The Words of the Martins Family

How I escaped communist Angola and found True Parents

Paula Martins
April 1986

Paula Martins

I was born in Portugal in 1965, when I was 13 months old, my parents decided to go to Angola.

At that time the Portuguese government had launched a nationwide program encouraging citizens to go there and work on government-owned coffee plantations. My father became a field manager, supervising the workers who picked the beans.

We lived on the plantation until I was about six years old. Then we began farming independently on some land in the town of Matala. Although we rented the land from the Portuguese government, whatever we produced was our own. I had a happy childhood, because I was free to play in the fields with the farm animals, and with friends from neighboring families. We helped our parents with the farming, of course. I had four older sisters, and I was especially close to my next elder sister, Maria.

My mother used to tell me stories from the Bible, and I liked to listen. Many times when I was at home, I would sit with her while she was sewing and ironing, and ask her to talk about God. There was a love and a fear of God in her that I could feel. I would tell her, "I wish I could have been born at the time of Jesus, because I wouldn't have rejected him!"

My family went to church every Sunday, but we weren't religious externally as much as in heart. We didn't know much about Catholic theology. When Maria was 13 years old, she wanted to become a nun, but my mother persuaded her against it. When my mother was 20 years old she had studied to become a nun, but she became disillusioned and gave up. One year later she met my father.

In Angola I learned about racism. Whenever I played with black children in the neighborhood, my parents would tell me not to. But their words did not affect me and I didn't obey. At the public schools I attended, there were very few black children. Actually, when all the white Portuguese started to come down in large numbers to work on the coffee plantations, they took all the positions of leadership and authority in Angolan society. The black culture there had remained undeveloped; for example, there were no modern agricultural machines and everything in the fields was done by hand.

The black people began to resent white authority bitterly, and the communists manipulated their resentment. When I was only 10 years old, revolution came to Angola. I'm amazed at how well the communists used the existing racial problems to take over the whole country. The black people who allied themselves with the communists didn't realize that their "liberation" from the Portuguese people would only mean their imprisonment under a communist regime.

Escape to South Africa

Our farm in Matala was not far south of the capital city of Luanda. Over the radio we heard about the atrocities taking place there. Communists were massacring people in the streets, and black communists in particular went on the rampage in white homes, raping the women and killing the children in front of their parents, before killing them as well. My family decided to escape to South Africa. My three older sisters had already married and gone away; that left my parents, Maria, and me.

On the way to the home of my cousins in the coastal city of Mocamedes, we had to leave Maria behind to help take care of a friend's children for a few days. We had very little time before the danger would become acute. When my mother went back to get her, there was no more transportation. All the roads were closed and the buses and trains were no longer running. Anyone who went back toward the battle zones could easily get killed. My father implored her not to go, because it was too dangerous, but she went anyway. She was so courageous! I will never forget this time. Our entire family prayed for them continuously. Somehow God brought them back safe and alive. Two weeks after we left, the communists took over the entire area.

We joined our cousins, who were fishermen and had their own boats. To find fuel was extremely difficult because the communists were already in control of everything. Finally we found some through my cousins' friends. During the night we escaped with some other people in five boats. We did not turn the motors on until we were far away from shore. As it was, the communists fired their guns at us from the shore, but by then we were far enough away that the bullets couldn't reach us, and they were not organized to attack any further.

The trip to South Africa was supposed to last three days, but because of a big storm that arose, it took over a week. Our food supplies were lost and many people became violently seasick. Everything in the boats was destroyed and we had nothing to eat. During the storm one of the boats sank, but we managed to rescue the passengers. Two of them were a black couple, and even in that terrible situation I heard the other white people complain that they should not have been saved. When we finally got to South Africa, the sick passengers passed out on the beach and had to go the hospital right away. Many of them almost died.

At the refugee camp

We were sent to a refugee camp. It was nighttime and it was cold. I will never forget that moment. The tents were so big and dark, hovering over all the cots with their gray blankets. I started to cry; I didn't want to stay there. My mind wandered back to the farm, the animals, and the friendly neighbors we had left behind. I knew that I would never see them again. But I didn't want to show my tears because I knew that my parents were also suffering very much. At least there would be no more war, I thought. Through this experience our family came close together; everyone was praying that God could somehow intervene in our lives. And we were grateful that the South African people had welcomed us.

