They are sick of empty promises: Project Bissau Series 1

Intention, Intention, Intention.

They say that nothing good comes easy; That’s what I was told as I was left in the village of Cabo Xangue here with my team in Guinea-Bissau without a translator. It hasn’t been easy, in fact it has been ridiculously difficult, but I try not to see it that way. If anything, my Portuguese is now good enough to take a visit to Brazil sometime in the near future.

We’ve been staying in a small home built after the Portuguese were fought out of the country. This small home along with others was built by a French NGO. An NGO that no longer exists and provided absolutely no long-term resources for the community. Their work consisted of building homes, electricity, running water to the French who lived in them. All the while they were exporting cashews and other cash crops to the highest bidders. However, now there are no well-constructed homes, no running water, and no electricity in this village totaling more than 4,000 people. They have trust issues and they have every right. Over and over again groups come here to make grandiose promises and then leave (not without first taking their share of the cash crops).

Intention, Intention, Intention.

That is what I have to continually come back to.

One of the first conversations we had with a Balantan elder was that we need to provide teachers so that they and their children are able to learn the faith. This man wanted desperately what Islam had for them, the message of monotheism, and it’s call to morality. He feared that just like everyone else we would be gone. This man has no idea about all the plans we have for this small village, the well, the medical supplies, and he could care less about plans. . . he wants actions.

He’s right, so often new Muslims are fetishized. Feasts like the one we held for them are done and after weeks the people are forgotten about. As I write this I am surrounded by two Balanta children, Domingo and Keeboi (I know I got that wrong). Domingo has been with me almost every day, waiting for me to come outside and teach him to make wudu, or to pray, or to do something else. His father usually come by hours later to attend classes with my friend in an effort to also learn more about the faith, they are eager, and my job is to ensure they have a future in this faith by providing a foundation for them.

Their intention is in the right place, they want this faith more than many can possibly imagine. They want people that reflect that intention, who also intend to gain God’s pleasure. They want people to intend to serve God by serving them, by teaching them, and lifting them and their children. They don’t want people to toy with their emotions, to tell them of the one true God and then leave them to go back to their idols and shrines that line their pathways and surround their homes.

I have to renew my intention because if I’m here just to feel good and to show the world that I’m doing a service to this faith then I’m in for a rude awakening.

Intention, Intention, Intention.

We all need to spend a little bit more time making sure that whatever we do, we do it with the right intentions.

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