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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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Food of Guyana

Hey Peoples! We thought you might like some info on what kind of foods we’re eating around here. Suffice it to say just about everything is different, but if you try really hard you can get some things from home.

Our favorite new food of course is the fruit here. Some of them you can get in the states, like Mango, Papaya and Guava, but they are so much better fresh. Especially when they are right off the tree! One of our favorites still is something called Sour Sop, which tastes a lot like it sounds. Its like eating very soft pineapple, but a little more sour. We eat Pineapple or Papaya just about every day since its so cheap here. There are some oranges here but they are green and a little piffy. Right now we are in the Mango season, so just about every day our studies send us home with a bag of them. Its getting hard to keep eating them before they go bad! There are four types here, Ruby, Pepper spice, Long mango, and a Yellow type. Each has a distinct flavor, and some we have even used to make Mango Pie! Delicious!

- A Mellon, Cherries and Plantains. Notice the Bananas are much shorter here and sweeter. They also have some that are ripe when green. It gets really confusing! -

- Sour Sop -

- Here's the Fruit from a Cashew Nut -

- Something called Bread Fruit. I've heard it doesnt have must of a taste -

- Sugar Cane. Here's what Rum comes from! This is a huge exportation item. Its fun to just cut it up and chew on the inside -

- This is a family thats cutting up a whole bunch of Coconuts. Many sell it for making coconut oil, or just to eat -

- Searching for Mangos! -

Probably the most popular food here is curry dishes. They use curry to make just about everything, from Beef to Chicken to Fish dishes. There’s a strong Chinese food influence as well so many eat Chow Mien with their curry dishes. So far we do enjoy the food, but it is a little hard on our stomachs if we eat it too often. A strange twist is that here everyone loves to put a lot of bones in their food. For example the curry chicken will often have pieces of chicken with mostly bone and gristle. But they love to suck and chew on the bones to get every last bit of meat. There is a large fishing industry here, so fish is a strong staple, as well as rice of course.

- Yes thats a fish skeleton with the head on it! Lara says it was pretty good actually. -

- The white rice above is processed and bleached. The brown rice is unshelled rice. I've never seen it raw before! -

- This is a common method for drying the rice here in Guyana. In the busy season you can drive for half amile on a road with rice all on one side. -

- This is a common stove the guyanese use for most of thier meals. Notice the sofisticated heating method! -

Drinks are another story. We were surprised to learn what a strong addiction everyone has to soda here! Everyone is constantly drinking it, and of course they always offer it to us too in service. But its better than drinking their water since we never know what kind of water they have. They have just about every flavor of soda, including some I’ve never seen, like ICEE Flavor soda. Yes it’s the same brand as the slushies from the states, but just the liquid! And of course Rum could be called a staple too since its so popular. El Dorado is the most common brand, but so far we haven’t cared much for it.

So its been a real change but we have been able to find ingredients to make some of our familiar dishes, like spaghetti, stir fry dishes, pizza, pasta salad, beef stew and chili. Everything has to be made by scratch though, and if you want ground meat you have to grind it yourself too, lol. Thankfully Michelle is a real food connoisseur so we’ve gotten a lot of help and ideas from her.

- They have Breyers Ice cream in the capital but notice the price? over $4000! Thats about $20 in US money for a Pint! -

So that’s some news on our grub here in Guyana, Service is still going well. Tom and I are preparing for our trip into the interior pretty soon. We will be leaving for three weeks starting September 29th. We really have no idea what we will find out there but there’s not questions that the territory has a huge need as it is virtually untouched. We will be going down in a small Toyota, fully loaded with about 20 or so boxes of literature, plus food and supplies and six brothers on top of everything! We will do our best to get photos and video of it all. the next Post on our blog will be about the “Trip to Region 8 of Guyana” so stay Tuned!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Guyana "Keep on the Watch" Convention

Hey everyone! Hope your summer is going well!

We had our Convention just a few weeks ago and it actually went much better than expected! I say this because we have come to realize you can never really know what to expect around here, sometimes things are better, sometimes worse, haha! All in all though the program was just as timely and exciting as the first time. We had a number of visiting speakers from various locations, and a few Missionaries who gave parts. It was very interesting to see some of the parts acted out again, this time with a “Guyana Twist”.

The convention was held in what is called a sports complex, something comparable to a baseball field. We sat in Covered bleachers and the Stage was in the center of the field about 100 feet out. Tom and I were able to help with the construction of the stage, and it was impressive how well it turned out! They had to do a lot of extra work on it so that it would be covered from sun and rain, and also so that the speakers would have a room to wait in. The Baptism Pool was also interesting to see, it was constructed from a PVC tarp put inside a wood frame and then tied around the sides with concrete straps. We were glad not to be getting baptized as the water had a greenish tint to it, heh. But they did add bleach to the water later to “Sanitize” it.

- Here's the Stage During Construction -

- And After -

- One of the many animals running around the field -

Speaking of the baptism it was quite different from what we are used to. Aside from the condition of the “pool”, right after the song about 50 or more people immediately went down and stood around it. No ropes or brothers holding them back here, they just walked right up to it.

