Welcome to Michael and Lara's Ministry Updates from Guyana! (AKA "Mike and Lara" AKA Myk-en-Lara" :-) We Love to keep in touch with all our family and friends, but its difficult when we are so far away, and our internet here is not so reliable. So we will post our experiences and pictures on this site for everyone!

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Our New Home

Hey Everyone, Sorry its been so long since the last post. As you may have guessed we have been very busy getting into the groove of things, but its been going great! So this next Post will be dedicated to Info on our home here in Guyana.

Our Bedroom
Our bed is actually two twin beds pushed together. One side is nice and comfortable but the other side is very hard. We take turns sleeping on the comfortable side. It’s sort of like sleeping on a Sleep Comfort mattress (Guyana style). You can toss and turn all you want without disrupting one another’s sleep since we’re on separate mattresses.

Notice also Michael’s desk… the top is made from the crates Michelle and Tom shipped their belongings down with. Our two large suitcases are supporting the desk. It’s actually quite nice- it even has wheels!

See our curtains? I bought the material in New Amsterdam last week. They had very little selection. Notice how we hung them up? Clothes pins on the window bars- Michelle is a genius.

Something we are learning here is that there is rarely the right tool or the right anything for what is needed. So often we just have to make due and use what’s available. For example we cannot find Fishing Line or any kind of line for that matter. Also there are no digital clocks, so we’ve been using a cheap little travel clock for our alarm. And strangely enough no one has a 3 hole punch! There are only two hole punches here and Two Hole Binders! lol, It’s really funny.

Our first night here was pretty Interesting. To give you a clear picture of the circumstances, we had been up for nearly 24 hrs. We were a little jumpy with all the insects and bugs. We had just turned the light off hoping to get some sleep. Right above our bed is a ceiling fan/light. We both saw something flicker. At first we thought it was just the florescent light Bulb turning off but it kept flashing a few times. Me being blind without my contacts I could barely see anything. We continued to stare at the area above our heads looking for movement. Suddenly the flickering came back on and moved quickly toward us!!! We both frantically jumped out of the bed and ran to the door. We turned the light on and crept back in expecting to discover a gruesome poisonous insect on our bed. Instead we saw a small black insect on the wall. I screamed to Mike, “Kill it!” Which he did. We turned the light off again and just stood there in the room, Eyes bulging, waiting to see if anything else leapt out at us. Needless to say we didn’t sleep very well the first night. Fortunately we haven’t had any more encounters with bed bugs, but Mike says sometimes he would wake up and hear a slight rustling in the corners, so now he wears ear plugs. =)

My favorite thing about our bedroom is… The new screen that Mike put up in one of our windows. Now we can open the window for air and not invite all the other critters in!

Here is our bathroom. We have a new ritual before every shower: Look behind the shower curtain before getting in! This is where all little creatures like to hide- cockroaches mostly. One night I discovered a spider that was 4 inches wide… it jumped, was very fast, and hard to kill with a fly swatter but Tom managed to get it after chasing it around the shower a few times. (it reminded us of the opening bug scene from lady in the water.. lol) I of coarse went running and screaming out of the bathroom as if a ferocious lion was on my tail. It made for a good laugh. Oh and by the way, the spider was harmless. I was a more risk to myself in my haste to get away from it!

This is our living room on the main floor. This is our bedroom door on the left.

Just past the living room is the dining room to the right.

Next to the dining room is the kitchen. We our grateful to have such a nice kitchen since we do so much cooking.

This is where we do our laundry by hand for several hours each week.

Going upstairs

This is Michelle and Tom’s living room. Super cute. Upstairs is their bedroom, a guest room, Tom’s office and one bathroom.

Here is Tom in his office. His desk is also made from the crate wood.

Here are the water tanks for the house. These tanks fill ever other day with what the Locals call “Pipe Water” from the city. It isn’t safe to drink but works fine for washing and bathing. On the Odd days when the “Pipe Water” is off, these elevated tanks give us water pressure in the house. When we get the “pipe water” from the city it actually comes in very warm, almost hot some of the time. We assume its because the pipes are shallow in the ground. At first I thought I would like the warm water, but shockingly enough, I love the cool showers here (yes Danielle I said I like the cool showers!). After a long day in the heat and dirt and sweat- a cool shower is the best thing ever!

The Market

On Fridays Michelle and I go to the Market. It’s about 25 minutes from us in a village called Rosehall. There are small grocery stores to get canned and packaged food. But for any fruits, vegetables, or meat we need to go to the open air market.

Here is the meat market. And yes, that is a pig head. We don’t eat the pork here.

