A young couple set off for America on Friday last week on the first stage of a year-long adventure working in the West African republic of Benin.
Etienne and Carolyn Guenin, members of Stanborough Park Seventh-day Adventist Church in Garston, celebrated their first wedding anniversary in April but felt that before settling down they would like to spend a year sharing their faith and helping others less fortunate than themselves.
Etienne said: "Not long after we got engaged I expressed my willingness to work as a missionary in a foreign country. Before I'd finished my sentence Carolyn's eyes lit up even more than usual. I knew she was excited and willing to serve God through overseas mission work. It was such a good feeling to be on the same wavelength."
Etienne and Carolyn's mother are both native French speakers so the couple were keen to go to a French-speaking country in Africa but found it hard to find something suitable.
Their luck changed while sorting through the post in her job as a personal assistant when Carolyn discovered a magazine leading her to the "Adventist Frontier Missions" website where she found a vacancy for a volunteer who would be able to teach English/IT as part of a project in Benin.
Benin is a West African country with a population of approximately 10 million and it is surrounded by Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Niger. This particular project is situated in Kandi in the north-eastern area of the country which is populated by the Dendi people who form approximately 2.5 per cent of the total population.
Kandi is a built-up town and trading centre situated where major routes from all the surrounding countries meet.
Etienne has extensive experience working in IT and Carolyn was keen to return to teaching so they applied for the post and were delighted to be accepted.
However, before they could set off they needed to raise £12,500 to cover their living and travel costs for the year as well as funding some aspects of the project and a month of initial training in America. This resulted in a concerted effort by both of them to raise the necessary money to accomplish their mission. By the end of June they had been achieved this through donations from sympathetic friends, relatives and fellow church members as well as activities such as running the Bristol Marathon with friends in May which raised £1,200.
Carolyn said: "We're very excited to be going on this great adventure, to live in another culture and experience a more simple life in Africa.
"We will rent a house in Kandi and live among the Dendi community.The Dendi people speak basic French but Dendi is their main language and we will have to learn it.
"I will be teaching English to secondary school students in two or three schools. Etienne will be helping to develop a business centre/internet cafe that the local pastor's wife has established.
"At least part of the work we will be doing in Benin involves education and we hope that we can open doors to help the Dendi people live less impoverished lives."
However, the mission is not without its dangers. Carolyn continued "We have heard stories from the pastor there about how his family has personally been attacked by spiritual forces and how they were driven out of their home once and attacked by bandits of another occasion."