Friday, January 14, 2011

Back to Life, Back to Reality

First of all, I’m sorry it’s taken me ages to post something new. When you finish reading you will understand. Having said that, I hope you have a few spare minutes to read this because it’s almost 2 months of catch up. Remember too that you can see more pictures by clicking on the 'View More Pictures' link to your left.

I want to settle everyone’s concern about Stuart: We got ‘em and we got a photo and video to prove it. For the sake of those faint at heart I won’t post the photo but for your dare devils, you can see for yourself in the photo gallery.
November 19 -- We had the annual pioneer seminar. It was held in the Haslington Kingdom Hall which is about a 2 hour drive from the Corentyne territory (were I live). There were 152 pioneers in attendance from Guyana, United States, England, Spain and Australia. 

Like always, the spiritual food given was just at the right time. The seminar theme was “He Will Make You firm, He Will Make You Strong” from 1 Peter 5:10. Some of the points I enjoyed: 
- Jehovah allows us to go through trails only to the extent that it trains and disciplines us. 
- Our joy can be a source of strength because it comes from Jehovah and that joy becomes a part of us. Unlike Eve, who had everything she wanted but set them and her joy aside, we must never take our joy and blessings for granted. Never lose the joy that Jehovah gives us.
- To be balanced in our view of Bible students: Each one must carry their own load. 
- The difference between feeling tired versus rejuvenated after service can depend on how we are using our tools (literature, questions, illustrations, etc). We want to direct our blows in the proper way (1 Corinthians 9:26).
Another part I really enjoyed was an interview of 3 sisters that got to go preaching to the interior of Guyana. The region they went to is in the southwest of the country. The areas are called Kato (Kato has only 2 baptized sisters and 1 unbaptized publisher. The 2 baptized sisters conduct all the meetings and the preaching work in that area!) and Paramakatoi. To give you an idea of their experience: They had to cross a river to get to the village where they were to preach that day. There was NO bridge to get to the other side, so it required that they take off their shoes and walk through deep water and slippery rocks to get to the other side. To add to it, one of the sisters didn’t know how to swim! They had a few more experiences like these and they all agreed that it helped them rely and see Jehovah’s hand in helping them overcome emotional and physical challenges. They said they would gladly do another preaching trip.

It was a treat to hear their experiences because it’s usually it’s only brothers that get to go on these preaching trips. But on occasion they will organize trips that sisters can go on too. I’ve been bugging the brother who organizes the trips to plan one that sisters can go on before I leave. I highly encourage anyone who hasn’t already checked out Michael’s experiences to read and see them here.(It’s like TopGear meets the ministry--awesome!): Wilderness Trek : Region 8-9 and Rupununi Expedition.
November 27 & 28 -- Circuit Assembly. The friends don’t have an assembly hall (yet) so a school in New Amsterdam is used. It’s about a 45 minute drive from where I live to the school. The friday before we set out with mops, buckets and brooms. We had to clear out all the desks, tables, chalkboards and trash (the schools use their auditoriums as classrooms, dividing them up with chalkboards) from the auditorium and have it clean for when the chairs arrived (all chairs and benches were trucked in from surrounding Kingdom Halls). While we were doing that, others were busy setting up the stage, baptism pool, sound, and donation boxes. We had some visitors from the branch, brother and sister Hinds (originally from Panama) and another couple visiting from the States (they use to be missionaries in Panama). Even with so many there to help, we didn’t finish until late evening. It was a full days work and I got fried chicken at the end of it. Yum!


