Tag Archives: Africa

Angola: Training up a nation

20 Nov

Helping a war-ravaged society heal itselfAngolaFlag

Why should a country that exports oil and diamonds have to import half its daily food? Over a dozen years after the end of a brutal civil war, Angola’s economy is slowly rebounding. Yet residents can only expect to live an average of 54 years, and child and maternal mortality rates remain among the highest in the world. This country clearly has a long way to go; so does the Church.

AngolaTeam2Yet after many years of investing themselves in this southwest corner of Africa, Wessel and Joan van der Merwe say that their hearts overflow with joy to see a dream come true: Angolans are becoming missionaries in their own country. Marta, one of the most promising students in OM Angola’s 10-month mission course, now feels a strong call to join the team long term. Nando, another student who took Petra College’s correspondence course on children’s work this year and attended the “Walking with the Wounded” training in South Africa, has already joined OM. Unfortunately, while both of these young people have promises of some financial support, it is not enough for them to stay long term.

Training in God’s Word

Meanwhile, the demand for Bible correspondence courses continues non-stop. With the help of local believers, the materials are being translated into another language, Luchachi. Wessel and Joan are looking to God to provide the necessary printing costs.

“One very big need, however,” they add, “is the constant demand for Bibles! We cannot keep up with the need for Scriptures in Umbundu, Cokwe and Luchachi languages. People come daily to our base to ask if we have received any more copies.”

Bible school training

Raising up qualified leadership for Angola’s churches has been a priority for OM since its beginning. When the team saw that existing seminaries were often too expensive for the average person, they created a programme that would allow students to work and study at the same time. Seven Bible schools have now been established in Uige, Luanda, Menongue, Kuito Karnivale and Calai. Other institutions assist; Veritas College, for instance, offers a course called “How to interpret the Bible with the Bible”. The Africa Leaders Institute in Namibia has also been involved, and the Christian Reformed Church in South Africa is committed to helping with both training and financial support of Angolan leaders in the same denominations.

Equipping children and youth

With forty-four per cent of Angola’s population under 15, OM has a wide-open door to share God’s Word with the next generation and teach them basic English. Children’s clubs have been effective in reaching the un-churched. Programmes held every Saturday are impacting about 400 children in just two communities.

Thanks to contributions from a supporter in England, construction has begun on the foundation of OM’s children’s centre in Menongue, another long-awaited dream.

“A lot of work remains,” note the van der Merwes, “so we ask you to trust God with us for the time, hands and outstanding finances still required. We also ask prayer for a speedy registration process with the government and for wisdom, discernment and protection against all forms of corruption. Plus an individual or couple must be found to live on the premises and co-ordinate the work in our absence, whenever we go to Luanda or South Africa. With God’s help, our centre will assist very needy children and orphans to reach the full potential He has for them.”

Meanwhile, the team continues to train pre-school teachers and Sunday School teachers for Angola’s churches. “So many do not feel well-equipped. We praise the Lord for opportunities to help teachers learn how to build relationships with their children, as well learn how to prepare and present well-balanced lessons.”

Discipleship training for teens

Youth who once attended children’s clubs and are now trying to stay faithful to Jesus in their teens AngolaDisciplingprisonyouthalso need training. Some committed Christian youth are volunteering their time to minister in the local prison in Menongue.

“Early every morning at 6:00, young people who were using–and sometimes still use—marijuana show up for discipleship training, ready to be equipped with God’s Word,”affirms the team. “We are very encouraged by their zeal, but sexual temptation is very big here. One of the devastating statistics of Angola is that 43 per cent of youth have had sexual relations by the age of 15.”

OM Angola hopes to build relationships with the ever-increasing numbers of youth who are using drugs by making their property available as a soccer field. “We are excited about the opportunities for introducing Christ’s way through the rules of the game. Please trust God with us for His time to start this ministry, as well as the right people to co-ordinate it.”

Advocacy courses for church leaders

Meanwhile, training is helping to close the gap between church leaders and the children in their churches and communities. This year OM Angola held its first advocacy course with the support of Petra College, which partners with the team in children’s ministries.

The team’s goal is that each leader and Sunday School teacher will make sure their children have assurance of faith in Christ Jesus, so they will experience His sincere love for them.

Angola’s greatest hope does not lie in its oil fields or diamonds, but in its next generation. Will you join in asking God to raise up more Angolan young people to reach the world in which He placed them?

Life and death on the lake

11 Oct

An English nurse embraces the challenge of a lifetime on Lake Tanganyika

Copyright Brad Livengood 2013“The minute we saw the lake I said to my husband Chris: ‘That’s it. I’m home.'”

 Ever since she was a little girl, Nicola (Nicky) Tiltman had cherished a passion to become a missionary nurse. She had never even heard of Africa‘s Lake Tanganyika until the couple applied to OM and learned that a nurse and person with administrative skills were required in the lakeside town of Mpulungu. The job descriptions suited them both.

Chris and Nicky moved from England to Zambia in 2012 and by April they were settling into a vastly different lifestyle along the longest freshwater lake in the world. Their team had 40 missionaries, 33 of whom were Zambian.

