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, December 13, 2013

2013 Rupununi Expedition

One of the most unique preaching experiences you will get in Guyana is preaching to the Amerindian people in Remote Interior villages. And although this work has been going on for some years now there are still a lot of villages left to be reached. The trip we took this last November 2013 was a relatively short one but it marked the completion of a section in the Interior called the Rupununi (Wapishana word for Savanna)

The Territory

The area we preached was only about 5-7 hours away from Lethem, but there had been some obstacles completing it. The last time a group of brothers came through about 5 years ago, the Toshaos (Captains) of two large villages (Awarewaunau and Maruranau) would not allow them to preach the village. So instead a table was set up nearby the village for people to come and get literature if they wanted. But since our goal is always to make a thorough witness and cultivate interest as much as possible, efforts were made to contact the Toshaos about returning to preach again. Thankfully the response of the Toshaos was very good so arrangements were made to return to the area.

The semi-preached villages were called Shea, Awarewaunau and Maruranau, but we also made plans to preach in and make return visits in Parabara, a river village we visited a few times in the past including last year on our way to the village of Masekenari.

For more info on last years Interior Expedition click HERE

The Red Square indicates the area where we preached

A Close up of the area we preached. Our Route is highlighted in Yellow.
The Group

Since this trip was through mostly Savanna, the travel would not be as extreme as other preaching trips thankfully. So we were able to invite a couple sisters to come along, which made a huge difference in preaching to the Amerindian women since they are very shy. the group included me and Lara, Tom, and the Sanders, Matt and Esther. This would be the first time on a preaching trip for the Sanders but they seemed confident about their ability to endure rough roads and less than ideal sleeping conditions, and they did surprisingly well! Lara has been on one other preaching trip to some river villages but she had never had to endure travel in a small pick-up over rough terrain which is much harder than travel on a river. But she was determined to go and she did great too! And of course Tom and  I cried and complained for most the trip, nothing new...

From Left to Right - Tom, Doirun, Walter, Esther, Matt, Lara, Me

The Vehicle

We got into contact with our driver at the last minute thanks to a brother who met him in the ministry. His name was Walter, and he was very accustomed to driving to and from Parabara, the first and furthest village on our list. He gave a price of $900 USD (180,000 GYD) to take the group including fuel and repairs which was actually affordable compared to the common rate of $2500. We found out later that this quote was only to go to Parabara and back, not to any other villages.  To go to all four villages would be twice as much traveling, and could have been twice the price too. But after thinking about it Walter said "I want to help you make your trip, so I won't raise the price to reach the other villages".  What a nice guy!

Our Driver - Walter
The start of the loading Process... So much stuff... So little space

As mentioned our group was 5 but there was also the driver who would make 6. And the night before the trip he surprised us with the news that he would also need to bring his navigator! So we would have 7 people crammed into a small pick-up the size of a Tacoma, plus all our supplies, bags and fuel. I was a little skeptical about the vehicle when he drove up since not only did we have sisters with us this time but there was no rack on the truck to strap down fuel, and no canopy to give shade from the sun. So I was imagining all of us crammed in the tiny bed trying not to fall out of the truck on the hot and dusty savanna roads. But we stayed positive, and found that we could put the sisters in the cab behind the driver, one brother in the passenger seat, and three in the bed. We also arranged the bags in a way to make some fairly comfortable seating in the bed of the truck, a skill we had learned well from previous trips.  So after loading everyone and everything in we took a picture and headed on our way!
Matt looks a little too comfortable!

First Leg - Parabara
Since we left late on Monday, we decided not to try to go all the way to Parabara which would be 7 hours or more of travel. Plus there was a lot of dense jungle on the way which would be hard to navigate at night. On top of that you can't just drive into Parabara, you have to take a river just before reaching the village for about a half  mile. And the group wasn't too keen on going down a jungle river in a Dugout at night. I think it's because they had heard all these horror stories about people falling into the river and getting eaten by Piranha. I mean there are a lot of Piranha in the river around Parabara, Tom and I had been warned about them in the past. But all you really have to do is make sure you don't fall out of the boat. But the girls didn't seem very comforted for some reason.

