Biography: Janette Miller

The last year of Janette Miller’s life

By Laura Teixeira, translated by Frank Collins 

When I, Laura Marques Gomes Teixeira, was fifteen years old I was very close to this dear missionary.  I was working as a teacher at her Ebenezer Mission.  Now, at seventy years of age I can convey something of the kind of person Janette Miller was.  My family was close to her.  We were: my father João Gomes, my mother Celestina Gomes, my sister Libânia Gomes, and finally I and my brother Samuel Gomes, who at the time was seven.

Orphanage Director João Marques Gomes

Around 1958 my parents João Marques Gomes and Celestina da Costa Gomes met Janette Miller at Dondi mission where my father was working as a builder.  Janette sought to start a mission to children but had no place where she might settle into that project. My father had aquired some land many years earlier which, truth be told, had been abandoned.  The only problem was that it was a long way from Dondi, in Ebanga, a region in Angola in the municipality of Ganda, in Benguela Province.  My father took Janette there and allowed her to live there.  She called it Ebenezer Mission.  Nearby was the Protestant mission of Ebanga which was connected to the mission of Caluquembe. She now had a place where she could settle.  I believe there was only one house, and there she lived.  Later she had another house built, and a chapel.  She built dormitories for girls and others for boys.  Soon the children began to come in.  Some were orphans and others destitute.  They were fed, they learned how to read and write and they received the word of God. 

Here Janette filled the role of MOTHER.  They all called her MAIKULU (Grandmother). In 1961 she wrote a letter to my father, inviting him to join her because, now 80, she was tired, ill and could no longer carry on with her work.  My parents accepted the invitation, moved there and Janette Miller handed the work over to my father. 

He was now solely responsible for the care of the children, receiving donations from the United States, Canada and, I believe, Switzerland.  He was thus able to carry on the work begun by Janette. 

He became Director of the orphanage, caring for 100 children, some orphans, others bady undernourished and many whose parents had no way of putting them in school.  I and my sister Libânia gave lessons to these children along with two African teachers.  There was a catechist who gave lessons in religion and morality.  My father preached the word on Sundays and during the week too.  He had the services of two residence supervisors for the boys and for the girls dormitories. 

My father had a two-room school built.  The building including a personal residence in which he eventually settled.  They had a vegetable garden and an orchard, as well as a water-powered mill where corn was ground into cornmeal to feed the children.  The children helped in tilling the garden and tending the orchard, cleaning the dormitories and keeping the mission roads clear.  They had free time for football (soccer) and for simply playing.  Those old enough for school had time set aside for studying.

The youngest children in the orphanage

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At age 90 Janette Miller went to her Lord.  She had continued to live in her humble little house, with her three all-white poodles.

In 1975, because of the war In Angola, my parents had to abandon everything, leaving care of the children to the African teachers and others in the area.  In 1977, my parents were settled in Portugal and soon heard from those very teachers that they had had to flee to the cities and had left the children in the care of their most closeby families. 

Since then we have heard no more.  It was an area that saw many battles and was thickly sown with landmines. 

I thank our dear Jean for the opportunity she has given me to share some of what that work in Angola, Africa was. 

Laura Teixeira, July 2019.