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, April 5, 2012

"Step Over Into Macedonia"

Hey there everyone! Hope all is going well in your neck of the woods! We are doing well here, just recently got back from another preaching trip in the Interior. But before we make a post about the trip we wanted to post this long overdue tribute to the many other “Need-Greaters” that we have been privileged to meet and get to know during our service in Guyana!  

As we have mentioned before, one of the most unexpected privileges we’ve had in serving where the need is great, is meeting other “Normal People” like us, who have ventured outside of their comfort zone and have seen Jehovah guide and bless their efforts. And these are not just singles and couples in their prime, we have met a great variety of ones who have had strong reasons not to “step over” so to speak. Despite these reasons, whether work or money problems, health or family limitations, they made the choice to extend themselves. And in each case we have seen that they were not disappointed!

Honestly we never get tired of hearing their stories, and with every new person we meet, it makes us that much more determined to continue to do the same! So since we have enjoyed meeting them, we spoke with a few of them about making some comments on our blog about their experiences. Our hope is that they will encourage you the same as they have encouraged us! 

(By the way I apologize for the length of this post, I really tried to keep it short!)

The Bates Family

Most recently we have come into contact with a family of five from New York State, Brandon and Angelique Bates.  They first heard of Guyana from a Need-Greater couple (the Newton’s) who served in the Mathew’s Ridge congregation, and they were very encouraged by their experiences and decided that they would also like to experience Guyana. So instead of taking an extravagant vacation, they used their savings and sky miles to come to Guyana, where the water is Brown, but the ministry is Green!

There would be obvious difficulties since they have three younger children,  all under 6 years, and this would be the first time in a foreign assignment as a family. But they did a lot of research, and even found our blog online! By means of several emails, Lara and I did our best to make recommendations of what to bring and how to keep healthy while here. They also got into contact with the Branch for Guyana, who put them in contact with the elders of the congregation they would serve in.

Everything went perfectly right up to their layover in Trinidad, where they stayed for a few days with another witness we put them into contact with. Of course they never met this family before, but the Dinoo’s graciously opened their home to all five of them, and gave them a ride to and from the Airport!

When they finally got into Guyana, the brothers arranged for them to be picked up at the airport and took them to their temporary home. At this point the family had a test to endure as the home was in very poor condition. Apparently the brothers had difficulty finding a place near the KH, and this was the only one available! So they tried to keep a positive spirit despite the disappointment, but after a few days they knew that this home simply would not work, and the only place they had left to go was home! Of course they didn’t want to give up so soon, so they prayed desperately and at the next meeting a brother came up to them without even being informed and told them they were being moved the next day! They stayed for a few days with another family and within a week a pioneer couple offered for them their home for the duration of their visit! The home was clean and quiet, and within walking distance from the KH. Since then things went much more smoothly for them, and we even got to have them over to our place for an nice interchange of encouragement. For more of their stories and experiences in Guyana, visit their blog at: www.batesfamilytravels.blogspot.com/

 It would seem that Guyana and Need-Greater work has had a huge impact on the Bates since we recently heard some very exciting news from them! They all had such a great time here that they just couldn’t settle for their “Normal Life” again, so they are in the process of selling their house and vehicles to come serve here ASAP for at least a year! Here are a few comments from them:

1) What was the most outstanding evidence of Jehovah’s guidance you experienced before or during your assignment?

“The most outstanding evidence of Jehovah's guidance for our trip was difficult to narrow down, but what we found to be reoccurring from both before we left and right on throughout the whole time was whenever we felt insecure or doubted that we were making the right decision to take 3 small children to a third world country we were consistently encouraged either from parts on the meeting or from specific comments from other spiritual brothers and sisters that we were DEFINITELY pursuing the right course! We felt like Jehovah continued to boost us up as we were preparing and then when we were in Guyana the encouragement we received from so many different brothers and sisters again affirmed it was a good decision for our family. The reassurance gave us much needed confidence!”

2) How did you overcome the difficulty of serving where the need is great with children?

“For the most part it came down to our mental attitude, we have 3 small children all the time, every day, no matter what country we are in! So that wasn't any change for us. The children adapted (especially being at a younger age) in less time than we did as adults! We did need to continually remind ourselves that despite the desire to want to do as much as other need-greaters who don't have children, we had to accept our limitations and find joy in doing what we were able to accomplish. Again, we felt Jehovah's hand in being used by Him to positively influence other families and those met in the ministry who could identify with us as parents and all that goes along with raising children. Not to be overlooked, our success was greatly increased by helpful tips from other experienced need-greaters and missionaries! We LOVED it and are already in the planning stages for our next trip back to Guyana!!!”

The Ruttens

Another couple we met on our first trip back to the states was Jeff and Sonya Rutten. We were visiting Lara’s home congregation in Salem Oregon, and we gave a short interview about Guyana during the service meeting. Actually the Ruttens weren’t at the meeting that night but they were listening on the phone and heard the interview. They were very intrigued by our comments and although they had the pioneer spirit, they never really considered serving where the need is great. Sonya had just started Pioneering again, and Jeff really wanted to Join her. So they got into contact with us and picked our brains dry! Not really, but we really tried to share everything we knew, and they loved it!

