Canadian Baptists began to serve in Africa sixty years ago this year. The first years were spent working with the Evangelical Church of Angola, Igreja Evangélica de Angola (IEA). At the time, this unique partnership propelled Canadian Baptists towards a new way of engaging internationally and opened our churches to the mission of God in Africa.
Earlier this week, we sat down with our friend and colleague Eduardo Sasa to talk about the legacy of these past sixty years of partnership between CBM and the IEA.
Rev. Eduardo Sasa, Director of Development
"2018 is a very special year for the Igreja Evangélica de Angola (IEA)," shared Eduardo. "We are celebrating sixty years since the beginning of our partnership with the Canadian Baptist mission and one hundred and twenty years since the founding of our church by the Angola Evangelical Mission of the Reverend Matthew Zacharias Stober. These celebrations will be held in the months of June and July of this year. It will be an important time."
This is also an important anniversary for Canadian Baptist Ministries. Prior to 1958, Canadian Baptist missionaries had only served in India and Bolivia. The partnership with the IEA was the beginning of the ministry of Canadian Baptists in Africa. God used the invitation of the IEA as the first steps for CBMs journey in Africa.
With the outbreak of the Portuguese colonial war in 1960, these early missionaries moved to neighbouring Zaire where hundreds of thousands of Angolan refugees fled. In the decades which followed, these relationships would move CBM to establish new work in partnership with churches across Africa.
In the words of past CBM general secretary, Rev. Dr. John Keith, "Angola put Canadian Baptists on a new continent, in an undertaking of a significantly different nature than before."
Unlike the endeavors in India and Bolivia, in Africa CBM would serve under indigenous churches in order to help local Christians respond to the brokenness of their communities holistically.
Back then, there was an enormous response in our Canadian Baptist churches of people who wanted to come and serve with the Angolan Church. In the first few years, twenty-four Canadians answered the call to serve with CBM in Angola. They traveled to Lisbon to study Portuguese in 1956 and 1957, and by 1958 were arriving in Luanda to serve there and in Northern communities like Quimpondo and Cabinda.
"We are very grateful to God for the partnership with CBM. Looking back over these past six decades, the partnership has generated significant impact."
"Just consider this," urged Eduardo,"most of our current church leaders were trained thanks to the help of CBM. Our theological training school is named in honour of a great Canadian missionary who pioneered this work -- The Theological Institute Charlie Harvey (ITECHA). This alone is a strong contribution that has helped to sustain the church.
Over the years, CBM has helped our churches to gain a high level of social reputation in places like Soyo and Cabinda because of the excellent work in health and education that we have accomplished together.
In the early years, CBM provided many missionaries to serve as medical doctors, agriculturalists, and teachers. There help in enabling the church to meet the needs of the whole community was significant.
In the recent past, CBM assisted the late Dr. Pedro Manuel (the then general secretary) in leading the church to assist refugees during the war. This ministry is long remembered.
In the early 2000s, the IEA was assisted by CBM in responding to the devastation of HIV and AIDS, through the ministry of the Guardians of Hope. Funds from CBM were used to assist people in great need.
The influence of the partnership has enhanced the positive advancement of the church. The Canadian Baptists have helped us reach where we are today."
Today, the ministry of the IEA extends to all eighteen provinces of Angola and beyond as the Church is engaged in pioneer outreach in Namibia and Portugal. With over 60,000 church members, the IEA is committed to the ministries of discipleship, evangelism, and the holistic transformation of their society.
Unlike the partnership of the past, CBM no longer embeds Canadian missionaries within Angola. Over the past two years, our colleague Rev. Dr. José Da Silva has been travelling to Cabinda to aid the faculty of ITECHA in curriculum reform and professional development. We do not come as experts but as friends.
Partnership today is about mutual learning and encouragement. We recognize the interdependence that must exist within the global church as we strive together to participate in the transformational work of God.
If you are interested in seeing some photographs and learning more about the ministry of the IEA, click here Angola: a Legacy of Transforming Mission