There was a general from the South African army there who supervised the camp. He used to visit each family to see how they were doing, and he distributed clothing to us himself. I don't remember his name, but we liked him and his family very much and they liked us. I will never forget them; they were so kind! They had a little girl named Brenda, and I used to play with her when they came to visit.

Externally our situation was very difficult, but somehow we survived and we were grateful. Two months later they told us we were being transferred to another camp in Johannesburg. Early one morning Brenda came to say goodbye. We embraced each other and stood there crying, hoping that we would somehow see each other again; but we knew that we never would. At that time I couldn't speak any English, but our friendship was so strong that we didn't need words. Even now when I think of her I start to cry. She helped me through so many difficulties, like a bright light in the dark of night.

This South African general had specifically asked the government if our family could stay in South Africa. He promised to find us shelter and a job for my father, but the government said no. I'm not sure why, but the government did not want the refugees to remain there. Finally we had to return to Portugal. When we got there, the country was glutted with refugees; there were no jobs or available housing. Some of the refugees were even sleeping in the airport!

We stayed for a while in Boticas at the home of the parents of my brother-in-law. They talked about a few of their friends from the city who had gone to France and liked it there. We heard that it was very difficult to get the necessary legal papers, but my parents decided to go anyway. We found a man who made frequent trips between France and Portugal, and we got a ride to France with him.

Hardship in Paris

When we got to Paris, our guide said that he couldn't take us any further. There we were, with no shelter and nothing to eat! My father asked him if we could go just a little bit further and try to find someone who could speak Portuguese. It happened that we found a man in a hotel who came from the very same region of Portugal that we did. My father explained our situation to him and he agreed to help us.

This man must have been sent by God. He had a family with four children but he took us in. Sometimes my parents went without eating because they knew this family did not have enough money to feed all of us. Despite such difficulty my parents were always a source of inspiration for us.

Finally we were able to get legal papers. My father found a landscaping job with a privately-owned company, and we were able to move to our own apartment in the city of Levallois Perret, just north of Paris. The apartment was very small, but we were proud of it. My three elder sisters had also escaped with their families from Angola by that time, and they joined us in France.

Soon we started school. I was 11 years old at that time. Our teachers liked us very much, and we tried our best to learn French. In six months we mastered the basics.

As I grew up in the Paris community, I naturally sought friendships and a good environment. But without realizing it I was already going the wrong way. I didn't do anything really bad, but I started listening to rock music and got caught up in secular thinking. It seemed normal at the time. During those years I wasn't really thinking about God. I tried to read the Bible several times, but it was too difficult. I didn't understand it, so I gave up.

Three days after my 17th birthday, in 1981, I met a Unification Church member. It was really a spiritual encounter. I went into the store where I usually bought my books for school. When I came out I suddenly lost my sense of direction! I asked someone where the nearest subway was and he said, "That one there, straight ahead, is the nearest," I was already late for an appointment, but for some reason I turned left. That's when I met my spiritual father. He asked me if I believed in God, and then asked some other questions. Suddenly he asked my age, and when I told him, he ended the conversation abruptly and gave me a flyer with the center's address on it. I was very young and the church was under a lot of persecution at that time.

I wept for the suffering of God

Three days later I called for an appointment. I spoke to a sister on the phone for about 10 minutes. Usually I didn't say much to anybody because my past was still very painful, but somehow I felt like sharing everything with her. Finally the day of my appointment came, and I went to the center. I was shocked when I heard the Principle, especially the lecture on the fall of man. I had known all along that the story of the Garden of Eden in the Bible was not a literal story. I realized the suffering of God when He lost us, and I wept. I asked my spiritual father to read me the story of Father's life, and I concluded that he was the Messiah.

I decided to join, and I asked my parents if I could move into the center. I wanted them to visit the church so I began witnessing to them. However, during that time a sister was kidnapped and a great deal of negativity was being generated. My parents told me to stop going to the center and said that if I didn't, they would send me back to Portugal. I cried and cried when my mother told me this. I tried to explain, but there was no way she would listen. I told my spiritual father that even if I had to wait a year before moving in, I would remain faithful. I still tried to visit the center whenever I could, however, especially during vacations, when I would spend all my afternoons there. I helped out by doing secretarial work for the Native! Espoir.

