Visit Report 2008


Visit to our link Parish of St Michael & All Angels in Negage, Angola

July 2008

[Source: Tom Smith, ALMA Rep for St Paul’s Church, Winchmore Hill]

Church at Negage
St Michael’s Church in Negage

It was a fraught build-up to our Angola trip, with our visas only being confirmed two days before departure. It was therefore a relief and a huge privilege for myself, John Hey and Andrea Browne to be on the plane heading off to visit our link partners at St Michael’s Church in Negage.

We arrived at Luanda ‘4th February’ International Airport in the early hours of Saturday 12th July and there waiting for us was our guide Mario dos Santos, the Angolan ALMA Officer and Director of the Nets4life Campaign. We were now ready for the next leg of our trip; a 300km drive northeast to the town of Uige. Unfortunately our car was not quite as ready as we were, as there was the small issue of a flat tyre to deal with!

Father Clement
Father Clement

Luanda is a very busy capital city and our UNICEF colleagues told us that it is the most expensive city in the world. If you add to this sprawling townships, construction on a very large scale, a transport infrastructure undergoing renewal, then you have a city overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and its vast oil reserves, whose inhabitants range on a very wide spectrum from those who have most at one end to those who have nothing at the other. During our 10 – 12 hour drive to Uige, (we lost track of time) the vast majority of people we saw by the roadside seemed to be those who had nothing or very little at all.

Our welcoming party in Uige were told to go home and understandably so. With one breakdown for overheating and a fully loaded car to add to our earlier flat tyre, our arrival was somewhat late! Uige is the principal city in the north that had suffered badly during the civil war. Our guesthouse/hotel was basic and to be our base for the next five days.

Fr Narciso
Father Narciso and family

St. Michael and All Angel’s Church is situated in Negage, some 30 minute drive from Uige. Negage is an outlying town consisting of a main crossroads with a handful of government and commercial buildings but largely surrounded by ‘adobe’ houses built of clay that make up the townships within which sits our link parish in the village of Cawa.

Our arrival at the church of St Michael’s was met with an overwhelming welcome. The villagers, a choir, a church band, the clergy, church and the local dignitaries were all present to greet us with a warm enthusiastic welcome. Together we worshipped God under the African sun in what was a very traditional Anglican Eucharist Service taken from the Alternative Service Book, and at the same time celebrated ten years of ALMA. After the service we had a chance to mingle with the villagers and we shared lunch in the new school building. No running water, no electricity, no adequate toilet facilities are just some of the difficulties the villagers have to deal with. But the smile on the faces of our brothers and sisters in Christ was, and for me continues to be, infectious and humbling, and their hope for the future could be seen reaching out through their uplifting expressions.

Visiting party with children
Visiting party with children

With this visit, our parish partnership and Angola School Project has reached a milestone, and continues onwards. At present one block of three classrooms has been built, which was funded by UNICEF. Our link partners are currently deciding upon how our raised funds will be used within the school development. A permanent water supply, a sanitation block, one or two extra classrooms are some of the projects being considered at this time. On one hand it is frustrating that more development hasn’t happened sooner, but on the other hand we are dealing with a community that has suffered 40 years of conflict and where electricity is seen as a luxury. Also, we know too well that building projects in developed countries like the UK have their difficulties, so to some degree it is to be expected.

Negage School
St Michael’s school, Negage

The exciting news is that St. Michael’s School will officially open at the start of the school year in February 09, where around 200 children will receive a primary education for the first time. It is also hoped that the facility will be used in the evening for adult education classes.

I’d like to think that through our visit, our parish link with St. Michael’s has grown stronger, where experiences have been shared, fellowship deepened and through God’s grace, hope for the future has been realised.