The early death of a pioneer in Angola

“He was a young and deeply faithful man of God with vision,” District Apostle (ret.) Brinkmann describes his friend and companion, Sukami Landu Ronsard, the first Angolan Apostle. He died on 27 August 1989 at the age of 31 in an ambush by rebels. Thirty years ago to the day, Apostle Ronsard was ordained as an Apostle.

Thirty years ago, on 25 August 1985, Chief Apostle Hans Urwyler conducted a divine service in Bielefeld in Germany. The three overseas territories in the care of the district of North Rhine-Westphalia each received an Apostle on that day: Nicoló Augello for Brazil-North, Manuel Luiz for Portugal, and Sukami Landu Ronsard for Angola. Apostle Ronsard was 27 years old at the time and one of the youngest Apostles in the history of the Church. With his ordination the work in Angola became a little easier, because he lived there permanently. In fact, Apostle Ronsard prepared the way for the New Apostolic Church in Angola.

One of the first ministers

Sukami Landu Ronsard first heard about the New Apostolic Church in Zaire, where his parents had moved with the family. He even attended the services there with a friend. Eventually he returned to Angola and lost contact with the Church. A few years later, in 1983, he heard about the New Apostolic Church again. New Apostolic ministers from North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) were on their first trip to Angola. They had planned to continue into the interior, but because of fighting going on between rebel factions, the group stayed in Luanda, the national capital. A power struggle between former liberation movements following the country’s independence from Portugal in 1975, resulted in a violent civil war that continued, with some interludes, until 2002.

A friend told Sukami Landu Ronsard that Apostles of the New Apostolic Church had arrived in Luanda from Germany. Sukami was married and had lived in Germany for a short time, where he had been looking for the right Church. Back in Angola he and a group of young men met regularly to discuss matters of faith. They were deeply religious and seeking living Apostles. They called their group the “Aspirants”.

On meeting the Apostles Alfred Kusserow and Armin Brinkmann, Sukami invited them to his home. After lengthy conversations some thirty members from this group of believers were sealed on 6 August 1983. Sukami Landu Ronsard was ordained as a Deacon in the same divine service. “The fact that nearly all the sealed brothers carried a ministry later shows how deeply religious this group was,” District Apostle (ret.) Armin Brinkmann says.

A friend and companion

A month later, Apostle Brinkmann flew to Angola again. Together with Deacon Ronsard he drove to Uíge, which is some 300 kilometres north-east of Luanda. It was the first of many trips of the two pioneers in Angola. “Without him we would not have managed on these trips through this war-torn country. Out of nowhere he managed to come up with a canister of petrol,” District Apostle Brinkmann remembers.

Back in Luanda, Deacon Ronsard was ordained as a Priest. On Apostle Brinkmann’s next visit to Angola, Sukami received the Evangelist ministry. “Ordinations in such quick succession were quite normal at the time,” District Apostle Brinkmann says today. He had been impressed by Sukami Landu Ronsard right from the start. He was deeply religious, charismatic, was a man with vision, and spoke very good Portuguese. On top of that he knew his Bible. “Back then we were on the road for hours at a time and conducted several divine services in one day. Since there was nothing administrative to talk about, we spoke about our faith and the doctrine of the Church the whole time,” Armin Brinkmann says.

By the end of 1983, after not quite a year’s work in Angola, three congregations had been established: in Luanda, Uíge, and Malanje. The membership of the Church was 300. Today, 32 years later, there are about 249,000 New Apostolic Christians in the country, who gather in more than 2,000 congregations.

Running into an ambush

In the year 1989 something happened that shocked the whole New Apostolic world, and that many still remember. At the beginning of that year it seemed that there was a possibility of peace in the country; the ruling party and the rebels had signed a joint declaration. Apostle Brinkmann decided to drive to the north of the country in August with the Apostles Ronsard and José António Livamba. On Saturday, 27 August 1989, they celebrated a divine service in Uíge. They had planned to return to Luanda afterwards. Apostle Brinkmann urged his companions to hurry, as he wanted to be back before nightfall.

Apostle Livamba stayed behind. The Apostles Brinkmann and Ronsard and other ministers got into their white four-wheel drive and started to head back. About an hour later, on the outskirts of Uíge, three men ambushed the vehicle from the right and opened fire without warning. “Apostle Ronsard slumped over to the side, his head resting on my shoulder,” District Apostle Brinkmann remembers. He himself was hit in the right leg. As the bullet penetrated the cushion of the passenger seat it had lost some of its velocity and did not penetrate his leg, although the impact paralyzed his leg. Some shrapnel injured the vein in his left arm, which left him bleeding profusely. Another fragment hit Apostle Brinkmann in the lip. The passengers in the back seat were unharmed.

Apostle Brinkmann, who was driving, stepped on the accelerator and managed to steer the vehicle out of the danger zone. Miraculously, it was still roadworthy. “Apostle Ronsard was breathing heavily. He still said, ‘Apostle, I am going to die,’” District Apostle Brinkmann recalls. He kept on driving for another half hour to reach a Catholic mission, where he was treated.

A few days later, Apostle Brinkmann conducted Apostle Ronsard’s funeral in Luanda. Apostle Ronsard was survived by his wife, Jacky, and their three children. The oldest son, Didier, followed in his father’s footsteps. Today he serves as an Evangelist and is rector in a congregation in Luanda.

Memorial stone for Apostle Ronsard

In the four years that he was active as an Apostle in Angola, Apostle Ronsard laid the foundation for the successful development of the Church in Angola, District Apostle Brinkmann says in his tribute to his companion and friend. Apostle Ronsard was instrumental in establishing the first congregations in many provinces. He sealed hundreds of people and ordained many ministers.

Today a memorial some 25 kilometres from Uíge is a silent reminder and pays tribute to Sukami Landu Ronsard, the first Angolan Apostle of the New Apostolic Church. District Apostle Brinkmann dedicated the memorial site in 2009.

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