So we stopped about halfway in a village called Kraudernau (Sounds like "Crowda-Now"). We had stayed in this village a few times before, and its a good place to stop since its right outside the jungle part of the road, and there is a great Benab where you can set up Hammocks.

We woke up barely after sunrise and headed out again, but since it was a cloudy day, Matt suggested that the girls try riding in the back for a little bit, just so they could say they had tried it. So they jumped in back and got comfortable and for awhile they were having a great time! At least until we came into the jungle part of the journey...

Sure jump in back... its really fun...

Bug Problems

The problem with driving through the jungle is that the roads are shady and never completely dry out, not even in the dry season. So although it's a lot cooler to drive through, there is whole lot of mud as well. I remembered well the muddy roads, but I had forgotten another important detail about jungle roads. There are many bugs and critters. Normally these jungle bugs won't bother you, but because the road is narrow, the truck would often brush against the bushes and trees. so while driving along the road, the bed of the truck became a sort of catch all for big ants, beetles, and even wasps. Again, we had experienced this before, but I had completely forgotten about it. Maybe I blocked it out of my mind, but I quickly remembered the bug problem once I heard my wife start screaming in the back of the truck. By that time she already had a close encounter with an angry "Bullet Ant" as our driver described it. Not only that, but she even got the whole "attack" on camera! We had a good laugh about it, and Lara had a good welt on her knee, but no permanent damage. So she eagerly got back into the cab of the truck, but surprisingly Esther stayed in back. I think maybe she wanted to prove her man-hood? She did really well, but after about another hour she also was attacked by an angry Wasp! So for the rest of the trip it was me and Matt in the back, and the girls were inside warning us of oncoming bushes or trees.

Esther's Bite!
Dead Deere in the Jungle
Walter told the girls that if they saw a Jaguar to throw rocks at it...

 Parabara Landing

After about 4 hours driving through the Jungle we finally came to the Parabara Landing where we would put into the river and go down a little ways to the village. We were so touched when we saw Kufa the Toshao of Parabara there waiting for us with a boat! Normally we had to tell someone at the landing to go and get a boat, but he was waiting there since morning, and he even helped us carry our bags down! It was a very nice welcome back, and as usual Tom gave him a big hug.

While we were loading I took the opportunity to verify one of the stories we had heard about the "Man Eating" Piranha around Parabara. The story was that a man couldn't wait for a boat to get across the river, so he was trying to cross with his bike over his head and midway he got attacked and killed by Piranha. I doubted this was true since one the piranha only take small pieces off, and rarely come in swarms, and two the Guyanese are well known for coming up with fabulous but very exaggerated stories. And sure enough Kufa had never heard of that story and he's been living in the village for years. So lesson learned, and the group felt a little better about getting in the boat.

Kufa is in the Brown shirt. Our "Ride" is to the left.
Eventually we got everything off the truck and into the 30 foot dugout, (This is the same dugout by the way, that Tom and I took on our two week trip down to Masekenari and had to paddle it for three days! I had forgotten how big it was!) Thankfully there would be no paddling this time, just relaxing and enjoying the river view.


Once we got up to the village we immediately noticed all the grapefruit trees that Parabara is well known for. It's amazing, and the grapefruits grow year round! Not only that but Kufa's wife even had a huge bunch of Bananas there for us to enjoy. And I had never seen bananas like this in Guyana, they were reddish orange color, really fat, and had just the right amount of sweetness.

Testing my spiffy camp stove!
Eating Grapefruits, Delicious!

After gorging ourselves on the fruit for awhile, we got all of our stuff up to the benab and set out to preach the village.

Since the village only has 160 people it didn't take long but we did have some really nice conversations. I really enjoyed talking again with Gerome, the previous church leader. Last time we came through he said he loved the books so much that he threw away his old books and now would only teach about Jehovah. We shared several scriptures with him and encouraged him to keep up his studies.
- - Preaching Pix - -

Avid Bible Students

Kids eating a fruit called "Whitie"          yes that's what they call it...

