When Costa heard his name announced at church one Sunday he didn’t know what to expect. He was asked to stay behind after the worship service at Ebenezer Congregational Church in Huambo province, Angola. The pastor then told him that he had been selected as one of eight people to join a project called Umoja.
Umoja is a process that inspires and equips local people with a vision for determining their own future with their own resources.The project felt strange to Costa at first. But it soon became clearer.
The group began with Bible studies. They also learnt team-building skills through doing activities together. These included a timed exercise to light a fire together and working out how best to cross a river. Before the training finished they discussed how they could continue to meet to put into practice what they had learnt.
It was during the project’s practical sessions that Costa began to understand the importance of working together. ‘It is not good to work alone. It’s better to work in a team and share ideas,’ he says.
Nearby communities heard about the project and wanted to know more. So Costa and some members of the group visited Chitaka where they met the traditional chief. They shared what they had learnt from Umoja with the villagers, who agreed to have church services for the first time in many years. Costa and his group also agreed to help with improvements in the community. They hope in time that some of the villagers will give witness to how the project has transformed their own lives, just as they did.
The whole process has changed Costa’s life. Before Umoja, he admits he was a lazy person who didn’t like to work.
‘I used to ask my father for things and when he refused I would complain a lot. I just followed others to church and imitated them. I had no desire or time to read the Bible and no time to help other people,’ says Costa.
‘But now I see that something has changed. I feel I must help my neighbour. If I have spare things I feel the need to share them with those in need.’ Today, whenever Costa is asked to do a job far from his house, he is ready to serve.
Costa had joined the project thinking he was going to be given resources. But from the beginning, the course leader taught Costa that the project doesn’t give you material resources. Instead it encourages you to open your mind and discover your own God-given strengths and resources.
Before he started reading the Bible, Costa thought the sermons he heard at church were about things that didn’t exist. But later, whenever he followed the message in the sermons he found there was a desire within him to put the teaching into practice. After that, he bought a book called Daily Bread and began to read a daily Bible passage. Through this simple discipline he experienced spiritual growth.
His wife says: ‘Before, he was not brave enough to admit to others that the life he was living was wrong and they should avoid living the same kind of life. Since he joined the project, however, he has been serving in the way he always should have done with the goodwill to help others — even those who live far away.’
‘Before, he was not brave enough to admit to others that the life he was living was wrong,’
Hopes for the future
Costa says his relationship with his family has changed a lot since joining the project. ‘In the beginning, as with all couples, married life starts well but after a certain time, the good relationship becomes sour, usually when you start having children.’
After following Bible studies that addressed issues facing married couples, he realised that he shouldn’t allow the relationship to become sour. Instead, he recognised that it is his duty to help his wife look after their children.
Together they hope that one day their life won’t be dependent on Costa’s motorbike taxi. It is dangerous work and he hopes that he will find a government job or work for a private company.
His pastor, who calls Costa one of his ‘generals’, will certainly be able to provide him with a glowing reference: ‘Costa is one of the most reliable people at church and is always willing to help out.’