photo of Marisol Ramirez Santos

It happens every year: Innocent lives around the world are forever altered by uncontrollable forces like war, natural disasters and changing economies. As humans, our first reaction is to act urgently to help the devastated victims, praying for them, volunteering, making donations.

But few of us feel pressed to think about the aftermath when the devastation is no longer making news headlines. Growing up, I often didn’t understand the long-term implications of these types of situations, thinking to myself, “These people lost their homes and jobs. How will they survive? What will they do next? How does one reconstruct a city or a nation after its destruction?”

Today, I live in that reality. I alive in Angola, a country that only eight years ago ended a 27-year civil war. It’s quite hard to believe, considering how fast the country is rebuilding itself, but Luanda, the capital city, where I live, is now one of the most expensive cities in the world. It’s hard to believe that Angola is now one of the most promising, growing nations in Africa.

Looking out my office window, Luanda is literally a city under construction, with new, Dubai-like skyscrapers seeming to appear overnight. While physical war scars are hardly visible amidst the reconstruction, Angolans still carry the wounds and pain of war, dressed by aggression, corruption and immorality. Tired of these strongholds, Angolans realize that the most necessary change is of the mind and soul.

I moved to Luanda as a business consultant. I would have never imagined in my university days that I would later go on to work in business in Africa, helping to rebuild a country and investing in what in business we call “human capital” — the empowerment of people. I mean, I always had a strong desire to impact the world for Christ and bring meaning to my life. But Africa? Business?

Yet, that was somehow my dream. God placed that vision in me. It was just a bit of a journey to see and become prepared for it. I look back now and stand in awe, realizing that he ordained every step.

After graduating from Biola, I started working in the film industry but soon realized that I’d rather live a life movies were made about, not live to make movies. I accepted a two-year missionary assignment in Athens, Greece, during the 2004 Olympic Games. It was there that God began to shape my heart for what he had in store for my future.

Athens, a transition city for many Eastern European and African nations, exposed me to large groups of people who migrated from developing countries. These were people who were unable to make a living for themselves or their families in their own country and migrated in hopes of a better future. It was then that God strongly pressed upon me a desire to help people not only to know Jesus Christ but to also be able to help them develop themselves, to learn skills with which they could make a living and support their families.

I moved to Madrid, Spain, where I completed an International MBA at top business schools. After graduating from the program, my husband and I took an offer to move and work in Angola.

We now live in a very difficult, demanding place where shortages of water and electricity are all too common, and where it’s easy to become disillusioned, even for Angolans. Yet it’s exhilarating for me to live in Luanda, to know that I am at the heart of a changing city, but more importantly that I am part of a spiritual transformation. God has allowed Pedro and me to be a part of the reconstruction of his kingdom in Angola.

Every Thursday, I open my home to a group of young professional Christian Angolan women, and we meet to talk about our faith and to empower each other in Christ. Every week reality bites me. But it’s a great feeling. I am inspired by young women who, in spite of every kind of opposition (invitations to adultery, bribery, vanity and corruption), maintain a passion to live godly lives.

I have recently seen one of these young ladies lead her whole work department to know Christ. It humbles me when I meet God’s “change agents” like her, hidden behind desks and offices — Angolans passionate about Christ and strong in faith. They might be few in number and faced with all kinds of opposition, but they are the hope and future of this country.