This is the woman we get our chicken from every week. They keep the live chickens outside and slaughter then as needed. To be honest, the first couple times we came here it was pretty traumatic for me. But to the locals, animals are food, nothing more. And food needs to be fresh or it can be contaminated

Here is the produce section. As you might imagine, there are a lot of fruits and vegetables. Above is also one of our favorite fruits. It called Sour Sop here. Its a dark green w/bumps on the outside. The inside is white w/black seeds. Texture is soft and gooey. The flavor is sour/sweet. Sort of like a pinapple. Our other favorite fruit is Ginup. It’s grass green and grows in clusters like grapes only a little larger than grapes. You pop the thick skin off to find a pink inside that is similar to a very sweet grapefruit. If it’s ripe it almost melts in your mouth. It has a very large seed in the middle that they use to make as jewelry.

The picture is dark but it will give you an idea of how much informal witnessing we do here. This woman took the magazines but wasn’t super interested. Michelle and many return visits in the market where they will listen to Bible verses and are open to discussion.

This is a very common thing to see here. Donkeys and horses are used to pull wagons containing produce and just about anything else that can’t be fit in a car, on a scooter, or carried on foot.

Preaching In Black Bush and Beyond

Preaching In Black Bush and Beyond

Last Saturday we traveled about an hour to the Interior part of our territory. Its an area the Locals call “Blackbush”. Most of our territory is right near the main highway but this small community is a ways out in the country. Its mainly where all the farmers live who harvest the many Rice fields here. The area is not worked as often in the wet season since the roads get so muddy and slick you can easily get stuck. Tom says he got caught in the rain out there once and the normal 15-minute ride home ended up taking 2 hours on his scooter.

This picture is for you Dad! This is a rice picker. We are still working on getting a picture of that huge tractor I told you about.

This is an early rice field. Rice fields dominate the farming and landscape here.

This is what all of Guyana would look like if Man didn’t ruin it with land fills and garbage dumps. Its quite Beautiful!

This is a bus shed where we met for the meeting for field service. That’s Michelle and Tom.

Here is a banana tree. People give us bananas to bring home. So nice!

Last Thursday I had a pretty rough day in service. We went to a part of our territory where mosquitoes are known to be the worst. The night before, it rained which made it even worse. We got out of the car and walked toward our first house. The mosquitoes swarmed us. That morning I had decided to give my Burt’s Bees natural repellent a try- big mistake. I got bit so much that I felt like crying. We left one side of the road and found shelter in a home where the mosquitoes weren’t quite as bad. The family we visited with was very interested in the Bible’s message and we had a nice long discussion with them.

After that we walked a mile and half to a return visit Michelle had out in the country. I felt quite drained and miserable from all my swollen mosquito bites. I prayed for strength to continue and the ability to stay positive. When we arrived at our destination Michelle return visit was not home- that did not help my mood. We were also out of water and really tired. We did however meet a very friendly mule that I really wanted to take home with me. As we were leaving Michelle return visit we passed a house where Michelle had visited before and remembered they had a lot of coconuts. We asked the man if he could cut some coconuts down for us to drink from. He was so nice and did exactly that. It was so amazing and exactly what we needed to continue on to our next Bible study. I forgot all about my mosquito bites until later that evening. Yes, Jehovah certainly provides us with what we need!

Mike had a public talk today. He had to change many of the illustrations and expressions because they would not be understood here very well. He did great!
He has his first talk out in September. The title will be “Renewing the Spirit of Self Sacrifice”. We have to travel to the congregation but I don’t think it’s more than an hour or so away.

Berbice EXPO and ASL Info

This weekend the Berbice region is having an Expo the next few days. We aren’t real clear on what it includes but it involves education of the area. Since there is nothing for people to do here it is a very big deal and everyone goes. Security has been very tight with police all week and even the President of Guyana will be attending. We will be attending tomorrow afternoon and evening to sit at the JW sign language booth. No, we do not know sign language but Michelle is learning and the circuit overseer asked Michelle to help out at the booth for people that are interested in finding out more. We are confident it will be an excellent witness.

For anyone that knows ASL- there is a great need here for support. The closest group is an hour away in New Amsterdam and since transportation is such a challenge here, it might as well be 5 hours away. There is an 11 yr old deaf girl, Nasonia in our congregation who does not know how to sign. The past couple years there have been a couple sisters who are need greaters that know ASL and have been trying to teach Nasonia ASL so that she can communicate and learn the Truth. Now those sisters are gone but thankfully Michelle has learned enough ASL to sign prayers for her and also brings her laptop to every meeting for Nasonia to watch the ASL videos. Its slow progress. There are other deaf people in our territory but most do not know ASL and would need to be taught.
We are very tired and very busy but very grateful to be here. It’s an amazing feeling to see the desperate need in the congregation and the territory and to be able to be used by Jehovah in this way. We are learning a lot about ourselves and also about Jehovah and the strength he provides in these new circumstances with all its new trails.

