In early May I traveled for the first time to the country of Guinea-Bissau (a former Portuguese colony) for a 5 day trip. Our teammate, Roberto Fife, also went and there we met up with Geraldo Borges, a gentleman who helps oversee missions and missionaries supported by the Brazilian Christian Church/Churches of Christ. The purpose of this trip was to observe the ministry taking place, to see the needs, and to discern whether our Portugal team could somehow help with the teaching, training, and discipleship of church leadership as the church planter missionary who began this work years ago had to leave due to health issues. The Brazillian churches are still invested and wanting to help in ministry here however Portugal is much closer to Guinea-Bissau and therefore our team could possibly help with leadership development.
I thought I’d use this blog to talk about my trip and share some of my observations.
First, most of our time was spent in the capital city, Bissau, though we did spend our first day on an “island” to participate in the final portion of a youth retreat. To get to the island we had a 2-hour boat ride and then had to walk through a canal since the tide was too low for the boat to go farther. It was quite an adventure! Referring back to the capital city however, it reminded me of a large Nampula. For those who don’t know, Nampula is where we lived for over 9 years in Northern Mozambique.
Second, during my time here I saw and felt several contrasts to my experiences of/in Africa, specifically from living in Nampula. Guinea-Bissau is less definitely less developed than Mozambique. I was amazed however that so many people owned cattle and pigs and a large number of people had tin rooves (as opposed to grass/straw). All three of these things are signs of wealth in Mozambique. Another observation was that there was no lack of water. The country looked like a huge rice field and people are not subject to starvation and large scale food shortages here. These factors do not mean this is not mal-nutrition or that the country isn’t poor. It most certainly is. In fact, there is deep abject poverty just as there is in Mozambique – it just manifests itself differently. There is a major lack of medical care available and schooling is extremely minimal. I found the people were much less aggressive than what I have experienced over the years in Mozambique. For example in Mozambique when I go running, people will yell at me, make fun of me and follow me. However, in Guinea-Bissau, no one did that. Even on the 5k walk to visit a ministry site people ignored us. I felt safer than I normally do in Mozambique.
Third, I was pleased to see that the church is a “young church”. Lots of young adults are coming to know the Lord. With that said, there are still very few people in the country who know the Lord.
Fourth, the ministry of the Brazilian Christian Church/Churches of Christ is not just church planting/evangelism. They have an elementary school, which is much needed. The missionary we visited, Adriana Lopes, works hard to create and adapt curriculum to help those around her. Adriana has an important ministry.
Here are some pictures…. it was a great trip! Be in prayer with us (meaning our larger Portugal team) as we seek how we might be able to assist the work and ministry going on here.