Yes it has been quite a while since our last post, so sorry to keep you waiting for so long! For the record we are doing just fine, no deadly sickness or accidents… yet.
Although Lara and I both had our turn with the Flu in January and boy was it a doosey. I was the first to get it and for me it was a whole new experience. One minute I was fine, doing some work on the house, the next I was lying in bed with fever and severe chills. Literally it came on in a matter of minutes. For me the worst part of it was the fever which lasted most of the evening but by the end of the next day I was feeling much better. So in my case it turned out to be a 48 hour flu, sadly when Lara got it a few days later it was much more stubborn and lasted a couple weeks. Thankfully it never got so bad that we needed go to a doctor which is what everyone was doing. At times it seemed just about everyone we knew was sick or in the hospital. So all the hospitals were badly over crowded, but most people were just looking for a quick cure. There are a lot of basic treatments that were often overlooked. Still there were some infant deaths from this flu so it’s not to be taken too lightly.
Something strange we noticed is the opinion of contagious disease is very casual. Few seem to care if they are sick or if you are sick, they just act normally, going to work and meetings even if they were literally on the toilet all day that day. Of course they would often tell us they’d been sick only after they’d given you a hug and a kiss on the cheek. But a nonchalant attitude is definitely a strong trait for many here in Guyana. Not like we germaphobes of the states.
On a positive note I have never seen a more compassionate response from the congregation and others while sick. Lara and I often had to plead with people not to come over and see us while we were sick. But that still didn’t stop some who brought soup and meals for us.
Michelle and Tom also got hit pretty hard but had a nice experience from it all. Michelle got it first but like Lara it seemed to linger on and on. Eventually they decided to go to a doctor for help since she was getting dehydrated. So Tom rushed over to the nearest clinic worried that he would be too late. As he got there the clinic was closing, so he ran in and asked for the doctor. The receptionist told him he as just pulling out in the driveway. So Tom quickly ran out and stopped him just in time. He explained Michelle’s condition and that she urgently needed care but the doctor said he was headed home already and the clinic was closed. So Tom asked the doctor when was the soonest he could come again in the morning to get medications. The doctor said he wouldn’t be there in the morning since he as being called away to help at another hospital since so many were sick. But the doctor then asked him where Tom lived and that he could come by right now to examine her. Keep in mind its very rare to get a house call from a doctor. Tom explained they were missionaries here. The Doctor asked if they were Jehovah’s witnesses because he gets regular calls from a man who is a witness. It turns out the brother who visits him is our Coordinator, Chris Hayes! The Doctor agreed to come to their house which was quite a ways out of his way home to treated Michelle and gave her an IV drip. So everyone is all smiles at this point and as the Doctor was leaving Tom asks him how much. The Doctor said he would only charge for the medication but would waive his normal fee! Tom thanked him profoundly for his kindness and of course, gave him some literature for the road. Since Michelle was so sick for a while one of our young local pioneer sisters offered to go to her house and do all her wash (2 weeks worth by hand) and chores for the whole day.
So we have learned a lot from the Local brothers and sisters and are working to imitate their example of compassion and hospitality.
We also had our Congregation Pioneer meeting not long ago which greatly emphasized the need to cultivate interest, but also to cultivate our spirituality. There were two points that really stood out to me. For those who are pioneering there is a good chance you have already heard this stuff, but I had a hard time even remembering it so perhaps you will enjoy a refresher. =)
At one point we read 2 Cor 13:5 about how we need to “Keep testing whether YOU are in the faith, keep proving what YOU yourselves are”.
There is a distinct difference between testing and proving. First to Test something you would compare it to some pre-set standard like the way you may test a piece of fruit to see if its ripe or rotten. In our case we want to test ourselves to see if we measure up to Jehovah’s standards set out in the bible. Since we humans often deceive ourselves into thinking we are fine, we may need to pray to Jehovah for help in this testing process. Ps 26:2 “Examine me, O Jehovah, and put me to the test”. Only with Jehovah’s help we can succeed in making an accurate and complete examination of ourselves.
The later part of this verse mentions “Proving” what we are. Unlike testing to see IF we are in the truth, Proving has more to do with How Far along are we in the truth… our maturity. So we must ask ourselves what proof or evidence is there that I am really a mature Christian? Often the best proof is how we react to trials, do we view these as a chance to prove that we will not give out when things get difficult.
Regarding our Race for Life, we learned that to be a successful runner we need constant self-control. The same way an athlete must keep from eating unhealthy foods or from getting distracted, we also must be on constant guard. We read 1 Cor 9:27 “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave”
The word pummel can literally mean to hit under the eye. So sometimes we may need to give ourselves a black eye to keep focused. But how much better to get into the new system with a black eye than to give into fleshly desires which lead to death.
