Read a letter from Carl and Lois Dille written in 1963 about their work in Angola.
Letter from missionaries Lois and Carl Dille, who served the Church of Christ in Central Angola (today the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola - IECA). This letter is shared by Carl and Lois Dille’s family, an excerpt from the book A Dille of a Life, compiled by Nancy Dille Dunbar.
April 11, 1963
First of all, please note our new address given above. By the time you receive this letter we will be there. Moving day is May 10.
For nearly 25 years we have worked with the church here in Angola at the local and village level, and in the training of village lay leaders. But in January the annual meeting of the Church of Christ in Central Angola decided that we should move to our Emmanuel Theological Seminary in Dondi. Carl will be rector and teacher and Lois will direct the Bible and Home Economics courses for the wives of the seminary students.
Emmanuel Seminary is a union theological seminary supported by the American Methodists, the United Church of Canada and our own United Church of Christ. Because of the difficulties, about which I’m sure you have all read in your papers and magazines, the Methodists are no longer able to furnish part of the staff. The former rector, Juel Nordby, has been transferred to Methodist work elsewhere in Africa. But we have students from that church, of the Kimbundu tribe, plus a number of our Ovimbundu, and one white Portuguese family. Because of the students having three different native tongues, the teaching is in the one common language, Portuguese. In our village work, we worked chiefly in Umbundu, since the majority of the village people do not understand much Portuguese, many none at all beyond “good morning” or “good afternoon.” However, we have worked regularly with the Portuguese language congregation in Silva Porto since 1957. Nevertheless, it is now going to be a real about-face for us to think, study, teach and preach almost entirely in Portuguese.
We are sorry to be leaving the village church work, and especially the training of village lay leaders. We have felt this to be very important to the work of the church as a whole. A pastor here usually is responsible for from 20 to 30 villages, each village with its lay catechist. Since 1948, when we started the Foor Rural Life School in Elende, we have been working in the Rural Life Schools, first in Elende and then in Camundongo, training these village catechists. We are especially sorry to be leaving this work because there is no one available to take our place. The two single women missionaries who remain on the station will fill in as best they can. But two can’t do the work of four, no matters how hard they try. When we came back from furlough in 1960, our missionary group numbered 60 at work with the Church of Christ in Central Angola. Now, just two years later, we are 35. Those on furlough in the United States and Canada have not been able to get Portuguese visas to return.
Several years ago we began to turn the work over to African leaders, looking to the day when they would take over the leadership of the entire church program. Now this is paying big dividends. They are already directing most of the school program, and both of our Rural Life Schools have had African directors for the last few years. We have worked in close cooperation with them and their fellow teachers. Now they will be pretty much on their own. This is also true of the 79 ordained African pastors working in our 8 local churches, only 4 of which have an ordained missionary working with them.
Much as we will miss the village and Rural Life School work, we realize the importance of our training program for pastors. Under the present policy of the Portuguese government, it is evident that the number of missionaries will continue to be reduced, and rapidly. They are not now being deported, but are just not able, with a very few exceptions, to get return visas when, for health reasons they can no longer delay their furloughs. Of the 35 United Church of Canada and United Church of Christ missionaries now on the field (ours is a unison work here), 8 have already stayed over an extra year and 10 more are due for furlough this year. So, under present conditions, our training of African leadership for the Church is vitally important. As things now are, the church in the near future is going to have to look almost exclusively to the pastors for its leadership and direction.
If what is happening in nearly all the rest of Africa should come to Angola, it is our hope that the African leadership of the Church, laymen and clergy, will provide the foundation on which the life of the people will be built. Here is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to teach young men and women who will be the leaders of their people long after the missionaries have left these shores. The “winds of change” are currently blowing – stronger in some places than in others in this vast continent – but blowing everywhere. The important question is: in the short time available, will we be able to give these consecrated young men and women the foundation stones, the training, the philosophy of life on which we hope the newly emerging Africa will be built?
The steadying influence of Christian leaders could make the difference between chaos and orderliness, between racial bitterness and real brotherhood. The responsibility that rests on the messengers of the Prince of Peace in Africa today is sobering. In the world of the spiritual “it causes us to tremble, tremble, tremble.”
Please pray for Africa and its leaders, church and government alike. They need a wisdom far greater than their own. And please continue your support of our United Church Board for World Ministries, that is having heavier and heavier expenses because of the particular situation here and through all Africa. In these particularly trying times, we have been greatly encouraged by the Board’s most generous support of every phase of the work here, which has enabled us to carry on in a way we did not think possible.
Carl and Lois Dille