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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Friday, July 20, 2012

Expedition on the Rupununi River

So in July we headed down to Lethem again to enjoy the Special Day Assembly there and to help out the brothers in Lethem who are otherwise overloaded with work to get the assembly ready. Since we were in the interior Tom arranged for a small preaching trip to be made on the way home. In a way this trip was designed to “tie up loose ends” for the preaching on the Rupununi river which only had three villages left for the whole river to be completed:
- Apoteri - Crash Water - Rewa -
For those who are wondering what is the “Rupununi River”? It is one of the largest rivers in Guyana that runs deep into the interior and connects to several other rivers. There are villages scattered all along it and these have been covered over the past three years in sections. So now we would have the privilege of finishing the last section.

- - The Area we preached is in the Box - -

- - Here's a Close up of the area we preached - -

Since we have made several other posts about Lethem already, I won’t go into detail about Lethem but we just have to relate an amazing experience we had on the way down!
For more info on Lethem Click Below:

Bad Times, Good Stories
As always we pray for the grueling 14-hour trip down to Lethem to go smoothly but as many have found, problems do tend to arise. In an effort to ease the difficulty Tom was able to arrange for a brother to drive us down, and to travel from early morning instead of overnight, as most Guyanese seem to prefer.
(We have such a hard time understanding why anyone would want to take this troublesome trip overnight and lose a whole nights rest in the process, but that’s just one of many questions that have arisen about Guyanese traditions.)

So anyway, we had the whole trip planned to be nice and smooth, but to our horror, the bus broke down about halfway through the jungle! Apparently the company that the brother worked for sent him with an untested bus that wasn’t properly maintained, so after driving for 6 hours the Water Pump belt broke and then shortly after the Bus was quickly getting overheated. All this happened about an hour away from the ferry crossing!
So there we were, stuck in the Amazon jungle with no cell phone service, and on top of it all, we had No Tools! There was a repair depot at the ferry crossing, but they would normally only have tools, not parts, plus we broke down right at the base of a steep incline called “Devil’s Peak” which is notoriously hard to climb for most vehicles. Of course some of the sisters with us got a little “agitated” but we all tried to keep in mind that throwing blame would get us nowhere.

So we decided that we could try to reach the repair depot by running the bus for a short distance and then stopping it to cool down every 200 feet or so. But the catch was we would all have to hike the mountain on foot to lighten to load on the bus! So we all decided to give a try since it was getting dark and we really didn’t want to be sleeping out the jungle at night. So first we prayed together, and then started hiking, and the brother drove the bus as far as he could up the incline and stopped, drive, stop, drive, stop. And after doing this for an hour, we finally reached the top and were able to coast down for a good distance.
- - At the middle of Devil's Peak looking down at the bus - -

- - Happy Hikers - -

At this point we again prayed that we could reach the ferry crossing and somehow get the bus fixed since we only had one day before the assembly and we desperately didn’t want to miss it. We continued with our coasting method and after a little while we saw another bus coming our way! We flagged him down and asked if he happened to have any belts, to which he asked “What kind?” to which we answered, “A water pump belt!” The man reached over to the seat next to him and asked “Will this one work?” and to our amazement it was the exact one we needed! So now we had a new belt but we still needed Tools. Encouraged by the experiences so far we prayed again but this time for Tools! So we continued down the road for about 30 minutes and we again saw a big truck coming our way. We flagged them down and asked if they had any tools, and they said “Ya buddy, we ga plenty tools” Again we were amazed, not only that we found tools, but that these men stayed and helped us get the belt installed for almost 3 hours! After this we made it to the ferry crossing about midnight and slept until the morning when we could cross. The rest of the trip was smooth sailing, but despite the difficulty it was so encouraging to see Jehovah’s helping hand.
- - (Left) Shredded Belt (Right) Truckers with Tools! - -

- - (Left) Daniel Working Hard! (Right) Girls Sleeping in back of the Semi - -

- - 10 hours later Finally made it to the Ferry! - -
Making Preperations
In preparation for this trip Tom was able to get in contact with a man named Randy in Annai who’s wife, Sharron, is a sister, the only sister right now in the area, and taking care of a small group of students. There was a couple serving in the Annai area from Germany, but they had to leave a few months back with hopes to return soon. This brother actually preached in one of the closest villages called “Crash Water” but he could only reach it by dirt bike, and he wasn’t able to carry any literature!
So Randy ended up being a huge help in getting things ready, since he located a boat and a driver for us, and transportation to and from the river, which would take 2 hours to reach from Annai. Randy was so helpful and nice, I had figured the whole time he was a brother!
- - Randy on the Left - -

Fun Times in Annai
We all had a great time with Sharron and Randy at thier home in Annai enjoying the Oranges, Berries, Icicles and Coconut milk! While there we tried to encourage the sister there since she is all by her self and is carrying a heavy load with two kids and Meetings to prepare each week.  On the way back we even got to sing a few songs from our song books with her as a group, which she really enjoyed.
- - (Left) Picking Delicious Oranges! (Right) Eating Delicious Oranges! - -

- - (Left) This Pumpkin Shaped Berry is Called a "Surname Berry", It was Amazing! - -

- - Sharron is on the Right - -

Fun With a Bow and Arrow!

