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, October 27, 2010

Venezuela - Land of Arepas

Hello Everyone!

Well this will probably be our last post on this blog for a while since Tomorrow we will be in the States again! So we are greatly looking forward to seeing many of you again soon and catching up on things!

We were in Venezuela for the past three weeks getting some treatments and therapy before we return home to work, and it has been going very well. The Dr here found a few problems and one problem that specifically that had been causing a lot of Lara’s back pain. So she has been feeling much better now after having treatments!
We stayed at the actual facility while we were getting therapy which was actually quite nice. Basically the Dr here has a small facility where he treats all his patients, and his home is directly connected to the facility. We stayed in one of the rooms that are prepared for long distance patients, buts it’s a lot like staying in a home, very cozy! All the food was provided for us which was delicious! And we went to the meetings with the family there since they are all witnesses. It was a lot like being at a small bethel since all the employees are witnesses too, with some subtle differences of course.


While at the Facility we were very well fed. and we quickly learned that the people of Venezuela Love Arepas! Arepas are kind of like a flat bread made with corn meal and toasted or fried on both sides. Then they cut it on one side and put all sorts of meats, cheses and even fruits inside it. Sometimes they eat it for every meal, with slight changes in the filling. So on our first day in Venezuela we of course had Arepas for Breakfast, and I had heard of it but never eaten it yet. Lara even asked me, "So How do you eat it?" and I explained confidently, "I think its like making a sandwhich". So I got two of the arepas and proceded to build my aprepa sandwhich, first some eggs, then meat and some cheese to top it off. I started eating it and miway a brother came by and saw what I had done. His exact words were, "Wow, that is the first time I have ever seen that..." Even even repeated it a couple times, "I have never seen that before". So I'm feeling pretty dumb, but it gets better as he proceeds to call other people over to see my "Arepa Sandwhich". Everyone looking and laughing, then they all explained the proper way to eat arepas. It took a while to live down actually, and the next few days people would say, "Hey you're the guy who made the arepa Sandwhich!"

 - - Wrong - -                                   - - Right - -

- - This is smilar to another very common dish called "Pavellon" (Spelling?) pronounced Pa-vey-yon.  - -

The Doctors son, Juan Pablo brought us with him and his family one day to a beach nearby. A lot of the public beaches are pretty nice but of course he preferred to take a speedboat out to one of the many islands near the coast. It wasn’t an elite excursion or anything, its just not free like the public beaches. So we pulled up to a dock and hired one of the many transports to get to the small islands. It was very exciting to see such beautiful blue-green water! The only downside is that in Venezuela the people are not shy at all,Meaning they all wear very skimpy bathing suits even if they are way overweight! Talk about shameless! Otherwise we had a blast there!

After about two weeks at the facility we left all of our new friends and family to go back to the Venezuela Branch. This branch has about 150, which is huge compared to the 8 at the Guyana branch. And of course the grounds at the bethel are amazing! I would say it’s even more beautiful than Patterson, since for one its tropical, and two, the complex is right at the base of some beautiful green mountains!


 We learned a lot on our Tour, including info about all of the Kingdom hall and Assembly hall Construction going on in Venezuela. And despite all the work being done they are only meeting about half the demand. I n the past few years they have constructed around 40 Kingdom halls but they still need another 100 to meet the need!

Not to mention there is a huge need in service and foreign language. Aside from Spanish there is a large population of Arabic, Chinese, Haitian and Portuguese! Not to mention there are Hundreds of English speaking Guyanese that have immigrated in on the Far East side of the country. We met a missionary couple who have been assigned in the area and the explained that they are pretty overwhelmed with how many are coming in. They have moved to a new location to better meet the need, but they said there is a large town of 3000 further east with hundreds of people just waiting to study! We are definitely going to keep an eye on this area for when we come back to Guyana!

We also learned that originally the land that is now Guyana belonged to Venezuela, but during the war they sold the land to England for money and help in the war. But hundreds of years later the government of Venezuela decided that they wanted that land back, which is about Ninety Percent of Guyana. Of course since Guyana is now independent, there is no way they would give up their country, but on a lot of the maps of Venezuela it has Guyana on it marked “Reclamacion” meaning Reclamation!

- - Circled is the part of Guyana under Reclamation - -

During our tour of the branch it was a treat to also meet the LSV group at the branch who are currently translating literature in the Venezuelan Sign Language. They were a super fun group to meet!


