Sunday, March 20, 2011

Part 3: Preaching Trip!

Sorry for a bit of a delay in the posting. The internet's been going weird here. It's running fine, but some sites simply will not load. Gmail for instance. I haven't been able to check my mail for a few days, so if you've sent me a message, you probably shouldn't expect a response soon.

Anyway (getting on with it...) I want to give you an overview of the trip before I begin, so I don't have to keep interrupting myself to clarify certain things.
The trip was originally supposed to be to a village called Waiwai, at the very bottom of Guyana. I would've involved a great deal of travel, difficulty, and such. Unfortunately, many of the people who had intended to go on the trip wound up not being able to go, so that trip was canceled in favor of another one. This one was just me and Tom Sanches, leaving from Lethem to a village called Yupukari.
From this village, we would cross the Rupununi River to get to three villages named Katoka, Samara, and Yakarenta (none of which had ever been preached to before). At least, that was the plan. What actually happened was a bit different.

After the Lethem assembly was over, we began buying any of the things we needed for the trip that we didn't yet have. Mostly just food. For the preaching trips, they recommend high amounts of protein and such, but something that takes little space and little weight. Due to this, they've invented a particular food specifically for these trips.

A peanut butter and tuna sandwich, with crackers instead of bread!

Yes, it's every bit as disgusting as it sounds (we also bought some cans of corn for a bit of variety, sot hat was good).

We woke up early and began packing, then headed for the Lethem Kingdom Hall where we were storing the literature we would take on the trip. Now, we were originally supposed to take a truck, but the truck we hoped to use broke down, and the brother who would've provided it couldn't come on the trip. So, faced with no vehicle, our only other option was...... this.

Keep in mind, we had to carry four boxes of literature, plus two bags of personal belongings (hammocks, mosquito netting, food, clothes, etc)

So the plan was to load it up and head out. What actually happened was there was no gas or oil, and the brakes weren't working. So Tom take sit around town trying to get it fixed. Keep in mind, this is 19 hours into the interior of Guyana. Motorcycle parts aren't freely available. Or cheap.

While he was off gallivanting, I got to stick around in the hall with Michelle and a family from Ireland named the Donlons (Paul and Sinead, and their 5-year old daughter named Bethany - who holds the title of youngest need-greater in Guyana's history). While we were waiting, cleaning, and such, a small group of witnesses from Brazil came by the Kingdom Hall. They all spoke Portugese, so only Michelle could talk to them (she speaks every language known to man, so....)

Shortly after this, three Jamaican need-greaters stopped by as well (no pics, sorry).

Finally, Tom got back, having fixed and replaced and refilled everything that needed done. We were able to pack everything on the bike: 200 lbs of literature, plus our two bags. Thanks to a rack we MacGyvered out of a broom handle and straps.

We were happy enough we actually got everything on there, but were still apprehensive about traveling like this..... for obvious reasons. The road we were taking (part of the way) was the Georgetown/Lethem road. It's a bad road with a giant bus - on a bike?? Sitting like this??
We were freaking out. You can't tell by looking at Tom's face, but he always looks like that.

So anyway, the road we'd take was down the Lethem/Georgetown road that was made solely of pot-holes. Stay on that for 4 hours, then turn right onto this road:
Note the dark, ominous, foreboding clouds. That'll be coming up again very soon.....

Anyways, that's the route we were going to have to take, and the road to Yupukari was supposed to be worse than the Lethem road. So naturally, we were scared about having all the stuff on our bike. But we had no alternative, so we set out.

The stuff kept sliding around, we kept having to stop to re-adjust the straps and ropes, and eventually the stuff all just fell off! We were less than fifteen minutes out of Lethem, and our entire stock had fallen off the bike. So while we're standing there, trying to strap it back on, a tractor pulls up behind us.

"Do you need help?" they ask. "Where are you going?"

"Ah, we're going to Yupukari." Tom says.

"Really? So are we!" they say "You need us to take that stuff for you?"

We were flabbergasted. There's literally dozens of villages you can get to from the Lethem road, and this tractor happens to be going to the exact same one we are. Fifteen minutes in and we can see Jehovah guiding the trip.

