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, September 27, 2012

Need Greater 101

Well, by popular demand we are posting some tips and pointers for anyone who is interested in serving as Need-Greaters AKA Self Supporting Missionaries, in a foreign country, or where the need is great.

Over the past three years we have greatly enjoyed hearing from various brothers and sisters, from various countries who are interested in venturing outside of their comfort zone. And it would seem that Jehovah’s organization is making a major push to encourage all to give this type of service a try, even if only for a short time. Of course for many like us, taking the leap from “comfort service” to “missionary service” can seem very daunting, if not impossible.

 Thankfully there have been many articles released with practical advice on how to get started and where to serve, so in this post we will try to give more detailed information that isn’t covered in these articles. But for those who would like to check these first here are a few recent ones: 

KM 8/11 pp 4-6 - Can You “Step Over Into Macedonia”?

WT09 12/15 pp 1-4 - Can You Step Over Into Macedonia?

WT99 10/15 pp 23-27 - Can You Serve in a Foreign Field?

As with any advice consider this information, not as facts, but as basic guidelines to compare with your own research. I’ve tried to base these recommendations on information imparted to us by fellow missionaries, most of which have been trained and taught by our Faithful Slave class. But even amongst missionaries, opinions and advice can vary greatly, the only true reliable source being the bible. So perhaps this post will help to spark ideas for bible research if nothing else. And as always, we welcome any questions and feedback from our readers! 



Lara and I started serving where the need is great about the middle of 2009, but the process of getting to that point started about a year before. Also like many, we always had a desire to travel somewhere and break free from the rat race but just didn’t know how. So when we voiced our desire to my Sister and Brother-in-law who had served as Missionaries, they offered for us to come stay with them for a while in their new assignment in Guyana!
- They strongly recommended coming for at least 3 months in order to get a real feel for Foreign Service. The reason for this is that everyone has an acclimation period when moving to a new country. For some it can be as short as a few weeks, while others may take more than a month.
- This will include acclimating to the climate, adjusting to new living conditions, new food, new culture and possibly a new language. Not to mention being away from familiar friends and family. That’s why missionaries are recommended to stay in their new assignment for at least 3 years before returning home.

“But I’m not a missionary!” well that’s true and that’s why three months is recommended for anyone looking to try a foreign assignment, and not just a foreign vacation. Also keep in mind that even persons interested in attending Gilead are required to First get some kind foreign service before they will even be considered.
- Another reason to stay longer is that the spiritual benefits will take time and patience to reap. Of course you will be encouraged regardless, but the main reason for moving should be to serve Jehovah more fully in the ministry, and our ministry takes time to cultivate. In our case, by the time we got fully acclimated and got into our own groove almost 6 months had gone by.
But, if you are thinking that three months just isn’t possible, then stay for whatever time you can. Even just a week can greatly open our eyes to new possibilities. 

 - - Getting Used to New Foods - -
- - Our First Picture on arriving in Guyana. Its Blurry becuase of the Humidity - -
- - (Left) Getting Used to Public Transportation (Right) Studying Under a Mosquito Net- - 

- - Different Religions (Left) Muslim Temple (Right) Hindu Temple - -

- - Drying Clothes - -

 - - (Left) Water pressure Depends on Gravity and Elevated Water Towers - -
- - (Right) Your Bathing Standards will likely change - -

Researching and Choosing an Assignment

“But what if I get kidnapped and Die!?” Safety is often foremost for those considering a foreign assignment, and it is important to always be cautious. But many people are terrified to even leave their homes now days, and it seems this is largely due to misinformation and propaganda. For example if you were to do research online about third world counties like Guyana you pretty much get the idea that the country is a cesspool of malaria, drug dealers and child traffickers. Not that these things don’t exist here, but hey, where don’t they exist? The lesson being:
- We should rely on Firsthand information as opposed to Internet statistics or tourist websites. We have been very happy to provide details about Guyana to anyone that is interested and give them the “Pioneers Perspective”.
- Search for blogs for a country you desire you could do a search online for keywords like “Need-greaters in (Country)” “Jehovah’s witnesses in (country)”.
- Contact the branch in the country you are interested in who could easily put you into contact with special pioneers or missionaries serving there. To get email contacts, you would first email the branch in your country and briefly express your desire to contact someone in that area.
- It’s very important to keep an open mind about where to serve instead of getting your heart set on just one place. The following are a few Questions for prayerful consideration recommended by a watchtower. (Italics added)
Can I live away from family and friends?
      If Distance is a problem you may want to choose countries closer to where you live. Also do research on whether there is reliable Internet or phone access to keep in contact.

Can I learn a new language?
      If you have never visited another country or studied another language you may want to consider countries that speak your language. Or try to learn some of the new language before you leave.