 “As a Good News II Medical Ministry Team, our first priority was to build a relationship with the local government clinic while making trips to the villages on the lake,” relates Nicky. “Almost a million people live on the Zambian shoreline and OM has workers in five villages. Initially we are focusing on three villages. Two of them have no clinic and in the third we are working together with a local Christian community health worker.  The most prevalent conditions we find are severe malnutrition, malaria, skin conditions and opportunistic infections related to HIV and AIDS. Our response is at primary and preventative healthcare level including education about nutrition, hygiene and sanitation.

Nicky adds that the need in the villages is not just physical but spiritual. “There are churches in some villages, but most who attend them also have a heavy reliance on witch doctors. Men, women and children bear scars from small charms implanted under their skin. When we visit a village, our team encourages the local church, does ministry with the children and often shows the JESUS film.”

HIV testingCopyright Brad Livengood 2013

Nicky says that serving in Lake Tanganyika has given her a heart both for Africa and for people living with HIV. “Mpulungu has a population of about 100,000 permanent residents, and an HIV rate of 15 per cent amongst those who department of the local government clinic. This clinic does have a conventional machine for obtaining a CD4 cell count, the test needed before a person can commence antiretroviral therapy. One of the challenges, however, is the cost of transporting people to Mpulungu for testing and the fact that it takes two days to get test results. Another problem is that Voluntary Counselling and Testing is not routinely conducted along the lakeshore, so many people do not know their status. The local Ministry of Health is desperate for us to go and offer this service.”

Now, thanks to funding supplied by OM UK through their “Just Christmas” appeal, the team has taken delivery of a UNAIDS-approved CD4 cell count testing machine. The machine is lightweight and portable and does not require a laboratory technician to operate it. Nicky and her husband attended and passed the manufacturer’s training in Lusaka; now they plan to train a number of local workers. The main benefit of the machine is that it analyses a CD4 cell count in a sample of blood taken from a finger prick, giving a result in only 20 minutes. This means that a person who is HIV positive can get their CD4 cell count and start on treatment within 30 minutes.

 “Please pray for a continuous supply of antiretroviral medication to the government clinic we are partnering with to offer HIV services,” urges Nicky. “Also pray for a change of mindset in the villages, where people are living in bondage to fear. We are dealing with 12-year-old girls who are at risk of early marriage and trafficking; with women who have no right to say no to sex and with men who have multiple women at different fishing villages. Many of them still believe that having sex with a virgin will cure them of HIV.

“There’s a huge job ahead,” she admits. “Illiteracy is very high so I am making a pictorial teaching tool. It’s a NICKYlakeTwithChrischallenge not to feel that we are fighting a losing battle. But that’s where faith comes in. God is able to do abundantly more than we can ask or think or even imagine!”

Streams in the desert of Chad

19 Jun

Chad nomads

It is an ancient land, inhabited and fought over since time began. Lying deep in the heart of Africa, the nation of Chad is three times the size of California and entirely surrounded by six countries: Libya, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Sudan. Even after the latest five-year conflict with Sudan which ended in 2010, the land remains troubled by rebel groups.

Chad is also hugely impacted by the ever-expanding Sahara Desert. To the 80 per cent of residents who are subsistence farmers, water is precious. Few roads are paved. This is one of the poorest and most corrupt countries on the planet. The average life expectancy is only 49 years. Maternal death rates are as much as 1000 times higher than in high-income countries, according to the World Health Organisation. Chad is on Save the Children’s top 10 list of the world’s worst places to be a mother.

 Only a special kind of Christian worker can survive in Chad. Although freedom of religion is supposed to be official and up to 38 per cent of the population are at least nominal Christians, over half are Muslims: and Muslim influence is strong.

 “The further you get from the capital,” asserts “Paul,”* “the more radical it is.”

Paul moved from his own country to pioneer in Chad nine years ago, the last four of them under OM. He now speaks French and is learning Arabic. Last year he was finally joined by a second man. The pair teach English, conduct Bible studies, develop friendships with young people through football, and run a sewing project to assist some of Chad’s thousands of war widows, since the government offers little help.

 Paul has boldly chosen to live in the community he is trying to reach. “But even though I dress like everyone else,” he says, “people know I’m a foreigner and a Christian. Twice I was stoned. The first time it was by little children. So I challenged the adults who were playing cards nearby: ‘You say, “Peace be upon you!”–Is that just for Muslims or for anyone?’ Then they rebuked the kids for throwing stones.

 “The church in Chad is very weak,” continues Paul, “and Christians are fearful of going into Muslim areas. Churches are also divided among themselves and don’t work together. We want to change this situation through discipleship training. Our first two-month course, a pilot project, starts this May. The training will include practical evangelism experience in Nigeria. Pray that Christians from all the churches in the area will participate.”

 Paul and his co-worker have been encouraged that some believers are getting on board with the sewing project and also learning to share their faith. “When we talked to the women about God as our Father, I saw a Muslim woman cry. She said, ‘God sent you. We didn’t know we could call God Father’! Knowing they can talk to Him about their problems speaks volumes into their lives.”

 These two men are very anxious for your intercession. Chad’s climate is not a comfortable one, either spiritually or physically. Temperatures at this time of year can soar to over 45C or 110F. Their personal drinking supply is not safe and Paul struggles with stomach problems.

 Some have nicknamed Chad the “Dead Heart of Africa”. Fortunately, the God who gave His Son to die for the people of Chad is eager to show that no such place exists. He specialises in creating thirst-quenching streams in even the most barren of deserts.

 *Name changed