A tribute to Pastor Antonia Bonga, who passed away on Friday night.

A man who I counted as a friend died on Friday night.

I first met Pastor Bonga in 2004 when I visited Mozambique for the first time.  He was running a center for street children called Casa Reom.  That visit was a turning point in my life, showing me many things: that we don’t need monetary richness to be rich, that it is better to do what is right today even if it risks an uncertain future, that most people live in far more difficult circumstances than we do in the West but can still be happy, and that God is close to the poor.

A few years ago he visited England, and sent us a short resume of his life:

 “I was born on 3rd February 1950 at Bawaze-Lampene, Marromeu, the son of Tomo Bonga and Carita. I was educated at Jaravura. My parents were very poor and they were only able to pay for my education up to grade 3.

When I was 18 I came to Beira where I worked during the day and went to a night school. The same year (1968) I was converted in the Apostolic Faith Mission, and was baptized in 1969. I got married and later on was ordained to be a deacon. I had a spiritual experience.

I have had 12 children, 8 of them have died so only 4 remain.

I went to Zimbabwe to Bible school, and when I came back to Mozambique was ordained to be a church pastor. I have planted 5 new churches.

In 1986, I did another bible course in Zimbabwe when I returned home things were worse. A civil war was causing difficulties among Mozambicans. In 1988 things had got so bad that even some of the church leaders were fighting over power.

In 1989, I met 5 missionaries with whom I shared my vision of ministering and planting new churches. The civil war was still going on and the government were harassing me. The government became my number one enemy. It was not easy to preach the word of God at this time. Eventually, God gave a solution to my difficulties. Later on, I founded my present church called “International Body of Christ church”. This started with meetings under a tree. Many people were laughing at the church and at me. Now the churches are all over Mozambique.

When I joined Youth With A Mission (YWAM), I did Discipleship Training (1993) and a Leadership Training programme (1997) in Zimbabwe.

In 2000 God touched my life and told me to care for the orphans and those living in difficult situations on the street. The same year I began leading the YWAM base in Beira.”

I visited Pastor Bonga and the Casa Reom project several times, and I wrote about one visit in my book ‘The Leap’:

When I came back from my last trip to Mozambique, my friend Pastor Bonga had just taken on the running of a second orphanage, with about forty children from ages 1 to 10.  He was asked to take it on, but was not given any money to pay for the running costs.  He couldn’t refuse when he’d been asked.  He couldn’t allow the children to be turned out onto the streets again.  What would happen to the one year old babies? He chose to do what was right, without considering the consequences; he left them up to God.

Pastor Bonga was not perfect, none of us are, but he pursued what his heart told him.  He persevered in extremely difficult circumstances, supported sometimes only by his love of God.  He died unexpectedly.  The evening before he died he had been meeting with others about a new project to help orphans in Nhamatanda, Mozambique.

He will be missed on this earth.

About Minimalist Christian

Phil Hemsley is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK. He works for a multinational company in the power industry, has presented technical papers at international conferences and holds many patents. He has published two books, the most recent is "The Big Picture, an Honest Examination of God Science and Purpose". He has lived on both sides of the faith fence. He is married, with two daughters.
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