As you know, the spiritual food given at the assembly was amazing! Here are some of the points I enjoyed:
- Satan tries to tricks us into thinking that ‘unclean thing’ will become ‘clean’ but usually the ‘clean thing’ gets overtaken by the ‘unclean thing’ (Haggai 2:12, 13)
- The 7 ways in which full time service protects us by:
   -- Not becoming entangled in the world: World always trying to get us to       conform and to not be content with a simple life.
   -- Spending more time in the ministry.
   -- Repetition and frequent use of God’s word.
   -- We see the pitiful condition of the world: Helps us think less of our own problems.
   -- We have less time & energy to pursue the mundane things of the world.
   -- Helps the youthful and single brothers and sisters keep focused and away from temptations
   -- We are accomplishing Jehovah’s Will
- Materialism isn’t so much about having a lot of things but its the pursuit of material things (Ecc. 7:12, Luke 12:15)
- Don’t fall into the trap of viewing Jehovah as a spare tire--using Him only for emergencies.
- Many of our brothers who remained courageous and faithful through the concentration camps later fell victim to materialism: Winning one battle does not mean we’ve won the war. Our success depends on Jehovah, He gives strength.
- Key to perseverance is obedience!

The Saturday program had about 950 in attendance, including Sign Language, and 12 baptized. One of those baptized was Tashana, a sister from the congregation I’m serving in. 

At the Sunday program there were a little over 1,000 in attendance. A personal highlight was having one of my Bible students come! Her name is Florentine (but goes by Baby) and she is an exceptional student. She always has her lesson studied and her answers written in a separate notebook, we’ve had some great Bible discussions and has come to the Kingdom Hall once. I was very excited to have her sit with me and enjoy the wonderful feast from Jehovah!
L - R: Me, Amy, Florentine (Bible student) & Raksha

I was also privileged to be part of a demonstration in the afternoon. It was part of the symposium, the talk was “Live for Jehovah” and it was given by Tom (Michael & Lara’s brother in law). I was part of the ‘bad family’ and my parents were Donald and JoDee (originally from California; in Sign Language) and my two brothers were Joshua & Maiciah (USA). Our entire part was about 2 minutes long but I was still super nervous! We all did really well though and we made the audience laugh.

The 'bad' family 
(L-R) Donald, JoDee, Micaiah, Joshua and me
After the assembly, a need greater couple from New York, Ramon & Kallie (they are in Sign Language), had their annual ‘Need Greater / Pioneer’ bash at their house. There were probably about 30 there. We ate chinese food and played Pictionary by flashlights (there was a blackout) which made it much more fun. 

As a congregation, Brighton has had 2 new students in the Theocratic Ministry School. Daniel (age 9) and Timothy (age 10?), both boys did excellent on their first assignments.
I had another Bible student come to the meeting, she actually surprised me. Her name is Shakila and she’s been studying the Bible for 3 months now and even though she has difficulty reading, she is eager to learn and to read when we have her study. To give you an idea: Since I’ve been studying with her, she hasn’t had a Bible, only the Bible Teach book, so either me or the sister who joins me, will read the scriptures. But because she has been doing so well I decided that at our next study I would reward her efforts and get her familiar with using the Bible at the same time. When I surprised her with her own Bible, her entire face lit up and as she took the Bible she says “Wow, my very own Bible! I never thought I’d get one of these! Thank you so much!” So of course, I had her read some scriptures from her Bible. It was so cute as she proudly would hold and read from her Bible. It’s a wonderful feeling and something I will never forget. 
That Sunday, she surprised me again when she showed up at my house, Bible in tow, ready to go to meeting. I took her around and introduced her to everyone and she was surprised to see all the children and said that next time she will bring her daughter (2 year old Corina). 

December 11 -- Was Ramon & Kallie’s going away party. They came to Guyana to start the Sign Language field and have been here as need greaters for 3 years. They recently applied to Gilead and are going back to the States to await a reply. There were close to 200 people from 4 different congregations. There was a talent show which included two Bible dramas (one was in sign language), comedy sketches and some dance numbers. They were all really good! I wish I could have gotten video of all it.
After the talent show, we ate and socialized. And then, there was dancing! We dance the Cha-Cha slide at least 10 times (a Guyanese favorite), some Salsa and even some Indian music (I got video of this). 

