You Are Called to Serve
December 09, 2019
A call from God in his boyhood led Antonio to a lifelong commitment to spreading the Gospel in Angola.
rom before my birth, my parents were faithful members of the Catholic Church in Angola. I was born on July 9, 1953, and water baptized ten days later. From a very young age my parents instilled in me a reverence for God.
My mother was my first teacher. She taught me how to read and write, and after that I started attending grade school. At the end of my fourth grade year, our teacher assigned us to write an essay about what we wanted to be in the future. As I prepared to write my essay, I heard a Voice say to me, “You are called to serve.” Having been raised religiously, I saw the priests as the perfect role models of service to God, and I always had the desire to serve God as a priest. I had no challenge in writing my essay, stating that in the future I would love to work for the Lord as a priest.
From that day on, my life was different. Though I did not realize it at the time, I now know that was when God saved me. Afterward, my life was distinct from my peers because God had made a change in me.
After finishing primary school, I told my parents, “My desire is to serve the Lord. I would like to be a priest.” Even though they could not afford to pay the school fees for becoming a priest, they tried by all means to help me get into a missionary school. By 1966 they were able to raise enough funds for me to enroll in the necessary program. However, after four years of courses, I realized that the priests were not the godly men I had thought they were. I was deeply disappointed and decided to leave the school, and soon after, stopped attending the church as well.
In 1972, I learned that my mother’s brother, who was living in Luanda, Angola, was worshiping in a Protestant church. When I went to see him, I visited his church and felt better there than I had at the church I was raised in, so I decided to keep going. Not long after, in December of 1974, I married my wife, Ana Maria. We continued attending the same church and both worked as civil servants.
A longing that could not be ignored
Several years passed, and I began to feel an emptiness in my heart, as though I was still searching for something more from God. Part of the problem was that our church held a number of traditions that I believed were wrong. There was division in the church over these traditions, and factions were forming. My concerns grew to the extent that I decided to search out the actual doctrines of the church and find out whether or not our church endorsed those traditions. I inquired by correspondence with the African headquarters of the organization, which was in Zimbabwe at that time, and then in 1983 traveled there in person.
Though I was not a leader of the church, I had been ordained as an elder, so when I arrived in Zimbabwe they provided accommodations for my month-long stay. Among their literature, I found a tract from the Apostolic Faith Church of Portland, Oregon, and began to compare the doctrines of both organizations. Also, because of that trip, the leaders of my organization asked me to be part of the reunification team that would attempt to reconcile the opposing factions within our church.
The two groups were reunited, and two years later I was asked to be the overseer of a group of churches within the organization. I accepted that appointment, resigning from my profession and entering into full-time ministry. Two years after that, disagreements over doctrines and traditions arose again. Once more, factions within the church began to form and confusion entered.
A change in course
The emptiness I had felt before had never gone away and I still yearned for more of God. At that point, I decided to walk away from that organization and start something new based on the clear, sound doctrines that I had read in the literature from the Apostolic Faith Church of Portland.
As I read the teachings of salvation, sanctification, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost, I started searching my heart and prayed, “God, I know that I am saved, but am I sanctified? Am I baptized? How can I receive these experiences?”
In 1991, I contacted Reverend Loyce Carver in Portland and talked to him about starting an Apostolic Faith Church of Portland in Angola. He told me to go to Lagos, Nigeria, to meet with Reverend Josiah Soyinka, so I went there in June of that year and stayed until their camp meeting in August. As I read the teachings of salvation, sanctification, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost, I started searching my heart and prayed, “God, I know that I am saved, but am I sanctified? Am I baptized? How can I receive these experiences?” Thank God, before I left Nigeria, He sanctified me and baptized me with the Holy Ghost.
That trip greatly helped to get the work in Angola started. Many people from my former church had joined me when I left, as well as some congregations from other provinces in Angola. However, we could not keep our former church buildings, so with great sacrifice we began constructing new ones.
Leading God's work during civil war
At that time, Angola was in the middle of a civil war that had begun in 1975 and would last until 2002. The years from 1992 to 1994 were an especially dangerous period for us. We saw and experienced great suffering during the war, yet God protected us tremendously. Once, I was in front of the church when two bombs dropped on our property, damaging one of our buildings, and God helped me to escape safely. On two occasions, enemies planted landmines at my entrance gate. Tragically, one of them was detonated by a mother who was passing by with her two children. The mother was completely destroyed and one of the children also died, but thank God, the other survived.
Our church had a baptismal tank at the altar area, and many people took refuge there when they needed a place to hide.
We saw people dying of hunger and many other terrible things, but God sustained us. Those who came out alive know that it was only due to the grace of God and His divine protection. Our church had a baptismal tank at the altar area, and many people took refuge there when they needed a place to hide. When the war intensified to the level that some had to flee the city, most of our brethren stored their belongings in the tank until they could return.
At one point we also worked with non-governmental organizations to create a refugee camp on the church grounds. We accommodated more than five thousand internally displaced people there, and it gave us an opportunity to share the Gospel with them. Today, that site is where many people stay when they visit for our camp meeting.
Angolans embrace the Bible doctrines
As the danger of the civil war subsided, we were able to focus more on stabilizing the Apostolic Faith work in Angola. We had a large number of churches by then, but many of the congregants had previously been part of the other church and were used to the old traditions and regulations which were not from God’s Word. Most of them had family members who still attended the other church, and sometimes the church buildings of the two groups were in very close proximity. In some respects, it would have been more convenient for our congregations to revert to their former ways. We recognized that we needed to be very careful in our approach in order to help the people come up to the standard of God’s Word, rather than chase them away.
Thank God, He gave us grace and wisdom to teach and implement the sound doctrines of the Bible in Angola. Two Apostolic Faith ministers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) visited us in 1998 to encourage us, and by God’s grace, at that time my wife was saved, sanctified, and baptized with the Holy Ghost. Two years later, we had the opportunity to receive the overseer of the DRC work, Reverend M’Bengani Kalundandiko. These visits were a great help to us.
The last time we counted our churches in Angola there were 335, and many more have been added to that number in recent years.
After the Apostolic Faith leaders from Zimbabwe became involved, the work in Angola grew tremendously. A team from Zimbabwe led by Reverend Oniyas Gumbo visited in 2010, and then another team came in 2011 including Reverend Dwight Baltzell from Portland. At that point, people started truly recognizing us as an international organization. The last time we counted our churches in Angola there were 335, and many more have been added to that number in recent years. Some are large congregations, some are medium, and some are small, and we thank God that they continue to grow.
A lifetime of blessings
God blessed my wife and me with eight children, though two have already gone on to Heaven. Our children have given us twenty-four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. I thank God for a good family, and especially for a wife who has supported me and been a virtuous woman throughout all of the years we have been together. When I resigned from my former church, I no longer had an income, but she continued working as a teacher until her retirement three years ago. In the most critical moments of the work, we had to use her salary for the church expenses, and I do not know what we would have done otherwise. Today, she is ever-present in the vineyard of the Lord, and we work together every day, sometimes until midnight to finish the work. She is always with me and has been helpful in every area.
Looking to the future, I believe God has great things in store for His church in Angola. I thank God for the opportunities He has given me and it is my prayer that the next generation will continue to carry this work forward.
You Are Called to Serve