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Personal Testimony by Bishop André Soares

[written during 2005]

“I, André Soares, am 49 years old, and was born on May 7th in 1956, in the village of Kinfinda, in the District of Mayengo, municipality of Songo, in Uige Province. My parents were called Lubuata and Leia Nzimbu Soares.

I was born into a Christian family, was baptised on February 12th 1958 and confirmed on March 31st 1974, in Lukala in Lower Congo province in Angola. In May 1962 we had to flee from there, together with my sister, on account of the War of National Liberation. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo I continued with my primary education. I was an outstanding pupil, always coming first or second in my class, but after the death of my father in July 1972, my brothers and I found it impossible to carry on; our situation was made worse by the fact we were living as fugitives

In 1974, aged 17, my uncle sent me off to study at the Pastoral Institute in Lukala (Zaire), having an eye to the future needs of the church in Angola. This was not well received by certain members of my family, firstly because I seemed very little, and secondly because everyone knew that pastors are people who live and die very poor!

Despite all this, I began my studies at the feet of the Rev. Alexandre Luís Domingos, who later became first Episcopal Delegate of the Anglican Church in Angola. Portugal pulled out of Angola on April 25th 1974,and I returned home, finally making my way back on 3rd March 1975. But all hopes of continuing my studies were dashed by conflict between the three movements that had fought for independence, FNLA, MPLA and UNITA.

It was 1978 before I could start studying again, only to find myself hauled off into the army in February 1979. 18 months later, I had the chance to leave (September 1980). That same year, our General Assembly sent me away for further pastoral studies at the Filafrican Mission Institute at Kalukembe in the South of Angola, which I attended from October 1980 to June 1983.

On March 9th 1984, after receiving my training, I was posted to Uige, the administrative centre of the Anglican Church in Angola. There I worked with the head of the church, Alexandre Luis Domingos, until November 1988, which was when they transferred the main office to Luanda.

On September 9th 1984 I was ordained pastor and was then posted to the district of Kandombe-Velho (Uige). This was when I finished my secondary school studies at the Dr. Antonio Agostinho Neto Pre-University Centre.

It’s worth pointing out that my first ordination happened when I was only 28; it wasn't easy for a young man to work as a pastor at that time, especially in a country dominated by Marxism. The government didn’t give pastors the right to any basic means of livelihood, since they despised our work. It was only later on in 1986 that we could start buying things officially. God’s call on our lives cost us a hard struggle.

Angola joined the Anglican Communion and during his first visit Bishop Dinis Sengulane made some of us deacons in December 1990. After further training, I was ordained on 29th September 1991. At 35, I was the youngest of all the priests, and so the Bishop nicknamed me “cassula”, which means “smallest in the family”.

Rev. Alexandre died on February 14th 1992, and I moved to Luanda to take his place as Episcopal Delegate. From that moment on, I have carried on the work, determined to overcome the problems of a country torn apart by 40 years of war and with little support from overseas. Thanks be to God the church is now a Diocese in its own right.

FAMILY LIFE: I am married to Janete João, with six sons and two daughters: Jeremias João Soares (22); Bendito João Soares (20), but has been suffering from epilepsy for the past 19 years); Manuel João Soares (18); Morias João Soares (14); Antonio João Soares (12); Mendes João Soares (9) and my daughters Joana João Soares (6) Maria João Soares (16). In addition, Afonso (19) is living with us from up in the mountains.

Educating them has been a major problem. Jeremias João Soares is studying at St. Mary Odibo Mission (Anglican Church in Namibia) at an annual cost of $700. My salary comes nowhere near this. My other sons are studying elsewhere in the country, but, again, with great difficulty. My children‘s future - as a minister of the Gospel - lies under threat unless help can be found from somewhere.

ECUMENCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES In January 2000 I was elected Vice-President of the Angolan Council of Churches. Recently I was elected onto the Angolan Inter-Church Peace Committee (COIEPA), which started on the 13th April. This committee has 12 members, drawn from the Catholic Church, Council of Churches and Evangelical Alliance.”

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