(okay, at this point let me go ahead and admit that from my first blog post, I've been trying to get the word "flabbergasted" to fit in somewhere)

Right, sorry!

As I was saying, the tractor that was from Yupukari came by and offered to carry all of our literature for us. Not only that, they told us they would find a place in Yupukari where we could stay for the night!

We turned out being very glad they took the weight off the bike, because right after that the storm came. It didn't directly rain on us, but it traveled ahead of us, making the roads all muddy.

After going down a particularly muddy, slippery road (on which we wiped out twice), we arrived in Yupukari, very late at night. The tractor was there waiting for us (yes, we were passed by a tractor. That's how slippery the road was) and they showed us a place. It turns out they have a guest house for tourists there, and it's owned by an American! He comes and tells us they rent the place out for.....

(drum roll)

.... $85 a night! Yes, eighty-five U.S. per night. We tell him "We have very little money with us. We're volunteers. Is there a place for free where we could just put up our hammocks? Tomorrow morning we'll be out of here."

So he offers to let us stay in a Banab (a thatched-roof gazebo, basically). After putting up our hammocks and such, I settled down to write down what had transpired that day, so as to have an accurate record to share here on the blog, and then me and Tom took pictures of the place.

So on this day, we woke up really early, showered, cleaned up, looked over the text for the day (which was 1 Peter 5:5 "In like manner, YOU younger men, be in subjection to the older men." Very fitting)

After considering the text, we discussed the theme of the trip. All the trips have the same theme - Glorifying Jehovah's Name
He showed me several core scriptures:
Psalms 83:18
Psalms 100:3
Isaiah 42:8
Jeremiah 10:10

After all that was done, Tom had to go radio the first village, Katoka. The reason for this is each village is technically regarded as it's own nation, really. So before any non-natives can enter, they are supposed to radio ahead and get permission from the Toushau, the village chief (pronounced TWO-sh-ow).

After radio-ing (is that a word?), we got permission to go. So then came our next obstacle. Getting the bike, plus the baggage, across the Rupununi River. We didn't have a tractor anymore to carry it for us, so we had to figure something out. Long story short, we found a guy in the village with a bike who would go with us, guide us, and carry the majority of the stuff for fairly cheap.

So now, we had to get TWO bikes across the river, plus the stuff. Eventually, we managed it.

Another struggle we had: FINDING Katoka.
('Finding Katoka' would be a good name for a rock band)

Due to the rain, the rough road had become a rough, slippery, muddy road. The second bike we had hired wiped out, dumping the books. And we got lost (hence, trying to find Katoka)

Remember this 'bridge'. It becomes a very important plot point soon.

So we finally arrive in Katoka, at about 12:30. When we get there, we learn that it's the village's Independence Day, and most of the village is going out to a field for holiday-related sports and games. Odd, we thought, but we'll just track down the people who are staying home from it. First though, find the Toushau, let him know we're here, and see if we can get a place to stay overnight.

Turns out, the man Tom had spoken with on the radio was the Deputy Toushau. The regular one wasn't available at the time. So now we had to get permission from the regular Toushau. To make a long story short, he let us go ahead and preach, and told us we could stay for the night. But he made it abundantly clear that he wasn't too happy about us being there, and if we caused any trouble whatsoever, we were out of there.

After talking a bit, we also found out something that took us completely by surprise. We had expected a village of 300-400. We'd spend a day and a half preaching, use a box and a half of literature, then move on to Samara. But when we asked the Toushau about how many were in the village, his answer...... 800! Tom looks over to me and says "No way we're getting to Samara and Yakarenta."

After the half-nice/half-hostile discussion with the Toushau, another villager showed us to a place we could stay. It was a house that was mostly abandoned, but two women had come in and turned the two back rooms into sewing rooms. It had no windows and no doors, but it worked fine for what we needed. After eating lunch (oh, those PB&Tuna Sandwiches....) we decided to start the preaching immediately. As I said, most of the village was out celebrating their Independence Day, but we still found lots of people in their homes we could talk with. We preached until dark, emptied out half of a box of literature, and went back to our temporary home to set up our hammocks and sleep.

Katoka, as seen from our 'house'. The buildings there are mostly the schools and such.

