- Here's a Map of the Country
- The Red Box shows where the close-up map below is taken from
If anyone has seen the video of the 2007 trip into the Rupinuni; then this trip was very similar, but much more intense. The 2007 trip covered about 3 villages, whereas we ended up covering 10. Plus the terrain was much more difficult, instead of Savanna we were driving over many mountains as you will see in the pictures. But with added difficulty comes added support from Jehovah, and it was amazing to see his hand helping us so many times. So that's just a brief explanation of our trip before I go into the details, I hope it will help clear up any confusion.
- Here's the approximate Route we took North.
- Starting in Lethem we Preached a total of 10 Villages.
So Lethem served as our base in preparation of this trip, where we stayed for 6 days. Tom did his best to prepare and plan for this trip months in advance but Satan was working very hard to slow us down. We had actually planned to leave on Friday, but ended up leaving Monday instead. Getting all 1000 lbs of literature shipped to Lethem was a huge process alone. We ended up taking about 250 lbs on the bus with us and the rest was sent on what we call a "bush truck".
- It took a few days just to Organize all 23 boxes of Lit.
- Here's what I keep refering to as a "Bush Truck"
There were also complications with getting the truck ready for the trip. We would be taking the same truck as the last trip in May, an old 87 Toyota Hilux. It was a little beat up looking, but very beefy. We knew that the terrain was going to be rough so we had to make sure the truck was in good condition. Thankfully everything came together by Sunday evening and we headed out on Monday about 5am.
- "The Beast" -
- Securing Our 45 Gallons of Gas!
- Sunrise First Day of Trip
- Me Micaiah and Sam
Our supplies consisted of: two 5 gallon water Jugs, 45 gallons of Gasoline, 6 packs of Crackers, 6 jars of peanut butter, 25 cans of food (Tuna, beans, corn, sardines), 10 cloves of garlic, 10 limes, 5 cans of peanuts, bleach, bar soap, one Cooking Pot and our 6 duffel bags with flashlights, 3 changes of clothes, hammocks and mosquito nets. And all of this was smashed around the 23 boxes of literature. Not to mention our back-up meals of Farine and Taso, which I explain later. Needless to say were started off very heavy, but we kept reminding ourselves we would be coming back light.
Before I get too far I should probably explain who came on the trip, that way I wont keep referring to what may seem like random people.
In the photo above from Left to right is Alton, Micaiah, Sam, Tom, Me and Jordan. Alton Primus is a local brother from the Lethem area, and an expert in these trips as he's been on all of them in the past. Micaiah Young is a recent need-greater who came out from Ohio. Sam Peden is also a recent addition from England. Most of you know Tom, his wife Michelle is my sister. They are the ones who invited us to Guyana in the first place, but I don't want to hear about any hate letters sent to them! =) Jordan (the Aussie) is originally from Australia, but moved to London for 7 years and has been serving in Guyana for about a year.
All of us were pretty relaxed, easygoing brothers, so when trouble would come our way (And it did) we worked well together to stay positive and get through it. But none of us really knew quite what to expect from the terrain. We had heard many stories, some said it was nearly an impassible road, and others would say it was nothing serious. So we hoped it would be somewhere in between, but tried to prepare for the worst. Thankfully Alton had walked almost the entire area a few years before. So he had invaluable knowledge of what we would be facing, even though it would be much different traveling in a vehicle.
About an hour into the trip we stopped and had our group meeting. We went over the theme of the trip, which was making known Jehovah's Name. This was the same as the last trip and was well received so we decided to stick with it. Our primary scriptures were Psalm 83:18, Psalm 100:3, Jeremiah 10:10 and Revelation 4:11. The goal was to be brief but effective as we would be very limited on time. We would try and teach the people to teach themselves, as no one would be back in the area for over a year. And with that in mind we would be leaving much more literature than usual. At one house we could easily place 3-5 books, so as to leave them well equipped to learn about Jehovah.
