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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.
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.
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),
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.
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.