Monday, April 28, 2014

Thus Endeth the Visitors

I've been having a ridiculous amount of people coming to visit lately. This past week was no different.

There was an assortment of people from Trinidad who have been serving in the Skeldon congregation, which is the closest hall to us in Guyana (in other words, it's only seven hours away). Their time in Guyana was coming to an end, and several brothers and sisters in Skeldon suggested they should visit Orealla before leaving, so last Tuesday two of the sisters came down, accompanied by Amy Norbaum (who you may remember as being the one I ran into at the Miami airport whilst coming here: along with a deaf sister named Niasa and a few others who were born in Orealla but have moved out to Skeldon for various reasons. The two from Trinidad were only able to stay for a few days, after which they had to leave, along with Melanie who was going back to Micaiah's hall until she leaves for the States sometime this week. The other six though (Amy, Niasa, Denzel, Dylan, Alyssa, and Anne) stayed around until yesterday night.

It was neat because Niasa was able to prepare four different comments for the Watchtower study. If you've never seen it done at a meeting before, basically the deaf sister raises her hand, and the microphone goes to whoever can translate for her. I also managed to nab a picture of the notes she read her comments from.

When it finally came time for the Skeldon crew to go, there was a fair amount of hullabaloo. The sendoff lasted two days. First night, movies.

(There is a second screen connected to the laptop. We weren't all hunched around that dinky screen)

The next night was.... uhh, this. Whatever this is.

So this was the final piece of the never-ending parade of visitors we've had since I arrived. I doubt I can even remember them all.

Walter, Shawn, Joshua, Dian, Zandile, Dustin, Olivia, Melanie, Carys, Alonso, Justin, Amy, Avian, Niasa, Alyssa, Denzel, Dylan, Anne, and Tophirah. So long y'all, you'll be missed.

And those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head. However, next Monday Kojo will supposedly be returning from Bible School, so I'm not sure if that will restore things to normal, or whether life here will remain a constant mishmash of craziness.

I sure hope so!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Memorial in Orealla

The preceding few days have been chock full of eventfulness. For one, when you enter Guyana they'll only give you a three month visa, after which you have to leave the country. Strangely enough, you can come back into the country the next day and get another three month visa and they're fine with it. Due to this, most need-greaters will hop over into Suriname for a few nights for a mini-vacation, then come back for another visa. Usually this is pretty easy, but for me staying in Orealla, it presents a huge headache. Here was my dilemma:

There are only two days you can get a boat to or from Orealla, and that's Thursday/Friday and Sunday/Monday (each one is an overnight trip). The other hitch was my visa expired the day of the Memorial (Monday, April 14). I couldn't go the week before due to a huge series of circumstances and whatnot, so it had to be the weekend of the Memorial, and I couldn't wait until after. Therefore, I was going to have to leave Orealla Thursday night, arrive on the coast Friday morning and go straight into Suriname, and stay until Saturday morning. Then back to the coast until Monday afternoon, at which point I'd have to pray like crazy that a boat would be able to get me back home before 6:30 when the Memorial began.

That's what was supposed to happen, but here's what actually happened...

After praying almost nonstop for three days, I get to the Suriname border Friday morning. While standing in the immigration line, a man yells out "Is anyone going back to Guyana today?"

I raise my hand. "Wait, I can do that?"

He says "Yeah. You needing a visa? You want to go back to Guyana on the next ferry?"

I say "Yes!"

The man, named Herrman, pulls me to the front of the line and lets me get checked through first, at which point he takes me right around to where I could board the ferry back to Guyana, which I had left mere minutes ago.

Herrman. Or possible an angel. Not sure.

So here I find myself on a ferry straight back into Guyana. I was overjoyed, but still cautious about getting back into Guyana. People have had problems before with immigration, so how would they react seeing I had left Guyana only to come straight back and......?!

"How long are you staying for?" asked the woman at Customs.

"Um, I'd like three months."

She stamps my passport, hands it back, and says "Enjoy your stay."

With my newly stamped three month visa, I was back in Guyana, and went straight back to where the Orealla boat was docked, with hours to spare before it went back home.

 In the intervening days, a few other interesting developments happened. For example, the three girls we had here a few weeks back returned to help with the Memorial invitation work, amongst other things, along with Tom Sanches coming down to give our Memorial talk for us. Naturally, we had them all joining us on a second Siparuta trip, which makes it the first time that we've ever been able to work Siparuta twice in one year! It was fantastic, because we had so many people going on this trip we filled up the entire boat. It was jam-packed with people.

This is of course not even showing the front two rows. All told, we had 16 Witnesses rammed into this little boat. Obviously, when you have this many Witnesses stuck together for an hour, it gets really loud. And fun as well. Time flew by.

After getting to the village, we split up into groups and set out trying to cover the whole village in a day. It's difficult to estimate how long it'll take anytime we go, since nobody seems to be sure of how many live in the village. Guesses range from 200 to 800. Nonetheless, we got there around 9-ish, but we weren't trying to blitz the territory or anything. Typically we do, since it gets worked so rarely, but since we had been there just a few weeks ago, there was much less pressure, and we were able to take our time and have extensive conversations with people, both about the Memorial and any other topic, really. After several hours of nonstop walking and preaching, we arrived at the conclusion we had finished covering the village. This was the sign it was now time to sit down and eat something, because seriously.

During this point, Tom and I started talking to a woman sitting in the benab with us (basically, a gazebo). As we were talking to her, she acted like she recognized us but couldn't remember from where. Finally we ask her name, and she says "Ruth", at which point Tom and I both shout "Christmas? Ruth Christmas?!"

She says yes, at which point she recognizes us as well. She was the one who had helped us when we first came to Siparuta, almost four years ago.

(Read all about it! Read all about it!

Tom Sanches preaching through lunch, because of course he is.

So that pretty well wrapped up the excitement until the Memorial itself. Which of course went wonderfully.

We did a major overhaul of the seating arrangements so that we could fit everyone who was expected to come. Typically our Kingdom Hall holds around 55, but we were able to arrange things so that we could seat 102.

As I've said before we have quite a serious problem in regard to not having enough qualified brothers in Orealla, so for the Memorial we had Tom Sanches giving the talk for us, while Lennox Johnston and I had to say the prayers for the emblems and then do the passing as well. It took quite a while, as you could probably guess from the amount of chairs you see in the picture (plus considering we had two people passing). But it all went without a hitch, and we had an excellent total of 90 in attendance. Not bad for a congregation of 23. I also think we set a record for highest number of white people at an Orealla Memorial ever.

And of course for the obligatory cute picture, here's a sampling of the kids who were there for the program.
The best thing about this pic is the kids on each end, Naomi and Dinoo. They aren't the children of Witnesses, or even Bible students. They each were contacted in door to door and decided of their own accord to come, without their parents or siblings or anything. Studies have been started with them both.

So that's the news. Maybe now after all this has finished things will slow back down and my life won't be a constant race to get the next thing done.

Ha! Of course it won't. I love it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Day

It seems to be becoming a habit that my blog entries begin with an apology for it being so long without an update, along with a note about the preceding period of time being among the busiest of my life. Only problem is each time I do that, the following week is busier.

This time around, there were two things contributing to my being incredibly busy. One was our sole remaining elder having to go out for a few days. So on Saturday I had to lead out for field service and also take charge of the Kingdom Hall cleaning day, which here is a huge deal. This is everything from normal stuff like sweeping to an almost complete overhaul of the landscaping. The whole congregation shows up for it, and work lasts for hours.

During the workday we received news of the other thing: the daughter of a sister in Orealla had died suddenly. With our elder being gone, this meant the responsibility of organizing the funeral would fall on me. On top of this, the next day (Sunday) I gave the public talk and conducted the Watchtower study. Almost immediately after the meeting ended, I had to get ahold of the family and work out details of the funeral for the deceased sister. They wanted to bring her back to Orealla on Tuesday and have the funeral that same day.

Monday was thus spent writing a funeral talk and figuring out where all the family and out of town visitors were going to stay. That afternoon most of the guests arrived, and amazingly I only had one person who had to stay with me. It was a brother named Jason who had come here many times before to visit Kojo, so he knew the house well. Fortunately amongst the people coming in was our elder returning, and he had heard of what all was happening. Additionally, he had gotten his father to come back with him to deliver the funeral talk, as he had been a friend of the family for decades. So that was something off my shoulders.

Which brings us to the titular "My Day", Tuesday....

My day began with a banging on the door. As I stumble over to the door, I notice the clock reads 6:30 am. It's a local brother, who informs me many men in the village are getting wheelbarrows of sand to put all down the family's road to absorb the mud (which is an incredibly nice thing to do, considering how long that path is). Apparently they need more wheelbarrows and shovels, so I lend ours. I go back to bed.

I'm awoken once more by banging on the door. Another local brother is there saying he wants to rake the yard. It's like, yeah you can. I'm not stopping someone from doing my yard work. I decide sleep is hopeless by this point, and start making breakfast.

Almost immediately, there's banging on the door. Two local sisters are there asking if we can take the spare Kingdom Hall chairs to the family's house. Unfortunately, they're not yet done with the sand, so it's still so muddy the only way to walk it is to go barefoot. I take all 48 chairs to Hendricks' (the name of the family). Walking this path barefoot leads to considerable amounts of blood, sweat, and mud.

I get back home. Banging on the door again. An in-law of the Hendricks family is asking what we can use for music at the burial site. I shoo him away in the direction of someone who knows something. I decide to sit and relax until the funeral starts.

Banging on the door. The funeral is starting in three minutes and holy cow why are you not ready didn't anyone tell you you're chairman oh my heavens Josh you need to get ready RIGHT NOW!
So I cobble together a half decent outfit to wear and be chairman for the funeral. When the talk is all done, they set out to carry the coffin to the burial site, which is located in the uphill portion of the village. Unfortunately, the get there you must traverse Big Momma Hill (no joke, that's totally what it's called).


Finally the funeral is over. I hike back home and peel off my socks and take a shower. Banging on the door. At this point it's dark so I can't see the face. I ask who it is. The shadowy figure happily explains "It's Alonso!"
"Who?" I reply "And whaddya want?"
"I'm the deceased's husband. I just wanted to talk with somebody for a while."
At this point I'm ashamed, and begrudgingly talk with him for a while until he leaves.

I go inside and realize I never did eat breakfast, and it's now dark, so I set about making dinner. Banging on the door. I storm downstairs and open the door, where there's three people asking if I've seen Alonso. "Yeah, he just left. No idea where he went." They leave, I go back upstairs to resume making food.

Banging on the door. I open up and see Romano, whom you may remember was the brother I stayed with when I gave a talk in Apoera, the village in Suriname. "Good night Josh! Excuse me, I need the toilet!!" He barges in quickly and runs to the bathroom. Upon coming out, he explains he's on the river, and must urgently continue on, and thus leaves.

I go back upstairs and give up any hope of tasting food today. Instead, I begin searching for something to watch before I go to bed.

Two minutes later.....?

Banging on the door! I go down, open the door, and see Alonso carrying all his luggage. "I COME FOR SLEEP NOW!" He proceeds to Dustin's old room and passes out on the bed.

So basically, half the day was really depressing, and the other half was so cartoonishly bizarre I had a difficult time not laughing at what was happening.

Which brings us to today. Due to how busy the beginning of the week was, I now have a few hours in which to prepare my three meeting parts for tonight. So naturally, perfect time to write a blog update!

(kidding, already done writing my parts. Calm thyself....)