Christmas Blessings from Portugal – on the journey to Angola!
In sending greetings in this Advent Season, I trust that this special time of waiting, preparation and anticipation will touch your hearts individually, bring special warmth to your contacts with family and friends, and hold a new sense of joy, purpose and hope to gatherings within your faith communities.
This year, Advent holds a keener sense of preparation and anticipation than usual for me as I look back on being sent out as a missionary – by my home church, University Church, the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ, and Global Ministries, the shared international witness of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the UCC – and look forward to arriving in Angola to begin the newness of being your missionary there in the New Year!
Despite the original plan for me to travel to Angola on December 2, I’m still in Portugal, waiting and preparing, for a short time yet. There were some 11th-hour delays with a second visa needed to enter Angola (fortunately, my work visa is securely in my possession). My application is at the Angolan Embassy in Washington, D.C. and, hopefully, we will be able to rebook my flight before the end of December. So, I am finding the gift in what initially seemed a disappointment and am using the additional time in Lisbon for learning more Portuguese and enhancing my sense of patience and trust in God’s timing for things to unfold.
Learning a new language and experiencing the frustration of language isolation have been eye openers for me. Here I am, having chosen (and been chosen, thankfully!) to go to another country, having the huge advantage of going to a good school to learn, and it has been a struggle for me. There are millions of people who have been surrounded by strange sights and sounds, and often by unwelcoming faces, not by choice, but by virtue of famine, war and other difficult circumstances. It has given me great respect and sympathy for their struggles – and a humbling yardstick by which to measure my own discomforts.
So, I continue to learn on many levels and, as the time grows nearer, I feel a sense of renewed excitement and energy around finally arriving in Angola to begin my work with the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola (IECA) in their Department of Social Assistance, Education and Projects (DASEP), whose outreach projects address education, health care, sustainable development, advocacy, gender equity, and peace & reconciliation. I remain in contact with Rev. Augusto Chipesse, IECA’s General Secretary, and Luis Samacumbi, DASEP’s Director, who encourage me by their welcoming spirits and dedication to God’s work of peace and justice. The plan remains for me to work within DASEP to help improve staff training programs, enhance strategic planning skills, expand reporting and publications, offer input on sustainable development projects, and assist in creating links to new partners to support these projects. I remain honored to become part of the DASEP team, contributing what I can to their good work, and blessed to be representing the partnership between IECA and the Illinois Conference of the UCC as well as Global Ministries.
And, I would share with you a phrase that Maria, the good woman with whom I’ve been staying, shared with me the first day that I arrived on her doorstep: Deus é o unico amigo certo nas horas incertas (God is a unique, sure friend in uncertain hours). I have surely felt surrounded and upheld by God’s presence and grace as I continue to move toward becoming part of God’s work in Angola.
I hope to be a steady communicator moving forward to keep you informed about the progress and challenges of the work, for I realize every day what a blessing it is to have so many people who have supported, in so many ways, my going to Angola as one expression of our solidarity in faith and in action with our brothers and sisters in Christ there. And, I ask for your continuing prayers for the journey ahead. I plan to stay in touch via e-mail, so please keep me updated on any changes in your e-mail address or the addresses of anyone who might want to receive periodic updates.
I trust that the love, peace and hope that are the message and celebration of this season will touch your heart and provide a pathway that blesses your life and transforms our world.
Donna Dudley is a missionary with the Evangelical Congregational Church of Angola. She assists with development projects and staff leadership training programs.