Can I afford the move financially?
      If you feel it will be hard to raise enough money it will be very important to research cost of living. Often the more beautiful or touristy a country is, the more expensive it is to live there. (More info on Financial Planning Below)


Keeping Healthy           See also Awk 6/12 pp 3-7

“But what if I get Sick and Die!?” Health is another concern right at the top of the list, and rest assured we are not the kind of people that ignore our health or take it lightly. In fact this was the biggest fear for me, aside from quitting my job. Strangely enough, we had to leave the US and move to a third world country before we really learned what it means to live healthy. I say this because often people who are raised in developed counties are far too trusting of what they take into their bodies, and far too paranoid when they leave their so called safe haven. And because everything is seemingly safe, we don’t learn even basic steps to keep healthy. Not to say that there isn’t a danger of getting sick, but often “getting sick” in a foreign assignment, means the occasional stomach cramps, diarrhea, or flu. From time to time you may hear horror stories of people that served abroad and then came back with a deadly disease. But if you check into it, you would likely find that the person:
1)     Didn’t take basic health precautions
2)     Had a previous health problem that was aggravated or
3)     Got treatments from so called “Modern Medicine” which often will only aggravate the problem.

As they say, the best offense is a good defense, so here are some basic steps to take in keeping ourselves healthy. 

1) Prepare Your Own Food Instead of Eating Out
If you’re lazy like me and love to eat out, this is a habit that you Must learn to break. The reason being; what is common or acceptable cooking for one person, isn’t automatically healthy for you. This is important anywhere, but especially in foreign assignments as the health standards are quite a bit lower. 

2) Don’t Consume Water or Juices unless you know its Bottled
      In the states we are used to drinking out of the tap. Not a good idea in a foreign assignment, even if the locals or other pioneers tell you its ok. We often have bible students that offer us drinks, but we turn it down unless it’s from a bottle. Even then, Guyanese have the horrible habit of washing their glasses in bad water, and then pouring the drink into a soaking wet glass. We wash our dishes in Tap water, but make sure they are thoroughly dry before using them. And even the poorer countries have 5 Gallon drinking water bottles readily available for very affordable prices.  If for some reason you are forced to use Unpurified water follow these steps: 1) For Drinking water, add 1-2 drop of bleach per liter, or 6-8 drops per gallon 2) For Cooking, boil the water for at least 15 minutes, this inlcudes water for cooking pasta and rice.

3) Don’t Eat food that’s more than Two Days old
      Regardless of how it smells, vegetables, and meats especially, have natural bacteria and toxins that start to break down the food after 24 hours, even if it’s refrigerated. A build up of these toxins will greatly reduce your immune system and cause digestive problems. The only way to prevent the growth is to freeze the food which will keep it safe for at least a month. 

4) Take a daily regimen of Vitamin C and Pro-Biotics
      Again, a “good defense”. Vitamin C is a great natural immune system builder, we love to buy limes and squeeze the juice into a glass of water with a little sugar. As for probiotics, these will build your digestive system. We recommend a brand called “Culturelle” which has been tested as superior to most other probiotics. Probiotics are critical since we simply cant keep everything bad out, but if we avoid the majority of parasites and bacteria by a good diet, then a healthy immune system will do the rest.
(SPECIAL NOTE – At Immunization offices they will often recommend taking anti-malaria medicine, which is basically a very strong antibiotic. Take this medicine at your own risk as it will kill all the good bacteria in your system and leave you wide open for all kinds of digestive bacteria and parasites. An easier way to avoid malaria is to apply mosquito repellent and sleep under a mosquito net) 

5) Soak Meats in Vinegar and Vegetables in Bleach Water
      Often in Foreign assignments you will get your meats at the open market where they usually have freshly cut meats. The only real problem is that the meat is sitting out in the open so the outside of the meat will need to be thoroughly cleaned. Vinegar is a great natural cleaner that will kill any larva or bacteria. Also vegetables are often sprayed with poisons that can be dissolved and cleaned by soaking in Bleach water.
(SPECIAL NOTE  - When soaking Vegetables only add 5 drops per gallon. Porous greens can soak for 5 mins, thick skinned veggies for 15 mins max)
6) If Digestive Problems Occur, Take Raw Garlic or Ginger
      Garlic and Ginger are very potent natural antibiotics. If you notice that your bowel movements are getting worse, take either with water and food about 3-4 times a day for 1-3 days.