Tom really wanted to have a meeting in the village this time since we didn't get to last time, so while we preached the village we told everyone to come by the Benab at 5pm for a bible discussion.

So in the Benab we set up a table with some books and magazines so that everyone could get what they wanted. And slowly but surely people started to come in and sit down. We directed them to the table to get anything they hadn't seen before, and many crowded around the table. Then at about 5:30 Tom gave a talk about Jehovah's name. We had a total attendance of about 20, not including ourselves, and at the end the group loved it so much they asked for another meeting! So we told them to come  back the next morning at 9am since we had to leave at noon.

Our Literature Table

First Meeting
The next morning we prepared again for the meeting and this time we had about 25 come! Everyone would look up the scriptures carefully, and many of them were even taking notes.

After the meeting Tom invited them to stay if anyone would like to have their own bible study, and several did!

Taking Notes

Second Meeting

Second Leg - Awarewaunau

We were sad to leave Parabara, but they sent us off with a nice box of Grapefruits and Bananas which we enjoyed on the way to the next village. We wanted to get a fairly early start since it would take about 5-6 hours to reach Awarewaunau, and there had been some rain the past two days. So we were worried the jungle roads might be more muddy, which they were!

We hardly got stuck coming in, but on the way out we got stuck pretty bad a few times. One of the times was bad enough that we were there for about half an hour.

We tried digging out the wheels, and putting branches and rocks in the holes, but nothing would work. So Tom suggested a method that worked for them really well in the past on muddy roads. What we did was attach a large rope to the front of the truck, and everyone would pull the truck except the driver who would ease on the gas. And it worked like a charm! Plus we got some great footage of us pulling the truck. This was a great method since it gave more force in the front where you need it and we didn't have to get so dirty behind the truck.

Ridiculously narrow road

Pushing the Truck...
Pushing the Truck...

Looking at the truck...
Pulling the Truck! Success!
- - Preaching along the way - -

 Multi-Purpose Building / Multi-Problem Building

We got to Awarewaunau (Sounds like "A-war-one-now") around 10pm that evening and found the Toshao pretty quickly since they were expecting us. He said we could sleep in their "Multi-Purpose" building which was kinda like an office / school building. It was very clean but unfortunately there was no water so we had to walk about 200 yards to a well and bring the water back up. Yeah, not so convenient.

Bathing is also tricky in these villages since there are typically no showers that you can undress and bathe in. The best bet is normally to wait until dark when no one is around to see you, and bathe by the well or a river. But in this case we went into the kitchen area with a bucket of water and bathed there. These are the experiences that help us appreciate the conveniences of life like running water!

We also had to get creative with our hammocks since the walls in this building were too high to string up on. So instead we tied the hammocks to the windows and put 1-2 persons in each room. This worked pretty well except Matt’s hammock was longer than most and it was hanging down pretty low, almost to the floor in fact. He didn't seem to concerned about it but not longer after they got in their hammocks we heard Esther yelling and freaking out. Turns out that this building had a Huge nest of Ants that would seek out anything sweaty or salty, and Matt had placed his very sweaty socks right under Esther’s hammock. So of course they were swarming all over the socks, and coming up into her hammock too!

We checked our bags and sure enough they had ants all over them, so we all had to put our things in the truck and tie our nets up off the ground.
Lara Making Coffee in the Morning!
You can take the Girl out of Portland, but not the Portland out of the Girl!

Preaching Awarewanau

The preaching in this village started very early since, for one, women came to the building to do cooking, so Lara preached to them and gave them some books. And two, the Toshao brought several from the village council to meet us! They were all very friendly and happy to have us there. The head master even had a smart phone and was taking pictures of us! lol! So we had a nice time talking to them for about an hour, and later one some school children came too to see who we were. Sometimes there is so much interest in these villages that we never get to leave the first building, everyone just keeps on coming.

