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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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Detour to Warwick

So upon returning home last June we were getting into our usual routine of finding work and unpacking our things and it was going really well! Lara was able to get her old job back within the first week and I got some work from old clients. Then a few weeks later I got a call in the middle of the day from the Volunteer Desk in Brooklyn Bethel. They asked if we were back from Guyana yet and would be available for temping assignments. So I said yes and to update our file and to let us know anytime if they needed help. And the brother says "Well, we actually have a new opening for workers starting August 9th if you are available?" So I'm thinking, sure I could go for a few weeks since Lara had her job back. So I asked if they are calling just for me or if my wife could come too? The brother says "Well if you come alone then you could stay for up to 4 weeks, but if your wife can come too then you could both stay for 6 weeks." So that was the start of our new adventure into the world of Theocratic Construction!


Upon Arriving at Tuxedo we really had no idea what to expect really. We knew we would be in Plumbing, and that our stay would be six weeks but that was about it. We figured we would be staying at Tuxedo since we had heard it was finished but it turned out to be much smaller than we thought. Tuxedo can hold around 150-200 people but the current work crew for Warwick is around 1400! So finding adequate housing for all the workers has been a difficult feat. To do so the GB has made arrangements with several hotels nearby, RV parks and has even purchased apartment complexes in order to meet the demand! It is truly remarkable to see how far the brothers have gone in order to keep the workers comfortable.

"Welcome to the Plumbing Department"

We were assigned to a Comfort Inn about 20 minutes from Tuxedo in a town called Goshen. We were a little disappointed that we wouldn't be enjoying the bethel atmosphere staying so far away but this Hotel has turned out to be a mini Bethel all on its own! There are so many temp workers living here right now, some for as long as 3 months. So every day we are meeting new friends from all over the US, and they all have great stories and experiences to share. Every morning we meet in the lobby to catch our shuttle which leaves about 6AM.

The Hotel Lobby at 6am


I had served for three weeks at Paterson, but this would be the first time for Lara doing Temp work at Bethel. Needless to say she was nervous not having any background in construction and going into such a Major Construction project. But after Orientation on Sunday most of her fears were removed, as there are at least 10 other couples that arrived the same week as us. Many of the sisters also have little or no construction experience but  they are willing to give their all! I was also worried that my skills as a plumber would be too limited since I mostly work on residential plumbing, but again there are many others like me, and several that we have met in the plumbing crew that received all of thier experience from serving at Warwick and Tuxedo! So, as always, Jehovah will train his workers to accomplish the tasks at hand.

Safety Training

When I went to Paterson I went through a brief class about an hour long in Safety Training, mostly about common sense things, and how to put out fires. The Safety Training for Warwick is slightly more intense. They make it clear that this is not ordinary Bethel Service. We were being prepared to step onto a very serious construction site. The training started around 12:30 and went until about 5pm, and covered things like Mandatory Safety Equipment, Job Hazard Assessment, Fall Prevention and Arrest Systems, Material Safety Data and Heavy Machinery Awareness. So yeah it was a lot to take in, but the brothers did a great job of making it enjoyable and encouraging.

Training to use Fall Protection

We came in with a large group of new recruits. About 75 just in one week!

Around the end one of the overseers gave a small local needs part encouraging all to consider extending their stay if possible. It would not be an easy assignment and many would get tired, but he reminded us that we would be helping to build the final home for the last of Christ's Brothers before ascending to their heavenly positions. There were some very powerful and sobering statements made, the kind that give you goose bumps for a moment, and at the end the room was filled with applause. Lara and I were very excited at the prospect of serving full time at bethel, and already we have heard many full time workers tell us that thier initial assignment was 6 weeks also. So when asking how long we are serving they often say "Yeah, 6 weeks to Life"

The Schedule

As always the Bethel schedule is very intense, even more so for the Warwick project since there is added travel time commuting to and from the hotel. So for us our midweek day starts at about 5:00a getting ready to catch the shuttle to Tuxedo at 6:00a. We arrive at Tuxedo about 6:30 and wait for morning worship to start at 7:00a. A big difference between working at Warwick compared to Bethel is instead of arriving for Morning Worship dressed in meeting clothes we go in our work Clothes! It's a kick to look out across the tables and see nothing but Florescent Orange and Yellow shirts and Vests.

Then about 7:30 we leave Tuxedo with our hard hats and safety equipment in hand. We get loaded into what look like Prison Buses and enjoy the 10 minute ride up the Warwick site. On the way up I am reminded of the trips we have taken up to the mountains to camp around Mt Hood, it's really a beautiful drive! Work starts around 8:00am and goes until Lunch at 12:00pm. There are dinning facilities on the Warwick site so there's no need to ride back down to Tuxedo. Then work again from 1:00pm to 4:45pm and Supper is served back at Tuxedo at 5:00pm. We jump on a shuttle back to our Hotel in Goshen around 5:20pm and arrive at the Hotel 30 minutes later. We rest up and get ready to repeat it the next day!

