Foreword & Introduction


In the fall of 1923, the world was gradually coming together after the horror and destruction of World War I but there was still great instability in many parts of Europe. The governments of Bulgaria and Spain were both overthrown in military coups. Vladimir Lenin suffered a third stroke and stepped down from the Soviet government. A young thirty-four year old Adolf Hitler led an unsuccessful revolt against the German government and in the United States, President Harding died in office and was replaced by Calvin Coolidge.

But in Belfast, Northern Ireland, there was only one thing on the mind of twenty-one year old T. Ernest Wilson and that was the millions of lost souls in Africa who had never heard the gospel. When only eighteen years old, he had listened to missionaries tell of the great spiritual need in Angola and made a commitment in his heart to serve the Lord among those people. That heart-felt commitment became a reality when he was commended to the work of the Lord in Africa several years later by a small working-class assembly in Belfast. He not only had a desire to be obedient but had also been deeply impressed by the faith and testimony of men like George Mueller, who had put their confidence entirely in the Lord, never asking for money. Believing this to be the way God intended us to live, he made it a practice to never mention his material needs to anyone but the Lord.

In the book, God is Faithful, compiled by Jabe Nicholson, a story is told that perfectly illustrates what living a life of faith really means. As T. Ernest Wilson was standing on the Belfast docks preparing to leave for Africa, a kind brother pressed two gold coins into his hand, saying, “If you are ever down to your last penny, there is something to fall back on.” As a testament to God’s faithfulness and provision, T. Ernest Wilson still had those two gold coins over seventy years later. God had fully met their needs during a life of service to Him.

This book is an account both of hardship and joy, as well as setbacks and accomplishments. It is a riveting story of danger, adventure and opportunity for the Lord. But more than all that, it is a practical example of how we as believers should be living. We do pray that this updated edition will reach a new generation of believers, both young and old who desire to serve the Lord faithfully, putting into practice the words of Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His richer in glory by Christ Jesus.”


Africa the sleeping giant is awake! He is flexing his muscles and having serious growing pains. What is he thinking and where is he headed? Politically he is having trouble settling down. Geographically the country is shaped like a huge question mark. The whole world in the meantime is holding its breath and reserving its judgment.

One of the earliest parts of Africa to become known to the Europeans is Angola. The Portuguese have been there for four hundred and eighty years, and yet perhaps it is the least known to the civilized world. For centuries it has been an African backwater. When it is mentioned in polite society, some still innocently ask: “Oh, is that where the Angora cats come from?”

Our main interest in this book will not be with politics or geography”, important as these are today, but with a work of God which has been going on in the hearts and lives of its native people.

It should be kept in mind that Roman Catholic missions and missionaries have been in Angola since the earliest days of Portuguese occupation. Many of the priests today are foreigners, yet Roman Catholicism is the state-recognized and subsidized religion.

The first Protestant missionary to reach Angola was David Livingstone, who in his historic journey across Africa from east to west in 1854 passed through Angola. Then came the Baptist Missionary Society in 1878, followed by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1880, and the United Church of Canada in 1886. The Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church (U.S.A.) commenced work in the Luanda area in 1884. Later on came the Mission Philafricaine from Switzerland (1897), and the South African Genera! Mission (International) in 1914. The Seventh Day Adventists have been in the country since 1924. Since 1924 no other Protestant missionary group has been granted permission to open new work in Angola.

The pioneer of the work described in this book was Frederick Stanley Arnot from Scotland, who first came to Angola in 1886. He was in church fellowship with groups of Christians popularly known as “Plymouth Brethren” or “Open Brethren.” Arnot was the typical pioneer, surveying and opening up new areas and inspiring others to take up the task of laying foundations and building up the work.

Missionaries from the Brethren are commended to the mission field individually by their home assemblies, each assembly being autonomous. There are, however, a number of service organizations in various countries, which provide channels for forwarding gifts and funds, and also circulate information and news from mission fields to those at home.

“Christian Missions in Many Lands,” made up of representatives from a number of these service organizations, is the liaison between assembly missionaries and the governments concerned.

After Arnot came Charles Albert Swan from Sunderland, England. He spent twenty-five years in founding the missionary center at Chilonda in Bie, among the Umbundu-speaking people. Frederick T. Lane from London, England, pioneered the work in Capango, also in Bie. Thomas Lourtit and William Maitland, a Scot and an Irishman from the United States, were the pioneers among the Chokwe people, arriving in 1904. Dr. Walter Fisher and Cyril Bird from England opened the work among the Luena-speaking people in 1890. This work has been carried on for many years by James MacPhie from Scotland, by Albert Horton from the United States, and by Nigel Arnot, son of the original pioneer.

As well as these men, who laid the foundations, there has been a succession of honored and faithful men and women who have been responsible for developing and consolidating the work and who continue to the present day, also commended by and in church fellowship with assemblies of Brethren.

The object of all assembly missionary work is the planting of New Testament churches on native soil, completely autonomous, with no foreign domination or control, dependent on the Holy Spirit alone for guidance and progress. While medical, educational, and social work is vigorously carried on, the supreme object is the establishment of the indigenous church.

Few parts of Africa have been so thoroughly evangelized with the gospel of Jesus Christ as has Angola. Most parts of the country have been penetrated by pioneer missionaries, both black and white.

In many a forest clearing and around practically all the towns are to be found companies of African Christians, meeting in a simple primitive way, completely indigenous, seeking to spread the gospel among their own people. Their only literature is a Bible or New Testament translated into their own language, a hymnbook which they love—for they are a musical, singing people, and maybe one or two pamphlets on baptism and church order. They labor with their hands for daily food and supplies and they preach for the love of it, not for pay. The buildings in which they meet are mostly mud-and-wattle shacks with grass roofs and dirt floors. The only pieces of furniture are a rickety table, some log benches, a hurricane lamp, and an easel and blackboard. Outside, suspended from the branch of a tree is an old brake drum or a piece of iron railroad line, which serves as a bell to call the people, as most of them do not possess a watch or clock.

There are literally hundreds of such groups in Angola today and they are increasing all the time in spite of much difficulty from various sources. Some of the more prosperous have a brick building with a tile roof and glass windows. These have been financed and built by the Africans themselves. This work is not an organization needing support from over-seas, but is a living organism. It has vitality and will grow. It may be crushed in one place but will spring up in another.

Two factors have largely contributed to the phenomenal success of missionary work along these lines in Angola. First is the character and the vision of the men who founded it. They put good material into the foundations. Second is the comparatively good material with which the missionaries have had to work. The Ovimbundu and Chokwe tribes especially have well repaid the many years of training and discipline expended on them. Some tribes have a background of slavery and abysmally low moral standards and are consequently disappointing in their response to the work bestowed on them. But Angola has been fortunate in the sturdy and intelligent types which have produced such excellent results.

The writer has had personal contact with this work for nearly forty years and has watched it grow from small beginnings to its present proportions. This book is an attempt to describe how that development took place. Here is a simple and factual account of some of the difficulties and heartaches as well as the Joys and blessings involved in laboring in a pioneer field.

Permission granted by Gospel Folio Press and the Family of Mr. T. Ernest Wilson.