publicly proclaimed once again. Very little infrastructure remains on the once large and busy mission stations. The 40 years of war saw to that; but what does remain is the seed that was planted, in some areas still producing much fruit. In other areas growth has been choked by tradition, fear, and, more recently, materialism, after years of hardship and suffering.
Due to the long years of war, the education system collapsed and the effect can still be seen in the local assemblies. Across the country there are thousands of elders who cannot read, and those who can have little comprehension of what they are reading. One can imagine how this then affects assembly testimony, hinders the elders from teaching God’s Word, and limits studying it for guidance. This problem has been addressed locally through the building and running of a Primary School at Camundambala, in the Lunda Sul province in the heart of Chokweland. The Head is a local brother, but our sister, Ruth Hadley (UK), is wholly committed to this vital work and has a huge input and influence in the running and continuing improvement of the teaching and school facilities. Approximately 500 children attend this school, almost all from surrounding villages where children have little or no chance for education. We have now been operating five years and already in the locality we are seeing the blessing of this school with young people being able to read and comprehend what they read. The local assembly at Camundambala has never before had such a resource of children and young people who can read.
In an age of popularity of projects it is easy to become sidetracked by the overwhelming physical needs seen on every hand, but our priority must be to preach the gospel, make disciples, and to teach the Scriptures. It is not easy to remain focused on this when deep physical needs press upon you every day, but the public proclamation of God’s truth is the greatest need in Angola today. Some have never heard the true gospel of God’s amazing grace, many have not grasped the wonder of eternal salvation, and still more need to be challenged by the relevance of the Scriptures to their lives. Error is becoming apparent in Bible teaching, and the beauty and simplicity of gathering to the name of the Lord Jesus is under sustained and systematic attack. Pray with us that in these closing days of grace that national brethren, as well as the few missionaries on the field, will be given help to continue to hold forth the Word of life before hungry souls.
An important aspect of the work is the supply of literature. We rejoice that in recent years through the Angolan Literature Fund (UK charity no:1077591), 24,000 Portuguese Bibles and 20,000 Chokwe Bibles have been supplied as well as hymnbooks, commentaries, and Bible study helps. There is a very real hunger especially in the interior of Angola for literature and it is always welcomed wherever we travel to preach and teach the Word. This is a wonderful legacy to provide the people and we pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to use this material and raise up a future generation of young Angolans with Biblical convictions to move the work forward.
The work is great and large, opportunities to serve the Lord are on every hand, but it is not an easy country. Besides the immense corruption, there is the difficulty in obtaining permanent residency, and logistical support and supplies are hard to come by in the interior. We need men and women prepared to leave the comforts of home and country and to prove that God is still able to sustain His servants in this land. We pray for a new generation of missionaries with a burning desire to communicate with the people to be given grace to learn the languages necessary, and to be able to bring the truth of God’s Word to the present generation.
Our brother has labored in Angola over the years; he now makes frequent trips back to the assembly work there. (Editor)