Pre-war, the Angolans in Cavango met with one another to discuss the proceedings of the community, but during the civil war, the oppressive government banned them from getting together. After the end of the war, the meetings did not restart. In efforts to get these meetings going again, Dr. Kubacki asked the leaders of the community to start to meet to address the needs of the community, especially in the areas of health and spirituality. Once together again, they described that they had not been working together like this since before the war, nor had a missionary been involved like this before.
At the beginning of each meeting, the community leaders sing a couple hymns and open with a prayer. The meeting was then turned over to Dr. Kubacki, who again, started the business of the meeting by asking questions. What are areas that the community is in need of in the realm of health? The first on the list was treating malaria. Others among the list included hygiene education, mosquito nets, and TB and leprosy medications. They then discussed progress on items from the past meeting: one leader was trying to get documents from a government official for permission to treat patients in their district. He had gotten a positive response, but no actions were actually made. Another person was working on getting plows for yoked oxen so that elderly villagers did not have to work with a hand plow. The next question was about the areas of need in spiritual health. Among this list was to learn how to make better disciples, work on rebuilding the church building that was destroyed during the war, and promote cooperation amongst the village. To accomplish these, a discipleship group has formed and people regularly work on clearing the dirt and bricks from the old church foundation for preparation of a frame.
At the meeting, Dr. Kubacki asked me to share about my experience coming to Angola from the US, as well as how this incorporated my view of God. Although I suffer from stage fright, I agreed to participate, especilaly since they so loved to hear from visitors and very rarely get them. I decided to tell them about the busyness of the US: how we have lots of stores, movies, electronics, and lots of distractions that take up time and attention. I told them how I got on a huge plane and flew 15 hours to come to Angola, and I left the busyness of the US behind. (They gasped at the length of the flight time!). When I got to Angola, I had more time to focus on my relationship with God and with other people, now that many of these distractions were gone. My view of God was incorporated in that since we are all created by God in His image, getting to meet the Angolans was like getting to meet a whole new side of God. I could see God working through them in the way that they served one another, especially by seeing them work in the clinic and by how they care not only for their families but for the other members of the village as well.
Their response to my talk was that they were so pleased to have me visit their country. They told me that it is hard for them to understand what it is like in other countries (no TV, no news, no media). One person asked if the United States was in North America or South. Imagine that America! They had a strong desire for me to share what I’ve learned about Angola with my country. Pastor Jeremias told me to communicate what the weather was like, about the grass, the dirt, and about the people (the weather is rainy and comfortably warm in rainy season, the grass is long and green, the dirt is red, and the people are beautiful!). I love what he feels are the important things he wants you to know about!
This meeting demonstrated a great way to show someone you care about their needs: ask what the needs actually are, let them organize ways that they themselves can accomplish their goals, and following up on progress by communicating successes and struggles. What good would it do to just hand over needs? What sense of purpose and ownership would that harbor? This method of addressing needs is so positive: the people own their needs, they accomplish goals themselves, and their own plans and decisions create solutions, as well as confidence in their abilities. Teach a man to fish, and let him own it!
PS- I am now back in the states, but due a final remote site visit and transitioning back home, I got a bit behind! I have a few more stories, including some reverse culture shock to share with you. Almost done!