The Lake on the Walk up to Warwick from the Bus

The Project

We were specifically asked not to post pictures of the Warwick site online, but there are some very interesting facts that we learned about how the project is being carried out. For one we were surprised to find that Not all the contractors are Jehovah's witnesses. There is a group of hired contractors that are working on the major construction of the high rise walls and elevator shafts. This work is extremely high risk and there just aren't enough brothers available who have been trained in this type of work to meet the demand. Even if some could be recruited, they would have to train additional brothers to help, which would add to the danger for all. But we were also very interested to learn that these outside workers have been hired based on a very strict contract, namely No Swearing and No Harassing Sisters. If they do not follow these rules they will forfeit thier contract and lose thier jobs.

Amazingly several of these men have expressed a heartfelt appreciation for our work and a desire to learn more about the bible. One Contractor expressed that his life seemed empty before coming to work at Warwick. All he had was work and the fight club he would attend on weekends. But after meeting the brothers he now feels at peace coming to the job site and has agreed to a bible study.

On another occasion a brother wanted to share the new Warwick Update Video with some of the hired contractors and as he was showing it, several others heard what it was and came off the bus to see it too. By the time they were finished there was a large group of men all excitedly watching the video together!

We also learned some interesting facts of how the brothers are trying to keep the Warwick Complex eco-friendly. Some of these have been mentioned already in some of the video updates, such as the "live" roofing and recycled lumber. Another interesting method that is being used is called Geo-thermal cooling. It involved drilling 200 foot holes into the ground about 6" wide and then running pipes down into them. The idea is that instead of using refrigeration to cool heated water, the hot water is channeled into one of these pipe lines into the ground which will quickly cool the water more naturally and with much less energy than most cooling systems.

And as with most Bethel Experiences, it has been a joy to get to know hundreds of different Brothers and Sisters from all over the US and other countries as well! The overall spirit of the work site is so peaceful and refreshing it hardly seems like work, and the days just fly by. If you haven't applied already we would highly recommend applying for Temporary Bethel Service, even if you don't have a particular skill! The main thing is a willingness to work and a self sacrificing spirit. We have met brothers and sisters of all ages and with all kinds of backgrounds, many of which do not have a background in construction of any kind. We also notice that the duration of the visits vary anywhere from a week to 6 months. We hope this post has been informational and encouraging and we will try to follow up with more updates soon!


  1. Wowwwwwww! Thanks for that wonderful post. Almost brought me to tears to think that even couples without specific construction training can be used. Thanks for saying that. My hubby and I are serving in Nicaragua but I think it's time to find out how we could go about applying for temp work in the US! Thanks!

  2. So happy for you guys. Great info, very upbuilding.

  3. This is such a great update! Really enjoyed reading it. We are missionaries from Guinea West Africa who are stranded in the U.S. because of the Ebola outbreak. Since we have requested a temporary assignment until we can get back to our assignment we've wondered if we'll be assigned to the construction work. Reading this post makes me even more excited about that possibility! Thank you for your hard work and the wonderful update!

    A Missionary's Life

  4. Thank you for such a great account. One of my sons is itching to be able to work there, he is just a little to young yet. We appreciate your willingness and positive outlook. May you both continue experience the fulfillment of Matthew 6:33!

  5. Thanks for sharing!! So encouraging and truly amazing that Jehovah does so much for us! And we appreciate the efforts by all you wonderful volunteers! May Jehovah continue to bless you all

  6. Hi, my name is Beth and we are friends of the Hollenbecks. Our son Jonathan is going to guyana in November for 3 months as a need greater, if all goes well he is planning a more extended stay. We have some questions and we were wondering if it would be ok to email you guys. We can get your email from the Hollenbecks but we wanted to ask if you would mind first.
    P.S. Your blog has been very helpful!

    1. Hello! Our email is on our profile. Feel free to ask any questions!

  7. Hi Mike and Lara,
    my name is Andrea, a sister in Tasmania, Australia. I've read your blog and now wonder whether your 8 weeks have turned into life at Bethel? It's been great finding out all about your zeal and hard work, be it for the ministry or on construction.
    My situation doesn't allow me to go elsewhere. Reading your blog gives me a nice break and a taste of how Jehovah helps others to keep going in his service.
    Well done you two and all the others there. My heartfelt thanks to you all. Jah must be so proud of you
    Agape and philia Andrea