So it was a really encouraging meeting, we had 12 pioneers present which was a big change from the last year. Our service overseer mentioned last year it was just him and his wife, partly because a few were out of the country. Afterward we ate the local favorite, Curry Chicken with Roti!
Service has been progressing well, I’ve been staying at about 5 bible studies with men and 2-3 others with families. Lara of course has been putting me to shame with her 15 - 20 bible studies, lol! But most here agree that as in most parts of the world, men are simply much harder to find and keep interested. Here the main struggle is with work. The common mentality is if there is work to be done you better get to work! Often this is at the expense of spirituality, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a desire to learn. One of my studies has an amazing clarity of thinking despite being illiterate. He easily can grasp complex ideas like why not all people go to heaven and why we don’t celebrate Christmas. So there are many that have great potential, it just takes steady cultivation over time.
A more recent study I’ve just started, who is also named Michael, is showing a strong appreciation for the bible and the truth. He does work a lot but fortunately for me he works at home so I can find him anytime. We had two studies and covered the first chapter of the BT book which is very fast compared to most. The third visit I showed them the Creation video and 5 from their family sat in to watch it. Some of the scientific parts are a little deep for them but Michael’s daughter commented how she liked at the end when the family were all together and happy.
I recently found out that Michael may be deciding to go back to his old Job which was over 200 miles away in the interior. It would mean a long separation from his family, even if it meant more money. But obviously the family would rather he stay with them which is perhaps why the daughter commented on the family being happy at the end.
So before I left I asked him about it and if he had made a decision yet. He said not yet but that it depended on how well his carpentry business continued to progress. He just started his business again but being self employed is difficult here. So I encouraged him to pray about it and ask Jehovah for wisdom. I shared with him Matt 6:25-30 about how Jehovah provides for the birds and flowers, so why wouldn’t he help him too? Then emphasized that he should seek first the kingdom and Jeh will give him everything else. He liked the scripture so much that he wrote it down in his bible to read later. So I hope he will make the right choice, especially since now he has an opportunity to start studying again.
One other good experience was also with a new study from last week. I found these two, Moorhil and Terron, by informal witnessing since often they are sitting on the side of the road, just watching people (A common Guyanese pastime). I gave them my usual pitch about living forever on earth and at the end Moorhil asked me if Jesus is God. So I shared a few scriptures and explained that Jehovah is God Almighty and Jesus is always referred to as his Son. So its plain to see they are not the same ore equal. She readily accepted it, it seemed she already knew the answer but just wanted to hear what I had to say about it, perhaps to confirm our thinking. (We find that often people will ask questions just to see if JW’s are unified in their teaching) So after that I asked if they would like to learn more, to which they readily accepted and said they lived just down the road from us! Lately Moorhil has still been taking the lead in spiritual interest but the Terron does sit in too and comment. But last study Moorhil brought out what she called an “exercise book” that she started. She had written the 3 questions at the top of the chapter and then wrote out the answers below it in her own words! At the end of the study she then asked me for more questions that she could find answers to. I was so impressed by her desire to learn and I explained there are many questions right at the bottom of each page. So now she would have plenty of questions to answer. AS we go through the material she has also been writing down scriptures that she appreciates, like Jas 1:13 and Eccl 9:11 which both stood out to her.
Not all receive the truth in this way but its truly a Joy when we find some who really appreciate the truth for what it is and even reflect our enthusiasm for it!
Here’s a few experiences that Lara had recently:
Our congregation pioneer meeting emphasized the need to conduct progressive bible studies. Our CO discussed the need to make sure we use our time wisely since there is so much interest shown in our territory. The need to prioritize is a must. This was very timely counsel for me since at the time I was struggling to keep up with my 20 bible studies (and that is not with a car, that is on busses which are often unreliable or on foot. It also spans a very large territory). Our CO said that we need to look seriously at the interest of our student and look for signs of genuine interest. It is difficult since many people have low education level or are illiterate. Progress is very slow. Since then I have made an effort to pray specifically about each bible student and for help to find out if I should continue to study with them. Since then I have stopped studying with several of them. Actually twice this happened- the night after praying specifically about whether to continue studying w/someone that student called me in the morning to discontinue studying. In both cases their church began “Bible study night” and they decided to do that instead. This has opened up my schedule to offer Bible studies to others with possible genuine interest.
Last month a bible student began attending Sunday meetings along w/her 2 small children. She is very reserved and shy. The Watchtower study that Sunday which discussed the need to show love for all in the congregation moved her to go around and introduce herself to many, despite her shyness. She even went up to 2 other Bible students at meeting for their first time and offered them commendation and encouragement. On her 2nd meeting she even raised her hand to comment. When she raised her hand my heart skip a beat in slight fear of what she might say. She gave a wonderful and heartfelt comment.
