Stories/observations from Mark Calhoun 2012

February 3, 2012
Angola Mission Immersion 6 ~ Angola 2 - Malanje
A New Place...

Situated about 290 miles from the Atlantic coast, over 1,000 miles south of the equator, and at an elevation of nearly 3,800 feet…
Malanje is the capital city of the Malanje Province and home to nearly 220,000 Angolans. For United Methodists, Malanje marks the home of the East Angolan Conference as well as the home of the Malanje District. The Conference office, Bishop’s office, and district office are all situated on the Property of the Central United Methodist Church of Malanje.

Stoplights in this town are non-existent as is any sense of organized urban transportation, similar to urban travel in many other countries of the world. The main mode of transportation is by foot with scooters and motorcycles coming in a close second, and automobiles being ranked third. From what we hear, the cost of living in Malanje is a tad higher than it is in Luanda… primarily because of the great distance that ordinary commodities must travel.

Housing costs range from $10,000.00 US to $80,000.00 to $200,000.00. The exchange rate, at least that we are getting from the Black-Market folks, is 10,000 Kwanza to $100.00 US… about 9,400 to $100.00 at the banks. A coke cost us about $1.00, a soccer ball $10.00, an ice cream cone $2.50, a gallon of gas $2.40, lunch for the 3 of us at a café $48.00, and a one day fee for a rental car is about $220.00.

Malanje is a very busy place… from the moment the sun comes up until late in the evening, people are navigating the city streets and going about their daily tasks. The streets are lined with houses, shops, banks, and a variety of official Angolan Government buildings. Since we have been here we have only seen one traffic accident and had one Jeremy v. Scooter incident that was a close call with no actual contact. Our host house in Malanje is owned by Ana Ingles and is about six blocks from the city center and the Conference office. The guest house that we are staying in is attached to Ana’s house, has 3 bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen area, and a large fenced/gated courtyard.

Trish is our head cook and is assisted with daily tasks by a woman name Tresa… we also have two canine companions for ‘protection’ and two security guards that take shifts tending to us during the day and sleep in a small room in the courtyard at night. While I appreciate their presence, I hot not yet felt insecure, but perhaps that is because of their presence :-). Malanje is an incredible place that offers a unique expression of life in Africa.



February 06, 2012

Angola Mission Immersion 8 ~ Angola 4 – The Mission Station at Quessua
Opportunities for enrichment…

We visited the Quessua Mission Station the first evening that we arrived in Angola and have made several trips back to the station since we have been here. The Quessua Mission Station, located about 10 miles from Malanje, Angola, and run by the East Angola Conference, was established (as I understand it) over 100 years ago by Bishop William Taylor and other early Methodist missionaries to Angola. After decades of leadership training and education, Quessua was destroyed by the 27 years of civil war in Angola.
Since the end of the war in 2002, the United Methodist church of East Angola has been working to rebuild Quessua, building by building. As of the time of our visit, many of the structures including the church, several school buildings, dormitories, the ‘Faculty’ (Seminary) building, the Domestic School building, and a number of houses. While electricity has not been restored, there are several generators that provide electricity to Quessua. During our visits to the mission station, we have had opportunities to meet the two Cuban missionaries sponsored by the Florida Conference, tour the buildings, meet many of the students, and interview a number of the pastors involved in our salary supplement partnership who were on-site for the month-long course of study program that is hosted by the East Angola Conference prior to each Annual Conference session. I have no idea exactly how large in land area the mission is, but it is several miles from the entrance of the station to the heart where the buildings are located.

It seems to me that the mission station at Quessua is an incredible resource for the East Angola Annual Conference and that there are MANY opportunities for partnerships with American Annual Conferences, Churches, Individuals, and Seminaries. Among the needs are continued infra-structure support, support for the secondary school, support and scholarships for the seminary and its students, support for the United Methodist church located at Quessua, support for the ‘Domestic School’, support for the annual course of study program, missionary support, and… for the love of the living God… could Saint Paul School of Theology and Cokesbury please find it within themselves to beef up the library at the seminary at Quessua and provide theological books for the students. I am ashamed to admit that my personal library, thanks to my undergraduate and seminary professors, is large than the library at the seminary at Quessua.
In addition to the vital Yellowstone Conference Pastoral Salary Support Partnership, which I will address in a future post, there is a great need for support and growth within the area of education inside of the East Angola Conference… The Mission Station at Quessua provides a unique setting and opportunity for growth for the educational needs of the East Angola Conference which are tied directly to the success or failure of the Pastoral Salary Support Project. As we have come to understand the East Angola process for starting new churches and equipping clergy and lay people, it is my sincere hope that a denominational resource like Path One would consider creating a Lay Missionary Planting Network for the people of Angola, housed at Quessua. While, personally, the Pastoral Salary Supplement Support project is my number one priority for the Yellowstone Annual Conference, I am very interested in being an advocate for the East Angola Annual Conference and in working to foster opportunities to live into the the connectional nature of the United Methodist Church, which is supposed to be a part of our DNA. Quessua is a very special place… it meets very specific needs within the life of our denomination and we would do well to support this Kingdom oriented missional outpost from across the pond.
February 06, 2012
Angola Mission Immersion 10 ~ Angola 6 – Angolan Church Music and Choirs
Born though song…