December 17 -- Pioneer meeting with the elders, a wonderful provision from Jehovah. The theme was “Maintain the Pioneer Spirit!” (Galatians 6:18) Some points I enjoyed:
- Jehovah views being involved in our ministry and life as an obligation
- We must find balance in order to find joy
Our attitude and view of our ministry can impact others views of the ministry or pioneering
Be absorbed in our example, teaching, spiritual qualities and abilities (1 Tim 4:15, 16).

Back: Barbara & Todd (Canada), Chris & Naomi (England), 
Tom & Michelle (California), Sandra (local sister). 
Sofa: Amy (Washington, sign language), Shemeniel (local sister), 
me, Trisha (Massachusetts, Sign Language)

After the meeting we had food (Sandra made her delicious-finger-licking chicken curry. I had 2 plates of it!) and desert. We played some games and we learned that Michelle gets really excited playing Taboo, it made us laugh though.
Another sister from England had been staying with me for 3 weeks. Her name is Valerie and she is from Wolverhampton, England. I enjoyed her company as well as her cooking. I am sad to see her go but I told her I would come visit her in England soon.
L - R: Gary & Monica (Philadelphia), me, 
Val (Wolverhampton, England), Daniel (England)

December 29 -- To start was the Brighton congregation Bethel tour 2010! A bus full of the friends, laughter and singing. This was also the same day I went to the Suriname embassy to get my Suriname visa, so me and 2 other sisters (Amy and Trisha) got dropped off so we could get this taken care of. I was a bit nervous because my Guyana visa had already expired and I was scared that they may deny me a Suriname visa. But as it happened, it was nothing to be nervous about. The immigration lady was really nice and we all got our visas. After that was taken care of we met up with the rest of the congregation at the Branch for a tour. It’s a small bethel family: only 8 (3 couples and 2 brothers). 

We first met with brother Hinds who is the branch overseer and the ‘branch house-wife’ (his words, not mine!). He takes care of the family structure and maintaining the home (such as the cleaning, cooking schedules). An interesting thing that brother Hinds is also in charge of is customizing the Kingdom Ministry for Guyana. Every month all the Caribbean branches receive a ‘working copy' of the KM and each branch puts in suggestions for changes according to the local need or phrasing. For example the U.S. KM may have an article called “What will you do this summer?” but for the Caribbean KM this may read “What will you do with your time?” (seasons here are two: ‘sunny season’ or ‘rainy season’) Those suggestions or changes all get emailed to Jamaica (main Caribbean branch) for review and then the final ‘working copy’ gets emailed to Bethel in New York for printing!

We got to a brief description of  the accounts office (the brother was out). Then we moved on to brother Hazel who is in charge of all service related things, so if you were planning to come Guyana to serve he’d be your main contact. He should us a map of Guyana and all the different congregations. Much of them are on the coast with only a few in the interior. He also showed us the Truth tract in Carib which is the Amerindian language spoken in Guyana, Venezuela, Suriname, French Guyana and Brazil.

After the tour we piled back into the bus and we all had lunch at a local park. It was so great to get to associate with the friends outside the Kingdom Hall. Once lunch was over we got to go to the zoo!

December 31 -- The arrival of Dania and Jessica, my new roommates from the States! Myself, Shemeniel, Shelly, Samuel, Joshua and Leon drove their family van to Georgetown to pick them up at the branch (I’m back!). It was an exciting event since I had only been Skyping and emailing with them since before I came to Guyana. 

January 2 -- Once I got home to Bush Lot, I had to re-pack for my trip to Suriname. I felt bad leaving Dania and Jessica alone for a week when only having been in Guyana for 2 days but they survived! (You can read their experiences of their first week: Dania’s perspective here, password is daniainguyana and Jessica’s perspective here). 

I travelled with Amy and Trisha. Over all it was a smooth trip however it didn’t start that way. We got to the ferry at 9:03am only to be locked out and told that the doors closed at 9:00am. The next ferry was to depart at 11:30am. It was very frustrating and to make it worse the ferry was late picking up the first load of passengers. 