We are thankful to have Michelle and Tom so close by. They have much training from Gilead and years of experience in third world countries. Their practical advice and emotional and spiritual support has truly been a blessing from Jehovah.

We miss you and love you all. Thank you for checking in. Please keep up the posts; we really enjoy reading them. We are also able to receive emails so if anyone wants to ask more questions or details please post here or write us an email. Mykenlara@live.com

With Much Love,

Mike and Lara
(written by Lara)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ministry and Daily Activities- Guyana Style

Oh my word! I wish so much that I could make a long video of everything we are experiencing here but its not possible. Everything is so foreign and strange its quite overwhelming! Oh and by the way, "creolise" is quite difficult to understand. Some people depending on where in Guyana they are from have a stronger accent. If they speak slowly to us then we can understand a little better. Some examples of words they use: Instead of saying, "will you come pick it up", it will be "come collect it". Or instead of "come back soon" they say "Come Steady", and they dont say "Garbage" its "Rubbish Here. lol!

As you may quess its hot and very muggy. Lots of dirt and bugs. However, the ministry would blow your mind. They people LOVE the Bible. Most we meet have never heard of Jehovah's Witnesses or even of Jehovah. All you have to do is ask them something like, "have you ever wondered why God allows so much suffering?" They are sincere in a desire to know why. Read them a couple scriptures and they accept it and appreciate it, want to know more. They are much like children w/humble interest.

Below is a pic is of Michelle talking w/an east indian family. The way the entire family gathers around to listen is very typical for here.

Another pic is of a man that cut some green coconuts off a tree, cut the top off and we drank the juice directly from it using straws. Lots of electrolytes. Very refreshing. The same family gave us a very tasty dish of beans, rice, fish, and spices. In case you are wondering, if its cooked it's usually safe to eat. They also sent us home w/quite a few vegetables that we had never heard of and instructions on how to cook them. Super nice family. They are Hindu and enjoy reading the Watchtower and Awake magazines but they are not studying the Bible yet.

Many daily activities that we don't normally give much thought to like cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, or even brushing your teeth, take on a whole new meaning here. For the first time ever I washed clothes by hand and hung them on a line. I have a feeling I will get buff. Its very hard work and takes a long time.

We are getting organized and establishing a routine which helps a lot. Michelle and Tom and us agreed on handling things like a missionary home. Cleaning and cooking duties are rotated, morning worship is done early in the morning, etc. It is an incredible learning experience.

The next 3 days we are scheduled for a first super long days in the ministry. We are very excited!
We are very encouraged by all your posts. It reminds us of our home and all our loved ones- very comforting.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Here At Last!

Hey Everyone! We Made it!

Things have been very busy as you can imagine and the past few days have just flown by. Thankfully we have been able to get internet in the home now which we are all so excited about! Although we have only been here a few days. They have been very eventful and there is so much to share with you all. The Internet speed is not very fast of course (About 125 kbps) but so far we are able to upload pix, so we hope you can enjoy a small taste of Guyana.

So upon arrival to Guyana we had a lot on our minds including whether our luggage would all arrive or would be delayed as was common. Or whether we would be able to get a three-month visa or have to heckle with the “Authorities” as some had before. And of course customs is no fun for anyone. Thankfully Jehovah answered our prayers and everything went perfectly! We did get a little educated on Guyana behavior on our flight, which was interesting. The flight had the slowest departure we had ever seen, it must have taken about an hour for everyone to get on board and get seated. Many would stop in the middle of the aisle and talk to each other holding up everyone. Many had to change seats because they hadn’t looked at their tickets and just took any seat. But overall they seemed very easy going. We also tried to understand the dialect but could only catch a few familiar words. We were able to get some sleep on the way in which we were very thankful for. On getting off the flight the humidity hit us hard. Much like a sauna. I tried to take some pix but the camera lens kept fogging up with moisture. The one pic I did get is still blurry as you can see. Fortunately there is a constant breeze here which makes the weather much more bearable.

After an hour or so waiting in line for customs we finally got out of the airport. One of the workers there quickly grabbed our bags and loaded them onto a cart. We just let him do it since we were so tired anyway. On the way out we met up with Tom and Michelle who were very glad we made it there smoothly. I had to run and grab the over zealous worker who was getting ahead of us with our cart of luggage. One of the bags nearly fell off as he wheeled the cart down a hill. I franticly followed him trying to keep the bags on the cart. Tom just laughed at me as he followed and yelled “Welcome to Guyana!” As we got to the car we told him thank you but he insisted on loading our bags too. “Ill pack ya-up good”, he kept saying as he starting throwing our bags in the trunk. This was our first Guyana experience but definitely not the last.

