Thursday, December 31, 2009

Kalukembe Hospital - An Interesting History

One of CEML's adjunct medical ministries and facilities is the Kalukembe Hospital, located some 230 km or 140 miles northwest of the city of Lubango where the main CEML Hospital is located.

I love researching history and this hospital most certainly has an interesting background and foundation. 

Swiss missionaries opened a mission in the village of Kalukembe back in the 1880's with the intent on being an independent, self financing, industrial mission supported by its own craft industries, agricultural plantations and merchant activities.   It was also intended to rescue slaves who escaped from the trade caravans going to the coast to be sold to the cocoa planters of Sao Tome and Brazil.  The controlling Portuguese authorities were outraged when the mission was originally called Lincoln, in honor of the American President had outlawed slavery in the USA and claimed in denial that any Angolan colonial subject was in danger of being enslaved and in need of being rescued.

Additionally, the mission was a haven for Angolan slaves who escaped the hard labor and cruel punishment of local white Afrikaner farmers who themselves escaped the British rule in South Africa.  The Afrikaners threatened to withdraw their business dealings with the mission stores and workshops for the harboring of their slaves but quickly realized that there was no better source and quality of supplies than from the highly skilled mission craftsmen. (Info from David Birinham's book, Portual and Africa)

The Kalukembe Hospital was established in 1944 and eventually became one of the largest mission hospitals in Angola, with dozens of foreign medical doctors and personnel serving the needs of southern Angola region.   When the civil war erupted in 1975, this number of medical personnel quickly dwindled because of security concerns.  Now there is are no resident doctors, national or foreign, permanently stationed at Kalukembe.

A program of education and basic medical training has been in place over the last 10 years to equip the Angolan staff of nurses and health practitioners working at the hospital to handle on their own the most basic medical needs of the people in the area.  On a monthly basis, a group of doctors from the CEML Hospital in Lubango will fly to Kalukembe via the MAF aircraft to perform more complicated medical procedures and surgeries.

Amidst the history and turmoil that the hospital has endured over the years, it is enthralling to see how the Angolans are empowered to continue the ministries of the hospital on their own.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dinosaurs in Angola?

With the opening up of the country after the termination of the decades long civil war, researchers have now discovered a treasure of rare fossils in the country. Some palaeontologists describe Angola as, "The final frontier for palaeontology, since in some areas there are literally fossils sticking out of the rocks. It's like a museum in the ground." 

At this point, most of the fossils found, sauropods (land based dinosaurs as seen in this picture) and mosasaurs (aquatic based dinosaur species), have been discovered along the coast north of Luanda.

Much of Angola's fossil richness results from dramatic continental shifts thousands of years ago, which saw the land transform from tropic-rich areas that supported dinosaurs to a desert region along the coast.  According to similiar geology findings, these particular shifts contributed to the formation of the vast oil deposits off of the same Angolan north coasts.  More can be found on these explorations and research on this Discovery site. 

Though I personally struggle with the viewpoint of the timeline of millions of years required in the life of these fossils since I hold to a 'biblical young-earth, creationist' view i.e. a literal six day earth age as described in the book of Genesis, I find these fossil discoveries exciting.  Let us hope that influx of funds and effort in this research will ultimately benefit the Angola people.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Combating Malaria

Being involved in a medical ministry like CEML, we are keenly interested in the major causes of illness to Angolans so that preventative causes can be implemented.  Major attention is directed toward malaria, Angola's main medical killer that is the principal cause of morbidity and mortality in the country, especially among children under 5 years of age and pregnant women.

Have a look at the latest malaria statistics for Angola:
  • In 2008, Angola reported 3.2 million cases of malaria, two-thirds of which occurred in children under 5 years of age.
  • Malaria accounts for 35% of the overall mortality in children, 25% of overall maternal mortality and is the cause of 60% of hospital admissions for children under five and 10% for pregnant women.
  • Anaemia due to malaria is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in both children and pregnant women and malaria is a leading cause of low birth weight in newborns. (Unicef Angola Report 2009)
While CEML's main involvement with malaria is really a reactive response in treating affected patients, it wholly supports the preemptive efforts of many other groups that aim to stop the spread of malaria by misquitos. 

