welcome to paradise

24 Jul

The past couple days have been a wonderful blend of fellowship and rest.  On Saturday, while the boys visited the school at Mission Perazim and met with leaders from Prison Fellowship, we ventured off to the market with Surata.  On a mission to find African sandals, fabric, and produce, we rode through winding, bumpy roads to reach the largest market in Conakry.  We’ve realized how crucial it is to have a driver in Conakry (as Surata does), as we have yet to understand even a vague layout of the city, with all of its alleys and winding roads (all nameless), not to mention we are not the aggressive drivers one must be to make it two blocks without a wreck!

The drive took a little over thirty minutes, which gave us time to hear Surata’s story.  She shared their family’s testimony, of how difficult it was when they became Christians in America, then chose to return home to Guinea.  Not only did they sacrifice the luxuries of life in the U.S., but they found themselves estranged from their Muslim families, without close support in the transition.  She told us stories of how their business struggled, how they were down to one car (with Ishmael traveling to work and a growing family), and how their families asked them why they would choose the life they had chosen.  Then she described the deep trust that they found in Christ, as he brought them through that valley.  How it was worth it all, and how their families saw them stand strong in His grace.  She described the peace she has found, being where God wants her to be, and that nothing could be more valuable — no lifestyle, no money, no amount of luxury.  We learned that they did reconcile with their families after two years, and that although they are still different, their families now get to see God working through Ishmael and Surata.

Our time at the market was both productive and entertaining.  We found most of what we were looking for (including huge avocados and fragrant pineapples), and got it all at a fair price, thanks to Surata’s bargaining techniques.  Her genuine pout when they gave her a ridiculous price, her “game” of walking away to a new booth until they followed with a reduced price… it was both impressive and hilarious.  We will probably always need Surata at the market, if we are to pay “African” prices here.

After the market, we reunited with the boys, and moved our luggage to a new guesthouse, where we will stay for the rest of our time in Guinea.  The new place is one that was previously unknown to the Jamison family, but turned up this trip when all the other guesthouses were booked.  We’ve decided it was God’s blessing in disguise for all familiar places to be unavailable, as the new place has been a haven of rest and refreshment.  It is a condominium owned by the CAMA (a mission organization), and used to be inhabited by a career missionary from the U.S.  It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fully-stocked kitchen (stove, microwave, dishes, refrigerator, coffee pot, spices, cooking utensils, etc), a large common area, and a huge balcony with an ocean view.  Who knew that it could feel like vacationing in Guinea?  Our place stays cool from the breeze off the water, and we enjoy sitting on our patio every evening.  We’ve been able to make oatmeal each morning (not over open fire), and have been enjoying avocado-tomato sandwiches for lunch.  The tile floor throughout the apartment is so clean, as are the bathrooms.  And we have internet — wireless and fast!  We even have access to electricity 22 hours per day (via generator when the city power is off, which is basically all the time during the rainy season); we have been judicious in using it, opting for candles and flashlights in the evenings but occasionally watching a DVD or charging our computers.  Being here has made us realize that you can be comfortable and feel at home even while serving in Guinea.  We’ve already started looking for beachfront property on which to build our home (and conference center, guest house, garden, etc).  All joking aside, we really do feel like this part of our trip was God’s gift.  It has given us peace about the future, to know that we could make Guinea home.

On Sunday morning, we had breakfast with Ishmael before heading to Mission Perazim for church.  Pastor Karim is out of town at a pastor’s conference in Ghana, and so asked Adam to preach in his place.  We were all warmly welcomed by the church congregation – although we felt a little silly as they had us sit in the very front and served us bottled water and cokes on a platter during the service.  Adam discussed passages from Isaiah and the New Testament to portray a picture of the gospel in which God’s infinite holiness and infinite love become apparent in the person of Jesus Christ.  It was a beautiful message of being both humbled and exalted as Christians, and a challenge to be united as the body of Christ despite our differences so that we might be an image of God’s love for the world.  He even got applause and “amens” from the congregation at the end as he encouraged the church to be visible examples of reconciliation to the rest of the nation.  It was powerful, and we all enjoyed hearing him speak.

After church, Ishmael treated us to pizza, which was delicious.  We then took naps and rested the remainder of the day.  We had dinner and watched a movie at our place before calling it a night.  It was nice to have time to relax together.

– Courtney & Rachel

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