After an hour or so we got all the literature organized and made our plans to cover the village. Since the village was spread out over a large area it would be difficult to cover everything on foot within one day. So we were very touched when Walter offered for us to use his truck to reach some of the more distant houses! This was one of many times we noticed that both Walter and his helper Doirun were really enjoying the trip and helping us accomplish the work. In the next few days they would both help with locating homes, and even came to get us when we were really far out.

Theo Grifith

One of the first houses I came to in Awarewaunau was a man named Theo Grifith. He was busy working on his fishing net, but when I told him why I was there he quickly stopped and got a bench for us to sit on. I went into my usual presentation about Jehovah's name and I could tell right away that he was a real student of the bible. He knew about Jehovah and that Jesus is his Son, which most in the village were not aware of. I commended him and then showed him the Bible Teach book, and the table of contents like usual.

After examining the list he quickly pointed to the chapter on "Where are the dead?" and said he had been trying to get an answer to that question. So I went into the chapter and started explaining to him scriptures, and again I could tell he seemed to have already studied it before since he answered all my questions quickly and correctly. So I had to ask him, "How have you learned so much about the bible?" He explained that a few years ago his daughter of 33 years died and left behind two daughters of her own. Now that these two where getting older they would come to Theo and ask him about their mother and where she is. He was struggling to answer their questions so he started searching for more information and studying the bible. Theo told me that during his search he came across a booklet that helped him to understand the bible better. I asked him if he still had the booklet, he said yes and brought it out to me. The cover said "What happens After Death" and it appeared to be published by a small church organization somewhere in the states. After looking through it, I was surprised to find the information was fairly accurate. It accurately explained the condition of the dead, even the hope of a resurrection!

Theo said that he even wrote a letter to the publishers asking for more books, but he never heard back. He told me that since reading it he had been praying that God would help him learn more about the bible and he said "Maybe God has sent you brothers?"

I commended him for is diligent search and gave him several other books and brochures, explaining how each one could be used. He got so excited about the new books that we sat and talked for nearly an hour. He had many more questions, about heaven and Hell, about the Kingdom, even the 144,000!

I learned from this experience that even in the absence of  trained teachers or even accurate bible literature, that Jehovah can guide and help people who are truly searching for answers. Theo was able to find the information that would comfort him just enough until Jehovah's witnesses arrived with more. What a privilege to dispense spiritual food to such honest hearted ones!

Theo Griffith with the bible Tract he found

Rachel and Naomi

Lara also had a touching experience in this village, related as follows:

We were doing a presentation about Jehovah and his Kingdom to a class of 15-17 year olds in the village school.  A young woman in the group named Rachel, answered many of the questions and seemed very interested in the discussion.  After the presentation I asked her to stop by our camp that evening if she had any questions or wanted to learn more.  To our happy surprise not only did Rachel come back but she brought her 3 younger siblings and cousin.  She said that she wanted to know more about God's Kingdom.  We sat down as a group and had a wonderful discussion sharing scriptures that explain all the things the Kingdom will do for humans.  When we got to the hope of the resurrection I asked if any of them had lost someone they loved in death.  Rachel's 11-year-old sister Naomi answered that their mom, Mary, had died two years ago at the age of 32 in childbirth, the baby dying as well.  We looked at the sweet faces of those 4 children and fought to keep our emotions under control as we shared the scriptures explaining the wonderful hope of the resurrection.  The children  were visibly moved by what they had learned and agreed that they would do their best to continue studying the bible together so that they can be in the New World to welcome back their dear mother.

Lara and Esther studying with the girls

Group Pic afterward

- - Other Preaching Pix - -

Students reading their new Bible Stories book

Teaching about Jehovah in the School, Fun Fun!

Third Leg - Maruranau

We left Awarewaunau that evening and on the way out Doirun and Walter both helped us located several houses on the outskirts of the village. We would definitely have missed these houses otherwise, since they were behind a few hills. And we were so happy we did find them since the families were practically begging us for books.