As we got back on the road, the reality of the trip started to strike home. Up until this point I had no idea what to expect but something I quickly realized is this would not be a comfortable ride. For most of the trip I sat in the back of the truck, and Tom did his best to make a comfortable "Seat" for us, with foam padding to sit on. But the tail end of a pickup on a rocky mountain road will never be anything close to comfortable. The hardest part is holding on. Try to imagine driving in your car, but instead of a seat, you have a piece of wood. And instead of pavement, you are driving up and down stairs, and turning on stairs! So after realizing this I was a little worried about enduring the next16 days, but you would be amazed what you can get used to! Plus we soon realized that we would be walking behind the truck most of the time anyway, so problem solved. (I'll explain later)
- Our Back Seat. "Fits Three Comfortably"
- "The Throne"
The first leg of this trip was a long one, but we did get a nice pit stop in the first "remote village" called Karasabai. We stopped at a shop and had what would be our last cold drinks for a while. But we did snack on what would be a staple for the rest of the trip, Tuna and Crackers. That's tuna out of the can mind you. So we had our lunch under a giant mango tree and after awhile we stopped at a return visit with a family in the area. They were super friendly and we visited with them for an hour. Alton didn't care much for crackers and tuna, so he asked them to make him a dish of fried Taso and Farine shown below. The picture actually makes it look really good, but trust me, looks are deceiving. Farine has the consistency of grape nuts cereal but it tastes more like sour corn meal. And Taso is basically a poor mans beef jerky… really poor. Hah, just kidding, its not bad just really, really, really salty… and chewy. These two foods were perfect for this trip because they would last forever. But they ended up being a last resort for me for reasons I'll get into later.
- Farine and Taso... YUM!!
- Taso... Oh YEAH! Tasty...
- He always managed to make it look really good.
So anyway, before we left this families house Tom had the mother speak some of the local language for us called Makushi. This was more like a second language for most of the people we talked to as many of the younger ones didn't speak it very much. Thankfully in most of the villages we visited, English is still the primary language. As we drove north we eventually left the territory of the Makushi tribe and entered the Patimona area. South of Lethem were the tribes Wai Wai and Wapishani. I thought it was interesting that there were so many pockets where the natives settled, each with their own language.
- Speaking Makushi
As we continued the road steadily became rougher, but some of the worse problems came from parts where the road was washed out by rain. Here's an explanation of the ongoing road corrosion problem. Most of these roads are dirt and gravel, which is fine when the weather is dry, but when it rains the water travels down the cleared roads like a riverbed, carrying away the dirt with it and creating deep trenches. Add to that the damage done but heavy bush trucks, which create even deeper tracks in the wet dirt… and there you have it… Bad Roads for you and me. Fortunately for us, the road problems started off small and gradually grew, giving us time to slowly adapt. But being our first day, we were all pretty psyched about our Four Wheeling experience so far. Little did we know this was just the beginning. (I say "we" but I think Alton knew all along)
- Damage from Bush trucks
- Washout -
After about a total of 9 hours driving we finally came into our first village of Tipuru. It was about 7pm so it was dark coming in, but we noticed as we drove into the village, several flashlights all pointed in our direction. Apparently it's not a common occurrence for 6 foreigners to roll into the village in a pickup, so naturally the locals were curious. We found the house of the village head, also known as the Captain or Tushau. Alton and Tom got out to speak with him about staying there for the night. The four of us watched from the truck desperately hoping he would allow us to stay. We tried to look as happy and non-threatening as we could, something not so easy in the dark though. As Alton and Tom were talking to him, the Tushau recalled Alton from his visit before! He even welcomed us to stay in the shelter next to his house! Relieved we all piled out of the truck and set up camp.
- Our First Camp, Our First Night...
The next morning I woke up at 6am to a stupid rooster crowing right next to my hammock. We all joked that this chicken was oblivious to the danger of crowing next to four hungry foreigners. We did our first daily text together, which would end up being a highlight of every day for me. Things just seem more profound and interesting when you're in the wilderness, miles from home. Tom explained our game plan: cover the whole village as quickly as possible. He also reiterated the point of not holding back on the literature. At this early point in the trip we would be giving the locals whatever they were willing to read. This began to strike home when I watched Alton grabbing handfuls of literature out of the truck and stacking it on a bench. I remember thinking, "Wow, he wasn't kidding about no limits". The day of preaching went well, our message was simple but very well received.
- Notice how many books she has?
- Yes.. They carried those Boxes around the whole Trip!
- Doing Our Daily text... We were always smiling like this too!
The Amer-Indians are known to be very shy and timid which I realized when I gave my presentation for the first time. I realized its normal behavior to not answer a question, even when repeated… multiple times. It took patience but everyone seemed to respond well to illustrations, so we all got a lot of practice illustrating things. Thankfully not everyone was painfully shy. I spoke to one young man who was very responsive. When I asked if he had time to talk he quickly went to a nearby hut and sat down waiting for us to join him. He answered all of my questions correctly and quickly, which was a treat. It turned out that he had three younger sisters who he read to out of the bible every night. I was amazed and asked if he would like a book to help him teach his sisters. I gave him the great teacher book and he began reading it immediately. Something I never got tired of was seeing the people's true appreciation for the literature. Almost every time they would sit down and immediately start to read it. Since all of them were very education and bible conscious, they just loved getting literature to help them learn about the bible and teach it to their children.