Growing in my faith at, and coming out of, East Heights United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas I have a deep level appreciation for all varieties of spiritual and religious music as well as for the choirs, bands, and individuals that celebrate their faith through music. Music seems to provide and international connection that knows no boundaries. In the life of organized religion, music has served as a platform to draw us closer to LOVE and closer to one another… after all Jesus’ response to his last big meal with close friends to go out to the Mount of Olives and sing a hymn. It has been my experience that American, Chinese, Korean, Costa Rican, and the spiritual songs of the people of Mexico all bring a certain unique flavor to the global portrait that communicates attentiveness to faith formation through song. While the Churches of China, Korea, Costa Rica, and Mexico prepared me for the uniqueness of international ecclesial music, the churches of East Angola, Africa have definitely added another layer to my understanding of the depth at which music draws us closer to the notion of cosmic love.

During our time in Angola we have experienced two Sunday morning worship gatherings, a choir practice, a course of study ceremony, and we have had a unique opportunity to record five songs shared by the choir from the Central United Methodist Church of Malanje, Angola… each experience unique in nature and each working to give us a deeper understanding of the role of music in the East Angolan Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. As I type this, my ears are filled with singing that is resonating from the streets of Malanje near our house and I am reminded of our journey yesterday to Kimbamba that was underscored by the singing of a central church women’s choir as we were in transit both ways, on the church grounds prior to worship, and within worship itself.
Early on, Alcides told us that ‘the Church in Angola was born through singin’ … after being here for a week I’m pretty sure that observation is accurate. During our time here in East Angola we have been blessed by solo musical offerings, trios, youth choirs, men’s choirs, women’s choirs and large mixed choirs… all of which have tapped into the energy of God’s spirit in this place. With respect to worship, musical offerings are woven throughout from beginning to end. A portion of the songs are familiar to us, but a majority are unique to the Angolan people and are shared in Portuguese or Kimbundu, one of the national languages. More so at the central church in Malanje, than in Kimbamba, various groups within the life of the congregation took a moment during worship to share a musical offering… during these musical moments the congregation typically responds by contributing a financial offering.
There seems to be a tad bit more singing and musical celebration contained within the course of worship in Angola, but the passion that drives this element of worship is no different than can be found in other churches across the globe on any given worship day. I can say, however, that because it is new and different, the congregational and choral offerings we have experienced during our time here have been transformational in nature and have touched us deeply. Personally, I was both caught off guard and inspired by the songs and amount of singing that celebrates what it means to be a United Methodist… something we don’t regularly do at home, but probably should. I hope that we get to hear a wide variety of these sorts of songs at General Conference in April.
February 13, 2012
Angola Mission Immersion 11 ~ Angola 8 – Visit with the Bishop
Understanding the nature of the East Angola Conference…

Our second meeting with Bishop Quipungo (our first being an early Saturday morning wake-up call at our host house) came on our fourth day in Angola. On Monday, January 30th we were invited to the Bishop’s office at 9:00 am for an opportunity to greet the Bishop, review our schedule, tour the conference office, learn about the nature of the East Angola Annual Conference, and learn a bit about their experience of the Yellowstone Conference supplemental salary partnership.

The Bishop shared with us many things that were extremely helpful to us in our quest to understand the east Angola Conference, the impact of our partnership, and our desire to learn about some of the needs of the churches in East Angola. Established in 1988, the East Angola conference has grown to 6 districts, 2 mission areas, 66 churches, and 70 active pastors (54 of which are part of the salary supplement program) and is host to a high level of incredible mission and ministry happening out at the nearby Quessua Mission Station.

I’ll be reflecting on our conversation with the Bishop and gaining insight for weeks to come, but for now, my thoughts are occupied by a portion of our conversation that dealt with the struggle the conference is having with the retention of educated pastors. As we are already well aware of… pastoral compensation is extremely low in East Angola… for many of the pastors, our $40.00 a month supplement is the only compensation they receive. While a number of the pastors in the conference are bi-vocational, nearly all of them still have a difficult time making “ends meet.” The desire for more education for the pastors of East Angola was communicated to us on many occasions… one of the byproducts, however, is that, as the education level of the pastor rises so does their value in other segments of society. One example that the Bishop gave was that the government actively seeks out educated persons and is able to pay $500-$800, or more, per month which is very attractive to pastors making $40-$100 a month and to pastors who are bi-vocational. While we need to do more work investigating and understanding this dynamic, I believe that we can do more for the pastors.

Personally, I would like to see us double our support each year and I would like to see us be a bit aggressive in our quest to find other partners in the United States who would be willing to match our annual contribution to the salary supplement project. In addition, I would like for us to identify a few education oriented partners that could help us to encourage and support the lay and pastoral equipping opportunities available out at Quessua, which will also require some capital improvements to the mission station itself. I fully understand that we have our hands full with the supplemental salary project, but in this case, salary support and lay/pastor education go hand in hand. While we can’t necessarily handle both salary supplement and education on our own… we can certainly be active in telling the story of the Angolan people and we can work assiduously to find additional partners for both. The work we are doing with the salary supplement project is phenomenal for a conference the size of ours and means more to the people of Angola than I could have ever imagined. It took being on the ground in Angola for me to fully understand the nature and impact of the relationship we have with the East Angola Annual Conference.