n December the communist MPLA government of Angola launched a series of devastating artillery and rocket bombardments of towns and villages in South Eastern Angola. The SWAPO government of Namibia had allowed the MPLA forces to use Namibian territory to outflank the Resistance controlled areas to launch these attacks against those people in the UNITA controlled areas of Angola.
By God’s grace, Rob and Johan returned from their mission trip to assist Angolan Christians who have been forced to flee from the recent offensive.
Our team met with survivors of bombardments who had fled for their lives. They were told of hundreds of captured civilians killed. Some were shot in the back of the head while their hands were tied behind their backs. Reportedly some suffocated to death while locked in a container truck.
Most of the women, children and old men were rounded up and shipped off to Namibian refugee camps. The young men who survived were transported off to Western Angola where they would be forced into the MPLA army to fight against their own people.
As the offensive was launched during their rainy season planting time, the effect of the attacks has been disastrous. The Angolans in Cuando-Cubango province (South Eastern Angola) have lost everything: their homes, their crops, their livestock, and in many cases, their loved ones. One person described the situation: “This is worse than war!” In most wars you at least have one side that will protect you. But for the Angolan civilians caught up in the scorched earth campaign they have no one to turn to. Under international sanctions, bombarded by the marxist MPLA government, shot on sight by the Namibian security forces and incarcerated in refugee camps by the United Nations, these Christians feel without a friend in the world.
It was in order to help these suffering Christians that the Frontline team overcame numerous obstacles to find our friends who have been scattered. By God’s grace our team was able to track down Christians that we have had long time relationships with. Rob and Johan delivered “boxes with love”, bags of clothes, boxes of food and large quantities of Gospel literature to Angolan Christians who were displaced. They also showed the Jesus film in Portuguese to many hundreds of Angolan refugees. It was a joyous event when Rob and Johan were reunited with our Angolan friends who had suffered so much. After delivering the relief aid we had transported up, our team enjoyed special times of prayer, fellowship, ministry and worship with our Angolan brothers and sisters in Christ. Frontline missionary Rob reports:
In December, the Marxist MPLA government of Angola launched a military offensive against UNITA in Angola’s south-eastern Cuando-Cubango Province. The MPLA military carried out a scorched earth policy along Angola’s border with Namibia, burning villages, executing anyone thought to be sympathetic to UNITA, forcibly relocating thousands of civilians, and involuntarily conscripting young men to fight against UNITA. A Namibian TV station aired a news item that featured an MPLA soldier declaring:“We came here to kill, to eat, and to assassinate!”
Frontline Fellowship has ministered in this province of Angola since 1986. With great sadness we received the horrifying reports of mass murder in South Eastern Angola. So Frontline sent Johan and myself off to minister to the Angolan Christians who had survived the offensive and been displaced. We left laden with boxes of Portuguese Bibles, Gospel literature, Gospel Recording materials and small family relief packets called “boxes with love”. The trailer that we towed behind our jam packed pick-up truck was filled with large bags of donated clothing.
On the border of Angola, ministry opportunities were arranged which included preaching at Sunday services, lecturing at a local Bible school, and showing the Jesus film in Portuguese at separate locations.
One personal objective that I had was to locate a particular Angolan pastor who had been trained by missionaries some 50 years ago. Pastor Paulus (not his real name) had been serving the Lord in the Evangelical Church of Angola. Some people with whom we spoke said they hadn’t seen him in more than a year. One report that I received stated that Pastor Paulus had suffered a stroke and that by now he was probably dead. In Pastor Paulus’ last letter to me from Angola, he pleaded with me:
“Rob, you could return to America and earn lots of money, but America doesn’t need you. We need you in Angola!” Ever since, his words have often reverberated in my ears.
The prospects for ministry inside Angola were greatly complicated by the presence of various Angolan and Namibian military units. While we were near the border, another missionary was arrested and detained by slightly intoxicated and very unreasonable Namibian policemen. Some of them loudly expressed an interest in torturing the missionary! (I suppose they couldn’t think of anything better to do to pass the time on a Sunday afternoon). After four tense hours in police custody, the missionary was finally released.
After making an assessment of the situation along the Angolan-Namibian border, we concluded that in the wake of the swathe of scorched earth destruction, the likelihood of contacting Angolan Christians in the area would be very slim. Hence we focused our attention upon the Angolan refugees, in Namibia.
In the past months, the number of refugees at one camp had swelled to 9000. There we met church leaders from various congregations. The Portuguese Bibles, Gospel literature, and second-hand clothing were handed over to the deacons for the purpose of distributing it to the truly needy. By God’s grace we managed to overcome or bypass the typical bureaucratic obstructionism of the officials.
It is worth noting that, given half a chance, the Humanist bureaucrats would even take over the management of Christian charity, thus usurping one of the responsibilities of church government and the role of deacons!
While with the church leaders at one camp, I was told that someone wanted to see me. I rejoiced in learning that it was Pastor Paulus! Finding him at the camp was beyond my expectations. It was a joyful reunion. The Paulus family had lived through many harrowing experiences. Months earlier when the MPLA attacked their town, Pastor Paulus’ family initially fled north into the Angolan bush. But the lack of availability of food and water was a persistent problem.
They soon realized that the only way they could survive would be to cross into Namibia in the hope of finding sanctuary in a refugee camp. That would not be a simple thing. The Namibian military and police were known to shoot and kill Angolan refugees (including women and children) who attempted to cross the Kavango River. Pastor Paulus, still partly paralyzed as a result of a stroke, was carried by one of the faithful church deacons. Although they lost their home and all their possessions, except for the clothes on their backs, by God’s grace most of the immediate family reached safety. It was a privilege to be able to assist Pastor Paulus and his family in their time of distress. Their future is uncertain. Pray for the recovery of his health and that he may be able to minister to his very needy neighbours, whose suffering he shares.
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:37-39
Wherever possible, we showed the Jesus film in Portuguese to the refugees. After one screening about 400 people stayed after the film to hear a message and for prayer. We encouraged the refugees to make good use of their time by making disciples for Jesus Christ. We are looking forward to future opportunities to deliver Christian discipleship materials and to conduct leadership seminars for Angolan Christians, later this year. Pray for the troubled nation of Angola.
Angola, by the Back Door (book)
Going Through (book)