“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be as soldier.” 2 Timothy 2:3, 4. A soldier’s lot has never been an easy one. Danger, fatigue, hardship and more daily face a soldier. What more can we expect as soldiers of the cross? Circumstances calling for endurance, decision and firmness arise, but our duty is to keep pressing forward in the name of Him who has called us.
From the beginning of the proposed mission trip to Angola, we were faced with obstructions and difficulties, but just as our General opened the waters of the Red Sea, so the Lord opened apparently locked doors before our way. For weeks, I had been calling and faxing the Embassy of Angola in Washington, D.C., in order that my visa would be processed in a timely manner. Finally it was coming down to a couple days before the scheduled departure date and still I had no passport or visa in my hand. The calls became more frequent and urgent. In my final call to the embassy, the staff suggested that I have our brother in Angola call the department head within the next hour! Considering the time difference to Angola and the necessity that the message be translated into Portuguese to be understood, this was asking a lot, but the message got through and the call was placed. Praying that the Lord would work everything out, I left for a Sabbath speaking appointment leaving the issue in the hands of our Lord. When I returned two days before I was scheduled to leave for Angola, I had a message that I could pick up the visa at the embassy in Washington, D.C.,—easier said than done from Seattle, Washington, especially since the embassy was closed for an Angolan holiday on Monday and I was supposed to leave Tuesday morning. It looked impossible, “but man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” Acts of the Apostles, 146. After much prayer and thought, it was decided to reroute my journey to Angola through Washington, D.C., stop and pick up the passport and visa and continue on in the journey to Angola. Having made that decision, only a few hours were left to get everything together and take off sooner than anticipated. On Tuesday morning, I landed in Washington, D.C., and was on the way to the embassy, hoping that they would hold true to their word that I could “pick it up.” When the doors opened to the embassy, I was first in line, but that amounted to little for when I asked for my passport and visa, they returned a visa-less passport! I tried to explain that I had flown from the west coast to the east coast to pick up my visa, on their word and that I was to be leaving for Angola later that day. Others with similar unpleasant experiences offered no hope, but there I stayed. (I had nowhere else to go!) After waiting until mid-afternoon, the head of the visa section finally arrived, and I was reunited with my passport with a visa to Angola. There was no doubt in my mind that the Lord had worked miracle, but there was still another problem: my plane was almost ready to leave and I was still in downtown Washington, D.C.! Believing that the Lord had led thus far, I tried to get back to the airport as fast as I could, but it was too late. Fortunately, though, I was put on a flight the next day and was truly on my way to Angola this time.
Although one day later than planned, I made it to Angola in time for the first camp meeting. I arrived without my luggage, but was praising God for having arrived at all. After clearing the airport Friday morning, it was off to the site of our first labors, the province of Huambo (wâm’-bō) in the central highlands of Angola. I was very glad for the Sabbath to come and to finally be at our first destination after traveling since Monday afternoon. In Huambo, I met up with our team of workers who had preceded my arrival. Brother Abilio Brito from Portugal had organized the trip and has been visiting and ministering Angola once a year for several years. Two students and a teacher also came from the Taquara Institute of Education and Health (IEST) outside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They all had an advantage on me in that they could readily communicate in the common language of all three countries—Portuguese. Despite my linguistic barriers, it was a blessing to meet and share with the brethren there. As the camp meeting progressed, Biblical studies and practical messages were combined. Topics ranged from revival to dress to practical cooking/natural remedy demonstrations. Soon, though, the camp meeting was over and we were on the road again.
Our team was divided to hold two camp meetings, and I was on my way to a distant eastern province while the remainder of the visiting team held a camp meeting in another more central province. The traveling challenges, while different from the first I had encountered in the trip, were still formidable. Traveling across the country in buses, stopping at police checkpoints, attempting to sleep in situations that morph airplane seats into luxury apartments certainly remind us that we have a soldier’s lot, but with the special promise of the Lord’s sustaining grace along the way. Once again, we were very thankful to have arrived and to share messages from the Word again. Messages, marriages, baptisms and counsels filled the schedule as we sought to be a blessing and learn the labors and challenges the brethren face.
Once again, it was time to be off, this time back to the capital city of Luanda to meet up with the rest of the team for the final camp meeting there. This camp meeting was definitely the largest. The location was at the edge of the capital city where the brethren are building their first permanent church structure. The building has begun, but only the pillars had been erected. Wires and tarps were stretched across the pillars providing shade for some of the attendees, while most had to hunker under an umbrella or bake in the sun. For the Sabbath morning service, the numbers swelled to well over a thousand as the sea of faces became a challenge to number.
The lay brethren are doing their best to share the message and prepare a people for the coming of the Lord. Around fifteen years ago, some began to study the Bible and spirit of prophecy more deeply than they previously had and it began to change their lives. As they studied, they began to discover treasures that they had never known before. Their study led to sharing, and as they shared a revival began to ripple through the ranks. At every revival, the devil seeks to quench the fire, and the brethren faced many an obstacle, but they would not be deterred. They have continued to study and share the truths they have learned. They have distributed thousands of truth-filled tabloids, and are very excited to be receiving another shipment soon. Out in the villages, they are able to build simple church buildings, while in the capital more means is required to build permanent houses of worship, but they are doing what they can.
Angola is a country where the inhabitants know what a soldier’s life is. They know the hardships that come during a war, for all have experience it one way or another. For nearly thirty years, Angola was in a devastating civil war. (Each side supported by rival world powers.) In 2002, the war ended and the country has been rebuilding since then. The horrors of war are all around from civilian limbs lost through the copious land minds or the wreckage of military equipment around. Many of the brethren were forced against their will to be soldiers. One brother who is presently leading out in the activities of the lay brethren had just that fate. He had gone from being a child soldier to a general in the winning army. When the call of God came to him, though, he renounced his generalship to labor under the Heavenly General. There are still battles to fight, still hardships to be borne, and still victories to be won; but now he knows the eternal destiny of souls is at stake, not just a country. He shared with me, how happy he is to be in the Lord’s army now—from child soldier to Christian soldier. Do we share his joy? Do we realize and are we willing to faithfully bear our part in the Lord’s army now?
By Cody Francis, Missions Projects International, PO Box 59656, Renton, WA 98058. Phone: 800-467-4174. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.missionspro.org