Meet Aida. 23 years old.
This is her story.
A phone call
It was a unique childhood. Her friends called her mwana ntang (white girl). They taught her how to play with a stick and tyre. At the age of seven Aida moved from Equatorial Guinea back to Spain. But it was too late. The country and its people were already firmly in her heart.
In Aida’s final year at university in Spain, she had a chance to go back: a two-month internship at a school in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea. Her reading book during that trip was Lindsay Brown’s Shining Like Stars: page after page, Aida was captivated by the stories of Christian students making a difference in their countries. It sparked a dream within her: a desire to hear the stories of Christian students from Equatorial Guinea making a difference in their country.
On her return home, Aida received a phone call, which changed the course of her life. It was a GBU Spain staff worker: Aida, would you consider moving to Equatorial Guinea to pioneer a new movement?
What timing! As she prayed, read the Bible and spoke to other Christians over the following few weeks, it seemed unmistakably clear that God was opening the door.
That was 18 months ago. Since then, GBU Spain have been helping Aida prepare to move to Malabo. IFES supported her to go to World Assembly in South Africa. Hearing the stories and struggles of other pioneering staff and students helped her to adjust her expectations: this was not going to be an easy move, but she would not be alone.
I know it’s going to be difficult. And I am not the best person to go. You could find others who are better trained or more experienced. But I trust God to provide for me and mould my life for what He’s calling me to do.
I’m willing to do it because I’m not alone. I know God is with me, and the rest of the IFES family. Maybe I won’t see great things. Maybe I’m just planting one seed which will never grow up while I’m there. But it doesn’t matter. God has big plans for this nation. I’m learning that sometimes God’s timing is not our timing; God’s way of working is not our way.
Starting from scratch
Aida wants to reach students. But what’s the best way to start? Ideas were sparked while listening to others at World Assembly: English clubs and music lessons – for both Christians and non-Christians – and other ways too. It’s going to be hard: most of the undergraduates there are a couple of years older than her, and the majority are male. But despite the potential challenges, Aida has a peace.
I know I’m not there to be a leader or a director. I’m not there to impose my familiar IFES Europe way of doing things. I’m there to build a team and work together with them to start an indigenous movement. And God-willing, that will happen – first in one of the faculties of Malabo, and hopefully on other campuses in Bata as well.
Beauty and brokenness
Aida loves Equatorial Guinea. She loves the way you’re never alone there: if you’re out in the street, someone will say hello and walk with you to where you’re going; if you’re at home, there’ll be someone knocking on your door, wanting to come in for a drink. She loves the hospitality, the way of life, the smells, the colours, the diversity.
But, like any country, there is brokenness here too.
While most people are nominally Catholic, animism has a grip on their hearts. When a baby is born, the parents present the baby to the spirits for ‘protection’. When someone is ill, they go to the witch doctor. When someone is angry, they might have their enemy cursed. While the younger generation practise it less than their parents and grandparents, it’s still deeply embedded in the culture. For young believers, it’s hard to break away from it. And for an outsider, it’s hard to challenge it without causing offence.
It would be easy to feel overwhelmed by such signs of darkness, but Aida is trusting God to work:
“I believe the power to change is in God’s Word. As we read the Bible together at university, I’m praying that God speaks to us and shows us where we are putting our faith in things other than Him, the one true God.”
The country has big dreams, but few resources; many feel hopeless and frustrated. But Aida and the Christian students have a different hope to share – a hope which is not based on humans. It’s a hope that can change the heart of each individual, each campus, each community. This is Aida’s dream.
“IFES family, imagine we are all gathered together in 2023, and standing here: a sister from Equatorial Guinea saying their movement is ready to join IFES. Will you join me in praying for that reality?”
Aida is being supported by the IFES Breaking New Ground project.