We were able to finish the entire village by about noon so we ate our lunch, did some laundry and got ready to head to the next village. In case you are wondering what I mean by "Doing Laundry" well its pretty simple. You need three things: water, dirty clothes, and a bar of soap. Most of the time we would just wash our clothes in the nearby river or stream, often with a group of locals watching us. Some would rub the clothes together to clean them, but I preferred a scrub brush to really get them clean faster. Tom prefered a bucket, and Alton prefered smacking them on a rock, hehe.
Timing was important though since on more than one occasion our washing was interrupted by the "village bathing hour". Sometimes half the village would come down to the water, strip down and start bathing. As Sam would say, "it just didn't seem proper to stay during this time". Plus, once the clothes were washed, you would also need time for them to dry, often half a day or more. So personally I would do all my washing at one time, and in the evening. My theory was, since your standing in a river getting wet anyway, you might as well bathe too. The only problem with washing at night was that it was incredibly cold! At least cold for our standards, and I know it's hard to imagine it being cold here in Guyana, but up in the mountains at night it probably got down to the 60s. Some of you might baulk at this, but a cold shower is a cold shower, especially when it's windy. But like I said before, I was amazed at what you can get used to, and after a week I had my routine down.
- Tom doing "Laundry"
Speaking of routine, after our first day preaching in Tipuru, we learned what would be our on going routine for the next 2 weeks. Our goal was to cover at least one village a day, so in some cases we would stay over night and preach the next day, like in Tipuru. Other days we would get into the village with enough daylight cover it the same day and then leave the next morning. Either way, the key was to keep moving, since we never knew what awaited us further down the road.
Thankfully the next village, Rukumuta, was only a few hours down the road, so we were able to preach in two villages in the same day! One good experience I had here was with the last family I met that evening. When I arrived they were eating dinner, and they even offered me some, but I declined as they didn't have much even for their large family with 5 children. I told them I did have something to give them if they were interested. I explained that we were going from village to village talking to everyone about gods name. I asked if they had ever heard it before? They said no so I went on with my routine presentation (yes, more routine). The one Mother quickly asked me if I had any Watchtowers. I asked where she heard that name? She got up and went to the corner of the roof and pulled out a very worn Watchtower from years before. She said a man came through their village before and gave it to them but they would really like more to read. I was amazed that they had kept the magazine for so long, and I was happy to give them many new books to read. They asked for everything I had so I ended up giving them all of my literature, including the Bible Stories book, which they loved. They told me they had seen the book before in another village but never had one for themselves. All the children gathered around as I showed them the different stories and pictures. They thanked me for coming to their village and giving them more books to read, and as I left the whole family was avidly reading the literature. As I walked back to the camp a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment came over me. It was great to know without a doubt, that these people would happily read everything we had given them, and really learn from it with an open mind! I also had no doubt that if we could stay longer, all of them would study the bible. The best we could do at this point was try to teach them to teach themselves.
Back at the camp everyone had finished preaching but throughout the night people continually came to get literature, even up until we went to sleep. Another Long day came to a close, and despite the difficulty in getting to these villages, all of us were getting very excited about the work ahead of us.
- One of the Many Paths we would follow to find homes
- Where did the Road Go?
- Not Again! Where did the Road Go?
- Ohh... The Road is IN the River!
As difficulties go, the next 24 hours were the most difficult for me. Mostly because I made the mistake of eating too much of the local staple I mentioned called Farine. Farine is its great for filling you up, but its crucial to drink plenty of water with it. Reason being, its very, very dry, so it absorbs an incredible amount of water. My mistake was eating it with tuna, and not enough water, a bad combination. It took me about a full day to recover from this mistake, of course all the while I figured I had some deadly disease! (Now you know why I avoided this particular delicacy) Thankfully I survived and had no further problems on the trip, but my illness did bear some unexpected fruit, which I'll get into later.
I didn't get much sleep that night thanks to the farine, and the entire night I was praying that I would recover quickly so as not to become a burden to the rest of the group. The guys were great at comforting me though and all offered suggestions on what to do. Tom also helped to ease my nerves explaining that it was probably just my system trying to adapt. So we packed up to leave, all the while people continued to come to our camp looking for more literature and asking questions about what they were reading. We left late that morning after all the continued preaching and made it to the next village around 3-4pm. This village had an interesting name, Yurong Paru. I think what stood out the most to me were the children who came over to see us. There must have been about 30 - 40 standing all around the truck just watching us. Sam gave them all truth tracts and then read them a story from the bible story book.