- - Brother Longa in Charge of Translation Services - -

On our last weekend here, a bethelite couple offered to take us to a few of the sights in Venezuela, since we hadn’t seen much while staying at the facility. So they took us to a small town waaaaay up in the mountains nearby. And get this, the Town is German!


Apparently back in the 1800s, 300 Germans came to Venezuela because of war and political problems and started a colony up in the mountains, very secluded from the rest of the people in Venezuela. All of them were very adventurous and hard workers, and a testimony to their race since none of the original settlers died during the long journey there. It was also a very secluded town and no outsiders were allowed in until recently. But once they did allow tourism and access roads, the town grew very quickly! But they always maintained the original German feel and architecture. While up there we met a former bethelite couple who are Special Pioneers now in the town. He is German and she is Venezuelan. He speaks English as well as Spanish so he explained all about the history of the town and how he is now teach German to reach the population in their native tongue. Truly, Venezuela is a Melting Pot of Peoples and Culture!

 Here's a link for more Info on this amazing Town!  Colinia Tovar

- - The Tall Brother is the one from Germany, and his wife on the Left. - -

- - It was unbeleivably cold up in the mountains!! We we're literally up in the clouds! - -

Finally on Sunday we took a trip out to the Huge Capital City of Caracas. We didn’t spend much time there but we went in a tram all the way up to a mountain over looking the city, and boy was it high up! We were amazed at how huge the city is! It has a staggering Seven Million people!

- - Up and Up - -

- - And Up and Up!! - -

Of course with over population comes poverty, and there is a lot in Caracas. But like most large cities, there are good parts and bad parts. In the poor areas the houses are stacked right on top of each other on steep inclines. It seems that people can simply find a plot of land and build a house there, tax-free. Of course construction codes are non-existent, so there are a lot of accidents and damage from collapsing houses. One brother also told us that near the city is a fault line and the mountains on either side are slowly moving together! They even had to rebuild one of the bridges because it was literally being crushed between the mountains!

So we took this trip mainly for medical reasons but it turned out to be very educational and a fun vacation at the same time! Everyone asked when we would be coming back and we would love to if Jehovah permits!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Homeward Bound

Well the time has come! Time to return to the “Old stomping grounds” the “Rat Race” and the Land where Coffee is not just a “Hot Beverage” it’s a Life Sustaining Fuel! Yes we are returning home to Portland, Oregon after over a year here in Guyana. The feelings are definitely bitter sweet as we have made a number of new friends many of whom we consider as close as family. And life just seems so much simpler here, but we are also very excited to enjoy so many things we have gone without!

As some may recall, we had made it a goal to try to stay until spring of 2011, although Lara has an old back injury that is acting up quite severely, and it has greatly limited her activity. We have exhausted the medical options available here in Guyana, and home therapy wont fix the cause of the pain. Thankfully by way of referral we have found a witness doctor in Venezuela who has an amazing range of expertise, and has done a lot to help other pioneers like us. He has even offered for us to stay with him in his home for free while he gives Lara and me Treatment! So we will be leaving for Venezuela on October 4th. He says the Treatment may take between two or three weeks, and he is certain that he can help. Even if he cant fix her back we are sure that he can give a detailed diagnosis to help us in finding a solution when we return home. So when we do get back in the states Lara may still need a surgery to fix the problem, but thankfully the surgery we would be pursuing is very common and non-Invasive.

Of course the human tendency would be to view this situation as a set back, but instead we are simply viewing it as a temporary change in assignment. Regardless of where we go we will stay active in our ministry and in the congregation. There’s no reverse for us, only forward, even if the pace and scenery changes a little.

Otherwise our ultimate plan is to stay in the full time service, where the need is great. And since things are going so well in Guyana, we are planning to come back here at least once more. There are still so many areas in this country that have a huge need and we have been collecting several leads for when we get back.

Until then we will need to work and save up again, so I will be looking for leads on work of any kind. On that note, I would greatly appreciate any direction on actual Jobs that may be available. Naturally we are pursuing a number of options on our own, but since we are part of such a huge Brotherhood, it can’t hurt to put the word out and see what happens. We are viewing this as yet another way to put Jehovah to the test. I specialize in Plumbing construction and maintenance but I am willing to do work in any field where there’s a need. Also the work doesn’t have to be full time or part time, or even exceed one day. We are very flexible!
Lara hopes to be able to work as well, but much will depend on how successful the treatment goes in Venezuela. We will make sure to keep you all posted either way.