When I turned 18, I moved into the center. I visited my parents at home once a week and tried to keep peace with them. I tried very hard to help them understand my decision. I was studying at a secretarial school at that time, and my parents insisted that I continue. My spiritual father and I were afraid that they would kidnap me if I didn't. They sent Maria to tell the principal and my teachers that I had joined the Unification Church and that they should let my family know if I didn't show up for classes. My teachers were negative about my being in the church, but they couldn't complain because I was a good student.

Six months later, in April 1983, I was asked to go to America to join the IOWC. I was very excited. When I came to New York I went to Belvedere and saw Father for the first time. As I listened to him speak, I didn't have the feeling that he was my father; I just felt he was the head of the church and that was all. When I left Belvedere I repented. I thought, "Father is giving so much; I want to be able to feel he is my father:' I prayed all week to have a different attitude.

The following week I went to Belvedere again to see Father, and when he opened in prayer, I prayed too: "Heavenly Father, forgive me if I don't feel Father is Father, but I want to make an effort to feel it:' Right after our prayer, the spirit world around me seemed to clear up. Then Father began teasing the members.

He marched right over to me and gently patted me on the head. He asked me if I were American Indian, and I explained that I was Portuguese. Father said, "For God, you are Portuguese-American!" After that I felt better; I felt much closer to Father.

I felt responsible to help

When I joined IOWC Team #19 I had a lot of difficulty because of the language barrier. Being young, I couldn't express myself or my feelings very well anyway, and I kept thinking about my spiritual and physical parents. Almost every night I cried and asked God why He chose me to follow Father. I was too young; besides, I thought, my sister Maria was older and had wanted to be a nun -- she should have been the one to join instead of me. Yet through my suffering I began to understand God's suffering, and I realized how lonely He must have been for so many thousands of years. Because of God's heart and all the help I received from my commander, I knew I had to keep going. Now I am very grateful that I came to America. My experience here made me stronger and more able to do God's will.

When the IOWC teams began to settle down into different states, my team leader sent me to a pioneer city for a few weeks, and then I came back to Detroit to work with ministers. In July 1984 Father went to jail.

I realized that if I really wanted to help Father, I would have to grow up quickly. I felt that Satan was going to try to stop us any way he could, so I was determined that no matter what happened, I would follow True Parents. Father said that by going to jail he would be able to claim the whole world back from Satan. I wanted to work for that goal and fight along with True Parents and brothers and sisters until Satan gave up. Life was not worth living any other way. I felt responsible to mobilize the ministers so that Father could be liberated.

Now in Detroit I can see that the same problem exists here that developed in Angola. Because the tension between black people and white people is unresolved, communism can work. But I want to fight against it. I can see Father's goal for CAUSA; we must educate ministers so that they can stop this from happening. Ministers have the power to guide people either the right way or the wrong way.

Since Project Jericho began I have been trying my best to bring ministers to our two-day seminars. We are very busy at the center and our lives get crazy sometimes! I am almost always on the phone-calling team. I love to work with the ministers. I respect them because they kept Christianity alive for 2000 years, and I feel that God is grateful to them for their strong faith. More than any other group of people, Father wants to give his message to them, because they are the ones who sacrificed and taught the Bible, even though they may not have understood it completely.

Many times we get involved in external things and forget about the internal ones. During this time I know that I need to study more, so I am determined to read at least two of Father's speeches every week and part of the Principle every day.

We are the ones who are going to establish the ideal family centered upon true love. I am very grateful to True Parents because they made the path for us. I repent that my standard is not always what True Parents expect it to be, and I pray that Heavenly Father can show me the way. Without the Principle, life is not worth living in this world. True Parents live in my heart because they gave me hope and a new way of life.

I hope that my testimony can inspire other brothers and sisters. It doesn't matter how much we struggle. It's just a matter of time before the victory is here. 

Table of Contents

Tparents Home

Moon Family Page

Unification Library