Angola, Prayer Update

Spring 2018
Written by Dr. Samuel & Elizabeth Simonyi-Gindele - Angola

"Why let the nations say, "where is their God?" Our God is in the heavens and he does as he wishes." Psalm 115:2,3

If there is a phrase that may be universal in the introduction of a missionary update, it has to be this: "It has been a busy few months." However, one doesn't have to be a missionary to be busy, as those reading this update can likely attest to. The problem comes when we begin to equate being busy with being of more value to God. Our value to God is never linked to what or to how much we do, not in salvation and not in service. None would quibble if I stated that faith in Christ plus nothing makes me a child of God. Yet, many would pause or outright disagree with me if I stated that as a servant of God if I became an invalid unable to leave my bed, I would still be as beloved by God as if I laid my life down over many years in active service for Him. Scripture is clear on both points. Romans tells us that sin makes us dead to God, and a dead person could never be described as busy. Salvation is the work of a loving God to make a dead person alive with no contributions from the corpse! Then, when Romans goes on to say of God: "Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won't He also give us everything else?" Paul is saying God's valuing of us is based on His valuing of Christ, not on what we do! We see God's value system illustrated in Christ's life on earth. God declared publicly that Christ is "My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" before Christ did a miracle, preached a sermon, resisted the Devil, or gave His life in sacrifice. Christ's busy three years of ministry, following this heavenly declaration, flowed from the fact that He was already the beloved Son, not because He was trying to earn God's love! God does not value us more or less based on what or how much we do. He loves us because He loves His Son, and that love was measured in currency of the highest value - the precious blood of the Lord Jesus!

These last few months have brought circumstances that have deepened relationships we have with people who live in Biula and our understanding of how they live. We had a lady named Tembo brought to us badly burnt from falling into a fire during an epileptic attack. She was alone in the village with no family except her children, the youngest two months old, so she sat in her home for two weeks with the burnt skin rotting from her large leg wounds, unable to move from her house. A Christian neighbour, moved by pity, brought her to us on his bicycle. After surgery to clean her wounds and a week of dressings, we skin grafted her burns. We "happened" to have all the specialized supplies needed without planning for this procedure - God's provision. Then followed more than a month of daily visits by Elizabeth to her home for dressing changes. Local believers helped with her care, preparing food for her family as she recovered. It is a challenging social situation as her older children are known as drinkers and thieves, and neighbours were reluctant to help. We don't see a long-term solution for Tembo's family without a work of God, and so we ask you to pray for her and her family

For three weeks in February, we had a visitor, Andrew Schwartzentruber, from Ontario, Canada. He helped with a long list of "todo- jobs" from repairing leaks in the clinic roof, to felling large dead trees, to building a base for the village water tower, to repairing the water rams here in Biula and Luma Cassai, too many other tasks. We sincerely appreciated the interest he took in the spiritual outreaches here and in getting to know people we work with, despite the language barriers. The sacrifice of his wife, Kathy, who encouraged him to come as she cared for their six children at home, was just as significant.

Education and Literacy
" Last month we sold the last of ten bicycles we bought in Luanda, each sold at a reduced cost to students in Biula who go to the high school in Dala, 17 kilometers away. The students often end up walking one or both ways or living in tenuous conditions with a friend or distant family member through the school week. These are good quality bikes built for Africa (see Buffalo bicycle), so we often see the owner of the bike sitting on the rear rack while someone else gets a ride by providing the pedal power! Few could pay outright the subsidized cost we were asking, so most worked one or two months for us and used the wages earned to buy the bicycles. We are thankful to Medical Missionary News (see MMN) for their donation that subsidized the cost of these bicycles for young people in our community.

Development research and our personal experience has shown that education is more critical than even access to proper medical care regarding its long-term benefits in alleviating poverty, allowing spiritual growth, and reducing deaths from preventable causes. So, Elizabeth has started two Chokwe literacy classes with five young ladies. All are young mothers in their late teens or early twenties who have never had the opportunity to attend school or have only reached third grade, and yet they are making excellent progress with just one class per week. This rapid progress, unfortunately, shows how weak education is locally as most students at the grade five/six level in Biula are still unable to read and write; teachers are often away, students are absent working in their parent's (or teacher's!) fields during rainy season, and classes only run a couple of hours a day. This is why a school started by Ruth Hadley in Camandumbala and now guided by the Howdens continues to have such a far-reaching impact in that community and assembly (see here for the latest Camandumbala school report).

Outreaches beyond Biula
I have started visiting a large assembly in Dala on a monthly basis since December, teaching basic gospel truth. It has been good to get to know the believers and practice my Chokwe there. I have also started a weekly Bible study with a group of ten young adults who are the Our family at Sakeji School, December 2017

Sunday school teachers in Dala. We speak in Portuguese, and this has led to many interesting questions and required less preparation time for me. Every week I create a 10 question "prova" or test for them, and I am rarely able to stump them. I am not sure who learns more, them or I.

We have also been doing outreach evangelism from Biula. With about eight young men and an elder from the assembly, Zachary, Ethan and I have visited two villages with a month series of weekly open-air gospel meetings in each. I am the speaker while the young men help with setup and singing and a time of prayer before or after we leave the village. Between the two series, we distributed gospel calendars to eight villages. In the last series in a village about thirty kilometers away, we passed a large police training camp on the way, so we would pick up eight to ten police officers who came along, sometimes traveling with up to twenty men crammed in the vehicle. There was evident interest in the messages, and as one of the village headmen said on our leaving: "Our hearts are hard, but you have spoken the words of God to us, and it can still speak to us." Please pray that it will. Both villages had 50-150 people at each meeting.

In May we will do a "how to prepare a gospel message" seminar with the young men. They have not grown up hearing clear gospel messages so do not have many examples worth following. They also do not get opportunity to practice preaching, though the great majority of Chokwe men seem to have a natural fondness for public speaking! Many struggle with reading fluency and comprehension, so message preparation is not a simple exercise for them. Many of these young men have spent the last three years listening to our Saturday morning teaching in the assembly, and so they have fairly complete exposure to Bible truth now. Our goal is for them to catch the vision of reaching out on their own to their neighbors. At times I hear messages which I have given, repeated by a Chokwe, and they are so much more gripping and clear when repeated by a native speaker and thinker to their people, so we look and pray for God to build His work here through local men.

Medical Work
The clinic is busy, but the majority of patients are attended to by our nurse and midwife. However, this is the rainy season, so we have many who come to our door after the clinic is closed for the day or over the weekend with fevers and infected wounds. Elizabeth is often busy following up patients at the door and those who are sicker in the village. I help in the more complicated cases. We are thankful that with the steady supply of medicine, we see sick ones brought for care sooner in their illnesses rather than when they are in extremis. However malaria can be frighteningly aggressive, as we saw in a recent case of an eight-year-old boy who went from healthy to unconscious in a matter of hours. His mother carried him a day's walk from her field to our home in this state. We are thankful to MMN for the medical supplies we have to treat cases like his. The grace of God spared the boy's life.

The gospel continues to be faithfully presented by two brethren and myself at the clinic each week. Please pray for them and the word of God. The gospel messages are often linked to health lessons, a bit like in Jungle Doctor stories, so people listen well.

Thank you for your care and interest in God's work in this part of Angola. We value your prayers.

Andrew Schwartzentruber, Ricardo, Marcelino and Ethan riding home from a gospel outreach in the back of the truck.

Spring 2018
Written by Dr. Samuel & Elizabeth Simonyi-Gindele - Angola