When we get back to the states we will spend a few weeks in Salem with Lara’s family, then we will move to Portland around December. It seems most practical for finding work there. Interestingly not long after we had made our plans to return home and we started praying about places to stay, a Family sent an email and lovingly offered us a room in their home! We hadn’t even mentioned to anyone that we would be returning early! So we accepted their offer and will be staying with them initially. Also, after talking with the elders in the area we plan to attend the Woodlawn Congregation in North Portland, at least initially. Transportation and Field ministry had a large bearing, as it will be a lot easier if we attend the congregation close to where we will live.

Before we leave we decided to hold a small sale here in Guyana, just to make some extra money. The items consisted of mostly clothing, shoes, and tools and other miscellaneous items. My sister, Michelle Sanches, added many items to the sale as well.

Holding this sale has been a strange experience! You see, “yard sales” are unheard of here. If you want to sell something you almost have to set up a permanent shop or at least travel to the market and set up a stand there. But we decided to give it a try and sell some things in front of our house. So I made a Sale sign out of wood, about 3 feet tall that clearly states there is a sale and lists some of the items for sale. It ‘s free standing and can be read from both directions. Despite this sophisticated sign, many of the locals do not understand what is for sale. Several stop to ask if the house is for sale? The first couple of days few people stopped. So Michelle and Lara played “cheer leaders” at the road screaming at people “Come to the Sale” Come in! Come Inside!” That helped a lot.

Word about the sale eventually got around the villages, but there was still a lot of confusion. Many thought that it was a permanent shop and that we would be continually ordering new stock of items. So they would ask “Ya getin any ting mar comin in?”

Also, we have to show them all the items; even going so far as to suggest what clothes would look good on them or fit well (Can you imagine doing that at a yard sale in the USA?!?) Otherwise, many just walk in and don’t really see what is for sale, despite the nice display. It’s been a lot of work. Since at least half the items are Michelle’s, she has been helping a great deal. Also a young pioneer sister from our congregation, Shemeniel Adams, has kindly come over for several of the days to help out. And even Joshua Westfall from Ohio, who has been in the area the last few weeks. We were also able to do a lot of witnessing to those who came, which was very encouraging for Lara since she had been unable to go in the ministry for weeks. Michelle even had a name badge, “Do you know who Jehovah is?”

- - Shemeniel (Left) Michelle  (Right) And yes thats a bra on her head... - -

So all in all we have had an amazing, life altering experience here. When we first planned to come to Guyana we didn’t even know if we would be able to survive in a third world country! And we thought that after three months we might need to run back home! But low and behold, we not only survived, but we thrived. We were worried about our health, but ironically we are in much better shape now than we were before. Aside from Lara’s childhood injury that is acting up of course.

To illustrate the experience here, it has been a lot like getting a cast taken off. You know, like if you had a broken bone and you had to wear a cast for a month or so. Well, at first the cast would seem uncomfortable, but after a few weeks you get used to it, and eventually it gives you a sense of security or stability. You might even start to feel dependent on it. Of course eventually the cast needs to come off, and if you’re like me, getting it off may bring some stress or even anxiety. “What will it feel like? How will it look?” It might even hurt at first, and have limited motion. But in time you get the range of motion back and the pain goes away. And soon you are able to do so much more than you could. Free of Restriction or Constraint.

This is a lot like how we feel about our time here. It wasn’t easy at first, but after a while, we suddenly realized all that we had been missing out on. We were aware of our own restrictions but this was like going from a crawl to a gallop. This is not to say the only way to expand or grow spiritually is by moving to a different country. Only that for us it was the opportunity that got us free from the rut we were in. There are of course many other ways to expand and become more fruitful, many of which are often mentioned at assemblies and conventions. But Satan does a great job of putting up barriers and restrictions. And some of these restrictions may simply be in our minds. Like feelings of inadequacy or emotional fatigue, or even just fear of the unknown. I for one often struggle with a strong desire for routine, and a dislike of any change. So you can imagine my feelings about leaving the country!
But Jehovah knows us better than we do, and he can make up for any limitations. If we let him. We are often told to “Taste and see that Jehovah is Good”. Well, we are here to say that we have tasted, and he is Delicious!