Pastoral journey into new territory
Right at the start of the New Year, the international Church leader will travel to Angola. There are two unfamiliar stops awaiting him in Nzagi and Dundo, two cities in the north and northeast of the country, respectively. Here are some impressions.
Two divine services and a church concert: on 11 and 12 January 2020, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider will travel to Nzagi and Dundo—and it will be the very first time that any Chief Apostle will ever have come to this region. District Apostle Helper João Uanuque Misselo is incredibly happy, and so are many thousands of members more: “With great anticipation, we look forward to the arrival of our Chief Apostle to strengthen our faith. And beyond that, we also know that his visit will leave many traces of blessing for all the brothers and sisters in this part of the world.”
Unfamiliar congregations—new faces
Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider often goes to regions where no Church leader has ever made a stop before. And he is fond of doing so. Almost exactly a year ago, he conducted two divine services in Angola and Benguela—congregations which had likewise never had a Chief Apostle visit previously. This time he is going to the Angolan province of Lunda-Norte, namely to its capital of Dundo-Chitato, also known as simply Dundo. It is located a mere ten kilometres south of the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The city is home to some 180,000 inhabitants. The region is known for its rich mineral resources. The first diamonds were found here in 1912, and thereafter the region experienced a rapid and dramatic upswing.
In 1989 the then Apostle Sukami Ronsard sent a Priest there in order to build up a congregation. In Nzagi, some 100 kilometres away from Dundo, the first New Apostolic divine service took place in 1986. Today the province of Lunda-Norte is divided into two Apostle districts, one in the east and one in the west. Apostle Francisco Cabuma Dibaia serves the eastern area of Lunda-Norte East, with its 180 congregations
A great country with a great deal of potential
In any case, the “Igreja Nova Apostólica Angola” is an aspiring Church full of vitality and colour. More than 30 Apostles and Bishops provide pastoral care to the country’s 2,100 congregations. While membership numbers in other regions are in decline, the Church here is still growing. Today there are approximately 300,000 New Apostolic Christians living in Angola. Another impressive element is the loyalty of the members to their faith: the services are well attended, there are large choirs in the congregations, and there is a great deal of commitment and enthusiasm both within and outside of the congregations.
In terms of Church organisation, Angola is part of the District Apostle district of Western Germany. As the District Church’s highest dignitary, District Apostle Rainer Storck from Dortmund, Germany cares for around 40 national Churches. Among other things, his concern for Angola is to increase the national Church’s financial independence. This objective has almost been reached. At present, nearly 100 percent of the annual expenses for running costs are paid from the national Church’s own coffers. In 2018, the subsidy from Western Germany amounted to around 430,000 euros.
The new head of the Church administration is Apostle João Carlos Mafo. He is currently spending much of his time with the ongoing registration process of ANAC, the Church's aid organisation in Angola. Although the “Ação Nova Apostólica de Caridade em Angola” was already established in 2011, its official recognition has been repeatedly delayed as a result of elections, legislative changes, and other administrative obstacles. The charity is supposed to take over the social projects previously operated by the Church, namely its medical stations, schools, and agricultural projects.
It all began 37 years ago
Sukami Landu Ronsard was the first Apostle in Angola, and served as the way-preparer for the New Apostolic Church in the country. He became New Apostolic in 1983, and was ordained a Deacon in the same divine service in which he was sealed. His ordination to the Apostle ministry by Chief Apostle Hans Urwyler took place only two years later. Since first contact, Ronsard was a constant companion to the then District Apostle Armin Brinkmann, who established the first congregations of Angola: “Without him, I would never have survived the numerous journeys through this country, which had been so ravaged by civil war.” A memorial stone erected some 25 kilometres from Uíge has commemorated the first Angolan Apostle of the New Apostolic Church since 2009.