L uena, Angola ... [ANN] The first European to visit the UNITA-controlled town of Luena in Angola since 1975 was an Adventist leader on his way to church meetings, reports Maurice Verfaillie, Communication director for the Euro-Africa Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, based in Berne, Switzerland.

Ulrich Frikart, a Swiss national, and president of the Division, traveled to Angola for constituency meetings held January 11-16. In Huambo, Adventists elected the youngest-ever leader in the history of the Church in Angola. The 32-year-old pastor takes responsibility for the Adventist Church’s Central Association Mission with 80,000 members in 250 churches.

"I shall never forget my meeting with a pastor who remained isolated for 20 years because his region was controlled by UNITA during the war between UNITA and the government of Luanda," said Frikart. "He carried out an exceptional ministry, although he was faced with imprisonment and forced removal, without any contact with the local church leaders of the mission. During this period, he baptized more than 400 persons and founded four churches." Another pastor, isolated for more than seven years, walked 400 kilometers (250 miles) to attend the meetings in Luena. Although he had not received any salary from the Church during this time, he brought with him to the meetings a rusty box containing US$8,000 of tithe donations given by his church over the seven years.

Frikart’s visit was widely reported in the media. The trip was complicated by the unavailability of scheduled flights.

"There are no regular flights to Luena," said Frikart. "Our plane, a Russian Antonov carrier with a friendly Russian crew, had no room for me in its packed luggage compartment, among the bales and parcels and a shipment of fish gave forth a pungent smell. I had to ride in the cockpit and stand behind the pilot and the second pilot, between the two navigators sitting behind the pilot."

In the wake of the destructive civil war, the Adventist Church in Angola has rebuilt some of its outreach programs, including reconstruction of the publishing house, dormitories for the students of the school of theology, and other church buildings. Adventists in Angola number 165,000 in 620 churches. [Jonathan Gallagher].