The United Nations group, UNICEF, is one of the Angolan Government’s key partners in national malaria control in Angola.  It has a target to seek a 60% reduction in the impact of malaria nationally through education and the distribution of  Long Lasting Insecticial misquito Nets (LLINs).   Already having distributed some 2.5 million LLINs since 2005, they are planning to distribute some 3 million more nets over the next 3 years. 

We are hopeful that these efforts will offer greater protection against misquito bites to significantly improve the health of Angolans.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

May God richly bless you this Christmas Season as we remember and celebrate the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Here is a picture of how one Angolan celebrates Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Angola is not usually thought of as a mountainous land, yet more than half the country is on a vast plateau between 1,000 - 2,000 metres (3280 - 6550 feet) in altitude.

The most mountainous parts of Angola are mainly situated in a zone 100 - 200 km (60 - 120 miles) from the Atlantic coast. Many of the countries biggest cities are well over a thousand metres (3280 feet) above sea level:  Huambo (1710 m or 5610 ft), Lubango (1178 m or 3860 ft).  The highest point in Angola is the Morro do Moco which reaches a height of 2620 m or 8595 ft and is located to the northwest of Huambo.

For our assignment, we will be located in Lubango which is close to the two most famous landmarks in Angola.  An impressive, man-made switchback road was constructed on the face of the Serra da Bandeira mountains at Leba. During colonial rule in the 1960s, the Portuguese engineer chose the shortest route to climb the mountain to connect Lubango with the coastal city of Namibe.  The road incorporates numerous hairpin bends in the road using methods employed in the Swiss Alps.

The other marvel is Tundavala (2252 m or 7390 ft), a massive gorge on the main escarpment which gives a breathtaking view down to the desert and coastal plain well over 1,000 m or 3200 ft below. (Adapted with info from the Sonangol magazine Universo, December 2009)

Monday, December 21, 2009

More Food in Angola!

The lingering and re-emerging Portuguese influence on Angola, this former Portuguese colony, is greatly evident in the area of cuisine. Many of direct Portuguese descent and the emerging Angolan 'modern'culture living in the largest cities have embraced more of Portugal's culinary tastes. I will cover just a few of the prevalent items and some of the favorites served at Christmas here. (Since I love foreign food and think that it is a major part of cultural assimilation, I will cover it frequently here in this blog)

Starting off with coffee, the strength of the coffee drunk is much stronger than normally used in some countries. This full-strength expresso coffee, or bica as it is commonly named, is normally combined with lots of sugar and gives a good jolt!  It is commonly consumed as a start to a daily routine at pastry shops before work.

he Portuguese national dish, the soup "caldo verde", has kale (or collards ) as it's key ingredient. Soup is commonly eaten as a starter at the beginning of the meal or even after a meal to 'get that full feeling'. The dish is brimming with potatoes, onion, garlic and filament-thin shreds of kale and often fortified with slices of "chouriço" or "linguiça" (sausages).

Bacalhau, a fish dish with the main ingredient of salted, dried codfish, is a traditional dish served at Christmastime.  There is said to be 1001 ways to serve bacalhau, but it is most commonly served with potatoes and eggs.

Leitao, or suckling pig, is another Christmas delicasy though young piglets are often hard to come by in Angola.  The month-old young piglet is seasoned with salt and pepper and roasted whole on a spit for two hours in a wood-fired oven.

Bolo Rei, literally translated 'King Cake', is normally served during the Christmas season. The cake is made in a round design with a large hole in the centre to intentially resemble a crown. Crystallized and dried fruit are placed on the top to resemble jewels.  Tradition dictates that a fava bean be baked into the cake and that whoever finds the fava has to pay for the Bolo Rei next year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Rain Down in Africa' Video

Here is an interesting video that was recently forwarded to me. This video has a unique way of portraying the 'rain' in Africa alongside a popular song. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tourism in Angola?

