After only three months in-country, MAF Canada’s newest missionaries to Angola reflect on their time so far, and the need for aircraft as amazing ministry tools.
After a year and a half of my husband Andrew and I preparing to serve with MAF in Angola, we made it! Andrew is a mechanic and pilot, and I am a nurse. When we landed, the prospect of working in our respective fields again added to the exhilaration of our arrival.
The air was warm and humid when we disembarked the plane and arrived on the tarmac at 5am. We transitioned onto buses, which took us to a hanger where staff were doing COVID tests. Blank stares were received in response to the confused jumble of words that came out of our mouths as we tried to speak Portuguese for the first time with strangers – solidifying to us just how much we have yet to learn and grow in our host country. By God’s grace, we made it through customs without too much difficulty.
Shortly after, we were loaded into a van that took us from the capital of Luanda to our new home in Lubango. It was a 15-hour drive, and our skillful driver, Ivan steered us around potholes and slower moving traffic. This is one of the most traveled highways in the country, but the need for an aircraft is already apparent. It’s a beautiful drive, dotted with ocean views and giant Baobab trees. It was a strange feeling; seeing our new country but also knowing it was just a surface view.
Since that first drive three months ago, we’ve been doing our best to find ways to get to know our new home, and the people that make up our community. It turns out that while getting to know people, there are some things you can expect no matter where you are.
Some things in life are universally funny! While attending the first Sunday service at our new church, the pastor asked the congregation, “who here has sinned?” The whole congregation quickly raised their hands. We, however, failed to understand the question and still had our hands down. The pastor indicated to us that we should raise our hands as well, but not before receiving a few laughs and funny looks from the congregation. We were thankful for the grace we received – everyone knew that Angola’s newest missionaries did not quite understand.
Andrew has started to fly, and I have found my place helping to teach English lessons at the Bible School, ISTEL, and making house calls with a palliative care team providing community health services. Finding our places in ministry and exploring the community in which we now live has been a joy. People are very friendly and more than happy to speak slowly with us as we practice Portuguese. The ladies at the open-air market have no qualms correcting us when we pronounce numbers wrong, and take good care of us when we misunderstand. We’ve heard “Amiga, Amiga! O seu troco!” “Friend, friend! Your change!” called after us more than once, as we start to leave with our fresh produce after accidentally overpaying – again.
Adjusting to our new life has been made so much easier by having such a great group of expat and national teammates surrounding us! Some of them have been working with MAF for over 30 years to establish the work being done here today. To help establish us, they provided meals and encouragement when we arrived and have continued to help us find our place here while also providing friendship and companionship. They have guided us through the process of acquiring bank accounts, setting up our phones, helping us fill in paperwork, and guarding our home at night. We find ourselves eternally indebted and grateful to them all for their love and help.
Despite these binding moments, we have had many that reveal just how different our two worlds are. Most of Andrew’s passengers have never been in a car before, let alone on an airplane. The reactions to being in an airplane for the first time have ranged from pure amazement in seeing rivers and homeland from above, to fear and inability to look out the window. Perhaps the most surprising thing for Andrew has been that some passengers have never used a staircase before. Many passengers are from extremely remote areas without any two-story buildings. One can take for granted the amount of technique that’s involved in climbing a small set of stairs to get into an airplane.
Getting to know the quirks and intricacies of flying MAF Angola’s Caravan has brought a great appreciation of its capabilities, and its usefulness as a ministry tool that Andrew is delighted to use! He recently flew an Angolan pastor and his family home to Lubango after they had spent the five previous years living and serving in a remote village. This trip made Andrew look forward all the more to the day when the new Caravan will arrive!
Although Angola’s current Caravan can carry quite a bit of equipment and people, this family had to choose what belongings they wanted to bring home with them and what they would leave behind, as the aircraft did not have room for everyone and five years worth of possessions that make a house a home.
Although we’ve only just arrived, seeing the impact of each flight on people and communities only serves to excite us about the good work the new Caravan has the potential to do. We pray that it will increase the impact of each flight; carrying more medical professionals, more pastors, and being able to return people to their homes without having to worry about the things they’ll leave behind.
STORY by Jaelynn Stutzman with PHOTOS by Marijn Goud and Brent Mudde