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27 Years of God's grace in drawing the Gomes Family to Himself in Suriname.

By Rev. Geoffrey Donnan

Founder of First Presbyterian Church of Paramaribo and Christian Liberty Academy of Paramaribo, Suriname, South America

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nighÖThey that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. [James 5:7-8, Psalm 126:5-6]

What true Christian has not wearied themselves in prayer and tears longing for the salvation of family members, friends or others? We long for the Lordís righteousness to show itself even in our own sinful selves? This same "long patience" is required by the businessman, farmer, parent or any other person who sow in tears of faith in hopes of reaping with joy. And sometimes after a very long time of such sowing, the Lord gives us our sheaves. Heavenís eternity is our ultimate sheave, but Godís mercy encourages us along the way with stories such as the following. Alney, Ron and Vonessa Gomes leaving for first day of school in 1982 at Christian Liberty Academy of Paramaribo, Suriname

In 1982, while we were living and working in Suriname, the family of John & Jocelyn Gomes heard about our "English" and "Christian" school. They were immigrants to Suriname from the neighboring country of Guyana.  They had been living there for some years.  Since Guyana is an English speaking country, English was spoken in the home, and English is the de facto "international language", it was only natural that they wanted their children (Alney, Ron and Vonessa) to be educated in English.  After they decided to send their children to the school, we invited them to also send their children to church as well.  Because they were young children and lived a long way from school, they had to be driven by school or church bus. I personally picked up the children for some years and later on the church paid another person to pick them up since they were too young to travel alone by public transportation.   Only the girls attended the church.

John Gomes was a professional underwater gold explorer in the interior of French Guiana and Suriname and was away much of the time.  While the money was good, after awhile, he got tired of being away from home 70-80% of the time and so quite that field in order to work in Paramaribo where they lived. In the mean time, when they got older the two girls became members of the church, and all of the children graduated from the school, Vonessa, Ron and Alney.

Joycelyn Gomes (left, not fully seen) sites on the front porch of her home in Suriname with two of her three children (Ron and Alney) waiting for the school bus on the first day of school.

Vonessa Gomes (standing in front) at First Presbyterian Church family night activities.  (Rev. Poettcker is seated just to the right of her).  This is sometime between 1994-1997.

Alney (right) and Vonessa (left) at a Christian Liberty Academy (Paramaribo), speech night event during their high school years. 

Ron Gomes was the first to graduate in 1990 (second from left in back).  Also in this class is Nirmala Singh (now Mrs. Asgar Hamid--front row center) and some students that had started during the earlier days when we were there such as Nitin Dixit (third from left in back row from Nepal) and Monica Bodhoo (second from right, front row). 

Ron Gomes (left) stands with some of his friends.  The only one we knew well was Nitin Dixit from Nepal (far right). This was later followed by the graduation of
Vonessa (left) and Alney (right).
Alney's graduation from Christian Liberty Academy in Paramaribo

Vonessa's graduation from Christian Liberty Academy in Paramaribo

After graduation, Vonessa and later Alney began working for our Christian Liberty Academy of Paramaribo. Vonessa became a teacher and Alney worked in the library. After the 2003 school fire (see fire report),

Grant VanAssen came from Neerlandia, Alberta (Canada) to assist in the rebuilding of the school.  His trade was that of a cabinet maker and he and a friend who came with him made the cabinets for the new building.

During his lengthy stay, he met and later married Vonessa Gomes in December, 2005.  Some time after, he and his wife moved back to Canada and Vonessa's skill as a teacher and committed Christian was lost to the school.  They are now members of the Canadian Reformed Church in Neerlandia.

During this entire process, taking place over a twenty-five year period, the gospel began its work in the family.  It started with the children first coming to the school and later to the church.  Eventually, the two girls made confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and joined the church and began working at the school, both of which shored up their faith.  During all of this time, they lived at home and their faith became more and more evident to their parents.  Of course, Vonessa was married to a Christian man and had a thoroughly Christian preparation and wedding.  Through all of this, God reached out through these circumstances to those who otherwise seemed unreachable.  On numerous occasions, during those early years, we invited Mr. & Mrs. Gomes to church, and while they sent their children, they never came themselves. Their son Ron followed their example. But Godís providence would soon change things.  The effects of prayer were coming to fruition.

In 2005, Mrs. Gomes suffered a serious stroke, almost causing a postponement of the wedding of Vonessa and Grant.  The church began to pray for Mrs. Gomes' recovery.  After her release from the hospital and recovery, Mr. & Mrs. Gomes began attending church in 2007.  As a result of hearing the gospel and seeing the changes that had taken place in the lives of their daughters.  They began bringing their son's children to church with them and finally, on March 8, 2009, John & Jocelyn Gomes made confessions of faith in Jesus Christ, were baptized and received as members of the First Presbyterian Church.  All of this resulted from initial contacts made 27 years earlier when they heard about the "English" Christian school.

 

In the last year, John Gomes began working for the school taking care of equipment repairs. 

John & Jocelyn Gomes making confession of faith at First Presbyterian Church of Paramaribo on March 8, 2009.

Rev. Asgar Hamid baptizing Mr. John Gomes, March 8, 2009 at First Presbyterian Church of Paramaribo, Suriname

Rev. Asgar Hamid baptizing Mrs. Jocelyn Gomes, March 8, 2009 at First Presbyterian Church of Paramaribo, Suriname

After the confession of faith and baptisms, a special posing for pictures took place.  Grant & Vonessa (far-left) had flown all the way from Alberta, Canada for this special occasion.  Jocelyn and John Gomes (center) and their other daughter, Alney who still resides in Suriname and works for the school (right). The whole family poses for this picture (except for Ron Gomes, their son was not present).  Back row left to right are Grant and Vonessa, Jocelyn and John Gomes and Alney.  In front of them are from left to right, The children of their son Ron Gomes (not pictured), and Alney Gomes' two children. 
As is customary in Suriname on special occasions, a special time of fellowship was had around a special meal of all kinds of tasty local dishes.
John & Jocelyn Gomes sit together to enjoy their food out of the sun under the roof of the elementary school building.  (The church meets in the chapel of the Christian Liberty Academy.)

Others from the church family wrap up their eating and will shortly gather again a catechism class.

At the time this was written, the Gomes' son Ron had just begun attending church, accompanying his three children who his parents had been bringing. The light of the glorious gospel through these many years of long patience is bringing transformation to this family and is bearing precious fruit. God honors prayer.

Evangelism and discipleship take time, but when surrounded by faithful and long patient prayers, God sends his rains, even latter rains and through His abiding providence, draws His people near to Himself. As we continue in our efforts with your support and prayer behind us, we expect to see many more such examples. Be encouraged, we are.

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