We also noticed two men who appeared to be visitors, standing nearby as shown in the picture. We noticed that the one had removed his hat, showing respect for the occasion. After the baptism Tom went down and talked with them to see if they were studying. It turned out that one of them was blind, and after hearing the program, actually wanted to get baptized! Our hearts went out to him and Tom was able to have about an hour discussion with the man explaining how he could be baptized. He turned out to be very responsive and a study was started with both of them!

We were also very privileged to sit immediately adjacent to the ASL group. Brother and Sister Buddon are overseeing the group. They are the Brooklyn Bethelites who left and came to serve in Guyana as need greaters. They are now serving as Special Pioneers and Brother Buddon is a substitute CO. Their zeal for the ASL is so encouraging and they had a peak attendance for the deaf of almost 42! It was neat to watch them sign all the songs in unison. We also enjoyed watching the translators who did a great Job of bringing the talks to life. And of course after every part they would do the ASL Applause, which is holding both hands in the air and shaking them quickly. Something we had never seen before. We were able to meet and converse with many from the group including a couple that have recently come as Need Greaters from Portland! They are, Donald and Sara Campbell; if you would like to contact them, here is their email. donaciano2000@gmail.com

- Here's the Campbell's -

- The Buddons -

- The Songs in Sign Language -

It was amazing to learn how far many of the families had traveled to come to the convention. One family we met who were Amerindian said that they traveled about 24 hours to get to the convention. The main reason is that just outside our territory are many Rivers with no bridges to cross them. So everyone has to take the ferry, which takes hours to wait for and then hours to cross. (Some of the rivers here are very large). Fortunately some of the families were able to stay in homes nearby which greatly lessened their journey.

We were amazed by one family in a distant congregation who did not have enough money to come to the convention. So what they did is they made, by hand, little decorative baskets and boxes out of a wicker material. They then brought these to the meetings and the convention to give to others in exchange for donations to come to the convention. This is just one example of the determination and appreciation people here show in attending the conventions and meetings.

The Drama of course sounded the same, but looked quite different from what we saw in the states. But they actually did a surprisingly good job of acting it out. The rebel youth “Al” was a guy in baggy jeans this time and flashy jewelry. Keep in mind many of the youth here are influenced by the fashions and styles in New York. But the brother did a great job of bringing the character to life, he even seemed to enjoy it, hehe. At the end of the Drama there was a long loud applause, which is quite rare for this area. It seems most here are either embarrassed to clap or not easily motivated to do so. But it was obvious everyone was deeply touched by the drama, and the entire program!

- Here's "Bad News Al". Notice he's still wearing Black, heh -

- Can you imagine being under a blanket in the Heat and Humidity! -

The last part of the Convention was given by the Guyana Branch Overseer. He was a very kind and Lovable brother, he even came by after the session and introduced himself to us! His part included many exciting experiences from the convention weekend including a few experiences from the Expeditions into the interior that Tom has been on.

- The Branch Overseer -

They also gave us some info on Guyana statistics including Memorial attendance. In 2009 it was 11,036 which is incredibly 4 times greater than publisher count! In most of Guyana and in some regions the total attendance was 22 times greater than pulishers! One area has a congregation of about 20 or 30, but for memorial that had nearly a thousand attend! They said it took a lot of work for everyone to enjoy it. They also related an experience of a sister who put forth tremendous effort to attend the Special Day Assembly earlier this year. She was baptized just last year and is the only witness in her entire region! She conducts 15 bible studies, conducts all the meetings which have 23 on average in attendance. To attend the assembly she walked 8 hours, rode on a very cramped and bumpy bus for 12 hours and spent $200 US! She didn’t know how she would get back home but she thoroughly enjoyed the assembly. She walked 3 days to return to her home and witnessed to untouched villages along the way. The experience touched our hearts deeply. All in all we were again very motivated and encouraged to keep watchful and awake in these critical times.

After the convention we were excited to go over to the missionary home for a gathering of all the need greaters and other foreigners. It was so exciting to meet them all and hear how they ended up in Guyana. There were about 25 total, 6 of which were missionaries and the rest are self-supporting need greaters. One of them was a brother named Jonathan Maes from Canada who heard about Guyana much the same as we did. He decided to simplify by quitting college, getting a part time job to pioneer and save up. He has truly been needed as he is serving in the Wickenam Area which is one of the hardest to get to and Live in. There are only two other capable brothers there both of which had been gone for a month. So as he said he “literally knows how a congregation runs now” since he’s the only brother there. But obviously he is getting intense training that will enable him to serve now in any number of ways. This is just one example of how service in a foreign field can train and prepare us for any number of assignments.

- Jonathan Maes (the one the Right, heh)-

So that was our Convention Experience. As always we were greatly encouraged and built up, and are now even more determined to make our stay here a productive one. And it definitely has been so far, Lara has been coming home almost every day with either a new study or an amazing experience of some kind. Right now we are at about 13 studies between the two of us. Its starting to get a little hectic but who dares complain about having too many studies! Lol, “Never may that happen!” As always we greatly appreciate the comments and emails and hope all is going well back home! Keep us updated on any news!