Guyana, whose name is an Amerindian word meaning "land of many waters," is the only South American country that lists English as its official language. Colonized by the Netherlands in the early 1600s, the Dutch finally ceded permanent control to Great Britain in 1814. The country was then known as British Guiana until 1970 when it officially became the Republic of Guyana.
Following the abolishing of slavery in 1834 throughout Britain's colonial empire, there was a severe labor shortage which induced British businessmen to turn to their colony in India for work force replacements. They persuaded many Indians to migrate to Guyana whose descendants today still make up about 44% of the approximate population of 735,000.
Racially and ethnically diverse, modern-day Guyana encompasses, in addition to the large Indian element, people of African, European, and Chinese ancestry, as well as aboriginal groups. But in spite of their diverse ethnic backgrounds, these groups share the common languages of English and Creole. Religious affiliations in Guyana are as diverse as the Guyanese ancestry. Hindus make up just over 28% of those professing a religious preference, followed by about 9% reported to be Muslims. Over 60% call themselves Christians, but this takes in a wide range of beliefs including Roman Catholics, Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and many other cults. Pentecostalism is prominent, with nearly nineteen percent of all Guyanese calling themselves Pentecostals. Less that 3% of the population would fall into the category that we would be comfortable calling fundamentalist or Bible-believers. The need for missionaries is staggering!
Approximately 2% of the population are descendants of the indigenous people known as the Amerindians (native American Indians), made up of nine distinct tribes including the Arawaks, the Wai-wai, the Caribs, and the Wapishanas.
Culturally, Guyana is considered to be much more connected to the Caribbean nations than to the typical Latin customs of South America, even though it is located on the continent. The country's unique mixture of Indo-Guyanese (East Indian) and Afro-Guyanese (African) cultures distinguish it from other parts of the Americas. Guyanese preferences in food, music, cultural celebrations, and sports create strong ties with the islands in the West Indies.
Four major rivers cross this small tropical country bordered by Venezuela, Brazil, and Suriname. Along those rivers are located hundreds of small villages, many of which have never had a Gospel witness. Approximately 90% of the population resides in a narrow coastal strip of land that includes Georgetown, the country's chief port and capital city with a population of 150,000. Georgetown is known as "The Garden City of the Caribbean." Almost 80% of the country is covered by dense rainforest. Guyana is home to Kaieteur Falls, the world's largest single-drop waterfall whose waters plunge a stunning 700 feet! Missionaries considering Guyana can choose between the relatively modern lifestyle of the cities or the more rugged standard of living in the jungle.
Perhaps best known for the tragic events of 1978 when 918 members of the infamous Peoples Temple cult died in a mass murder/suicide in the city of Jonestown, Guyana stands today in desperate need of God-called missionaries who will give their lives as "living sacrifices" to reach the hearts and souls of her people. An old Guyanese village chief, whose village sincerely wanted a missionary to come and live among them, was sorely disappointed when he was told that there was no one available to go to his village. Not understanding the problem, he innocently asked, "If the Bible says 'go,' and my village and I say, 'come,' why is there no missionary for our village?" Can you answer the old chief's question? Who will GO to be Guyana's next missionary?