We’ve decided to relocate to Shangalala and will move on Feb 16th. This is a Finnish Lutheran mission, built about 50 years ago in a remote area of SW Angola, about 5 hr south of Lubango. People from several different people groups, who each speak different languages, came to the clinic for medical care when there was a doctor. The last year that a doctor worked at the hospital was 2004. They still have nurses seeing up to twenty patients daily.
Shangalala is located on the banks of the Cunene River, near the Namibian border, west of the town of Xangongo about 15 km. For the Google Earth aficionados among us, the coordinates are: 16°48’46.26″ S 14°54’30.88″ E. Xangongo is about 100 km north of Ondjiva, the capital of the southwestern Angolan province of Cunene. The town of Xangongo has a population of about 8,000 and the city of Ondjiva is perhaps 2-3x larger. It is located in a desert climate, daily near or above 100F (38C) these months but cooler in the Angola winter (June – September).
The mission at Shangalala is now under the leadership of the Angolan Lutheran Church and I’ve enjoyed getting to know Thomas, the Lutheran Bishop of southern Angola. He is moving to Shangalala specifically to build relationships with five people groups in this region of Angola, each is about 5-6 hr drive away, and all have minimal exposure to the message of God’s passionate love for them. I will work among these same groups to bring health care and instruction as any form of modern medical care is many hours away, traveling in the back of a flat-bed truck. As many of you know, our method is to humbly approach each group and to seek to work together with them to find ways to improve their physical and spiritual health. We will dialogue, learn, and offer what we know. We don’t come to them as shepherds, but as fellow sheep; not as leaders, but as servants; not as teachers, but as fellow learners and seekers of Truth, always with a heart to introduce our friends to the Father we so adore.
Shangalala has a simple three bedroom, brick house for us to live in which needs some work as it hasn’t been lived in for 6+ years. The kitchen and bathroom are gutted, so we will put in some plywood countertops, sinks, plumbing and wiring in our first few days. We have some dear friends making the 5 hr drive to Shangalala to help us. Those of you who are familiar with my construction abilities are smiling and thanking God that someone is coming to help us. Our first week in Shangalala as a family will be a bonding/working time together. We will be doing some shopping for furniture and appliances before our move as much of what we’ve used this year was graciously lent to us. We will purchase a generator and a battery system for power and a satellite system from Belgium for internet. They have water from the river pumped up to large water boxes at each of the five houses on the complex once a day, as well as to the hospital.
We’ve committed to work and live at Shangalala for one year. We are too new in Angola to commit for longterm as we will be working in many remote areas with the plane ministry and we want to have more knowledge of Angola before we move somewhere more permanently. Also, Shangalala is contracted with an Angolan doctor to begin in January, 2014, so during this year we will be looking for our Father to direct us to our next step. If the need for medical help is indeed great among these five people groups (enough for two docs), or if the Angolan doctor doesn’t come, we may stay in the region and continue our work there. We’re excited for the move and to begin our work among remote people. It has been quite challenging living in a city and working in an urban, surgical hospital this year but we’ve learned much and hope that we’re ready for the transition, though it will certainly have it’s practical challenges.
I’m reminded this morning that people who today do not have access to the message of God’s love and to modern health care, lack this access for a reason. Carriers of gospel message and doctors don’t go to these places because it isn’t easy. Because we are NOT tough, courageous, experienced missionary types… Please pray for us as we work among these remote people living in mountainous desert areas difficult to access, and with unique language challenges (few people who speak portuguese). We seek to love them, to humbly serve them, and to communicate to them their value and their beauty in their Father’s eyes, as someone once did for each of us…