When we finally got to Suriname it was about 1:00pm. We stayed with a local sister, Maryanne, in New Nickerie. She is a young pioneer sister in the Dutch congregation, she is Javanese (from Java)! Even though the main language is Dutch many Surinamese are of African, Javanese, Chinese, East Indian or Dutch (from Holland) descent. English is the second language but you mostly hear Dutch. There is a need for help in the English territory as well as other  growing language groups and congregations such as Chinese, Dutch Sign Language and Portuguese.

We went to the English meeting that night and met the local friends. Andrew and Pearl, the brother that gave the public talk and his wife, are from Paramaribo (the capital) and were driving back home the next day (Monday). Since Amy, Trisha and me had been talking about wanting to see the capital, we asked if we could ride down with them and we would then ride back to Nickerie with Camille & Leon, who were driving down at the same time and coming back Wednesday. 

L - R: Leon & Camille, Andrew & Pearl

It worked out really well and we had a blast doing some sight seeing and window shopping in downtown Paramaribo. Our first stop was MCDONALDS! It felt like we were back in the States! They had coffee shops, movie theaters, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut. You could even buy MILK at the store (I haven’t had milk in 4 months!). 

We ended up running in to a group of Witness we knew from Guyana who were also in Suriname to renew their visas which was fun. Camille and Leon took us around the historic district and out to eat and it was amazing! Most of everything is styled in Dutch Colonial. The time finally came when we had to go back to New Nickerie to get ourselves back to Guyana. We kept asking ourselves “Why exactly are we leaving Paramaribo?” We all love it and we’re planning a trip back to Paramaribo in March (perhaps future need greater destination #2?). 
We stayed with Maryanne one more night and I got to try Javanese food, it was so good! It’s like Chinese food but with an island twist, I can’t really explain it. We also went to the store and I bought myself some milk and had about 3 bowls of cereal for dinner that night (so good!).

Thursday morning Maryanne dropped us off at the ferry and while we were waiting in line we once again ran in to the Witness group we had seen in Paramaribo. We all rode back to Guyana together. 

L - R: Me, Levi, Sage, Kristen, Micaiah, 
Joshua, Travis, Trisha

Now, this is where I started to get nervous because it was make or break time. Either I was going to get 3 more months in Guyana or not. I had been praying to Jehovah all morning, my stomach had butterflies and I was thinking of all the worst case scenarios which didn’t help. It was finally my turn to get ‘interviewed’ by the immigration officer, it seemed like time dragged by but in reality I was probably at his station for less than 5 minutes. He asked me typical immigrations questions such as why am I wanting to come to Guyana, how long do I plan to stay, etc. At the end of my ‘interview,’ he finally asks “What church are you with?” My heart sank, I thought this was it, no 3 months for me. I said “I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses” He looked at me for a few seconds, then back at my passport, paused (all the while my heart was pounding in my chest!) and finally signed the visa. I grabbed it and thanked him and walked on. Thankfully, I got my 3 months! 

January 11 -- Circuit overseer visit. I also had my first talk since I've been in Brighton congregation on Tuesday. Today, we had brother and sister Rainey over for lunch, we made hamburgers with potatoes and coleslaw. Brother Rainey shared some Gilead insight about missionary work. He and his wife are very encouraging, they apperciate the hard work and dedication that we single sisters put forth to come and be self supportive missionaries. We asked him if he knew anything about any 'Watchtower School for Single Sisters' in the works, of course we were joking (but not really).

So that’s the brief recap of experiences since my last post. It was extremely busy and I felt as though I had been on a roller coaster the entire time. I’m less stressed out now but I am still playing catch up on sleep and my daily routine. It’s been nice getting to know my new roommates and so far I really like them. We have some more trips planned so I will have more expriences to share with you soon. We also have a Zone Visit in February that the whole country is invited to, I can't wait for that!
Now that I’m caught up I'd love to hear from you, either by email or by comment! I also promise to email everyone who has emailed me back soon...