Entry into south-eastern Angola continues to be difficult as the access via Namibia's north-eastern border remains officially closed. The Namibian Defence Force sends out patrols and has guard posts along much of the border. The NDF are under orders to shoot to kill anyone attempting to cross the Kavango River. The blockade continues to cause much suffering for the inhabitants of south-eastern Angola, as they must cross over into Namibia to obtain medical or food supplies. The Field Director of Frontline Fellowship, reports:
In our pick-up truck equipped with sand ladders and larger than usual tyres we hoped to drive into Cuando-Cabango province. But first we would have to find a hole through the blockade. None of our usual guides were available. Yet the Lord placed in our path a stranger who willingly guided us through the blockade into Angola.
The drive was somewhat tense as there was the serious possibility of being ambushed by a Namibian Defence Force patrol (as a previous Frontline Fellowship team had experienced.) Once safely in Angola we praised the Lord for showing us the way through many obstacles. We had a joyful reunion with the pastor who was anticipating our arrival. [After we entered into Angola, the Namibians then set up roadblocks closing our exit route.]
Elton and I were privileged to be with our Angolan brothers and sisters in Christ as they celebrated a Reformation Sunday.At the Sunday service, the congregation was reminded of the events leading up to Martin Luther's spiritual conversion. About how Luther went from being a Roman Catholic priest trained in the traditions of the church, yet uncertain about his standing with God, to someone who came to know God's forgiveness of sin and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. “. . . The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). The members of the congregation were challenged to hold firmly to the Gospel and to be obedient to God's calling.
For that occasion, school boys had prepared a large poster board which presented the history of the Reformation and the major principles which subsequently flowed from it: Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone is our authority), Sola Christus (Salvation is by the atonement of Christ alone), Sola Fidei (Justification is through faith alone), and Sola Gratia (Salvation is not according to anything that we have done, but is by God's grace alone). The service concluded with the inspirational hymn “Ombonge yetu Yehova,” the Umbundu language version of Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”
Regretfully our vehicle was unable to travel further inland along the thick sandy tracks common to south-eastern Angola. During a “road test,” it took more than an hour to travel only about 100 metres; and that was while being helped by upwards of a dozen volunteers who pushed and pulled trying to get us unstuck. Ultimately we had to work at our then present location rather than attempting to go further into the country. For three weeks, meetings were regularly held each day, as we engaged in systematic exposition of Scripture. Bible school students were present and the studies were open to anyone wishing to attend. A special youth meeting was conducted during which topics on marriage and the family were presented and discussed.
Tragedy and Hope: In order to financially assist his family, 17 year old Isaias Kassinda crossed the Kavango River into Namibia where he sought and found employment. He found a job which paid about three Rand (US$0.66) per day. After returning to his family with the hard earned cash, it was agreed that he would return to Namibia for a second period of employment. Upon his return he was arrested by the Namibian Police for having no travel documents.
His parents were notified that their son had been arrested; but powerless to do anything, they simply waited and looked forward to his release. They waited two months until on the 4th of November, they were notified that they must come to Namibia to retrieve their son's body! They learned that Isaias had been shot dead many weeks after being taken into Namibian Police custody. A United Nations team assisted in returning the body to Angola. No explanation was given regarding the circumstances of the boy's death.
When they came to collect the boys body, the Namibian Police official unceremoniously remarked “Here's the body. Take it!” The body was carelessly wrapped in plastic bags. The boys head was badly disfigured; a bullet had entered into the back of his skull, and exited out the front causing extensive damage. The death-certificate made out by a Namibian official described the cause of death as “brain injury.”
I spoke with the boys parents and other family members the day following the funeral. I was able to share with the grieving family and their neighbours the testimony of another, who although He had done no wrong, was arrested, mistreated, and died at the hands of wicked men: Jesus Christ! Yet He rose from the grave. And those who put their faith in Him shall have everlasting life. A blessed hope!
Later, as I prayed together with the parents and the family, asking God that He would bring justice upon the wicked, a rifle shot was heard from the direction of the Kavango River. A harsh reminder of the present situation. Pray that God may grant the Angolans His grace, and as they look toward Him, strength to endure their present hardship.
The United Nations has been fairly active in Angola, monitoring the peace settlement between the Marxist MPLA government and the UNITA resistance movement. Yet some of the international officers on assignment with the UN were somewhat cynical regarding the overall UN operation in Angola. Most were simply looking forward to receiving their (very attractive) UN pay allowance and returning home to their families. We found opportunities for ministry among an international contingent of UN soldiers.
While in Angola, one UNITA official, concerned for the future of his country, came to discuss what the Bible says about government. I had an opportunity to share with him how the Bible is applicable to all areas of life: that the Scripture speaks about how we are to be personally in relationship with God, and that the Scripture gives us principles applicable for family life, and for the administration of church and civil government. A UNITA official stated that for many years the people of Angola had forgotten God, but that “now is the time for Angolans to return to God.” Please pray that God would raise up Angolan men and women who are not ashamed to proclaim the Gospel and lift high God's standard of righteousness throughout that weary land.
Finally, as our time came to an end and as we said our good-byes, I was reminded that much of our ministry has to do with encouragement. Although we had taught God's Word at every opportunity, and had delivered boxes of Bibles, study materials, medical supplies, seed, and clothing to the church; it was very important for the Angolans that we had simply come to be with them for a time, sharing with them in their troubles.
Upon our exit there would be the possibility of running into an NDF patrol. In 1994 two other of our missionaries were fired upon and subsequently arrested while attempting a similar crossing at a different location. Departing just after sunrise, the drive from Angola back into Namibia was a little tense, but passed without incident.
Praise God for His protection.