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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Thursday, August 20, 2009
Our convention is this weekend Aug 21-23. We have been doing the invitation campaign for the past 2 weeks. We have a very large territory and so not all will be covered. The area’s further into the countryside will not receive any invitations but news of any event spreads very fast here so we know that most families will have knowledge of the event. In fact there was even a commercial on TV about it, so now there are very few who don’t know about it. One good thing about being in a small country, sometimes the media does the work for us!
The response to the invitation is always very positive. Most people we speak of making plans to attend. We are told there are about 1200 Witnesses in this region but they are expecting nearly twice that many to attend the convention. We were able to go help out at the convention site so we already have picked out where we are going to sit. That’s right, we take the best seats first! None of that waiting to be offered a better seat business, heh.
One good things about the invitation work is that we have had an opportunity to go thought the territory more quickly and so have talked to more people than normal. You see normally we only get a small area done each morning since we get invited in often and sometimes talk for a half hour or more. But since the start of the campaign we have started about 6 bible studies between us. There are also 3-5 other potential ones depending on if we can get them on a schedule. So here are a few of the experiences we have had the past few weeks. The First two are Lara’s and the last is Mine.
1) One Saturday morning during the campaign I spoke with a man named James. He accepted the invitation and asked if I could stay to discuss the Bible. Apologetically I had to decline since we were trying the move fast to cover the territory. He said he badly wanted one question answered. His question was “why is it that when I go to all the churches in the area (he named several so called Christian churches) that the pastor goes on and on and on but Not Once! Not Once! does he read something from the Bible and explain it! Not Once!!” he kept repeating.
It was evident in his facial expressions and tone of voice how desperate and frustrated he was. During the discussion I read him Matt 7 about how many people would call on Jesus and he would deny knowing them to show that there would be people claiming to worship God and yet will be unacceptable to him. As I read those verses to him he stated to repeated the words to me from memory. He has read and studied much of the Bible on his own but not learned anything from a church.
He then asked, “Where can I learn the truth about God and the Bible?” He kept on repeating this to me. I also found out that he has never spoke with Jehovah’s Witnesses before. I told him that my husband and I could return to help him learn about the Bible. He gave me his phone number. The next day, Mike and I returned. We were there about an hour, reading and discussing scriptures. James told us he has studied almost every religion in the area- Muslim, Hindu, Catholicism, and numerous so-called Christian churches. It was very clear he was searching and for a long while. He readily accepted a Bible study and is making plans to attend the convention this weekend!
2) Last week while also in the campaign work I met a young woman named Nadira who accepted the invitation. She told me she used to be Christian but converted to Hinduism when she married her Hindu husband. She expressed her unhappiness with the religion and her desire to return to Christianity. She has not done so because she fears karma and evil spirits who are giving her problems. Yikes! She also has marital problems that bring her much pain. I read her Ps 83:18 and explained the power of using God’s personal name, Jehovah. I read her some verses of Ps 72 to bring her some comfort so she could see than Jehovah watches and cares about us personally. She asked me if she could have a Bible and how badly she needs one.
I returned the next day with a Bible and the Bible Teach book. Unfortunately her husband was within earshot of the entire conversation and she was not as open as she had been before. She agreed to a Bible Study and was very happy to receive a Bible.
Yesterday I returned to see this woman on my own. When I got there she was upset and related to me many terrible things demons have been doing to her home and assaulting her physically even. The problems got much worse since the last time I was there and had given her a Bible. Immediately I asked to pray with her. I showed her scriptures from the Bible about calling on the name of Jehovah for protection and how she can oppose the Devil. She then admitted to having dedicated her home and land to demons and even making promises of her devotion to them! She did this to give her protection from curses a native tribe religion put on her. I shared with her scriptures to help her see her faulty reasoning. She found comfort in the Bible BUT she is so full of terror that she is torn between drawing close to Jehovah and keeping the evil spirits happy. She knows she cannot serve both God and Satan and she said she has not made a final decision. Today I returned. She said it was not a good time to talk. After talking w/Michelle and Tom about the situation I will no longer go there alone and we will meet her on the road instead of on her property since it is dedicated to the demons. Today I was able to leave her a brochure about wicked spirits and how to break free.
This kind of experience was a first for me. We do hear of a lot more spiritism here than we expected. There are religions that worship Satan and put curses on people. How comforting it is to know that Jehovah and his angels are with us and provide protection!
3) One interesting experience I had recently and also in the campaign work was with Two Men actually. The One that I found the First time was Grant but he was not living at the house just working there. But he was very interested in the convention and learning more so I told him I could at least get him a copy of the bible teach book to read. However I was unable to find him there again but the wife of the house was very helpful in helping me track him down. The second time I called the husband (Ron) was also there and he let me use his cell phone to call Grant. Grant said that his “mistress” was sick and so couldn’t come to work for a while. I thanked Ron for letting me use his phone since cell phone minutes are expensive here especially for locals. I explained to him that I was calling to give Grant the book and that he expressed a desire to learn more about the bible. I asked Rom if he was interested in the bible and he said he used to read and study it when he was younger. I came to find that Ron had a very good knowledge of the scriptures and had good reasoning. Among a number of points we discussed was “why god permits suffering” and “when will he act to change it”. After reading the composite sign he said, “that is happening right now!” I said, “Right! So what does that mean?” He said, “It means we are very close tot the end”. He followed all the points well and even began to finish my sentences as I was explaining the answers! Was so amazed by his knowledge and ability to learn quickly, but told him I would have to come back to give him the book. He gave me his Phone Number to call since he was often working.
