Guinea chronicles part one: cursed children and blessings
Football is just one of the ways the new BMS World Mission team in north Guinea is starting to help the local community
Last year was the start of a new era of BMS mission work in Guinea. We moved to a new location, Labé, in the north of the country, with a new team. So how are things going? We contacted the team to find out more. This week, find out how Sitongua and Lynne Laussu are engaging with young people, often from difficult backgrounds.
Sitongua and Lynne have a passion for working with the young people in Labé. After chatting to local kids, Sitongua found there was a keen interest in sport, especially football, so at the end of March he started Barkinabhè Football Club (BFC).
Barkinabhè has a deep meaning in the local language. It means ‘blessed children’. The name is inspired by the many children who feel cursed in Labé. These children don’t tend to go to school but often become apprentices, sometimes at as young as six years old.
“Some children are regarded as accursed by family members or others in the community, often because of the circumstances that surround their birth,” says Sitongua. “For instance, if a mother dies during delivery and leaves the baby, the dissatisfied spirit of the mother is believed to be powerful and cause misfortunes among the living and frequently the child is regarded as cursed.”
To help overcome the often low self-esteem of some of these children, as well as training them in football, Sitongua is teaching them life skills and to recognise how special they are to God.
“We are teaching them that they are accepted, that they are loved, that they are precious in the sight of God,” says Sitongua. “We are also teaching them how to make good choices in life. We are aiming at forming character and good personality, so they are good citizens in the future.”
BFC has two teams, one for seven to 12 year olds and the other for those aged 13 to 15. Before accepting children onto the teams, Sitongua went to speak to their parents and guardians to explain what was involved and get their permission, giving him the opportunity to build relationships with them. It is only three months in, but both parents and children are happy with how the football club is going.
“Two parents have already come to our home and thanked us for their child’s time with us,” says Sitongua. “So that shows the children have been going home telling a good story!”
Sitongua is not just concentrating on football. He is also involved in a group at the University Centre of Labé and is hoping to lead discussions and build relationships with the students there.
Education is very much at the heart of what Lynne wants to do too. Although Sitongua and Lynne moved to Labé a year ago, Lynne has been back in the UK on medical grounds for most of the year. She returned to Guinea in May and after more language learning she wants to explore ways she can help meet the educational needs of children and young people. She already had some ideas after her brief spell in the country but wants to talk to local people more about their needs.
“What we want to do needs to be relevant and necessary. There’s no point coming and pushing our ideas on people,” she says.
Lynne and Sitongua feel that working as a team with the other BMS mission workers in Labé is incredibly important in order for them to have an impact and to realise the vision that God has for them. “The team is learning to integrate with each other and we hope that the bigger picture will become clearer,” says Sitongua.
“Pray that we will gel as a team,” says Lynne.
Pray for Lynne as she looks for ways to help young people. Pray for Sitongua as he leads the football club and ask that he will find more helpers so he can also help other young people, like the students at the University Centre of Labé.
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission.