Monday, February 24, 2014

Road To Apoera

Every now and then I find myself in a situation that baffles me. For instance, I woke up a recent morning and thought I would have a normal day. Go in service, wash some clothes, find a new way to ruin rice, etc. A few hours later I found myself in a swamp in Suriname, in the bed of a pickup truck with two guys from Holland I just met, as we all sang "Iris" by Goo Goo Dolls together and a turtle tried biting our feet.

Lemme explain.

The closest congregation to us in Orealla is not in Guyana at all. Its name is Apoera (pronounced Ah-poor-ah), and it is very similar to our own congregation. Nestled deep in the woods of Suriname, it's an English congregation (Suriname is mostly Dutch), and it has eighteen publishers and two appointed brothers. Naturally, they're very excited about receiving any visitors whatsoever.

I learned about Apoera in better detail when some people from that congregation came along for our dedication a few weeks back. They invited me to come visit, give a talk, etc, but I kind of brushed it off. When am I going to be visiting Suriname again, for long enough to travel all the way there and back??

It turned out to be much sooner than I thought.

Recently it came to my attention that a small group of publishers from my congregation was going to be visiting a large waterfall near Apoera called the Blanche-Marie. It turns out that this area is accessible to us by a short 2 hour boat ride, and you don't even need a passport to visit (due to it being an Indian village). They had even called one of the brothers from Apoera and got invited to stay in his home while they were visiting! They planned to Saturday to the falls, and then Sunday to the meeting, and then almost immediately after come back home to Orealla. Kindly, they invited me along too.

It was an amazing place. Considering how remote the area was, it was incredibly comfortable. Never mind the fact we packed eleven people in there. The two who technically "live there" is a special pioneer couple named Ramano and Tryfosa, but they also had two brothers from Holland staying with them for a short while. Add to that the seven of us from Orealla, and you have quite a crew.

This here is a game known as Spade of Seven. Quite good.

The accent of a Dutch person speaking English is unique. Especially considering the two from Holland were still struggling some with English, so it led to some misunderstandings. I'm pretty sure they think I'm from England, despite telling them a few times I was born in the USA.

Anyway, after some initial meeting and greeting, we set about for Blanche-Marie. The road looked like this.

After which it became this.

Or as I called it, "Thunder Road". Just 'cause.

And thus I found myself in the bed of a pickup going through a swamp singing Goo Goo Dolls. We had the Holland brothers coming along with us, so...

Also I present to you, my first ever selfie.

So we drove along this for several hours trying very hard to not fall out the back of the truck - there was a lot of hills and mud and sliding about and things. All along the way there, we found ourselves passing by the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets (or whatever they drive here). Very reassuring. I got to the point of beginning to wonder if it was worth it, but the driver had a serious "No Surrender" attitude.

Anyway, after a few hours of passing through dense jungleland, we arrived at Blanche-Marie!
It was just.... whoa.

This place was huge. So it was awesome being able to go there. And also see how much of it you can climb up without falling down.

A major difference between these places and the U.S... in the United States, this would be heavily roped off with people keeping strict watch to make sure you don't go near it, for fear of you hurting yourself and suing them.

Here, they have exactly one safety precaution. Whatsoever might that be??

That, my friends, is one lone rope stretched across the river, because in that spot the current is so strong you literally cannot swim in it. So they have a rope to help you across, or to catch yourself on if you've lost control.

Why couldn't we have had something like this in my hometown?

So eventually we finished up there and headed through the badlands again to get back to Ramano and Tryfosa's place for the night. Which brings us to Sunday morning...

This was my cup while I was there. I don't much care for tea, but it was worth it just so I could use this cup both mornings.

But leaving aside my awesome cup, I was very excited to be able to give a public talk in Suriname, partly due to it being a new experience, partly because it gave the two brothers a break, but also because in Suriname you don't wear a jacket. There's a picture somewhere of me doing the talk, but I haven't yet tracked down who took it yet, but rest assured I will find that picture.

Also, in case I haven't expounded on this before, this how you spend Sunday afternoon in both Guyana and Suriname...

So all in all it was a great experience. After the meeting and some thorough napping, we then had to fetch a car to get us to the dock where a boat was waiting to take us back to Orealla. Of course, by time we actually made it back it was very dark, but you can always tell where it is as night. See, we don't have a source of electricity here, but around the docks there's an abundance of places with generators, so the middle of the village lights up like a.... I dunno, thing that lights up big. Of course, this does leave a lot of darkness on the edge of town, but I imagine everyone's used to that by now.

On that note however, we have a village generator, it's just not hooked up yet and running yet (they had one before as well, but it fried).

Well, I suppose that about wraps it up for now. I'm probably forgetting something, but someone will let me know soon I imagine. But for now I'll stop here, and in lieu of wise parting words, I'll share a picture a six year old sister named Phoebe got of me as we were waiting on the boat.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Orealla Dedication

Weesa back! Thanks to a handy dandy new phone, I can now get internet 24/7 in my home in Orealla. I can also set up a wireless hotspot which allows me to use my laptop, which is much much easier to type on (not to mention uploading pictures is easier too)!

There is a limit on the amount of data I can use, so video conferencing is probably out of the question, but e-mailing and Gmail chat and all that is totally doable.

But anyway, you didn't come here to read about my phone (or maybe you did, who knows?). Obviously the thing you're asking is "So what about the Dedication you were talking about last time??" Well, you will be happy to know I have gobs and gobs of pictures and stories to share about it. Let's begin with the guests, shall we?

First was of course the C.O. couple we had, Walter and Shawn West. They are Jamaican Gilead graduates, served and the Guyana branch while it was in operation, and were in the District work until we came under the Trinidad branch.

Next set of guests in our house was Joshua and Dian Dorris. Interesting backstory to them, Joshua was the first friend I ever made in Guyana (I mean, aside from Tom and Michelle, Mike and Lara, etc. He was the first Guyanese friend I made in Guyana). Shortly after that, I met Dian when I went to Fyrish with Micaiah, and afterward I went out in service with her. A while after that, they got married, and so it was a neat experience seeing them both again, and having them staying with us in our house.
(Joshua and Dian are the ones that are not small children)

They also had a few others from Fyrish who came along with them. There were so many people that weekend that they wound up having to sleep on the floor of the Kingdom Hall. I've included a photo simply for the awwww factor.

Joshua and his crew were very popular at the Dedication. Many years ago Joshua had been assigned to Orealla, so almost all the village knows him and were very excited for his return. Another brother who was in very high demand for this event was Jethro Rübenhagen. He was heavily involved in the preaching work there in the 1980's and 90's, and was also integral in the building of the first Orealla Kingdom Hall (seen in the 2005 Yearbook, actually!)

You see, Orealla was for a long time under the Suriname branch, so when the preaching work first opened up here, missionaries from Suriname are the ones who were sent in. You can read more about it in the 1990 Yearbook about Suriname. Yes, there is in fact a substantial section about Orealla in the Yearbook about Suriname. It's amazing. Read it.

Anyway, here's a picture of Jethro along with a local brother named Mark Herman.

And pretty much the whole Suriname bunch that came in for the program!!

After the program was over and it was time for the Suriname crew to head home, everyone gathered along with coastline to say goodbye to them as they left.

Of course, that wasn't the end of our week. This was a Saturday, so Sunday morning we still had the rest of the Circuit Overseer visit. In attendance we had.... uh, I really have no idea. Here was the crowd there.

Bear in mind we have 27 publishers.

And that was the exciting stuff then. Since that week, there's been a few other things that are of interest, but I'll save them for next time. One of the things I'll be covering is a new pseudo-roommate. He'll  be here for two weeks, but I have yet to get a picture of him. So as I said, next time.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Aloha From Orealla!!

Hello ladies and gentlemen. I am writing you from my living room in Orealla, using my computer, and am online! W00t!

If you're curious at all about what's been happening with me in the last two or three weeks, I can summarize very briefly: I have never been so tired in my life. But in a good way.

See, the congregation here has two elders and no ministerial servants. And one of those elders will be leaving in four days to attend Bible School For Single Brothers (the last one!) in Trinidad. Due to this, the congregation said they've been praying for someone else to get sent here to help out while the brother is away. I must say, realizing I'm here because a congregation was praying for it is one of the most humbling realizations of my life.

Now, because there's so much to cover, I'll split the information up in three segments:

1. My House

The house I'm is amazing. It's built on the same lot as the Kingdom Hall, so I walk out the house's front door and into the Hall's back door. It has solar panels, a generator, and two large water tanks, so electricity and running water are never a concern. It's two story, with a bedroom downstairs along with bathrooms (three of them, which are used for the Kingdom Hall as well) and the shower, along with the laundry spot.

Which is just plastic tubs that you drag into the shower, but nonetheless...

Upstairs are two bedrooms, plus kitchen, living room, and dining room.

It's a heap better than the house me and Micaiah shared for a while. Dusty, rat infested mess.

Speaking of...

I did see Micaiah recently, and his new house is quite nice. He has internet in his house that's fast enough he can watch Netflix. But I'm getting sidetracked.

2. The Congregation

As I said, we have two elders in Orealla - Lennox Johnston, who is a native; and Kojo Burgan, who used to serve at the Guyana branch before they merged with Trinidad. After that, he got assigned here. He's my roommate until he leaves for the School for Brothers.

Left, Lennox Johnston. Right, Kojo Burgan

We also have seven people serving as either Regular or Regular Auxiliary Pioneers.
Left to right: Lennox Johnston, Josh Westfall, Kojo Burgan, Ntombe Zandile (need-greater sister from South Africa), Neeta Peneux, Janet Hendricks, and a pioneer visiting us from Skeldon congregation whose name I have since forgotten.

3. Field Service

Wow, where do I begin? I think the best way to describe the field is with an example of field service from this morning. I placed an Isaiah's Prophecy book. In door to door. On the initial call. And then at the next door, I did it again!

Plus, I already have three Bible studies. One of these began this way: I was doing door to door and a man I met listened to the presentation, and at the end of it said "You know, I have a book from your people, but there's something I was wondering about with it." I say okay, get the book and we'll talk about it.

He comes back with a Live Forever book and opens to a part that talks about 1914. "Now this says something about a generation that's alive during 1914 would see the end. But it's 2014 now, 100 years later! Surely there can't be many of those people still alive, right?"

Yup. So I did the best I could to answer about the revisions and such, but finally arranged to return and explain in more detail.

Also, going on Bible studies here is simply the best. Not only because most people are serious students and really try to learn, but also because of this...

On the bench is Kojo and his young student Robert Hendricks. In the hammock is my feet and my tote bag.

Close-up of Robert, along with me in the hammock with my tote. I've got a thing for totes.

Another recent addition to the preaching work in Orealla... see if you recognize what this is.

Public witnessing hits Orealla! We have no posters for it yet, but we've got enough literature packed in it to grab attention.

Two more awesome recent occurrences are...
1. Our circuit overseer visit. Walter West and his wife Shawn, who are Gilead graduates from Jamaica who are now in the circuit work. One of the best parts of this is that they're staying in me and Kojo's house, so we're getting gobs of time with them.

(fun factoid: Walter and Shawn went to the same Gilead class as Tom and Michelle Sanches)

The other fun development is...
2. Orealla Kingdom Hall dedication is coming up on Saturday! Despite the fact that the Hall was built eight years ago, our dedication will finally be held Saturday, February 8th. So we've got tons of guests coming in over the weekend for the program. In fact, I have to wrap up soon because in a bit the first of the guests will be coming in, and it's dark out so Kojo and I need to go help them unload off the boats.

So, two final things: I couldn't bring my guitar, so I managed to acquire one here. I present to you, Laura.

The other cool thing is that there are only two other guitar players in the village, one of whom is a brother, and is grandfather to many of our publishers. He's been blind for years now, but still plays a mean guitar.

So, whenever I get back to Ohio and I begin blathering about stuff, slap me in the face and say "I can hear your stories later, now show me the video of Brother Rudolph playing guitar!!"

Aaaaaand the boats are in. Catch you later.