I was worried that I would not be able to find him again as is very common here with men.Thankfully when I came back with Lara, he and his wife were home and we had another great discussion with them for about an hour. We talked extensively about the teaching of Hellfire and at the end I asked him “So what do you think about that teaching” and he said, “Its not in the bible, so its not true!” How crazy is that? See what I mean about being Teachable? He also asked about Judgment day, and a scripture that says we will see the Dead Rise to heaven. So we explained that there is more than one meaning for “the Day of Judgment” which he understood was necessary to separate the wicked from righteous. We explained that there are two groups who will survive judgment day, the little flock and the other sheep. He said, “We are all sheep but one flock is Little that go to heaven”. I commended him on his reasoning and explained that this little flock would rule in heaven over the earth, but that we cant all go tot heaven. To which he said, “yes, we can’t all be the leaders! Who would be left to lead?” The wife also responded excitedly to the conversation but he did most of the talking. So we emphasized that they try to learn together as one flesh. He thanked us for the book and also said they would be looking for us at the convention!
As you can see experiences we are having here are mind-blowing. Its no wonder that Jehovah is so patient when there is still so many people, truly sighing and crying over the condition of this world and wanting to learn the Truth.
One of the best parts for Lara and I is being able to really enjoy the ministry as Jehovah intended for us to enjoy it. We can see now why so often we are encouraged to reach out in any way we can, whether in new lands or new languages. There’s nothing that can compare to being able to teach people who are actually willing to learn. And although it may take the initial sacrifice of time, money or comfort, we always gain so much back in return. “Jesus’ Yoke” always will always prove to be very light and refreshing compared to Satan’s yoke which does nothing but beat us down and enslave us. I don’t mean to sound preachy and we realize that many are not in a position to move to a foreign country. But perhaps even making other small sacrifices like going out in the evenings or telephone witnessing. Its not so much increasing service hours but increasing our contact with people, however we can do so. The more people we talk to, the better our chances are to find the few who will listen respond.
OK I’ll stop there, lol. Sorry about all that, we just desperately wish we could fly everyone down here to experience some of this. Anyway we have Convention tomorrow so our next post will have some pics of how convention is down here in Guyana.
Thanks for reading and talk to you soon!
Friday, August 7, 2009
Hey Everyone! Thanks again for your wonderful and loving Comments, Its great to hear from home. Just FYI if you were wondering, we do get an email for every comment posted so its kind of like getting an email from you too! =)
We had an interesting experience just this last Sunday Meeting (August 2nd). Tom and Michelle went going to another congregation for a talk out so they wouldn’t be at the meeting that day, which didn’t seem like a big deal at first. We took a taxi to the meeting that day, and arrived in good time, but of course when we got there people were waiting outside the building since no one had a key to open the door. I had no key at this point since its very difficult to make copies of keys here. They have no blank keys like in stores here so they have to find used keys that are close in size and meticulously file them until they somewhat match the original. Then with that key you have to go to the lock and by trial and error continue to file the rest yourself until it works. Needless to say it’s a long process.
So anyway were waiting outside with about 20 people, hoping the One other brother with keys will arrive to open the door. Thankfully he does arrive, but, of course he forgot his key! The brother felt so bad about it he wouldn’t even come inside the gates but just stayed out at the road until I went over and talked with him. Our Only Option was to have one of our younger brothers take a taxi back to the elder’s house, get the key, and come back. Which the brother quickly and willingly did. In the meantime more people are starting to come and wait outside the hall. Keep in Mind we are all dressed up in hot humid weather outside the hall with the mosquitoes =(. At about ten o’clock when meeting is supposed to start there were about 50 people outside waiting with more on the way. Not to mention through all of this I am looking for our visiting speaker who is supposed to give the talk, but is of course running late. If he doesn’t show I was the back up speaker, to give my one outline again, which I already gave the previous week. So I’m getting nervous too, and have no idea what to do. Our one other Elder who forgot his key says we should start the meeting outside so we wait another ten minutes and decide to go ahead. Unfortunately he is severely crippled and cannot stand for long, so it was up to me to get the meeting started out in front of the building in the hot sun. So I said a quick prayer, and tried to get things started with the song. But of course, no one knew how the song went! I couldn’t remember for the life of me, so Lara suggested to sing one that we did know. So we picked #15 “Life without end at last” and everyone sang it perfectly! It was quite touching to hear actually. About this time the speaker arrived finally but I told him over the crowd that we could just do the WT first that way after we got inside everyone could enjoy the part more. I conducted the first five paragraphs outside standing just in front of the hall, and I was again surprised by the great participation and cooperation of everyone. This was obviously not the first time this had happened to them, and probably not as big of a deal for them as for us. Tom later informed us that when this congregation was started they actually did meet outside. Here’ a Pic of the Hall. Note the Nice Mosquitoe breeding pools out front, hah!
