Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Pete's Trip to the Wilderness

May 12, 2006

Dear Friends,

Last week I drove a group of 3 pastors and 2 ladies in charge of women’s ministries to a number of villages into the northeastern interior of Angola. The group went to visit numerous small churches. On the way we also picked up Pastor Aurelio Samba who lives in Kuvango, a community 250 km from the major center of Lubango. He has been a pastor of the local church for the past 15 years. Due to the fact that there are no other pastors in this area it is his responsibility to oversee numerous church plants further into the campo (wilderness).

We traveled for 2 days, stopping along the way to visit numerous church groups, where a short message was shared with each fellowship. In Vikungo they held meetings with the local leaders of the smaller churches in the outlying areas. The communication was mainly in tribal languages as well as Portuguese, so I was able to grasp very little of what was communicated. However, it was apparent that all these communities are crying out for pastors to come and serve in their villages. There are no pastors willing to go to these places, as they have no way of supporting themselves and their families. These people are all subsistence farmers, who have little or no monetary income. They do not pass around an offering plate, they pass around an offering BOWL where people place a few handfuls of corn, and beans.

The “houses” consisted of sticks chinked with mud, grass roof and dirt floors. The entire house is about the size of an average North American bedroom. The children are filthy, dirty, sickly and there is very little or no opportunity for education in most of the communities. There are pigs and chickens wandering around everywhere. Not the kind of place that someone who has tasted of city life would want to go and raise a family. However, there seemed to be a real hunger for the Word of God. Many children flocked to these church services. Singing gospel songs seems to be what binds them together. Unfortunately I didn’t take the camera to take pictures. The churches were constructed in the same way, with poles and thatched roofs. The benches were constructed of 2 forked sticks sticking out of the ground with a pole running across about six inches off of the ground. Not exactly build for comfort. Some places had a pole sitting on the bare ground.

I was told it would take Pastor Samba 7 days by foot to visit these churches, or it could be done in 2 days if he had a bicycle. I do not know how often he currently visits them, but it can’t be too often when he has his own congregation to attend to. I at one point asked the leaders if Pastor Samba had the means of transport would he visit these communities more frequently, and the answer was yes. However, from what I understand Pastor Samba’s salary is 2000 Kwanzaa’s a month, the equivalent of $25 US a month. Their salaries are based on a percentage of the offerings that come in. So he is unable to even afford a bicycle. He also has to grow his own food to support his family.

I came away with a burden for Pastor Samba and these small churches, feeling that a short term solution to their needs would be to provide Pastor Samba with a motorcycle, to enable him to visit these small communities. The price of a Chinese built motorcycle here is about $1700 to $1800 U$, which I felt should be easy enough to raise. I thought I would put out the call to all our friends and supporting churches. If after prayerful consideration you feel you would like to contribute any amount to the purchase of a motorcycle, please indicate to us by email how much you are able to give. If when all the pledges come in there is enough money, I would then ask that money be mailed in. Anything pledged over and above the purchased price would be used to register, help maintain, and buy fuel. So the goal we would like to set is $2300 U$. Due to our visa situation we would have to know within the next couple of weeks, in order to ensure that we had enough time to purchase this, if our work visa does not come through. Please respond by May 31, 2006. We will keep you up-to-date with pledges coming in.

God Bless,

Grocery Shopping In Angola

Just a bit of info for you all! Everyone seems to assume that it is cheaper to live in an African country, at least I get emails and comments on the phone that seem to say that... so just for your info, this just gives a little idea as to one area of expense here in Angola!

Grocery Shopping in Angola:

80 kwz to the US dollar
These prices are average and fluctuate greatly with supply and demand. There is only market gardening and so there is no great supply of anything fresh. The quality leaves much to be desired. Always worms in the tomatoes… that type of thing!

Milk Powder (25kg)… 8000 kwz ($100 US)
Flour (50 kg)… 3000 kwz ($37.50 US)
Rice (50 kg)… 1700 kwz ($21.25 US)
Beans (per kilo)… 100 kwz ($1.25 US)
Cheese (out of the question TOO expensive to even look at!!!)
Pasta (500g)… 80 kwz ($1.00 US)
Oil (500 ml)… 150 kwz ($1.88 US)
Margarine (500 ml)… 380 kwz ($4.75 US)
Sliced Meat (100g)… 125 kwz ($1.57 US)
Beef (per kilo)… 500 kwz ($6.25 US) and it is tougher than a chuck steak and flavorless
Pork (per kilo)… 500 kwz ($6.25 US)
Chicken (1200g)… 330 kwz ($4.13 US)
Buns… 7.5 kwz per bun (10 cents US)
Bread… 100 kwz ($1.25 US)
Carrots (3 carrots)… 50 kwz (63 cents US)
Potatoes (10 kilo)… 1200 kwz ($15.00 US)
Onions (3 med size)… 50 kwz (63 cents US)
Bananas (5)... 200 kwz ($2.50 US)
Mangos (4)… 100 kwz ($1.25 US)
Oranges (4)... 200 kwz ($2.50 US)
Watermelon... 150 kwz per kg ($1.88 US per kg) (that’s $4.15 US a pound, roughly) (we grow our own… and sell for only 50 kwz per kg)
Juice (2litre)... 200 kwz ($2.50 US)
Eggs... 30 kwz per egg (38 cents US)
Soft serve ice cream cone… 150 kwz ($1.88 US), one flavour to choose from, but lucky to have even that… not that we indulge more than once every 3 months!

Laundry Soap (box that does 90 loads)... 7500 kwz ($93.75 US)
Gas (for the stove)… 480 kwz tank lasts almost 3 weeks ($6.00 US)
Diesel (per litre)… 30 kwz (38 cents US)

This is why we do a great deal of our shopping in Namibia… it makes it semi-reasonable. Although you still have to watch while purchasing there, as many times buying BULK is more expensive than buying things individually! Still more expensive than Canada but much better prices than here! Things like eggs are something you have to get used to… we have chickens but they are Angolan chickens, they lay eggs for a few weeks and then they roost for a month. So we buy them at the praca for 38 cents US an egg… these eggs have been shipped up from South Africa and they sit at the border in the hot hot sun for a day or two sometimes. Then they get to the praca and they probably do not rotate the new with the old, and well you crack them open into a separate dish (each egg) just to make sure there are no rotten half chicks or completely rotten yolk… things like that! Rice always has bugs, and you have to sift your flour. There are no ‘return policies’ or ‘satisfaction guaranteed’ here in this country.

This just gives you an idea of what we are faced with when shopping in Angola! We have been told that Angola is the most expensive country to live in, in Africa. Also that Luanda is the second most expensive city in the world (just behind Tokyo) to live in! People are paying outrageous sums for rent (e.g.: a two room apartment for $3000 US a month, and I don’t think they are nice places!). The biggest blessing is that fuel for the truck is inexpensive… if they have it… they regularly go through fuel shortages! There is only one fuel company and it is owned by the government!

Hope you enjoyed learning a little more about our country!