Leaving Awarewaunau at Night


We got into Maruranau (Sounds like Ma-roo-run-now) about an hour later and set up our hammocks in a small building with a thatch roof. This building was much better for setting up but it was also infested with large spiders! Disturbed by this the Sanders set up their hammocks outside the building at a nearby Benab. Little did we know that this area was a grazing ground for Cows, and since the benab had no walls, the Sanders were awoken early by the heavy breathing of a Cow inspecting the strange visitors to their area. We had a few laughs about it later but other than that the night went well.

School Lessons

In the morning Lara, Esther and Matt went to the school first thing to teach the class a short bible lesson. The Headmaster of the village had invited us the night before since he would be doing a special lesson on Morals and Values.

What the group didn't know was that the Headmaster had a very strict agenda and expected our group to follow it closely. This was unusual for an Amerindian school, not to mention intimidating, especially since the class had well over 100 students. So the group was a little nervous to start, but in the end they had a great time teaching the kids and even got play a game where the student would get a piece of bread for answering correctly.

Family Fun Day

In the meantime, Tom and I were walking around preaching to the houses near the central part of the village. And after awhile we noticed that a lot of the villagers were walking into town. We found out later we had arrived on what the village was calling a "Fun Day" which was basically like an outdoor recreation day where everyone would participate in various relay races. So when we got back to the village center there were hundreds of people there, some even from the surrounding villages of Shea and Awarewaunau.


Public Witnessing

So it was bad and good in a way, bad because people were going to be preoccupied for most of the day, but good because instead of going out to all the distant houses, the people had come to us! We ended up viewing it as a blessing since we later realized the village was so huge and spread out that we could never had covered the whole thing in one day, so it turned out for the best. The Toshao even made an announcement during the lunch that there were missionaries visiting and sharing bible literature! So we set up a literature table on the tailgate of the truck and many people came to get literature. It was like a "Public Witnessing Cart" but Guyana Style!


We got a real kick out of the relays that the villagers were participating in, it looked like a lot of fun! They had three legged races and large sandal races for the kids. Then the Adults had several races including a wheelbarrow race, and even an eating competition!
Three Legged Race!

Eating Race!
- - Aftermath - -


Last Leg - Shea

After a very long day and a half in Maruranau, we packed up and left for our final village, Shea. Unfortunately there had been so much interest in Maruranau that we hardly had any literature left! Only a stack of the "False Religion" Tracts and a few campaign tracts. Thankfully a lot of people from Shea were visiting at the Fun day so some were witnessed to that day. But since we would be passing through we stopped and tried to speak to as many people as possible. We had some more nice conversations and got some great pictures in front of Shea!


It was a very successful trip, and incredibly encouraging to receive so much interest. Our goal was to make a good impression on the villages and Toshaos with the hope of being invited back again, and so far three out of the four villages had already requested for us to come back, so the ground work has been laid!

We are still eagerly awaiting the branches decision regarding how the interior preaching work will be re-organized. From what we have heard the goal is to do more cultivating, and to have a schedule of covering the whole interior on a regular basis. So until then we count it a huge privilege to preach in these seldom worked and untouched areas!



  1. What an awesome adventure! Thank you so much for taking the time to share this. I check your blog on a fairly regular basis so I can use new postings as part of my family worship night. It is not only encouraging to myself, but also to my wife and kids. Besides, I kinda like to keep track of what Tom and Michelle are doing. Michelle brought my wife into the truth, and I studied with Tom many years ago. Thanks again Andy, Daelee, Michael, And Joshua sending warm Christian love from Aztec New Mexico.

  2. What an exciting experience, we are so proud of you both. We have no doubt that Jehovah is blessing you and your efforts to teach people the truth. Keep up the great work. Miss you guys but so happy to read about your spiritual adventures!

    Vince and Danielle Romans

  3. Thankyou for posting...It feels like Belize where the Interest was overwhelming)).

  4. Josh Westfall got me onto your blog. Thanks for taking the time to do it. It is so encouraging to the rest of us back in the states. Love the map to see exactly where you are. And all the pix about transportation and the three legged race. Fantastic! Keep it up.