To make the story short, the young brother arrived with the key around 10:30 so I dismissed them to go inside. Everyone went quickly inside, found seats, sat down and waited quietly to continue. I was so impressed again at how quickly they did so that I thanked them repeatedly for their patience and cooperation and then continued the WT Study.
All in all Lara and I were very impressed and touched by the whole situation and can really see that the congregation is very sheep like, willing to be led and wiling to adjust. There have been a number of discouragements recently though, so some are struggling. Tom has said that Satan has been trying hard to discourage this congregation by attacking it directly and attacking the need-greaters who come to help. But I would say that the over all attitude is positive and things are steadily improving.
We are very glad we came when we did as just before, two Elders with wives had left back home to save up money and another MS has recently been removed. So right now Tom and I are just about it. As with most other places in the world, there is a huge need for brothers in Guyana, especially ones willing to serve. It may sound like a burden and a lot of work but it’s an amazing feeling to serve in a congregation that really needs help. There’s nothing like using your abilities solely for Jehovah, and it doesn’t take much training to help. When it comes to any kind of organization, its pretty much unheard of here. Even basic things like how to File Papers have not been used since the congregation started. So this congregation and many others need help not just spiritually or in the Ministry, but in Practical ways too.
Thankfully our other Two Elders are coming back around the end of this month so Tom and I will get a huge break then. One is coming from England and I think the other one is from the states. Tom says they have been a critical part of helping this congregation to get back on track.
So I thought I would just share a few thoughts from a Brothers point of View, hope I didn’t bore you too badly, hah! We miss everyone very much and are always looking forward to hearing from you. I’ve included a few Pix following this of some quirky Guyana things. Enjoy!
"Take it!, Care it!" - Brian Regan
Yes its just as sweet as it sounds. This is one of the many super sweet drinks everyone loves here in Guyana.
This one's for Vince Romans, Only guys can use our Gas! Guy Oil!
For all you Starbucks Lovers, Come on down and Enjoy Our Quaint Internet Cafe!
Last Monday (July 27th) Michelle and I went to the Expo at Albion Sports Complex. We had no idea what an Expo here would be. It ended up being like a fair- lots of food, rum, cheap trinkets, and some business promotional booths. It’s about 15 mins from us and it’s the same place we are having our Convention Aug 21-23.
Ramone and Kily Budden, a special pioneer couple from the states and also substitute Circuit Overseer who serve in ASL here in Guyana had a booth at the Expo educating the area about ASL. Ramone asked Michelle to help at the booth Monday afternoon and I got to tag along.
Below is a picture of a girl at the ASL booth w/headphones watching a video w/no sound. The video is of a little girl walking through a big city. It supposed to help hearing people understand what life is like to someone deaf. At the end of the 90 sec video the sound comes on… which by the way made me jump out of my skin. It’s amazing at how much we hear but don’t even think about it.
Another laptop had a video camera on it. The purpose is the do different facial expressions and then a picture is taken. This emphasizes how much facial expressions are involved w/ASL.
They also had a small TV w/DVD player showing a short film of a deaf girl who is an incredible violin player. It was very touching.
The majority of people here do not know what sign language is. We explained how it’s a way of speaking to deaf people. We also asked everyone that came by the booth if they know anyone who is deaf. The Budden’s left w/a list of addresses of deaf people who want them to visit so it was very successful. Below is a pic of Michelle Teaching some children the Alphabet in Sign.
Here is a picture of the Budden’s. They were in Brooklyn Bethel for 7 yrs and left to come to Guyana as need greaters. Their plan was to come here one year to see if they could handle a foreign assignment. Before the end of the year was up they were asked to stay as special pioneers and then just 2 mos ago they completed training for substitute circuit work. They are very nice and down to earth. They are in an ASL group (about 20 people) in New Amsterdam, which is about 30 mins from us.
We were not allowed to witness at the Expo but the sign at the booth (3rd Pic from beginning) clearly stated who we were. It was a very good witness.
After we were finished Michelle and I wondered around to the other booths. Since there are very few events here, this Expo is a VERY big deal. Since it has been a while since we had a night out, we had a blast. We got ice cream, cotton candy, took pictures of people and made a bit of a scene. Cameras are not very common here, especially with two American girls using it.
Everyone one was very nice to us. There was a booth not far from our’s that kept giving us “samples” of cold mix drinks. Even mocha and cappuccinos! Michelle never has caffeine so she was very energetic and cheerful toward the end of the night. There were even rides there! They were made of wood and looked slightly risky so we held back from getting on.