Many foreigners—Mauritanians, Lebanese, Senegalese, Indians and others—live in Guinea-Bissau, escaping dictatorships or poor political and economic situations in their own countries and restarting their lives here, seeking freedom and the ease of establishing businesses which Guinea-Bissau affords. Some settled over ten years ago. Such is the story of the 25-year-old Lebanese barbershop owner who cuts my hair each month. He moved to Guinea-Bissau about a year ago to restart his life.
The first few times I went to his barbershop, we talked very little. He still does not speak Creole well, nor does he speak English easily; I do not either, for that matter. But as time passed, we started to communicate better, talking about football, politics, culture, religion and other subjects.
One day he asked me if I smoked. I told him I never had, and he found that very interesting. He confessed with some embarrassment that he smoked a lot and had already unsuccessfully tried to stop. What caught my attention was that he said his smoking stemmed from depression. As I talked with him, learning more about what he was going through, he said frustrations and traumas had “haunted him” for a few years. He also said he had already seen psychologists, but they could not solve his problems.
His story touched me greatly, and I offered him the option of speaking with Daniele Machú, the psychologist on our project. As my friend is a Muslim, I had to be very careful in my approach, so he did not think I just wanted to proselytize. I desired to help him, and that needed to be clear. He said he would think about it and look for me, so I gave him my phone number, expecting his call.
Shortly after that conversation, I traveled to South Africa to participate in a training conference. Unfortunately, I still have not heard from my Lebanese friend. I always pray for him and hope that God will help him overcome his struggles. I look forward to visiting with him again when I return to Guinea-Bissau.
This encounter has caused me to reflect again on the need to preach an integrated gospel—one able to bring people closer to God and change the story of their lives. I have also thought about how God brought this young Lebanese man to Guinea-Bissau, partly for the opportunity of finding a solution to his struggles through the work of AFM. As missionaries, we focus on the indigenous of the country but also reach out to expatriates. God, through His Spirit, leads us into situations that seem like simple, everyday life but are actually doors being opened for the transformative message to enter. We must always be intentional in our daily activities: going for a haircut, shopping or purchasing gas. These can be powerful opportunities to share God’s love.
Please pray for the missionaries, natives and all people looking for solutions and answers to their struggles, pain and afflictions. Pray for this young barber to find the true pleasure that cigarettes, alcohol and money can never offer him.