Staying true to biblical principles while in military service can prove to be one of the greatest challenges a Christian has to face in times of war. The challenge is even greater when one is part of a guerrilla army. This the situation in which Abraão--also known as “24”--found himself, yet he remained faithful to his principles.
In 1993, at the young age of 17, Abraão was recruited into the army. He was situated in th city of Huambo, Angola, which was under UNITA’s occupation. After fulfilling the required training, this former resident of Calomanda Square was placed in the anti-tank unit of the now-extinct Forças Armadas de Libertação de Angola, FALA. (The Armed Forces of the Liberation of Angola) This was the armed wing of UNITA, one of the largest political parties in Angola.
Upon arrival, 24 was appointed as the bodyguard of the chief of staff. Being in the camp came with its own challenges, and being a Seventh-day Adventist in such an environment compounded the problem. 24 found himself being mocked because he did not eat pork and ridiculed because he refused to work on Saturday, which was his Sabbath. However, he did not let the mockery phase him. Determined to be “faithful till death,” Abraão lived his life the way he had before he was recruited. He stayed true to all the values that had been instilled in him from a young age. His behavior did not go unnoticed, and he soon earned the respect of his colleagues.
At that time, he was not aware that his life had become a “sermon in shoes” to his colleagues and his supervisor. Silently, the chief had been watching the manner in which Abraão conducted his life, and one incident in particular would have a lasting impression on him.
The chief of personnel had to go away to France for a period of nearly two years. Before his departure, he left some personal items under the care of 24. These included money and toothpaste. Upon his return, the chief was surprised to find everything as he had left it. Even the tube of toothpaste remained untouched. These small details would be the beginning of a stirring in his heart that later led to his conversion.
“24’s honesty touched me deeply,” he comments. “This made me resolve to join the church of 24.” From that day, the chief started to give 24 a bit more freedom and treated him differently. However, with the end of the war in 2002, the two were separated.
“I went back to see him last year so that I could apologize for any possible ill-treatment he may have suffered under me,” the chief says. The apology came after the former chief of staff, Tito Carlos Lineha, became a Seventh-day Adventist through baptism by immersion on September 12, 2009. He recalls that everything happened when someone extended an invitation for him to attend a Bible Conference, which he accepted with pleasure because it was “the church of 24.”
Tito Lineha is currently the first elder of the Philadelphia Congregation, one of the three most influential Adventist churches in Menongue. Through his influence, four people have accepted Christ as their personal Savior. He has expressed recently that he will participate in the “I will go” initiative. We pray that God continues to guide him as he passes on the good news which he received because of the exemplary behavior of 24.