When a shepherd heard of the Great Shepherd, his answer to the invitation to follow was “yes.” When men and women in a fishing village heard of the man who multiplied loaves and fish, their answer to the call was “yes.” When internally displaced women heard of their home in heaven, their answer to the question of whether they wanted an eternal home was “yes.”
The Muhimba of Angola, a semi-nomadic people group who live along the border of Angola and Namibia, needed an opportunity to hear.
Stories of emphatic “Yes” continue to resound along Angola’s southern border.
Last fall, IMB missionary Steve Evans and Angolan Baptist partners Ezekiel Castelo and João Quintas traveled to the border to share the gospel with unengaged and unreached micro people groups — people with populations of less than 100,000.
The journey was tedious and time-consuming. But oh-so-worth it.
“There’s a reason the unreached are unreached, and it’s not always because they’re resistant to the gospel or unresponsive. Sometimes it’s an issue of accessibility,” Evans said.
“They haven’t had a chance to respond. And when you stand face to face with a truly unreached person and you share the gospel with them and they immediately respond, and they believe the message and accept Christ, you realize it’s not because they’re resistant. It’s because they haven’t had a chance to hear the gospel,” Evans continued.
Of the more than a dozen people groups in the area, the men interacted with eight of the groups.
When they share the gospel, they share the message that Jesus transforms lives.
Evans, Castelo and Quintas typically begin by telling the story of the demon-possessed man and explain that Jesus transformed him and instructed him to go share what God had done for him. Evans and national believers share how God transformed their lives and present the gospel, starting with creation and ending with the Great Commission.
He said the heart of their message is, “He changed the lives of people in the Bible. He changed my life. He can change your life too. This is why.”
Two people from the Muhimba people group committed their lives to Christ.
Evans, Castelo and Quintas met Muhimba who were in the area during the dry season so their sheep could feed. When the rains return to their village, they make an 18.5 mile trek back. Evans said he hoped the men would carry the gospel back to their wives and they would continue to learn stories from the Bible that would not only disciple them but equip them to share with others.
During a return visit to the area, Evans, Castelo and Quintas visited a fishing village where several unengaged and unreached people groups live. As they made their way through the community, sharing the gospel as they went, a woman approached them and shared she was a Christian and begged them to start a church in the area. Others around her agreed — a church was needed. Several people committed their lives to Christ that day.
In another village, the people were so impoverished that people lived, ate and slept under trees. For the past two years, the trees had been their homes. Under the shade of a family’s tree house, Evans, Castelo and Quintas shared the gospel.
Curious and a little cautious, the village leader approached the group. After Evans explained they were sharing good news, he said, “We need this,” he said. “We need a church here. We need to learn to love one another and care for one another.”
As the village leader spoke, more people gathered under the tree until 20 to 30 people assembled. The community was hungry to both hear God’s Word and start a church. To prove their interest, the village leader summoned other community members, totaling around 90 people.
Several people made decisions of faith. Two days later, Quintas, who serves as a missionary in the area, returned and held a Sunday service — 94 people attended, and 32 became Christians.
And that is how the preaching point under the tree grew.
While some in the area live under branches, others live under tent canopies. The tents bear the brunt of the African sun for Angola’s internally displaced people. Quintas walked through the rows of tents in search of people eager to hear. In an open-air market across from the tents, Evans and Castelo shared Bible stories with a crowd of 50 people of different tribes and languages.
And while they’d been well-received everywhere they set foot, one woman repeatedly yelled, “Go away. We don’t want you here. We don’t want you telling God’s Word. We don’t want to hear stories from the Bible.”
Two young women countered, “No. We want to hear.” So, they continued. The women asked Evans what they could give them. “We can give you God’s Word,” Evans responded.
“Prayer. I can say a prayer asking God to bless you,” Evans replied. The women pleaded for prayer.
Evans raised his hands over their heads while others in the crowd eavesdropped. In a change of heart, the woman who yelled later asked to learn more.
Steve and his wife, Carla, recently visited four new preaching points that have started among unreached people groups. Quintas lives in the area and visits the groups regularly.
The gospel continues to spread in southern Angola —30 more people committed their lives to Christ— as more people have access.
Steve and Carla will soon retire after 43 years on the mission field.
“One of the goals that we have is to train Angolan Baptists to be missionaries, to be leaders, to be evangelists, to be pastors; to help them and help others grow in Christ and be evangelistic and to reach out to the lostness of the country, and especially to these unreached peoples in the south of Angola.”
Evans is coaching Castelo and Castelo is mentoring Quintas. While training nationals is their modus operandi, the need for more missionaries is great.
“Who will come to work with our national brothers and sisters? To work with national pastors and missionaries to carry on the work?” Evans asked. “Our goal really is to train up nationals to do the work and we’ve seen that happen. But we need more. It needs to grow.”
Steve and Carla are thankful for Southern Baptists’ support throughout their decades on the mission field.
“It’s truly exciting to be here as IMB missionaries to work among these people, to see them come to the Lord. What a privilege it is!” Steve said. “Who would have thought when I was in the United States that I would be in deep Africa among tribal peoples, sharing the gospel and seeing them respond. But because of the support of Southern Baptist churches and individuals, I can do that. And I love it. And I thank the Southern Baptists for allowing that to happen.”
Your donations to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering ® have made it possible for the Evanses to serve for more than four decades, and your gifts help newer generations of missionaries entering Africa, metropolitan Europe and tropical countries in Asia.