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Paul Ratsara, president of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, addresses 40,000 attendees of a rally in support of mission at Centro Desportivo Da Cidadela Stadium in Luanda last month. Church officials have selected Luanda as the designated city in the division for outreach. Church leaders there are choosing to use ongoing small group ministry for the initiative. [photo: Paul Charles]
March 11, 2013 | Luanda, Angola | Paul Charles and Ansel Oliver |
Church leaders in Southern Africa are coordinating small group ministry outreach on a mass scale here in Luanda in response to the Seventh-day Adventist world church’s call for mission to large cities.
The push comes at a time when leaders say the window of opportunity is open for evangelism outreach in the capital city of Angola, now about a decade since an ongoing civil war ceased.
Some 52,000 groups of approximately five people are regularly meeting in homes. After a few months, the groups will be matched together with four other home groups to form what leaders call “cottage meetings.” The plan is to have by later this year about 10,000 of these larger meetings regularly studying the gospel.
The effort comes after a year of planning to implement the citywide initiative, which follows previous outreach by the Adventist Church in Southern Africa based on the premise that evangelism should not a big, one-time event, but a sustained process.
“This method has huge overtones for effective membership retention,” said Mike Ryan, a general vice president of the Adventist world church, following his speech to a 40,000-person rally here last month.
A big challenge remains, though, Ryan said. Most Adventists don’t have a lot of friends who aren’t already members of the church. It’s true here, too, where members are being encouraged to make friends in the wider community.
The metro area of Luanda is home to at least 7 million people. In response to the denomination’s Mission to the Cities initiative, church leaders in the region in 2011 designated Luanda for outreach, the first time a major effort could be made here in the country’s recent, tumultuous past.
For decades, the Seventh-day Adventist world church had extreme difficulty offering support to the Adventist Church here in Angola. A nearly 30-year civil war was widespread and took the lives of 1.5 million. During that time, the denomination couldn’t give its 13th Sabbath offerings to projects in the country.
“We still have a lot of catching up to do,” said Paul Ratsara, president of the Adventist Church’s Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, based in South Africa.
The Adventist Church in Angola has little infrastructure. The Bongo Adventist Seminary in the town of Haumbo has 115 enrolled students, and the compound also has a school, clinic and publishing house.
Angola is rich in natural resources, including diamonds and oil. Most products are imported, making Luanda one of the most expensive cities in the world for expatriates. But even as the country attracts foreign investment, more than 40 percent of the population lives in poverty.
Church leaders hope the renewed evangelism push, in addition to spreading the gospel, will help bring more people to an better understanding of healthful living and commitment to education.
“Small groups have proven to be an effective instrument in God’s hands to bring us more growth – spiritual growth, growth in relationships, growth in preparing disciples, and growth in planting new churches,” said Gilberto Araujo, chairman of the division’s Urban Evangelism Committee.