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By Joanna Griffin
"Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."
Sent by Yellowstone Conference of the UMC in November 2017, I answered the call and sat filled with wonder in response to the challenge found in Mark 16:15. The church was Igreja Metodista Unida, "Emanuel" in Malanje, East Angola. The pastor was a young man, filled with exuberance over a missionary visit, challenged and ready to work alongside his brothers and sisters of the Yellowstone Conference - Rev. Famoroso Domingos Serrote.
Gloria Edwards and I were not sent to build houses or work in the medical field or feed children. We were sent to build the relationship that undergirds the program in place for many years, whereby the churches across Yellowstone Conference have paid $50 a month to cover a basic salary for 66 pastors in the East Angola Conference. This is the ONLY salary they receive.
Most pastors receive little else from their congregation who refer to themselves as "poor peasant farmers." There are occasional supplements of food from their labor, but their gift largely comes in the form of loyalty, of deep spiritual commitment to their small church families and a huge mission of evangelism out into the community.
To understand their gift is to sit in their church buildings, loosely held together with sun shining through bullet holes in recycled tin roofing from the era of civil war, rain pouring down through the roof, and seated in plastic chairs that were initially brought by the pastor, hand carried 45 miles from the nearest town.
Unable to pay their pastor, the African congregation offers their gifts of singing and dancing from deep in their hearts, celebrating the leadership of their pastor.
In and through this $50 salary from the Yellowstone Conference, the pastors are able to provide schooling for a sibling, a wife or a child. The pastor's family may need help with transportation, housing, or farming. Beyond the financial assistance, we together bring a lifeline of hope. If we are to go into all the world to make disciples of Christ, then surely feeding and clothing Jesus's disciples in their homeland is our call. It is our call to be in Beloved Community WITH East Angola United Methodist pastors.
"Famoroso" my brother in Christ, pastor at Emanuel UMC, East Angola, shared part of his story and call as follows:
Due to lack of funds, Famoroso was unable to attain a place at the school where he had hoped to study as a lawyer. He ended up in a Catholic school taking the last seat available and fell in line for being trained as a priest. Famoroso later switched to a Methodist clergy program where at the age of 19 he made his declaration to become a pastor. His family regaled him as a fool who would die poor for his choice of profession. Upon his final appointment by the District Superintendent he packed his bags to run away, knowing in his heart he had not chosen his calling. All night long he dreamed of a voice speaking Acts 16. After rising and reading of the work of chosen apostles, he felt God calling him and knew that he had only been thinking of his own interests and now felt compelled to care for others.
Famoroso's zeal, to serve in spite of hardships has proven his love of Christ and fellow man. He is grateful for the small salary he receives from Yellowstone Conference and at the age of 26, married and with a young daughter, Famoroso is completing his higher education in theology school at Quessua United Methodist Mission, East Angola.
TOGETHER, we serve our Lord throughout the world, hand in hand, Beloved Community.