Staying true to biblical principles while in military service can prove to be one of the most significant challenges a Christian has to face in times of war. The challenge is even more remarkable when one is part of a guerrilla army. This was the situation in which a young man named Abraão, also known as “24,” found himself in in Angola.
Yet, he remained faithful to his principles.
In 1993, when he was just 17, Abraão was recruited into the army. He was stationed in the city of Huambo, Angola, which was under the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA)’s occupation. After fulfilling the required training, this former resident of Calomanda Square was placed in the Anti-Tank unit of the now-extinct Armed Forces of the Liberation of Angola (FALA). This was the armed wing of UNITA, one of the largest political parties in that African country.
Upon arrival, 24 was appointed as the bodyguard of the commanding officer, Tito Carlos Lineha. Being in the camp came with its own challenges for 24, and being a Seventh-day Adventist in such an environment was problematic. Agent 24 found himself mocked because he did not eat pork and ridiculed because he refused to work on Saturday, the biblical Sabbath.
The young Adventist did not let the mockery alter him. Determined to be “faithful till death,” he lived his life the way he had before he was recruited, staying true to the values that had been instilled in him from a young age. Abraão’s behavior did not go unnoticed, and he eventually earned the respect of his colleagues.
At that time, he was not aware that his life had become a “sermon in shoes” to his colleagues and his boss. Silently, the commander Lineha had been watching how Abraão conducted his life.
One incident in particular would leave a lasting impression on him. Lineha had to go away and spend a year in France. Before his departure, he left some personal items under the care of 24. These included money and toothpaste. Upon his return, Lineha was surprised to find everything just as he had left it. Even the tube of toothpaste remained untouched. These small details would be the beginning of a stirring in his heart that would later lead to his conversion.
“What touched me the most was that after so many months away from home, I found the money and the toothpaste just as I had left them,” Lineha confessed. “It was something that instilled in me the desire to join the church of 24.” From that day, Lineha started to give 24 a bit more freedom and treated him differently. With the end of the war in 2002, the two parted ways.
Years later, someone invited Lineha to a Bible Conference. “I attended with pleasure because it was the church of 24,” he shared. Lineha was baptized in September 2009 into the Adventist Church but for years had lost contact with his former bodyguard. They finally met again in 2020.
“I went to see him,” Lineha said. “I wanted to apologize for any possible ill-treatment he may have suffered under me.”
Lineha is currently the first elder of the Philadelphia Congregation, one of the three most important Adventist churches in Menongue. Through his influence, four people have accepted Christ as their personal Savior. “Now I want to take part in sharing this message with others,” he said.
The original version of this story was posted on the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division news site.