- - Getting Ready to Shower - -                                                              - - Custom Showers - -

Navigating the Rupununi
So we all got up at 5 am to leave for the trip, the transportation to the river was a run down mini bus which seemed to barely make it over all the pot holes in the road, but after two hours we reached the entry point for the Rupununi!

- - Supplies Included our 15hp Motor, 10 Gallons of fuel, and 100lb of literature - -

We actually passed the first two villages to be preached and started with the last one and got the longest leg of the trip out of the way. It took us about 5 hours to get all the way down, but it gave us a chance to prepare for the preaching ahead.

- - We didn't expect it to be so cold on the River! - -

Also with us on this trip was a young Local brother named Daniel Adams. He had gone with Michelle and Tom on another river trip and he loved it so much that he saved up over $200 USD so he could go! Thats a lot of money for Guyanese, and our Congregation loving helped him to save by giving him work. Since the trip he has become a Ministerial Servant and is now a permanent member of the Kingdom Hall Construction team. =)
- - (Middle) Daniel Adams - -

When we got to Apoteri, we ran the usual drill to find the village captain or “Tushau” to make sure it would be ok to preach the village. It’s pretty rare that they have any problem with us but we always need to check. The captain was very nice and even invited us to stay in the village Guest House. To our amazement the Guest House even had beds to sleep in! This was really an answer to our prayers as Lara had been worried about sleeping in a Hammock again since the last time two years ago caused a serious relapse of back spasms.
- - Sustenance: Beans and Rice / Tuna with Bread - -

A Slight Hiatus
We were ready to preach the village but we ended up having to wait until the next day since we arrived on a national Holiday called Phagwah, and everyone was busy partying! It seemed strange to us that these Amerindians were celebrating a Hindu Holiday, but it in Guyana anything goes. So since we had some free time we decided to do the service meeting together!

An Amazing Student Named Veronica
When we did finally get to start preaching the next day we had a great response as usual. Interestingly the people in the village hardly had any bibles. So we tried hard to teach them how to use the bible along with the bible teach book. Here’s a nice Experience that Lara had with a woman named Veronica:
After a bible discussion w/some interested persons on a road they pointed us to more houses up a hill.  I didn’t know where the houses were and it was raining hard.  So this family sent w/me their 12 year-old daughter to show me the way.  After walking about 20 mins through ankle deep water and mud we arrived at a home where I met a 20 year-old woman named Veronica.  She invited me in for shelter from the rain and to sit down. 
I introduced myself and told her why I was there.  I asked her if she was a bible reader.  I expected her to say yes, as most everyone in the village claimed to attend church and read the bible.  She surprised me however by saying “no”.  She had attended church a couple times and did not like it because she didn’t understand anything they said or taught.  She also disliked the way most “church people” acted when they weren’t at church.  I asked her if she had heard the name Jehovah before.  She replied no.  After reading Ps 83:18 we discussed who Jehovah is.  She got so excited by learning God’s name and she told me that she had borrowed someone’s bible and had read the entire book of Revelation and had many questions about it, including whom Babylon the Great is.  Wow, I thought, what a question to be asked!  After Explaining about Babylon the Great I showed her the Bible Teach book and taught her how to  pray before and after her personal bible study. 

She then got very serious and quiet.  She asked why we came all this way to her village to only leave so quickly.  This heart felt plea ripped at my heart.  I explained to her why we came but also why we could not stay.  I quoted her James 1:5 and assured her that if she sincerely wants to know Jehovah he will give her his holy spirit to understand the things she reads. After we both shed some tears we made plans for her to come into the village later that afternoon to collect a bible since I did not have an extra one w/me.  She came and was able to hear the Public talk Tom gave.  She enthusiastically looked up every scripture in her new bible and often would answer out loud the speaker’s questions to the audience.

Amazingly Veronica has been able to travel to a village that has internet and has been corresponding with Lara by Email over the past two months!
- - Veronica on the Left - -

- - Public Talk 25 in attendance! - -

Jungle Preaching


We shoved off from Apoteri the next morning after preaching it and headed back up the river to our next village called Rewa. This village was equally hospitable as the last one and they even sent some men to help us carry all our items from the river up to the accommodations.

