I am Sr. Suzanne Djebba. I come from Cameroon and I am 41 years old. I’ve been in Guinea Bissau as a Missionary for one and half a year. I live in the community of Bissau.
Is the mission like adaptation and insertion? I can say, for me this process is yet in progress after one and half a year. Growing the knowledge of the reality of the mission is something beautiful God has entrusted to me, the persons with whom I work and to the community where I live with the sisters of different nationalities.
By the time I reached Guinea, I finished learning Portuguese hoping that there would be some people who would speak that language. But the reality was different. The first challenge to me was to discover that the language I learnt with so much commitment and interest was not very useful in the mission.
I had to choose between continuing to speak that language and to learn a new language to help me communicate with the people. I decided to learn Criolo which is the origin of many words in Portuguese. However, it is entirely a different language and has its own expressions, style and grammar.
Since I am African, at the beginning they did not believe that I am not a Guinean. They thought that I did not like to speak their language. Only after having observed, my different accent and my real difficulty to express myself like them, they understood that I was telling the truth that I am from another country. It took time but I succeeded to overcome all these difficulties with many efforts.
However, the challenge of language remains. Especially when we go to the villages the way people speak is different from the way the people in the city speak. However, it was good to discover that when they saw me making efforts to learn, they helped me when I made mistakes.
Initially, I asked them to correct me, but out of respect for me, they do not say that I am making mistakes. They just repeated the same phrase correctly. At first, I wondered why they had to repeat always what I had just said until I realized that it was a respectful way to correct my mistakes.
I can say that in this process of my insertion my best teachers were the children, who in their spontaneity helped me to improve my pronunciation and taught me many new words.
Other than the language, my process of adaptation and insertion has also gone through the effort to know and to understand the customs and traditions of Guinea. I can say some of the aspects are very similar to those of my country and in other aspects they are very different, in the way of seeing life, to live the family bonds and to live the faith. In the beginning, I tended to make comparisons, which didn’t take me anywhere. But I learned to see these differences as an integral part of my missionary life as time passed.
I can confirm, because of this reason, going to a new mission for me is like a child who learns to walk. At the beginning, the child has no balance. He falls while trying to walk quickly, but he succeeds only gradually to stand and to walk carefully because he knows a little more about where the way leads.
It gives me the courage to see other missionaries newly arrived in the mission go through the same process of insertion. A journey that certainly comprises of struggles, but also the joy of coming into contact with what is new and different, in order to share the faith and live in Christian communion with others. For this reason, the process is still in progress of insertion that leads me to grow in humility and openness of heart, because I discover every day that I have to learn more.
I am sure that, in this journey I am not alone, because the community accompanies me, clearing some of my doubts. And the certainty that the Lord is always by my side is a source of serenity and trust for me to live in this land of mission that He has entrusted to me.
sr. Susanne Djebba, Guinea Bissau