The context

We had come in 2017 to the region Guinée Forestière to facilitate a CANA Week and a CANA Retreat. Since then, from the Ivory Coast, Maurice & Edwige ZANHOIN have been regularly visiting the two newly created regions in Guinea: Forest Guinea (N’Nzérékoré, south-eastern part of Guinea) and Conakry City (on the West coast). It should be noted that Guinée Forestière is particularly difficult to access. Transportation costs are high and the travel time is two days! One can get there either through the Ivory Coast (by plane from Abidjan then 4×4 with a driver), or through Conakry (currently a complicated and dangerous journey).

Our mission

Friday 26th August

After a night at the bishop’s house, with the ZANHOINs we meet several personalities:

– Father Jean HABA, responsible for family ministry and Caritas Guinea. We had a very good time with this very motivated priest. We presented to him CANA Welcome, insisting on the importance of parishes getting involved in this program.

– Bishop Vincent COULIBALY, archbishop of Guinea, gives us a very good welcome. We present him CANA and CANA Welcome in particular.

– Our official visits continue towards the Nunciature to meet the Apostolic Nuncio of Guinea and Mali, Bishop Jean Sylvain MAMBÉ. We introduce him to CANA and insist again on CANA Welcome. He gives us good advice.

Friday evening: facing a dilemma

We leave at the beginning of the afternoon with Jean-Marc KODIA for Kendoumaya but we quickly realize that the expected couples will not come. Indeed, the bus of the school of a couple of CANA, which was to collect the couples, not only does not arrive but the couples do not arrive either, except for a new couple! 

After a perilous journey, we finally arrived at 9:30 pm at the retreat centre where we received a very nice welcome from the brothers of St John. But no couples… What to do then? To cancel or to persevere? Being finally on the premises after such a long journey, we decided to ask the CANA leaders to gather the maximum number of couples from the CANA Fraternity in order to organize a week that we called “Consolidation of CANA”. Finally, 6 couples arrived on Saturday and Sunday with two babies. So, we set up two programs: a CANA Week for the new couple facilitated by Maurice & Edwige, and we facilitate the “Consolidation of CANA” program for the 6 other couples. We also plan times to be shared together.

From Saturday, August 27 to Friday, September 2

Adjusting the schedule

We organise and adjust a new schedule that takes into account the supply of electricity from the generator, with a kitchen team that will cook the two meals of the day from 5 am to 9 am. The brothers of St. John change their schedule so that we have a Eucharist at 12:30.

Tuesday, the Day of Reconciliation: a special day in our week

After the Eucharist, while everyone is fasting, Father HABA, responsible for family ministry, arrives. He too has driven 3 hours by 4×4, under a pouring rain, to visit us. We serve him a meal and ask the couples to come back to the room to listen to him. In a firm style, he spoke to the couples, expressing his regret that while the French leaders are here, only one new couple is present. Faustine, on behalf of CANA, apologized. This was followed by a short and well adapted talk on the importance of taking care of one’s couple around three words: Sharing – Prayer – Forgiveness.

Then we had a very good time of reconciliation preceded by the “way of Saint Peter”. In the evening, a video with the film Net for God about Father Pedro touched participants a lot. “With faith one can do great things” some say. This day was like a wake-up call for the couples, putting the finger on their motivation and their difficulty to commit themselves.

On Wednesday, Jeannette, a woman full of faith and energy, improvised a song in her own language: “I am committed”. Everyone sings again with a lot of conviction.

The sky is clearing, literally and figuratively. The rain, continuous since our arrival, stops. We discover at last the beauty of the site with the surrounding mountains.

Thursday morning. After our talk, financial issues are addressed. It is complicated. Because of the crisis, the price of the stay has increased a lot and we have to pay the rent of the place despite the small number of participants. Some couples give more.

Thursday afternoon. The review of the week and the community time is facilitated by Faustine & Mathias LAMAH to discern and decide how to move forward for the coming year. This is an important time.

Thursday evening. The feast is magnificent, the fathers of St. John organize the meal with chicken / fries carefully prepared in the morning by the women of CANA, along with ice cream… As always, everyone is dressed up. One wonders how, with so little luggage, participants can arrive with so many clothes! Our 45 years of marriage anniversary is celebrated with all the traditional symbolic gestures around the bread, the milk and the common dance. We welcome this beautiful sign of brotherly love that goes beyond differences. What a gift!

Friday. The last day arrives with recommendations and the personal commitment to CANA for the year. We explain carefully the CANA charter so that each couple can choose to commit themselves.

Back to Conakry and team reflection on the organization of the year, including the launch of CANA Welcome.

Saturday, September 3: 45 years of marriage!

At the airport on Saturday evening, a couple from CANA came to say goodbye. We easily pass the border controls. As we told the five police officers who had just scanned our luggage that we were married 45 years ago this September 3rd, they started singing “Happy Birthday” (‘Joyful Anniversary’ in French) with one heart! Then, while we were already in the boarding room, a senior police officer came to me in the middle of hundreds of people (there is only one huge room) asking me if I was indeed Mr. Denis. Small fright! “A gentleman wants to greet you and Mrs. Claudine before your departure” he says to me. We went through all the controls in the opposite direction with our hand luggage. It was Victor and Colette, the new couple… We did not go through the controls again, escorted by Victor, this officer that the airport employees greeted. How did they find us in the middle of hundreds of travellers? Easy, no doubt, because we were only a few white people… That’s what Africa is all about.

What next?

CANA in Guinea remains to be built even if we have been there for a long time. Before our involvement in Guinea, the Sisters of the Holy Childhood have done a good job but have encountered the same difficulties as we have. The year that is beginning will be important.

May the Lord lead us!