How to summarize Thursday? Lots and lots of preaching. The day before, we had placed half a box of literature. Thursday, we placed two and a half! Which brought us to a grand total of 3 boxes, in two days.

That morning, the plan was to begin preaching. What actually happened was, we kept getting swarmed by people who had heard we were there, and wanted books so badly they came to us to get them! We weren't able to leave our house until 10 AM because we had so many coming by!

Including at one point, an entire class!

One of the main objectives on these preaching trips is to get the books into schools and libraries, if the village has one (they're oftentimes together). So while I took a box and went off to do house-to-house work, Tom took another box over to the school area. He goes in and begins talking to one teacher, and after a while another one comes by, sees the books, and says "Can I have some of those?"
Another teacher comes in and sees the two teachers, who now each have the books. The 3rd one says "Ooh! Can I have some of those?"
After a while, a fourth teacher comes in. Tom begins showing her "My Book of Bible Stories" and explains how she could use it to help children understand the Bible, and she says "I need that."
So after giving it to her, he shows her the "Learn From The Great Teacher" and she says "I need that too!"
She then begins looking through Tom's box of books, picking out several, each time saying "I need this one too!"
The other teachers start saying "Hey! I didn't get one of those!"

This goes on for some time, when finally all the students who have been sitting in the classroom come over to see what's going on, and they begin picking out books.

By time it was over, the box was almost empty, and Tom had to go back to the house to refill his box. Afterward, he joined up with me and we continued door-to-door together.

We had some great discussions. Also, many form the village go out to Lethem on occasion, so we were able to tell them where the Kingdom Hall is, and invite them to any meetings or the Memorial, should they be in the area around that time.

In just two days, we had finished off three of our boxes of literature, and had gone to every single home in the village. In addition to that, we left books with all the teachers and left things in the library. So now, we were faced with an exciting prospect. Getting back to Yupukari.

It had rained all Thursday night, so now the slippery road we came in on would be worse. Still, we had made it there safely, and we knew Jehovah willing, we'd make it out as well.

Stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the Galaxy, and it is in order that this situation should not be in any way exacerbated that the following facts will now be revealed in advance.
We survived.
The frightening tale of crossing the aforementioned bridge will result merely in the bruising of somebody's knee.
In order that some sense of mystery should still be preserved, no revelation will yet be made concerning whose knee sustains the bruise. This fact may safely be made the subject of suspense since it is of no significance whatsoever.

We drove along the road out of Katoka to Yupukari with some sliding, but no serious problem. But then, we were back at the horrible bridge shown earlier. Last time we went across, it was mostly dry, and we had both bikes get stuck, fall over, and we wound up having to push them through it all.

Now, it was soaked. I'll let the pictures do the talking.
  So we had to push the bike through this, onto the wood planks. But due to the amount of rain, and the ground washing out, there was now about 4 feet of space between the ground and the elevated planks.

Not an easy way to push a motorcycle.

But, as was stated earlier, we made it across with only minimal bruising. We were so proud of our triumph we stopped a moment to capture the glory on camera.
 (you'll notice I have a slight stoop in this picture. That's because of a bruised knee)

So after that, it brings us to the final part of the travel out of Katoka. Crossing back across the Rupununi River!
The reason I'm making a big deal of this is because it's kind of hard to get a boat to cross from the Yupukari side to the Katoka side, but there is no one who'll be waiting on the Katoka side to take you back across. We were told expect to be waiting for a few hours, maybe overnight. The only alternative would be to swim across, but that wouldn't be too wise because it's well-known as Caiman-infested waters. So we're driving down the path, and we get to where we see the river, then the opposite side. What do we see?

Two guys in a boat, paddling our direction!

When they got close enough, they said "We heard your bike coming, so we thought we'd come across and see if you needed help crossing!"

Of course, it was still pouring down rain, so by time they made it across we had to bale the boat out, but still....

Well, I had intended to write about the entire preaching trip (a.k.a. What we did with the one remaining box), but I'm tired of typing, and I'm ready for bed. So I'll add a part 4 to this, with more of the preaching trip, plus what we did between then and now.

1 comment:

  1. are totally my hero. That sounds so awesome! Sure it seemed to be hard but that trip was totally blessed by Jehovah and what an experience you had! Can't wait to get part 4!