2 weeks ago she missed meeting on Sunday. I found out that the night before, her 2 yr old son went into seizures. She has been dealing w/some spiritistic problems w/the property she recently moved to and she felt strongly that the seizures were related to these problems. She fled to another part of Guyana and was planning to go to Suriname very soon to live with her family there. She knows where the Kingdom Hall is and plans to contact them immediately to continue her studies.
I was so sad to loose her as a student but I am confident that Jehovah will continue to bless her and that she will make fine progress.
I have been studying w/Natasha for about 5 months. She is making slow but steady progress. I can tell that she is beginning to develop a relationship w/Jehovah. She had not yet gone to meeting. She is painfully shy and the idea of going was almost more than she could fathom. Last week I brought over the video, “Organized to Accomplish the Ministry”. It discusses the detail of our Organization, the different parts of it throughout the world, how the literature is made and the unity of our brotherhood. I could see that toward the end of the video when it shows several scenes from very large international conventions, her eyes welled up with tears. After the video she expressed her amazement at how many people love Jehovah around the world and that he has such a large organization on earth. It also opened up the discussion to the relief work in Haiti being carried out by Jehovah’s people there. She was very touched and she made to meeting on Sunday with her little daughter. She had a difficult time meeting new ones and so she sat at her seat before and after meeting. Most of our congregation went up to her. I could tell she was overwhelmed by the attention but she really seemed to enjoy the meeting. We have our study tomorrow and I am excited to get more feedback from her about how she enjoyed the meeting. Tomorrow I am showing her the second part of the video, “To the ends of the Earth”.
A funny side note- that Sunday there were 3 new Kingdom songs to sing. The amp at our Kingdom Hall broke last week so a missionary brother brought a stereo to play the music. The singing was still pretty rough but Nathasha offered her voice in support of the closing song. That’s pretty unusual for a new one to sing at their first meeting.
As Written by Lara
We also wanted to confess some exciting news, we now have a new daughter named Isabelle! Here is her picture!
Wait for it...
Wait for it...
Awww... Isnt She Cute!
I know she doesn’t look much like us but we are trying to help her cultivate some of the fruitage of the spirit, namely, to be Good! Anyway, since the local dog had puppies we decided to adopt this one since she was the runt and wasn’t getting enough food. She quickly grew on us and we decided to keep her, at least for now. All six of her brothers and sisters have been given away, its surprising that puppies are a hot commodity here. Isabelle was actually given away by mistake which was very traumatizing for us since bad things happen to animals all the time. We frantically search for her and eventually I found her almost by mistake. So we reiterated to the owner in front that we are keeping this one! And not to give her away again…
- Here is what she looks like now-
Just last Sunday we had a Congregation Gathering which we try to do at least once a year. All the foreigners and others with cars pooled together to bring everyone over to the missionary home, which is a perfect location for a large gathering. It has a huge concrete area in back and they even have a basketball hoop!
- They are looking at the ball in case you are wondering -
Everyone had a great time playing games and “Gaffing”… the common term for chatting. Actually one of the popular games here is Dominoes! So look out brother Hawthorne, these people are serious about it too, and they love to slam them down hard!
- From Left to Right: Sean Adonnis, Chris Hayes, Tom Sanches -
- From Left to Right: Micaiah Young, Me, Borther Lekrahj -
- Lara and Nandi, one of our faitful and supportive Sisters -
- Most Guyanese HATE getting thier Picture Taken! -
After eating they had musical chairs for the kids, which was a blast to watch. But Michelle said that she wanted to play too! So they did a few rounds for the adults.
Later there was some Dancing and the foreigners showed the Guyanese how to do the electric slide!
Right about twilight the mosquitoes started to attack with a vengeance so we wrapped things up and a large group of us all crammed into brother Adams bus. You’d be amazed how many people can fit into these buses!
So that’s about all that’s new for now, we are currently planning a trip into the interior to visit Lethem. They are having their Special Assembly day, and those that can are invited to come down to help out or give parts since there is a limited number of people in the area.
I am also working on finishing the second half of the blog about last years expedition into the interior. Its been 4 months already but there’s still so much more to tell! Tom was saying that he is planning even another short trip to some villages not far from Lethem. So if all works out we will go down right after the SAD.
So thanks again for reading! We’ve been so happy and surprised by the several emails from new acquaintances reading the blog. Our continuing wish is that some might be encouraged to reach out in any way possible. And if that happens to mean coming to Guyana, well then the more the merrier! Some have said they were able to get an inside view of life here which is also our goal to help with. If anyone ever has any questions please feel free to ask! Even if we don’t know the answer we can find someone who does.
And thank you so much for the loving and encouraging comments, they are truly a joy to read and they make our day just that much brighter. =D