Located on the north Atlantic coast of the South American continent, French Guiana is actually a department or state of France. Settled in the 1700s, modern-day French Guiana is one of the "forgotten places" when speaking of the independent Baptist missionary movement. As of 2018, BIMI has no missionary presence in this part of South America. We have no firsthand knowledge of any independent Baptist missionaries living and working in French Guiana. It seems that this tropical French state, which shares the mainland of South America, has largely been overlooked.
With a growing population of approximately 296,000, French Guiana is a mixture of Creole and Caribbean culture. It has been heavily influenced by the sizeable number of Europeans who have migrated there over the centuries. Even today many European nationals live and work in French Guiana because the country is home to the Guiana Space Center, a prime launch site for the European Space Agency and a principal French spaceport. French Guiana enjoys a reasonably stable economy, mainly because it is heavily subsidized by France. The country's official currency is the Euro.
French Guiana is an open door to the Gospel in South America. While our research revealed numerous religious entities working in the country that include several evangelical, Protestant, and Pentecostal groups, it also poignantly reinforces the tremendous need for fundamental, independent Baptist missionaries. We need French-speaking missionaries to go to French Guiana to preach the Gospel and establish indigenous churches.
French Guiana is widely known for its infamous Devil's Island, located some nine miles off the mainland, which served for more than 100 years as a notorious French penal colony. Now closed to public access, Devil's Island continues to be a popular tourist attraction even though it can only be viewed from excursion boats passing by its shores.
More than 90 percent of French Guiana's landmass is made up of often inhospitable and, in some cases, nearly impenetrable rainforest. Numerous small villages exist, mostly populated by Creoles and some native Amerindian tribes. Large numbers of Haitians and people from the island of St. Lucia have migrated to French Guiana, and pockets of other South American and Caribbean ethnic groups are common in the urban and suburban areas. The country's three principal cities, Cayenne (pop. 61,500), Matoury (pop. 26,300), and Kouron (pop. 24,500) are all situated along a narrow coastal strip where the majority of the inhabitants of French Guiana live. There is a tremendous need to train nationals to go into the interior villages, the ethnic enclaves, and the large coastal cities. We must move quickly and decisively to take advantage of this great open door for church planting and Bible-training ministries.
We are praying that God will raise up at least three missionary families who are willing to answer the call to go to this needy country. Could you be the one(s) who will take the first step to remove French Guiana from the list of "forgotten places"?