We’ve arrived in our new home!
The Africa Mercy pulled into the port in Conakry, Guinea about a week and a half ago. Since then, we’ve been busy exploring our new home, meeting the people of Guinea and finding those in need of a surgery aboard our ship.
The people of Guinea are exceptionally friendly. As we walk around town, we are greeted with “Inuwali!” “Bonjour!” “Diarama!” and “Hello!” That is usually just the beginning of the greeting. Greetings and salutations are very important to people here; it’s a way of saying that a person is valuable, that they have worth to you. For someone who is used to giving a quick hello before moving on, it takes a while to learn, but we find our efforts well-rewarded in genuine smiles and good conversations (in broken French/English/Soussou/Fula/etc.).
There are 24 different ethnic groups in Guinea, but there are three main groups: Soussou, Malinke and Fula. The Soussou live mostly on the coast and the ship is docked in a mostly Soussoue neighborhood. The Malinke descended from the ancient Mali empire and live mostly in the eastern part of Guinea. The Fula are the largest ethnic group and live primarily in the mountainous central part of Guinea. All three ethnic groups are predominately Muslim (~99%) and Islam is deeply woven into their culture and daily life.
Guinea is also a beautiful place to call home. Our port view is lovely, looking out to the open ocean and Guinean sunsets.Last weekend, we were able to take a longboat out to nearby islands, and did some exploring (see photo). We have arrived in the rainy season, but so far we have only been rained on a few occasions, including when we were sailing in to port and when we were out in the longboat (soaked through and through by the time we got to shore).Because of all the rain Guinea gets, the mountainous central region is the birthplace of several of Africa’s largest rivers.
Despite it’s natural beauty, Guinea is a country that has been through a great deal of hardship. From it’s independence in 1958, it’s had brutal dictatorships, terrorist attacks, and military coups. Time after time, the Guinean people trusted their government leaders and foreigners with big promises–only to be disappointed over and over. All of this has resulted in a lack of trust of outsiders and those in authority.
This distrust of outsiders played a big part in the response to the Ebola outbreak. The epidemic began in 2013 with a two-year-old boy in a remote area of Guinea. Soon, the president of Guinea declared a national emergency. Containment of the disease was more difficult than usual, due to the people’s fear of healthcare workers. There were rumors circulating that it was a government conspiracy to steal body organs. Infected people and those they had contacted evaded surveillance, hiding their illness while infecting those around them. In Guinea, 3804 contracted Ebola and a higher percentage of people died from the disease than in any of the other countries.
Today, Guinea is ranked 183 out of 188 on the Human Development Index. It is ranked 148 out of 160 on corruption. There is one doctor for every 10,000 people; the number of anesthetic-trained doctors in the whole country is fewer than 20.
Please pray for us in this country of great need but also great mistrust, of beauty but also tragedy. Pray that we may truly bring God’s hope and healing.