"I am Angola, a land that holds great promise in the many avenues of travel, tourism and hospitality - growth industries destined to employ and involve an increasing number of my citizens as time marches on. I greet you and invite you to explore all corners of the land, where you will meet a cross section of my people, whose warmth and friendship will remain in your hearts and minds for a lifetime. "  (Promotional essay by Angolan Board of Tourism)

By its stereotype and past history of conflict, one would not immediately think of Angola of as being a tourist destination.  But now since the ending of the civil war, Angola has experienced a fascinating uplift of recovery, renewal, revival, and restoration.  Angola has now escaped the shackles and shadows of its topsy turvy past, and is now opening the doors to the world.

During my past years of flying as a pilot throughout the country, from my vantage point of the cockpit I was continually amazed at the country's natural beauty and the different climates, landscapes, cultures and colors.  I remember thinking to myself that, 'one day when this conflict is over, the outside world will be able to see the beauty of these people and their country."

Certainly, the greatest barrier to tourism in the past has been access and the affects of the war. The limitation to travel about the country and the decimation of the national parks and the wildlife had a negative affect on any tourism.  Now steps are being taken to revitalize the parks and industry.

One such tourism revitalization project  is Angola's Kissama National Park. This park,  measuring an area of 990,000 hectares, is one of the largest in the world and was once a hunting reserve.   Operation Noah’s Ark was initiated to repopulate the park with elephants, giraffe, zebra, and wildebeest, all transferred from wildlife reserves in Namibia, South Africa and Botswana to a restricted area within Kissama.  This restocking operation is one of the largest animal translocation projects ever attempted and will assist the local economy of peoples living around the area.

Now various travel writers are exploring and compiling more and more information concerning Angola, its tourism, and its sites.  One of the best is Brandt's Guide to Angola, which, at this point of access in the country, is the most comprehensive handbook.

Though I am not one to advocate or concentrate on the aspect of tourism above the real needs of Angolans, I am pleased at the national progress in this area.  I am confident that the growth and influx of foreign tourim will facilitate better internal infracturtures and assist local economies.   Additionally, it is my hope that the outside exposure to the real spiritual and medical needs of Angolans, as seen by foreigners as they tour the country, will encourage them to contribute to the cause of bettering the Angolan's lives.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Superstition in Angola: Its Effects

Africa' cultures are anchored in spirituality; not in just Christian beliefs.  Animist beliefs in the supernatural are the basis of many Angolan superstitions or folk beliefs, just the same as the common superstitions here in North America.

For example, in Angola, the twitching in your lower eyelid signals that you will soon be shedding tears or when the upper eyelid twitches, it’s a sign you will meet someone unexpectedly.  Or additionally, when you you encounter a dead snake across the road is suspected as a sign that that fate will come to that person.

Though taken very lightly here in North America, the reaction to superstitions in Angola has real and tragic results. For example there is a growing trend in Angola of children being accused of witchcraft since there are so many superstitions against witchcraft.   What is the basis of this?

Unfortunately for many areas in Africa and elsewhere in the world, misfortune seems to be striking with vengeance. Particularly in country like Angola where the people have been scarred by war, famine, economic collapse, death, and HIV infections, there are many “why me?” questions to be answered.  Essentially,  'when AIDS or a disaster begins to kill, someone in the family gets blamed for it.' Other children in Angola have been accused of transforming into animals and eating crops at night. Yet scientific analysis found that late rains had caused poor crop yield during that period.

Some common traits in children accused to have witchcraft are: stubbornness, learning disabilities, physical disabilities such as epilepsy, unruly behavior and not taking school seriously. Many of these traits deemed “witch-like” are usually considered normal adolescent behavior in the West. Children suffering from disease such as AIDS and malaria are also prime targets of witchcraft accusations. Once accused of witchcraft, a child is punished, beaten, starved and sometimes killed to “cleanse” her or him of supposed magical powers. (UNHCR/Open Forum Report 2009)

As Christians, it is exciting to know that salvation through Christ can free Angolans from the bondage of these beliefs and free children from such accusations.  We look forward to bring this message once again to Angola.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Real African Christmas Card

Here is an African Christmas card that I received last year from an African friend living in southern Africa.  Enjoy!

