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College reopening brings light, joy, to Angola

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

United Methodist Bishop Jose Quipungo celebrates the rededication of Quéssua College following an 18-month rebuilding program.
Oct. 30, 2006

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

MALANJE, Angola (UMNS) — The opening of Quéssua Theological College is bringing the light back to a place that has lived in darkness for the last 20 years.

At the beginning of Angola's long civil war, Quéssua, a United Methodist institution, was bombed out of existence in an act of revenge against the first president of Angola, who was a United Methodist.

Set a few miles from Malanje in a gently rolling countryside, Quéssua educated many of the leaders of Angola today.

"We need this school for our children. We are hoping after today the students will come back," Bishop Jose Quipungo told those gathered to celebrate the inauguration of the pre-university school Sept. 28.

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

The Rev. R. Randy Day (center) cuts the ribbon to reopen the Quéssua Theological College.
The Rev. R. Randy Day, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, was on hand to cut the ribbon at the inauguration. "We are here to bring the light back to Quéssua," he said.

After the school's launch will come the reopening of the hospital and school of theology, Quipungo promised the large crowd filling the meeting room.

In its glory days, Quéssua included a chapel, college, theological school and hospital. Hundreds of students lived in boys' and girls' dormitories, and teachers, missionaries and medical professionals made their homes on the campus.

Even in ruins, the beauty of Quéssua still shines through in the pink stucco walls and arched doors and windows. Tall grass grows where schoolchildren once lived and learned. The graves of the missionaries who started the complex lie behind a rusted iron fence, choked with weeds.

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

A bombed-out window frames a view of flowers in the ruins of the former community hospital.
The chapel has been restored, and the restored college will be able to accommodate 240 students in morning and afternoon shifts. Quipungo says seven professors will teach subjects ranging from anthropology to African theology.

The institution has never been just for United Methodists, and it will be open to everyone when classes begin in the next academic year, Quipungo said.

It took 18 months to rebuild the school, and the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries contributed more than $247,000 to help in the construction.

Angola has only been calm for four years, Quipungo said. "I think the peace is irreversible; we can see the fruits here today."

"We hope the government takes us as one of their daughters," he said. "There is still a lot of work to be done."

Joyful day

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

The Rev. Simao Antonio walks through the ruins of the former community hospital at the Quéssua Methodist Center.
Groups of women worked all morning under the trees behind the schoolrooms, preparing hot food for the hundreds gathered for the occasion. Reporters and crews from television, radio and newspapers were on hand to record the historic event.

Men and women busied themselves polishing the door frames and sweeping the red-painted stage lined with blue-covered tablecloths for the dignitaries invited to the opening. The smell of fresh paint lingered in the spotless classrooms as many former students roamed around pointing out where they once sat for daily lessons. Many children and adults who sat on the red steps carried part of the school opening back home on the seats of their pants. 

The Rev. Simao Antonio, pastor of Eva de Andrade United Methodist Church, was an elementary school student at the "Escola Amore Alegria" (School of Love and Happiness).

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

"We need this school for our children, we are hoping after today the students will come back," Bishop Jose Quipungo says.
He walked through his former third-grade classroom while waiting for the festivities to start. "I hope the rebuilding will bring a ration of joy and happiness for the community," he said.

The governor of Malanje, Cristovao da Cunha, an alumnus of the school and a member of the United Methodist Church, thanked the church for its support over the years. Monsignor Louis Maria Hornrite, Catholic leader in Malanje, participated in the ceremony and praised the school's ecumenical spirit.

"Hundreds of youth saw their horizons expanded here," Cunha said.

Quipungo said everything was in ruins when he first returned to Malanje after being away for 20 years.

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

A workman patches plaster walls in a school building at the Quéssua United Methodist Center.
"All I could do was weep," he said. "I asked God, 'Why did you bring me back here to live among ruins?' But God showed me the role he wanted me to play in rebuilding."

Bishop Timothy Whittaker and members of the Florida Annual (regional) Conference visited the complex a few years ago and have pledged to help rebuild the theological school, Quipungo said.

United Methodist missionaries built Quéssua in the early 1900s with the help of the Methodist Board of Missions. The site is named after a nearby river.

Beautiful ghosts of the old buildings stand in the now-quiet countryside. In the distance stands a cross, planted on a high hill by the founding missionaries as a symbol of peace.

At the end of the day, Quipungo said, "I feel very happy today. One more stone has been laid in rebuilding. It is a good witness."


Donations to help rebuild the Quéssua Medical Center may be sent to the Advance for Christ and His Church, the denomination's second-mile giving program. Contributions can be sent in four ways:

  • Online. Go to

  • Local church. Checks should be made payable to the local church. Write the name of the ministry and Advance #15062N on the check.

  • Mail. Checks can be made payable to "Advance GCFA" and sent to: Advance GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, GPO, New York, NY 10087-9068. Write the project name and its Advance code number.

  • Telephone. Call (888) 252-6174 to make a credit-card donation.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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