Guinea Bissau The researcher of West African history finds colonization by Portugal beginning in 1425, after Vasco Da Gama sailed around the Cape. Over the following 400 years, Portugal was a main player in the slave trade. Guinea-Bissau was settled for the purpose of collecting slaves for this nefarious trade. Alongside the slave trade, Catholic priests brought Christianity, establishing churches mainly in the capital, Bissau. This neglected land became a free but socialized country after its revolution in 1974. Cubans then used this small nation as a training ground for its doctors and soldiers. In 1991 the Cubans left and the country began trying to find its destiny as a fledgling democracy.
Guinea Bissau is a small West African country on the Atlantic coast between Senegal and Guinea Conakry. It has a land area of 36,120 sq km which is slightly less than three times the size of Connecticut and is comprised of low lying swamps along the coast gradually rising to savannah with some hills at the far south eastern border reaching 300 meters. The climate is tropical; generally hot and humid with monsoonal-type rains from June to November and the dry season stretching from December to May.
In 1994, 20 years after independence from Portugal, the country’s first multiparty legislative and presidential elections were held. An army uprising that triggered a bloody civil war in 1998, created hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. The president was ousted by a military junta in May 1999. Another president was again similarly ousted in 2003 with very peaceful and much welcome military coupe. Currently there is a provisional government operating and the country’s economy and infrastructure seem to be improving slightly.
1.3 million People live in the country with approximately 50% engaged in spiritism. 45% are classified as Muslim and the remaining 5 % are listed as Christian (catholic) though only .5 % are considered Evangelical Christians. The official language is Portuguese but only the few educated people speak it. The trade language spoken by over half of the population is a Portuguese Creole; 27different tribal languages are spoken in the homes and villages.
Servants to Missions is focused primarily in the far Eastern Region of Gabu and based out of the Regional Governmental Town also called Gabu. Approximately 90% of this region is comprised of Islamic Fula’s and Mandinkas who have historically proven highly resistive to the Gospel. This is rapidly changing as the Holy Spirit is currently doing a great work among these two people groups here.
The United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) has ranged from 164th out of 174 countries in 1998 to 156th out of 162 countries in 2001 — making it among the handful of the poorest countries in the world. Over 88 percent of the population lives on less than one dollar per day.
May 12, 2003 Newsweek calls Guinea Bissau on the 10 worst countries in which to be a mother or infant. Babies are 27 times more likely to die here than in most developed countries while the maternal death rate is 600 times higher. The infant mortality rate is at 10%, the child mortality rate is at 20%! This high death rate is further compounded by a serious lack of health infrastructure, aggravating chronic epidemics of malaria, acute respiratory infections, dysentery and diarrhea. There is only on medical doctor for every 6,667 inhabitants and only one dentist in the entire country. 42% of the population is below the age of 15 and the life expectancy is estimated at 44 years.
Malnutrition is of deep concern. The United Nations surveys indicate that the prevalence of stunting among children under age 5 is approximately 45% in the Gabu Region and the prevalence of wasting is 13%. 35% of the adult males are literate but only 18% of the women can read and write. Few complete the 6th grade and public schools are frequently closed due to the government’s inability to pay the teachers.
Christians are welcome here as they are seen as bringing some hope and help to this impoverished nation. Tribal elders are recognizing that Islam is not working for their people and are constantly begging us to come to their villages to evangelize and educate their children. The two greatest needs in the Christian community are additional missionaries and support for National Pastors.