Department of Guiana (French Guiana)
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On the South American continent, between Suriname and Brazil, is the Department of Guiana, otherwise known as French Guiana, a dependency of France. First settled by France in 1604, following the French Revolution one of the islands became the French penal colony known as Devil’s Island. It ceased being a penal colony in 1951. Sugarcane plantations influenced the sparse development which now counts a population of about 168,000 over an area of 91,000 sq km (35,000 sq miles). Bananas, fish and fish products are the main exports. Forests and woodlands cover 90% of the country providing an important resource. The economy is closely tied to the larger French economy through subsidies and imports. French Guiana is the site of the European Space Agency’s rocket base from which are launched communication satellites.
In 1990 an a cappella Church of Christ was planted in the capital city of Cayenne as a result of the work of Don Starks, Boyd Williams and Bill McDonough.
The following addition to the profile was submitted by Greg Herriford of Teen Mission USA and Mission Journeys in January 2008. We appreciate Greg’s submission of this material.
I must admit I knew very little about the country of French Guiana until I was invited by Dr Wesley Stepp to take part in a Mission Journey there in October, 2007. Dr Stepp, director of the Bible Institute for Christian Missions, had been visiting the country since 1997. During his visits, he would take time to meet people and study the Bible with them. Over a period of years, he came into contact with several leaders of a local English-speaking Baptist church. The people were very interested in the idea of an independent Christian church that used the Bible as its only authority. After much study and prayer, the leadership decided to leave the local Baptist Association and become an independent Christian Church. Despite losing their land, building and some of their congregation, they felt it was what God wanted them to do. In 2005, the group reorganized, began meeting in a home and became incorporated as “The Christian Church of French Guiana.” Shortly after, two other French-speaking churches also became interested in this concept. Dr Stepp then began to organize a team from the United States to share with church leaders and others about the Restoration Movement and ministry opportunities in the Christian Church.
In October, 2007, the U.S. team put together a three-day convention in Cayene, French Guiana (the capital city). The convention was called, “First Journey,” as it was the first time for much of the audience to hear about the church in the Bible. Workshops were done covering salvation, the Lord’s Supper, Christian camping, youth ministry, clown ministry, leadership, and highlights from the book of Acts. Sermons were delivered by Leonard Stone (Global Bible School/Lexington, KY), Bobby Cairell (Blue Grass Christian Camp/Lexington, KY), Greg Herriford (Teen Mission, USA/Lexington, KY) and Dr Wesley Stepp (BICM/Jacksonville, FL). The Good Twins (Dwayne and Dwight) provided special music along with choirs from three local churches. A clown ministry from Jacksonville, FL (Olene Lockwood, Joe Dick and Chris Paone) provided skits and entertainment. Danita Clark and Gina Small (Hilliard, OH, Church of Christ) worked with the younger children during workshops and main sessions. The convention went over very well and was a huge success.
About the convention, Dr Stepp commented, “We accomplished everything we went to do.” He went on to say, “We were able to inform the local members and seekers about a New Testament church. They were able to learn about the size of the Restoration Movement as well as learn about the diversity of gifts as seen in the various ministries used in worldwide evangelism.” It was truly a historic moment for the Christian Church in French Guiana. What’s next? Only God knows for sure. However, the people are ready for more. Following the convention, one government official told Dr Stepp, “You should do this again next year.”
Dr Wesley Stepp is currently working with the two French-speaking groups to organize and incorporate in 2008. Plans are to train a church planter to prepare six new locations for beginning a new work in 2008. Leonard Stone, director of Global Bible School, reports an interest from several students in French Guiana wanting to take bible correspondence lessons through Teen Mission’s outreach ministry. Future short-term mission projects are also being planned to help the churches in French Guiana with both building and ministry projects.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
May 2004, updated January 2008
For further historical reference:
Churches of Christ Around the World, Lynn, Mac, 21st Century Christian Publications, Nashville, TN, 2003.
For online directories of a cappella Churches of Christ see:
Dr Wesley Stepp
Bible Institute of Christian Missions
3839 Luth Dr
Jacksonville, FL 32250
Global Bible School
940 Holly Springs Dr
Lexington KY 40504
Teen Mission, USA, & Mission Journeys
940 Holly Springs Dr
Lexington KY 40504