We were able to go back and see the small branch in Georgetown Guyana, which stood out as clean and beautiful as all of the branches do. There we took what would be our last hot showers for a good while since very few have hot water here. But after being here for a few days I personally wont miss it much. The branch had about 8 people there I think, so it is small. But everyone we met was incredibly warm and gracious. We could have stayed the night there but we had a busy day the next day with errands and meetings. So we left shortly afterward but got a picture together with the branch overseer.

On the way home to Berbice we noticed all the houses are raised up off the ground. Tom says this is because most of the coast is still below sea level and about 40 years ago there was a lot of flooding. So the houses were all above ground to prevent damage. Even the graves couldn’t be put in the ground but looked like concrete caskets all lined up. Another thing we didn’t expect were all the Hindu temples with the familiar ice cream cone rooftops and many gods / images out front. There is a mix of religions here including Hindu, Islam, and various so called Christian. But thankfully Tom and Michelle say that no one is very serious or opinionated about their religion. Some even have to be reminded what religion they even belong to. All in all we have been very encouraged and excited about the ministry here. And now that we are finally here it doesn’t seem nearly as daunting as it did before. There is much more to say but we are short on time. Next post we will share more, including pictures of the Home we are in and the Kingdom Hall!

We are very encouraged by the many followers and new and replies to the Blog! We will do our best to keep it updated with how things are going here. We miss everyone already and look forward to seeing you soon!

Written by Mike

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Prudence Island & Newport Rhode Island

Hello Friends and Family!

The past few days here in Rhode Island have been wonderful. Beautiful sunny weather! It's been so nice to relax and check out some places here. Saturday we took my brother Kelly's boat to Prudence Island. It's about a 30 min ride from Tiverton. At Prudence my sister in law Robin's extended family gathered for a clam bake. Everyone had there special seafood recipe. YUM! It was so fun to see how they do a clam bake right on the beach. Build a fire for a few hrs w/rocks until they are super hot, place seaweed over hot rocks and then all the food- clams, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. A large tarp is placed over the pile of food and let is steam for a couple hours. It was really interesting to watch and even better to eat. We also did some swimming and sunbathing. And no, I didn't get super burned.

Yesterday we went to Newport. We did the "Cliff Walk" which is a 6-7 mile path along the rocky coastline of Newport. This area has an entire neighborhood of old mansions that would blow your mind. There is even a mansion that was build by John Jacob Aster, who they named Astoria, Oregon after! The Cliff Walk gives a view of all the mansion's backyards and the incredible coastline.

We walked all over Newport. Lots of expensive shops and yachts. We really enjoyed the historic part of Newport where we saw many old buildings including the Redwood Library, the oldest library in America, founded in 1747.

We are preparing today for the flight to Georgetown. We will be heading to New York in a few hrs and then fly out at 1:10am Wed's morning. We get to Georgetown at 7am where we will meet up with Michelle and Tom.

We are praying for smooth travels and no major problems in customs in Guyana. Please expect a short delay in our blogging since it may takea few days before we can get Internet access.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rhode Island Pit Stop

Hello Friends!

Well, we are off on our first leg of the trip! We flew out Yesterday evening about 10 pm, one-way to Rhode Island. Everything went smoothly, all four of our checked backs were spot on for weight. For those who haven’t flown recently, the airport requires all checked bags to be less than 50 lbs, and there’s hefty fine if you go over. If you do go over the next fee is at 70 lbs. We had no choice on two of them, but the trick is to get as close to the 70 lbs with out going over. At home we were using my parents ancient scale to weigh the bags, but couldn’t be sure how accurate it was. When we got to the airport it was like a Game Show! We would put the bag in the scale and be tortured while it calculated the weight. First was…… 40… 50… 60… 69.6 lbs! Yay! The second ……40… 50… 60… 69.8 lbs. Woohoo! Third… 30…40…49.5 lbs! Last was …30… 40… 50… 50.5 lbs! Awww… Fortunately they let us check the bag since it was so close. I wish that was the end of it, but we get to play this game again on our next flight to Guyana. Stay tuned for round two!

So now we are staying with Lara’s brother and Sister in Law's, Kelly and Robin Kuenzi. Its actually quite humid here in Rhode Island, so it’s a perfect acclimation point before Guyana. You wouldn’t believe the Thunder storms we are having here though. We woke up to one while trying to nap and nearly had a heart attack. One of the lightning strikes we so close Lara ran downstairs to look for a fire or smoke! But it was just Robin making toast, haha!

So that’s the update so far, thanks for looking and we look forward to hearing from you soon!

PS: If you have tried to Post before sorry it didnt show, aparently we were supposed to be reviewing the post before they can show up. Since we wont have time to moderate the posts, we will just trust you to post freely without moderation.