7) Be Cautious about Swimming in Rivers / Oceans
      The quality of local swimming areas will vary depending on the country you are serving, but regardless care should be exercised not to ingest any of the water. Even if locals tell you that its safe, their immune system is well adapted to the area whereas yours will be very vulnerable. Take into consideration not only the water flow, but the quality of the land around it, and how often its visited by locals.
 - - Soaking Vegetables in Bleach water - -
 - - Vitamin C Crystals / Yogurt Starter / Pro-Biotics - -

- - Buying Meat at the Market - -

 Financial Preparations            See also Awk 9/11 p. 6

“But what if we Run Out of Money?!” Becoming insecure financially is a concept that is terrifying for many, myself included. Especially in developed countries we are taught that if we don’t maintain a steady Income, have Health Insurance, Car Insurance, Life Insurance, Home Insurance, ect… that we will suffer and die. Not to say that we shouldn’t be financially independent, but as in all things there is a balance. Here are some steps you can take to prepare yourself financially 

1) Develop a Proper attitude toward Loans / Credit      As the recent crisis has shown us all, our economic system is a house of cards just waiting to collapse. Any seeming security we have right now is merely an illusion that Satan is trying hard to maintain. So we can either wait to loose our security in the Tribulation, or we can take steps Now, to disconnect ourselves from this system. When I say disconnect, I don’t mean “Going off the Grid” as some have done But consider the following:
- We don’t have to take full advantage of everything offered. For example many were goaded into buying houses around the year 2009/10 because they were offering breaks in closing costs. Others are buying brand new cars because they offer interest free / payment free loans for a couple years. Are these good deals? Sure, but the more we take advantage, the harder it will be to pull away when the time comes.
- On the other hand there are deals that can go a long way for Need-Greaters. For example, if you have good credit, you can often take advantage of promotions for interest free loans for as long as 18 months. Other credit cards offer money back, or air miles in exchange for large purchases. So if you are going to spend the money anyway, why not take advantage of the perks?

2) Develop a Balanced view of Spending        This an invaluable lesson we learned from serving in a foreign field. To put it simply;
- We shouldn’t base our spending on the people or standards around us. While living in the states we could easily spend over $1500 a month on just bills alone, but in many countries, that much money could keep you going for 3-4 months. We wouldn’t think twice about spending $15 - $25 a restaurant meal, but think of how many times you go out and do the math.
- Do an Honest assessment of your spending and determine how much of it is really necessary, not just big things, but all the “small spending”.
- Make a detailed list and determine how much could be saved by cutting out the unnecessary spending. Even a little bit can go a long way in preparing to serve where the need is great.
- Find out what the cost of living is in the country you want to serve by contacting a few people that live there. Get a minimum expense list per month, and multiply it by how many months you want to serve. Once you have the number, pray specifically about saving that amount. You may be surprised at how the money comes.

3) Widen out in your Work Options      We may be tempted to stick to just one line of work to support ourselves and never change, but this is not balanced. Some work can be maintained long distance, but this is rare. Often, serving in a foreign field will mean quitting your job and this may be very difficult.
- Think of it as an opportunity to “test Jehovah out”. There are many scriptures that tell us to put ourselves in his hands and he will provide for us. Many have read experiences about brothers and sisters who were given money or work in amazing ways but perhaps have never experienced it. If you can, try hard to put yourself in a position to experience physical assistance from Jehovah. It will work wonders for your faith.
- Pray Specifically for the amount of money or income you need to reach the goal. Ask for evidence that Jehovah is blessing your efforts each step of the way.
- Work along with the prayer. Make yourself available to any work you think you can handle. Even if its difficult work, remember that its just a means to an end.
- Take full advantage of our brotherhood by telling others about your goal and that you will need work.
- When serving abroad be alert about ways to make money on the side. Many have supplemented their income by taking up a craft and selling in local markets. Others may have a valuable skill that can be useful to others. Be sure to ask about work visas before going too far.

4) Be willing to Lower your Standard of Living      This is critical both in preparing to leave and when serving in the assignment.

- While trying to save up, one of your biggest expenses will likely be your rent or mortgage. So to expedite your saving process you may need to live like a “temporary resident” for a while. Again you can take advantage of our brotherhood by asking if anyone has space where you could live temporarily while working and saving. This may be humbling but remember even Jesus had “nowhere to lay down his head”. When living with other people, Cleanliness, Consideration and Respectfulness will be crucial for peaceful living conditions
- When serving abroad be willing to “Let endurance have its work complete” Don’t come with the attitude of “I have to have this” or “I can’t live without that”. We all need a comfortable home to live in, but if you try to maintain the same living standard you left, your money will quickly run out.


