July 21, 1999

Farming project in Guinea
would give converts sanctuary

___By George Henson
___Staff Writer
___Bob Bradsby has a plan to grow both food and disciples in the Republic of Guinea, West Africa.
___Bradsby, a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont, has been working in Guinea for the last five years. He was attempting to secure a telecommunications contract that did not materialize, but his time has not been wasted.
___Through those business associations and time spent with government officials, Bradsby was given the opportunity to oversee the agricultural development of more than 200 square miles of rich, bountiful land. He was given a 15-year lease on the land with an option for a 15-year renewal.
___For an American Christian to receive an agreement of this magnitude in a country that is 85 percent Muslim must be the handiwork of God, he said.
___"I believe God gave me this project not to make a profit, although that is a part of the plan, but to win people to Christ. I can't believe something like this could have ever happened without God being a part of it."
___While he has had many conversations with Guinea President Lansanne Conte, who is Muslim, he never has hidden his Christianity, he said.
___"They have always been aware that I am a Christian. I live the same way there as I do when I am at home. I always find a church to attend."
___President Conte's wife, Harriet, is a Christian.
___"She was born to Christian parents who were converted by an Anglican missionary, and she has a great influence on the president," Bradsby said.
___Another part of the equation is that Conte is a good leader, he said. Recently re-elected to another five-year term as president, he has appointed many Christians to government posts.
___Guinea was ruled by Communists prior to Conte's emergence as president, and the country was shut out of the economic growth that other African nations saw in the last half of this century.
___The country, while rated by the African Development Bank as being the fourth-richest African nation in natural resources, is very poor and has almost none of the infrastructure needed for economic growth.
___Bradsby is seeking farmers and ranchers with strong Christian missionary zeal to help change a country from the inside out.
___He is interviewing people who want to go there and farm a minimum of 1,000 acres. They are being asked to hire at least one local person for every 20 to 30 acres farmed.
___"We are then asking them to tell the people they hire, 'Look, we speak English, and we would like for you and your family to come to a school to learn English on Saturday. We will teach you to read and write and do math, and we will be using the Bible,'" Bradsby explained. "Every one of these farmers could have a couple of hundred people in their schools."
___The primary form of education in Guinea, which is about the size of Colorado, currently takes place in the mosques, but little educating is done, he reported.
___"They chant the Koran for several hours each day. It's basically brainwashing with very little of what we call the basics of education--reading, writing and arithmetic--being done," he said.
___Bradsby said the venture also should be a very profitable one. "Stick something in the ground over there and it grows."
___That's easy to believe since the coastal areas of this country of 8 million receive about 160 inches of rain annually, while the drier high plains still receive 60 to 80 inches.
___"I see this as a self-supporting, self-sustaining mission project," Bradsby said. "If you went to the leaders of these villages and told them you wanted to build a church, they would tell you to get back in your car and don't come back. What we're doing here is bringing food to a country that is importing 40 percent of its food, and that at very, very high prices."
___Bradsby said people selected to farm the land will be charged a minimal lease fee for each acre and a 20 percent share of the crop, but he warned he would be very careful about who is chosen.
___"We are only talking to mainstream, born-again, evangelical Christians. I can't have some rancher getting drunk and shooting a native. That would damage everything we've done and everything we're trying to do," he said.
___This also is not an opportunity for on-the-job training, he added. "We have second- and third-generation farmers who are saying they want to go and do missions. The farming will make it economically possible for them to do missions."
___Anyone interested in learning more may contact him at (409) 751-4439 or write him at 110 Elm, Lumberton 77657.
___Bradsby's company, Frontier Land Development, also will be investing in the spiritual lives of the indigenous population. "We are committed to tithe our profits to build churches and clinics," he said.
___Bradsby said the company also would farm 5,000 acres itself. This land will be available to converts who are shunned by their families and villages.
___"Many converts return to the mosques within a year because they don't have any other means of finding a place to stay or food to eat," he said. "This farm would give them a place to go and to learn a skill."
___Mel Goodwin, a Texas Baptist Men volunteer who has traveled the world as a part of disaster relief efforts, said what he has seen of the project is very promising.
___"I think this is an opportunity for ministry that hasn't been there before. When the young people there become Christians, they are ostracized. This would be a way to make sure they have jobs and a place to stay. It looks like a ministry opportunity that would be hard to beat," Goodwin said.
___John LaNoue, a retired leader of Texas Baptist Men, also sees possibilities, but he remains curious about the future.
___"It looks good, but anytime you are involved in a country in this part of the world, the government can change at any time," LaNoue cautioned. It may also be a challenge to transport large amounts of crops over the country's poor infrastructure, he said.
___For his part, Bradsby hopes the project will change the nation in the long term.
___"The people who work on these farms will become the elite because they will begin to accumulate wealth because they have steady jobs and a good education. We can easily see these people becoming government leaders," he said.
___"We think there is going to be a great agricultural harvest, but an even greater harvest of souls."

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