- Yurong Paru
After a quick snack the guys all set out to cover the village but I was still feeling really sick so I stayed in the truck. While I waited, it was torture to think of all the fun I was missing out on so said a quick prayer and tried to go and do a few houses close by. I only got to talk to one lady and she ended up being a fire victim. She said her house burnt down and she lost everything, even clothes for her children who were now running around naked. I took delight in sharing our message of a loving creator who would fill all her needs. She loved the books and thanked me repeatedly. She explained she was feeling very sad after the fire, but maybe god sent me to help her feel better. As I left she sat down with her children and began reading with them. I felt much better at this point in spirit, but my stomach was just killing me, so I went back to the truck to rest. After several minutes of being alone, I again prayed for strength and endurance. Not long after I noticed two young men walking in front of the truck. They saw me and came over and starting asking questions about who we were. I explained we were traveling over the mountains preaching in all the villages and giving books and bibles to read. One of them explained they were traveling south to Tipuru were we came from. He said that normally he reads the bible everyday but his bible was too heavy to carry with them. He asked me if we had any small bibles he could travel with. I remembered seeing some of our pocket bibles on the truck, so I looked around, and right on the dash in front of me I found one! I grabbed it and showed it to the man, who said "Yes this is perfect, Thank you!" I asked him if he would have room for one more book to help him understand the bible. He said yes so I also gave him a bible teach book. I spoke to them for another 30 minutes or so until Jordan and Micaiah came back. Although I wasn't fully recovered from my sickness yet, I repeatedly noticed Jehovah helping me to stay positive and stay busy.
- Getting read to Cook... Guyana Style!
That night everyone was again very helpful and sympathetic, Alton put my Hammock up for me and Tom made me some hot tea. My stomach was feeling better but I was exhausted from getting no sleep and hardly any food. I slept hard and the next day my pain was gone but now I knew I really needed to eat something to gain some strength. Of course the last thing I wanted was more farine, and dry crackers didn't sound very good either. I remember thinking, how great it would be to just have some fruit, or some soup, just something easy to digest. The funny thing was I didn't even think to pray about such a thing but I did mention it to Alton who said they might have some in the next village, Monkey Mt. So we packed up and left for Monkey Mt. just as we drove away we noticed a lady walking across the field toward where our camp was. When she saw us driving away she turned around and started back. She was obviously coming to see us, so we waved her over to the truck. She ended up wanting a book that she saw her neighbor had and came to get one. This was impressive alone, but the walk to where we camped was about 30 minutes uphill! We thanked her for coming way out to find us and happily gave her the bible stories book.
On the way out Alton recalled some other houses he'd seen on his trip through here before, but the houses were only reachable by foot. So, feeling better and intent on making up for the previous day, I volunteered to go. Little did I know it would be almost an hour hike to find these houses. Not to mention we had to cross a river barefoot! Shoes in one hand, literature in the other!
- Yes... its as Painful as it looks...
When we finally got to the first house, the little energy I had mustered up was well exhausted. Alton and I stayed to talk at this house while Tom and Jordan continued to the next. I could barely stand and listen as Alton spoke to the woman. Thankfully she invited us to sit down after we spoke with her. As we sat Alton said there were a few more houses in a different direction if I felt up to it, but I told him I was too tired. While we waited the lady asked if we would like something to drink, but I explained that I couldn't drink the river water. So she then asked if I would like some coconut water, to which I replied excitedly "yes, Thank You so much!" For those who may not know, Coconut Water is one of the best ways to replenish lost Electrolytes, it has more than any other fruit or food. After drinking it I felt almost instantly rejuvenated and energized. I told Alton I could even continue further to the next house. So we continued on to the next house, which again was further than I though it would be, about 30 minutes of hiking, and up hill. I got pretty exhausted again, but we finally made it to the next house. At this house we found an old man working on a tool for drying out Cassava root. When he saw us he quickly got up and put out seat for us, he said "I haven't had visitors for a long time!" After we sat down he went back inside for a minute, and then came out with a bowl of mangos! I was so grateful to him and it was just what I had been craving so badly... Fruit! After briefly talking to the old man he explain that he had been in the area for many years, even before all the teachers came. Now he was over 80 years old but sadly he never learned to read. He said his son lived just a little bit further down the path, and he asked us if we could go speak with him. We agreed and started on our way, as we left I noticed the old man had grabbed some of his tools and materials and began following us down the path. He was obviously intent on hearing our message. When we got to his son's house he introduced us and had everyone take a seat and listen. We had a great time speaking with them, especially the old man, who was very bright and followed along well. At the end of our discussion the old man went into the house and came back with yet another bowl of ripe mangos! This time much more than we could eat! Not only that but his daughter in law also offered to cook for us. She came out after a few minutes with two bowls of what looked like hot pea soup! So there you have it, Fruit and Soup... lol. I was so overwhelmed by all the wonderful provisions and thankful. By the end of our hike I was fully rejuvenated and boggled at how specifically Jehovah helped me. Even for something I didn't specifically ask for!