- - Rewa Vilage - -

Again the Captain was happy to have us, and he actually had a lot of questions about the bible. So Tom had a few long conversation with him about the Kingdom, and God’s Purpose for the earth. It seemed many people were very interested to learn about the Paradise since their church never taught anything like it. And most were very verbal about thier Disatisfaction with the Church and its leader, saying “He never teaches us anything!”

- - A Real Pineapple Plant! - -

In Rewa I spoke for awhile with an older man and his wife who admitted that they really didn’t read the bible. The man explained that he was a Catholic from childhood, but that from very young he could remember that the teachers would often teach and read from the bible in Latin. He explained that this was something that bothered him for many years and eventually caused him to give up on trying to understand the bible. As he got older he began to work a lot and never had time to read the bible, but he agreed that there is much to learn from it. I helped him see that the bible is designed for “all Nations” and not for just one people or Language. He appreciated the fact that even uneducated people could read and understand it, and that often it was these people who truly accepted its message. He was also happy to understand more about God's Kingdom and how it will affect us, when I read (Rev 21:4) he said, “I would really like to see that!” He took a Large print Bible teach book, a bible and a draw close book. As I left he was reading the book, and when I return half an hour later he was still there reading!
- - Some Village Trails - -

Interestingly most of the people in this village had their own bibles, and one man I found even had a bible in the Amerindian Language of Makushi. It had been translated from Portuguese but of course it did not have God’s Name so I spent some time explaining the name Jehovah and why its so important that we use it. He explained that he studied the bible in a University but that even there they never taught the name Jehovah.
- - Makushi Bible - -

Crash Water

Again we reluctantly left the village, and headed to our Third and final Village called Crash Water, interesting name huh? Apparently it got the name because the village is at a fork where two rivers merge or “Crash” hence the name. We expected from the name to find some rapids leading into the village, but instead we found a narrow swampy channel which lead to the village. Compared to the Rupununi River this river was barley traversable and for a lot of it we had to raise the motor and paddle in by hand. It was actually pretty exciting and we were all reminded of a ride at Disneyland. =)
- - The Entrance to Crash Water River - -

Click Below for a Video of the Crash Water Canal!

- - Crash Water Village - -

This village was the smallest but by far the most hospitable! Again we had an amazing guesthouse to stay in with three beds and running water! Plus the villagers help is bring all our supplies up, and they even gave us food!

- - This Guest House had a toilet, sink, three beds and even a kitchen! - -

Since the Village was so small we covered it in just a few hours that afternoon, but we also invited everyone to a public talk like we had in Apoteri. Everyone enjoyed the talk so much that they asked us to sing a song from our songbooks for them (This wasn’t the first time we had this request, its actually quite common)

Our Little Sing Along
So we sang “We thank you Jehovah” and during the song one of the men who had been drinking that afternoon stood up and started dancing and tried to sing along! His wife tried to quiet him down but he was very insistent, it took all we had to keep from breaking down in hysterics.  Afterward the group gave us a nice applause and we took another hour studying with various ones.

- - The man raising his hand was a little "Happy" too - -

Looking back this trip was quite refreshing since all the traveling was on the river instead of in back of a truck on bumpy roads. While traveling on the river we had a great time talking or just enjoying the beauty of Jehovah’s creation. And since the travel was so much less strenuous we were able to bring our wives! This was a real blessing, not just for us husbands, but for all the women in the village who are much more comfortable opening up to a sister instead of a scary man!
Sadly it would seem that the close proximity to Lethem has had a strong negative influence on these small villages since practices like over drinking, domestic violence and stealing are becoming more and more common. From what I can tell the more remote the villages are, the less corruption there is. Some have observed that many of these people just aren’t taught by their church leaders about how to maintain a moral life despite negative influences. Or even what specific practices to avoid, so it’s the younger generations that are especially being corrupted. This is happening all over the world but its much more obvious in these villages since its happening faster and its much more visible.
We can be so thankful that our “Faithful Slave” is working tirelessly to keep us up to date on these negative influences, which makes our fight so much easier. The publications like Family Happiness, Great Teacher, and Young People Ask books are like spiritual gold to the people in these villages who are much like children in a spiritual way.
So as always these trips leave us gasping for more, which makes me even more excited about our next trip, which will also be on a river! But this time we are trying to reach the very remote village called Wai Wai which down in the far south of Guyana. This trip has been in planning for over two years and it needs to be done since this village has never been preached! But we wont be going until mid September, but stay tuned and thanks for reading!