An African dog went to a telegraph office and wrote a Christmas greeting:  WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF.
The Postmaster said, "There's only nine WOOFS here. You could get another 'WOOF' for the same price."
The dog answered, "But that would make no sense at all!"

Monday, December 7, 2009

Angola: Land of Beauty

Though there are many social, medical, and infrastructure challenges facing the Angolan nation as it emerges from past war conflict,  it is undeniable that the country possesses some of the most beautiful scenery in the region.   Here below,  is a small sample of the beauty of Angola. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Great Healthcare Need

Having lived in Angola for many years in the'90s, I witnessed firsthand how the country's healthcare infrastructure and system was decimated by the multi-decade civil war. Before the war, the infrastructure of some 700 country-wide clinics developed by the Portuguese was reduced during wartime to a  few major hospitals functioning in the major cities. Though it is now some 7 years now since the civil war has ceased, roughly 50% of Angolans do not have access to healthcare.  The CEML Hospital is filling this need in the southern part of the country.

The state of Angola’s health care system is especially detrimental for children who suffer in large numbers from tetanus, measles, whooping cough and meningitis; among others, malaria is especially deadly, as this disease causes approximately 50 percent of deaths in children under the age of five.

Most people coming to CEML are extremely poor, and have virtually no other access to medical care. Many suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension and rheumatic fever. Malaria is very common, as is TB and schistosomiasis, diarrhoeal disease, respiratory disease, parasitic infections, trauma, and nutritional deficiency disease.

Being staffed by very skilled Canadian surgeons and possessing one of the more advanced operating rooms in the region, the hospital receives many of the more complicated surgical cases that are not possible to be performed elsewhere; many fistula operations, complicated pregnancy and abdominal cases, as well as dealing with trauma incurred from landmines and accidents.  Shortly, CEML will embark on building project to add a state-of-the-art ICU unit, the only one in the region, to deal with the more urgent and urgent medical needs.  Currently, some of the more serious cases requiring ICU care are transferred/medivaced to hospitals in the neighboring countries of Namibia and South Africa.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Angola 'Did you Know2' - Landmines

Angola has one of the highest rates of landmine injuries per capita in the world. These mines were placed as strategic deterents by the fighting armies during the many years of civil war. Estimates for the number of landmines in Angola range from 6 to 20 million; nearly twice the population. According to the United Nations and the United States Department of State, Angola is the third most heavily mined country in the world after Egypt and Iran. (UN, Mines Awareness Project 2007, UNICEF ANGOLA)

The amputee population in Angola is 100,000, the highest in the world, of which 8,000 are children under the age of fifteen.

You can imagine how the threat of these mines directly affects the people; since civilians are the ones most injured by the mines, many millions of Angolans have been displaced to cities to avoid the potential death and terrible injuries caused by inadvertantly stepping on one.

Back in the '90s when I was previously serving in Angola, I can remember visiting a local church in a remote village that was surrounded by mine fields; the people had adapted to the threat of the mines and identified the locations of most of the mines.  While on the visit, the church leaders wanted me to inspect their well; their water source. Unbeknownst to me, we would have to walk on a very narrow path through one of the mine fields to reach the well.  I remember well the instructions given me by the leader before we set off on the path, "Trust me, I know where the mines are.  Just step in my footsteps and don't veer off the path!"  Wise words to follow indeed and they can also be directly related in a spiritual sense to my daily walk with God!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Luanda: World's Most Expensive City

The capital city of Angola, Luanda,  recently snatched the title of "most expensive city" away from better-known capitals such as London, Oslo and Tokyo, according to a number of international surveys. The survey measured the cost of food, basic items including drinks and tobacco, and other costs such as clothing and electrical goods.  A liter of imported milk is $5 and a can of locally produced Coke is $.90.

The tide of petrodollars surging into the once sleepy port has widened the gulf of disparity between the rich and the poor in the city and moreso in the whole country. More than three-quarters of Luanda's residents, nearly four million people, live in the informal settlements, and these are grim. Most have no sanitation services; people must buy water from tanker trucks for nearly $1 a bucket. Infant and maternal mortality rates are some of the worst in the world. Many of the slums have no schools; when they do, they lack teachers, desks and books.