So they started making arrangements and simplifying things in order to go. They were very set on going, not for the short term, but for a long-term stay. But to do so would mean selling off the ALL of their possessions including their furniture and cars, and passing on the next lease for their home. So they started the process in November, and by the time we were able to go visit them around December, they had already sold half of their stuff! We were amazed and encouraged by their zealous example, and during our visit that night we tried hard to cover all the details of what they would need to prepare for. One thing we tried to make clear is that the health treatment is very poor in Guyana, and both of them had potentially serious ailments to consider. But they were able to make arrangements with their doctors to get any needed treatments, and even got their medications in advance. In fact they found that after living in Guyana and getting more exercise and healthier food, their health has greatly improved!

They way things turned out was slightly comical, as it would seem that we were in a race with the Ruttens to get to Guyana! The Ruttens were proceeding with their plans full speed, and around January Jeff got laid off his job, but with severance pay. Of course this was like an answer to their prayers, since now they had more time to get things done, and Jeff was even able to sign up early to regular pioneer! On top of this they started to realize that they would actually beat us to Guyana! But it worked out perfect since they were able to stay in our home while serving and making a search for their own place to stay. It took two months, but the week before we were arriving they found a place and everything went like clockwork.

We have been greatly moved by the willing spirit that the Ruttens showed, and their zeal has continued to grow in their service here over the past months. They really showed that although there are often serious reasons not to reach out, if we keep positive and take small steps, all those reasons will melt away with Jehovah’s help.

Here are a few comments from them:

1) What was the most outstanding evidence of Jehovah’s guidance you experienced before or during your assignment? 

“From the time we heard the interview at our KH and prayed about whether we could do something similar we have seen Jehovah's hand!
Work: Jeff's lay-off was exactly what we needed so he could help with preparations!
House: We were able to get out of the Lease early without further penalties!
Furniture/Clothing/Household goods/Jewelry: all sold well in a variety of ways, and we actually MADE Money on many items!
Cars: Both sold on the same day 4 days before we left Salem!
Travel; We were able to kick off our adventure by traveling through NY and visiting all three Bethel locations, including lunch, tours and three nights at the Bossert Hotel, mainly because we met ones that work there after we started making our plans. We were so spiritually fortified after visiting Bethel that we opted to pass on the tourist attractions in NY!”

2) How did you overcome the difficulty of serving where the need is great despite health problems?

“We were very cautious about going to a third-world country with ongoing, sometimes debilitating health problems. We spoke to our own doctors in the US and consulted others via email as to how to proceed. We ordered our medications for three months, then set up a contact in the US to collect the refills and ship them to us. But mainly, we prayed to Jehovah that we could be effective need-greaters despite our health issues. How did he answer? My Diabetes and Sonya's Fybromialga are nearly nonexistent here!
We have both lost significant weight and feel great (physically and spiritually)!”

The Drurys

One other couple we have had the privilege of serving with here were John and Stephanie Drury. A bit more “mature” as they may say, they were an amazing addition to our family with their willing spirit and great stories and experiences! They visited from England for about three months, having their interest sparked by another English Need-Greater Couple here, Chris and Naomi Hayes. After staying on the coast for three months they boldly crossed another boundary to serve in the interior of Guyana as well!

Here are a few comments from their experiences there: 

“We Loved Lethem! So much so, we are planning to return in September! It wasn’t so much Lethem itself although that wasn’t without its charm, but the surrounding Amerindian villages. It sometimes took 2 or 3 hours to get to them, over terrain that challenged Alton’s Toyota truck. How about climbing 2 feet onto a bridge! But the people themselves were gentle, proud and very hungry.

We intend to return and serve in a village called Karasabai, where the Donlan’s (Another Need-Greater Family in Lethem) are hoping to start a new group, since it is surrounded by other equally remote villages that need the truth. There is a very tiny house we can have the use of, and we will try three months at first, to see if we can cope with the isolation. If we stay longer we will possibly buy a vehicle. We shall see, we are in Jehovah´s hands.

It was truly an amazing event to see dozens of Amerindian families walking to the village where we held the meeting. Some had walked miles, one in particular, Mary, carrying her three month old baby, two little girls by her side, and she had a club-foot!”

So these are a few examples that we were extremely amazed by, and we hope that you enjoyed them too! A constantly recurring thought that we keep having while were are serving here is, “I wish everyone could experience this!” And many have experienced it but there’s always a need for more. And like a brother we know often says, Jehovah is going to get his work done one way or another, what we have to ask ourselves is how big a share do I want to have in it? A Small share, or a Big share?”

Pix of others who have "Stepped Over into Macedonia"
(Sorry ahead of time if we misspelled anyone's name!)

Bob and Christine from USA

The Buddens in ASL cong - from South Carolina, USA

The DC and Sara Campell in ASL Cong - from California, USA

The Donlans in Lethem Cong - from Ireland

The Doornboschs in Suriname Cong - from Holland and Trinidad

Dana from Indiana USA - Faith - Abby and Daniel from Oregon USA
Chris and Naomi Hayes from England

Jonathan and Desiree from Canada and NY

Joshua Westfall (right) from Ohio USA

The Lopez in Lehtem Cong - from NY USA

Tom and Michelle Sanches from California USA

Shamarae and Melinda thomas in ASL congregation

The Andersons from Scottland

Sam Peden from England and Micaiah Young from Ohio USA

Tristen (left) from Canada