5) Take Advantage of your “Nest Egg”      Many have some kind of savings, possessions, or equity built up that they may be saving for a rainy day. And while it’s wise to have a fall back, depending too much on our own strength may greatly limit Jehovah’s ability to bless us physically. It’s like saying, “I Trust in Jehovah, but I need this just in case he lets me down”.
- If you own a Home or Vehicles, have you considered selling them? Money from even a partially paid home or car can go a very long way in a foreign field.
- Consider renting your property to reliable tenants. But weigh the pros and cons between Renting / Selling, as renting can often bring added stress and expense.
- If you have accumulated possessions, evaluate what items can be stored away, and which can be sold for a good profit. Electronics and clothing often can be sold at high profit and to a wide audience on the Internet.
- Consider taking advantage of an early retirement or pension. Even a small amount could greatly supplement your income abroad.
- - You may need to learn tot Improvise =) - -
- - (Left) Selling some surplus items at a Garage Sale (Right) Building Our Bed - -

Essentials List

Lastly for those who are already in the process of preparing to serve where the need is great here is a list of items we have found to be essential when serving in a foreign field:

-        Good Quality Flashlights

-        Rechargeable batteries (Power isn’t always reliable, and batteries can get expensive)

-        UV Blocker Umbrellas (Tough, Durable, UV Blocking. Visit www.UV-blocker.com)

-        Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottles (They are tough and don’t add a metallic taste)

-        Insulating Cover for Water Bottle (If you like cold water while you work these are essential as cold bottles sweat a lot! Unless you buy the Kleen Kanteen Insulated bottle)

-        A few pairs of UV400 or UV100% Sunglasses (These block all harmful radiation, whereas anything less only block some)

-        Leatherman Multi Tool (I use mine everyday)

-        Bible / Book Covers (You will be using them a lot, and humidity is very hard on books)

-        Good Quality Walking Shoes (Don’t be afraid to spend more money on your shoes, they will be with you every step =)

-        Good Quality Service Bag (Not a Back pack, something with a strap and washable)

-        Rectangular Mosquito Net (Most countries will have round, but they sag on the sides and have less space to maneuver)

-        Culterelle Probiotics (On ebay these sell for as low as $7 for a box of 30. See above section on “Keeping Healthy for details)

-        Yogurt Starter (Cheap way to make Yogurt. Again see above “Keeping Healthy” section for details)

-        Vitamin C Crystals (Keep your immune system strong)

-        Dwarf Vibration Speaker (This is Far from necessary, but if you like music this is a cheap portable way to have your music anywhere. It will save your computer speakers and it takes the edge off being away from home. =)

-        Ear Plugs (Many foreign assignments will be noisy, or at least bring different noises than you are used to. Take your sleep seriously!)
- - (Left) Kleen Kanteen Water Bottle (Right) UV Blocker Umbrella - -

- - Dwarf Virbration Speaker - -



  1. This is fantastic information, well researched and very well written!! Wish I had tips like this before I came out here!! One other item I was recommended to bring which I have found useful is Grapefruit Seed Extract, an all-round product which is 100% natural.

    Your blog gives a great perspective to life here, but the only real way to find out how it really is, is to 'taste and see'!!

    Nikki :)

    1. What is the grapefruit seed oil good for?

    2. Feel free to email with any questions. =)
      Our email us on our profile

  2. wow after i just wrote you about wanting to possibly serve in Guyana this is just putting the icing on the cake! thanks! these tips are really helpful! (by the way, u dont have to post this! :P)

  3. Hi Mike.
    Thank you very much for all the excellent information. I have pored over it carefully and prayerfully and I would like to come for a visit for a couple months and then maybe longer.
    I grew up in the middle of nowhere in a little town of 25 +- so Guyana looks quite workable.
    I am currently serving as an elder, talk coordinator and school overseer in our cong. and would love to use my circumstances to help where there is greater need.
    Ever since I first talked to you I have been working to get in a position to serve in this way.
    By the end of January I will have all my affairs in order and be ready to leave for where ever I am needed. I was looking at Panama but I just heard that the need there seems to have diminished, so I would love to spend Feb.-March in Guyana instead. Do you think that it would be feasible to arrange in the time I have remaining? I hate to miss this window of opportunity if I don't have to.
    Thanks again.
    Your fellow worker
    Dustin Reynolds

  4. Hello Mike and Lara

    I don't know if you saw my other post. I changed to follow you publicly. Benji and I are excited about the possibility of expanding our service. We just started talking and praying about it about it. Its nice to have a goal. We want to prepare to come for a visit Winter/Spring of this coming 2015 service year. We look forward to seeing you all when you come in June. Take care.

    Stella and Benji

    PS I served as a need greater in my early 20's, I love the reminders at this point. It'll be nice to help immerse Benji in full-time service. Lots of love!!!

  5. hola queridos hermanos me animo mucho saber de su servicio! gracias por compartir consejos, soy precursora regular en México, no tengo la posibilidad de salir a servir lejos pero me en mi congregación estoy muy feliz sirviendo a nuestro Dios Jehova ! animo sigan adelante!!

  6. Thank you guys so much for this post! I stumbled across this article while searching for how to start need greater work. This was perfect. Along with the watchtower articles you shared. May Jehovah continue to bless your family in your assignment no matter where you currently are! ��