What has risen most significantly is the cost of real estate. For sale in a mediocre neighbourhood of Luanda: pokey two-bedroom apartment in a Soviet-style 1960s apartment block, fourteenth floor, elevator last operated in 1990, erratic plumbing, no maintenance in the past 22 years. Asking $300,000 (U.S.) And that's about all you're going to get in Luanda for $300,000: any new one-bedroom apartment in this city starts at $1-million. (The Globe and Mail, September 9, 2009)

The rising cost of goods and land in Luanda directly impacts church activities.  More and more new and growing congregations are being pushed to the outer limits of the city in a quest to afford the rising cost of land.   Bare land that has been secured comes with the government caveat that a church building must be erected in certain period of time or else the land must be forfeited.  These are challenging, yet faith-building times for the Angolan Church.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rising of the Angolan Church - Video

The story of how the Angolan Church has endured and grown through many years of a brutal civil war is amazing! Check out this video below made by SIM (another mission agency working in Angola) which outlines how the evangelical church in Angola has persevered and is once again growing in this new age of transition. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

African Folklore: How the Cheetach Got His Speed

African cultures have a plethora of folklore handed down from generation to generation.  Their folklore stories are very interesting and amusing as they seek to interpret about their history, the principles of life, and the traits of African animals through their own cultural world view.  I will share a few of these amusing folklore stories here.  Enjoy!

How the Cheetah Got His Speed  (A Bushman story)

Once upon a time the Creator decided to find out which of His animals could run the fastest and so He entered the cheetah in a race with the tsessebe, which is one of the swiftest of all the antelopes.  The cheetah had soft paws then, and he realized that they were not suited for real speed. So he borrowed a set of paws from an obliging wild dog.

The race started from a high baobab tree. The Creator Himself was in charge and the two contestents were told to run right across the plains to a hill on the far side. The animals lined up and then - go!  They leapt away.

The tsessebe soon took the lead and by halfway, he was so far ahead that he seemed sure to win. But suddenly, disaster! Tsessebe stumbled on a stone, and crashed to the ground; he had a broken leg.

The good natured cheetah, instead of running past and winning the race, stopped to help his opponent.

The Creator, seeing this, was so pleased by the cheetach's unselfish act that He bestowed upon the cheetah a gift; He made him the fastest animal in the land and what's more, allowed him to keep the paws of the wild dog.

From: When the Hippo was Hairy and Other tales from Africa;  Nick Greaves.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Angola 'Did You Know?'

Did you know that in another 55 days, Angola will host the African continent's premier sporting event?   Angola will host the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament, the football championship of Africa and one of the qualifying events for next year's World Cup Soccer tournament in South Africa.

The timing of Angola's hosting of this event is quite fortunate yet ironic for the country, since it is coming out of a long civil war.  With much of the country infrastructure either deteriorating or destroyed from the war, the push to improve the road, utility and building infrastructure in preparation for the games will provide a quick jumpstart for improvement. 

Over 600 million dollars will be spent on the building of four brand new stadiums in the four largest city.  The world-class quality stadiums are being built by Chinese construction companies and are quite a contrast to the surrounding mud-brick homes in the neighborhoods.

What impact will this event have on the country and people of Angola?   Firstly, it will be a great boon to put Angola on the map in Africa and expose to all the emergence of the country after war.   Secondly, the influx of tourist dollars will greatly add to the economy and the pockets of normal Angolans who become entrepreneurial sellers of tourist goods.   Lastly, in contrast, the exposure will highlight the great wealth disparity of the population.  It is estimated that probably only 10% of Angolans will be able to afford a ticket to any one of the tournament matches!    Hopely, the economic plight of the local churches will be hightlighted as well and be a point of concern for the Christian groups that will be attending the tournament's events.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chinatown Africa

Angola's rapid reconstruction after 30 years of civil war is literally changing the face of the nation.  Evidence of this is the current presence of over 50,000 Chinese workers in the country.