- Notice Alton is eating Bananas.
This was just one example of how Jehovah kept all of us going throughout the trip. And since our needs often became very physical, we saw Jehovah's hand helping us in very obvious ways. So although this trip was difficult in many ways, it was the difficulty that ended up making it such a pleasure.
Speaking of difficult, it was a good thing I was feeling better because the trip to Monkey Mt. was a very difficult one. The climb up to the top of the mountain was one of the steepest we would encounter. Because it was so treacherous, all of us had to get out at the base of the mountain, and hike almost the entire way up. It was a beautiful hike to say the least, but very rocky and steep as well. But we all made it to the top in one piece, and got to camp out under the stars that night.
- Tewaling Mt range
The Road is Much Steeper than it looks. Check out how Jordan is walking
- Our Hammocks were a little Precarious that night.
They were all supported on one side by this flimsly Log!
One of the reasons we ended up hiking a lot was, for one, the truck was old and very loaded down. Our goal was to try and keep the truck from breaking down and to do that we had to lighten its load so to speak. Aside from that, there was more danger for us if we stayed in the truck on the steep parts, so we were trying to keep the risk factor low. And personally, I found it much easier to walk anyway. Keep in mind the truck only moved at about 3-5 Miles per hour, and being on board during the rough parts was like riding a bucking bronco. So, like we kept saying, our goal was to "save the truck, save the truck!" in anyway we could. I should mention now that after about a week, the brakes and the battery on the truck started to fail, so we had even more reason not to stay on board. Instead we would be pushing, pulling and stopping the truck by hand on many occasions. Toward the end of the trip the steering started to go out, so we even had to turn the truck by hand. It makes me laugh just thinking about it, and we started to wonder, "Why did we bring the truck in the first place?" I'm amazed we made it as far as we did, but with a little technique, and a lot of help from Jehovah, our journey was a success.
- Can you follow the Road off in the background?
There is so much more to tell but this post is already getting very long. I will continue to add more of the experiences and pictures later, but I hope this has given you a better picture of what preaching is like here in the Interior of Guyana. Suffice it to say we were able to accomplish a lot, but there is still an incredible amount left to cover and very few locals here are able to go on these trips. So for any who are interested in joining the front lines of the preaching work, these trips are an excellent opportunity!
There are some difficulties to overcome but its not very often we have a chance to truly experience what Paul said at 1 Thessalonians 2:2. "We mustered up boldness … to speak to you the good news of God with a great deal of struggling". Isn't it true that when we have to struggle to serve Jehovah, then we really feel his blessing and we get true satisfaction and happiness? And the greater the struggle is, the greater our happiness is, and the more obvious Jehovah's blessing will be. But aside from the struggles I also came to appreciate Romans 1:15 more fully. Here Paul said he felt a "great eagerness to declare the good news". Great Eagerness? What is that? This was something I had never experienced until coming to Guyana, mostly because our message is not well received. Even if some do listen, they often are apathetic or indifferent. Where we live on the coast of Guyana people are often more open and willing to learn, but our message is still very familiar to most. But, preaching in these villages, few if anyone had even heard the name Jehovah before. Plus any church services they have consist primarily of singing songs! Yet as a people, they have a strong desire to learn and educate themselves, plus a true appreciation for the bible! If that isn't right-hearted, I don't know what is, and it really showed in their reactions. Almost every time we came to a house, the whole family would come out, sit down, and listen. When we would read them a scripture, they would come close and follow along in our bible, even reading it with us at times, out loud! And when we would offer them literature, they treated it like gold. Often they would grab it from our hands even, and they would always start reading it immediately. We even had to be careful not to give them the literature too soon, because we would quickly lose their attention! So for me, seeing how Incredibly Excited they were to learn about Jehovah and the Good News, quickly made me excited and eager to share it with them. This was a very new feeling for me, and now that I've felt it, I'm determined to seek new ways to stir up this excitement, both in myself and in others.
- Its not every day you get to Cross a log in service!
So I hope and yearn that this experience and this blog will help others to seek out new ways to serve Jehovah. We are currently working on making a DVD about this trip, but it may be awhile before its finished. I know personally it was the 2007 DVD of the Rupinuni Trip that really excited me, so we hope to do the same for others!
Thank you for Reading! And keep up the good work!