How One of the Poorest Countries in the World Taught Me the Richness of Love

Water shortages. Maggot-ridden flour. Poverty, power outages, political instability. Life in Guinea-Bissau
is hard. But its people don’t show it.

Instead, they are warm, hospitable, joyful, industrious, generous, vivacious. They some of the most
loving people on the planet.

When I visited Guinea-Bissau for the first time in January, I expected to be inspired by the work WAVS is
doing. I expected to be challenged in my faith by having to trust God in an unfamiliar place. I expected to
make new friends, try new foods, and see new things. I didn’t expect to be completely schooled in the
art of love.

1 Corinthians 13: 1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

1 Corinthians 13 in Action

Matilde: Love is kind

Some WAVS students travel hours to get to the school. Some come to learn on empty stomachs. Some arrive tired from working earlier in the day, earning whatever money they can to pay tuition and provide for their basic needs.

Matilde is the school secretary and the first face students see when they walk into the school office. She greets each one with love. She smiles, asks kuma ku busta (how are you?), and stops what she is doing
to chat or hug or help.

Without love, we are nothing.

Julio: Love is not self-seeking

The only thing more permanent than the phone glued to Julio’s ear is the smile illuminating his face. It’s a smile born from his soul that commands his entire countenance. As the logistics manager, he’s a Julioof all trades. He’s the organizer, coordinator, problem solver, human fire extinguisher, and encourager. By day, WAVS superhero. By night and weekend, servant of his church, his community, his beloved God.

Without love, we are nothing.

Solinda: Love always hopes & perseveres

Solinda is a student at West African Vocational Schools

Solinda, a WAVS Student, is only 17 years old. Every morning before school, she works with her mother to make tiny ice cream treats to sell for 50 XOF (50 West African Francs = 8 US cents). She has been working to help pay for her own schooling and her family’s needs long before she was 17. According to Solinda, Guinea Bissau is the best country in the world. She works hard at learning English, not to escape her birthplace, but to stay. She dreams of being a woman with a lot of influence in her community who will make her country even better. “I want to be a big person someday,” she said. She doesn’t realize she already is.

Without love, we are nothing.

Dauda: Love is patient

Dauda is the self-appointed class clown. He’s also a WAVS computer literacy teacher. Dauda is perhaps the only human on earth who laughs while teaching Excel. Some of his students are learning the basics of how to use a computer for the first time in their lives. Some have become quite advanced under his tutelage, learning how to use Excel to operate a small store and track inventory with intricate formulas. But for a few students, the ability to learn is hindered by the inability to pay. Inaccessibility to education is one thing Dauda does not find funny. He does whatever it takes to help his students, even when it means sacrificing his own time, energy and money.

Without love, we are nothing.

Like Guinea-Bissau, the WAVS schools are full of stories: stories of hardship and suffering, triumph and
success — and every human moment in between. But overwhelmingly, they are full of love.

Without love, we are nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”