China has been one of the main financiers of oil-rich Angola's rapid development since the end of the civil war ended in 2002 and  in exchange for loans and aid, estimated to total more than US$4 billion since 2004, China has been guaranteed a generous chunk of Angola's future petroleum production.  The accords also stipulate that 70 percent of the country's development projects be given to Chinese companies, which prefer to import their own workers. 

It is interesting now to see the contrast  and clash of Asian cultures with the harshness of Africa.  Current news in Angola highlights how Angolan gangs are now targeting Chinese workers with 'mafia-style' tactics.  This seems to be an Angolan opportunity to steal from the easy prey of the rich Chinese and as well a backlash against the perception of the Chinese infiltration of the Angolan economy and jobs markets. In Angola, Chinese street sellers are fast putting out of business thousands of locals and Malian sellers who have been there for generations. The fact that many Chinese tend to live in isolation with little or no contact with the local population further aggravates the resentment already present.

Check out this link to a documentary which exposes the influx and influence of China upon the Angolan nation .  "Chinatown Africa"

Friday, November 13, 2009

Angolan Food. Yum!

One question too that I am asked a lot from my previous experience in Angola is, "What do you eat in Angola?"  This is an important question, since the palatability of the food in a different culture really affects the longevity and enjoyment of serving in that culture.  I believe that a country's food also tells a lot about their culture and their history and eating it helps you to identify with the people better.  One elderly wise African would repeatedly tell me to: "Continually eat more of our food and you will speak our language better!"

Now since the war has ceased there in Angola, foreign food imports have begun trickling in, allowing one to purchase now some normal 'western-type' food such as Kelloggs Corn Flakes.  So a expatriate living in an urban center could purchase foodstuffs now that very much like what is available in North America.

But the Angolan food that is distinct and interesting is what I want to cover here.

Funge: This is the staple of the Angolan diet and it can be made with corn meal (funge) or with yucca/manioc flour (bombô).  Some say that this food is like polenta or very thick grits, but realistically, no. The texture of funge is very sticky and neither version really has any flavor, so I find that it is best eaten with the gravy or beans that come with your meal.  I actually don't mind eating this.

Rice and Beans:  This an easily prepared and regular staple for Angolans, and the low cost and starchiness of the rice provides a cheap, stomach-filling meal.  Most of the beans are grown locally, but all the rice is imported since it is not grown in the country.

Frango (Chicken) or Cabrito (Goat):  It seems that since Angolans always have chickens or goats running around their properties that they eat it regularly. In reality, because of their price, these animals are generally saved to be served for special occasions.  On various occasions while on visits to very rural areas, I learned that our hosts slaughtered their only chicken or goat in order to prepare a meal for us.  It humbled me to realize the sacrifice that they made.  Though  both chickens and goats are essentially free-range, very often the meat is very tough or rubbery.  The both meats are often served with a bean sauce which makes it very tasty.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CEML Hospital - A Closer Look

Allow us to share briefly about CEML (Centro Evangelico de Medicina Do Lubango) Hospital, the place of our new ministry assignment in Angola.

Opening in 2006 in Lubango, the largest city in the southern region of Angola, CEML's immediate catchment population is over 2.5 million people, 50% of whom do not have access to basic healthcare.

The hospital infrastructure consists of 53 bed acute-care facility with a 24 hour emergency ward, full hematology laboratory, digital x-ray facilities and two Operating Room theaters.  A subsequent expansion phase is planned to create a full service 130 bed hospital with the implementation of 2 ICU units with renal dialysis and CT scanners; essentially being the only functioning units within a 900 km radius.

CEML's strategy is to 'meet the great medical needs in the region and be a platform for spiritual outreach'.  With the southwest region of Angola being the locale of the most largely unreached people groups (not having any previous contact or access to the Gospel) in the country, CEML's medical outreach is aimed at reaching these peoples and bring Physical Health and Spiritual Hope through Christ.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Peace After War - Video

Have a look at this video from SIM (another mission agency serving in Angola) which describes the transition the country and the church is going through from war to hope. Enjoy!