Thursday, July 16, 2009

Delegation celebrates church anniversary, Brethren connections in Angola.

A Brethren delegation to Angola has helped celebrate church connections built through disaster relief efforts there, attending the 125th anniversary celebration of the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola. Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, and Dale Minnich, chair of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board, traveled to Angola on May 19-28.

Reporting on the experience, both men highlighted longterm connections that Brethren Disaster Ministries has built with the Bie Province, or district, of the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola through relief efforts following the civil war that ended in 2002, and the unique relationships that Brethren enjoy in the central African country. "It was a great trip, and we were warmly received," Minnich said in a telephone interview following his return. "They value the Church of the Brethren relationship, even though it is fairly recent."

Since 2001, the Church of the Brethren has supported 10 relief projects in Angola with grants chiefly from the Emergency Disaster Fund, but also from the Global Food Crisis Fund, Minnich said. The Bie Province has been a partner in disaster relief work for several years, and representatives of Bie Province attended the Brethren 300th Anniversary Conference held in Virginia last July.

Another partner has been SHAREcircle, a nonprofit development organization based in Evanston, Ill., and led by Angolans now living in the United States. Over the years, Brethren Disaster Ministries has taken an active role in helping SHAREcircle gain support for its work, Winter said. On the trip to Angola, the Brethren accompanied a number of SHAREcircle representatives. According to Minnich, SHAREcircle’s executive director Guerra Freitas attends Reba Place Church in Evanston--a congregation that for many years was connected with the Church of the Brethren as well as the Mennonite Church.

While in Angola, Winter and Minnich were recognized at a Jubilee celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola. The celebration that took place over several days was attended by upward of 22,000 people, according to a count by church leaders. The executive director of the Angolan Council of Christian Churches brought the sermon for the main worship service.

The event also included a presentation by Minnich, who was asked to review Brethren mission work--past, present, and future--and new ways of working in mission that the Brethren are creating, for example in Haiti. "They were really interested in the global mission relationships," Minnich said. For his part, he commented that he had "no idea what the size of the crowd was going to be.... The fields and forest around were full of people."

Winter was impressed by an "amazing offering celebration" during the five-hour worship service. "People bringing forward what they had to offer God--fish, goats, furnishings for a new school, grains, beans, and much more. The whole time everyone was celebrating and dancing."

The anniversary celebration was held at the Camundongo Mission, 12 miles outside the town of Kuito in central Angola, where Winter observed evidence of the church’s success in rebuilding following the war. "In the two years since my last visit, a church has been built to replace one destroyed in the war. Two new schools, a health clinic, and housing for teachers have all been completed through a partnership with the government," he reported.

SHARECircle is now focusing on an ambitious project to build a university in the central highlands of Angola. Winter and Minnich visited the proposed site, four square kilometers of land provided by the Angolan government some distance outside of Kuito. There is no other higher education possibility in the area, said Minnich, who described the university as "a really important development step for the highlands of Angola.... It’s a great vision."

While Brethren Disaster Ministries is not directly involved in the university, Church of the Brethren organizations and individuals interested in the project are encouraged to contact Roy Winter at

Source: 7/16/2009 Newsline

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