Ruth Harvey's Story
My husband, Lynn Hoefgen, and I were blessed and humbled to spend the month of February of 2019 as your American Baptist International Ministries (IM) missionaries to Angola—the first IM missionaries to that country in almost a hundred years. We went to Angola in response to a request from our sister churches there, the Igreja Batista Livre de Angola (IBLA). The goals of our missionary journey were to renew the relationship between IBLA and the American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA), to witness first-hand the amazing work that the IBLA congregations do without the resources that we in America take for granted, and to consult and reflect with IBLA leaders on how IM can best support the Baptist work in Angola that was initiated in the nineteenth century by our denomination. We have committed to continue to facilitate the relationship between IBLA and the ABCUSA over the next two-to-three years.
Our sisters and brothers of IBLA have faced many trials: the violence of war, loss of homes and land, economic deprivation, lack of medical care, no access to clean water, and many others. Despite these hardships, the people of IBLA remained faithful to the Gospel and maintained the best of Baptist practices, even though they were for long periods of time isolated from outside assistance. With thirty-nine congregations in nine provinces, IBLA maintains schools, agricultural development projects, youth ministries, a Bible Institute for training church leaders, and the most vibrant and well-organized women’s ministry that we have ever witnessed. We visited thirteen IBLA congregations in six provinces and the welcome we received in every place was nothing less than extraordinary. Drumming, dancing, singing, prepared speeches, elaborate meals, and lots and lots of hugs greeted us everywhere we went. Our sister churches in Angola have much to teach us about radical hospitality!
The needs in Angola are great; however, the faith and hope of our sisters and brothers of IBLA is greater still. Let’s not let them down!
In Jesus’ name, Ruth Harvey