A thing of the past?
Dondi Mission was founded in 1914 by missionaries from Canada. It was the largest mission station in Angola, offering the highest level of healthcare and education available to Angolans.
Before it was burnt down in 1976 by Soviet-backed government forces, Dondi Mission had been a busy centre with a seminary, training centres, leprosy mission, TB sanitorium, schools and a hospital servicing an area containing 2 million people. Congregations and a denomination, the Evangelical Congregational Church of Angola, were planted from it.
These Missionaries clearly understood that mission is holistic. That means proclaiming the gospel and planting churches but also caring for the sick and poor as Jesus described in passages such as Matthew 25:35-36: ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
In the past few years, the hospital, seminary and some of the schools have been rebuilt. There is still only one full-time ‘retired’ doctor and a few beds in the hospital. Specialists such as 80-year-old Dr Stephen Collins, an ophthalmologist who grew up on Dondi Mission Station, regularly visit the hospital to provide eye care and other forms of healthcare.
Operating integral mission institutions such as hospitals and schools is extremely expensive and capital intensive. They depend on outside resources to run, mainly developed from within a Western and middle class context, often not sustainable and come from a mission paradigm that emphasised separation from a community instead of incarnation in the community. These might be seen as old models of integral mission established and funded by people externally.
In Kuito I saw a different approach to integral mission. Felisberto Chamuanga is a young Angolan Christian who is also passionate about spreading the gospel, helping poor people and caring for the environment. However, he believes these goals can be best achieved through a more business-oriented and entrepreneurial approach.
So he started the Centro Infantil Esterinha as primary school. It is run as a business with parents paying for their children to attend. The business makes profit out of the student fees. Profits are used to develop the school further. Having founded the primary school Felisberto also started a crèche and language school as businesses. Although it is not specifically Christian in identity, Christian values such as compassion for those in need and care for the environment are taught through the business.