Saturday, January 30, 2016

Stranded. Sleep Deprivation. Beavers.

Our story so far. I had traveled out to Skeldon for a one day trip in order to print off a territory map, pick up our literature, and download all (or most) of the videos we'll be watching at the meeting for the next month. We reached Skeldon around 3 am and I walked from the dock to the home of a brother who'd offered to let me crash by. I'd intended to sleep, but as soon as I got access to his internet connection I quickly forgot about sleep. After a mere three hours the sun was up and I set about doing all the projects that needed done.

After all had been finished (and I'd had a few leisure minutes) it was near 6 pm and time to get back on the boat.

Here's where the story gets interesting.

After the boat gets loaded and pulls out, we ran aground on (I assume) a sand bank. That was 6:24 pm, Friday. It is now 6:24 am Saturday, and we're still there.

Now I should say, as nice as sleeping on a hammock can be, when you're attempting to do so on an overcrowded boat that keeps getting tossed about in waves (while still somehow managing to NOT get unstuck) sleep is much more difficult. So I'd say at this point I've had a full night's sleep in the last three days.

Further, I'm pretty sure some of the passengers have slowly been losing their minds. I say this because just a few minutes ago I was honored to be audience to a passionately moving rendition of Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" wherein one word each line was replaced by the word "beavers". Amazingly, I'm not making this up.

So beaver now
Take me into your beaver arms
Kiss me under the light of a beaver star

'Cause beaver I'll be
Loving beavers til I'm 70

And so on.

Rumor has it we'll be leaving soon-ish when the water level rises high enough again for us to float and continue down the river more.

Which I like the sound of. After 12 hours I know the interior of this boat better than I ever thought I would.

So beaver now
Take me into your beaver arms

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Quick Trip Upriver

The last update on this blog focused on one of the wonderful new uses of our congregation boat, namely being able to exchange speakers with our neighboring congregation in Suriname. This time though, we shall dwell on the other new thing our boat allows us to do.

See, up to this point we've been using the Kingdom Proclaimer VII to reach the second village in our territory, Siparuta. However, between those villages there are houses and farms and work camps scattered along the river, along with even more up river. Those places, we have not yet been able to try to reach.

Until now.

Early this morning Brother Chacon and I gathered a good pile of literature and piled into the boat. Two others were originally planning to join us, but then they had Bible studies who requested their presence that same morning. So with just the two of us, we decided to still go ahead and see how many of these houses we could reach.

For a visual aid, here's an idea of where we were going...

In this image, the red dot is Orealla and Siparuta. That's so far all we've worked on the river, despite the fact our territory is everything on the river from Corriverton up top until about halfway down that map. So the goal for this trip was just do the closest houses to Orealla on the way up to Corriverton.

I'm going to say today was a half success. See, we didn't actually cover much distance. Well, we didn't cover hardly any at all. Okay, we did one house.

BUT, the reason we only did one house is because it was a really really really good call. If you look at the picture at the top of this entry, you can see a red roof off in the distance (and you can admire our nice green river. Don't worry, it's only like that immediately after rainy season). As we approached, we saw two people standing in the doorway who had heard the engine approaching. I was startled to realize this man and his wife knew a Bible study I'd had the previous year who apparently has since moved to Kwakwani (another Amerindian village, sorta nearby-ish. Well, head into the savanna, and run through the jungle for about 20+ hours). After talking with them very briefly they invited us inside their home so we could get out of the sun. We sat down on the corner of a large bench inside that wrapped halfway around the inside of the house.

I began the presentation for the January Watchtower on the back cover, asking about death. After reading Ecclesiastes 9:5,6,10 the man asks "Isn't that just about the body though? I thought the soul lives after death." So we read the verse in Ezekiel about the soul that sins dies.

"So then," he asks "Is it the spirit that survives death?" After talking about that a while he says "But if nothing survives death, that what gets sent to Hell?"

We tackle that. "But if Hell isn't a real place," he adds "What's Satan's domain then?"

We show how 1 John says the wicked one controls the world. "So then," comes the next question "Do good people go to Heaven and bad people stay on Earth?"

We remind how at death that's the end of everything, but then show how only certain ones go to Heaven and most will be resurrected on Earth and Satan's influence would be removed.

At this point we realize it's been several hours and he has to get back to work (in fact, we'd been there so long the tide went way down and beached our boat, so he came and helped us lift the boat and get it back in the water). As we're about to leave, he asks "When do you have services?"

"At our Kingdom Hall?" we ask. "Sunday morning 9:30 and Wednesday night at 6:00."

"Okay. I'll come by sometime. And I'd like you to come back here too sometime. We've got more to talk about."

And then I realized I'd only taken one picture the whole day, and
would have to cleverly mirror the image so it would LOOK like
I'd taken a second one. Genius move, I thought.
At this point, the river was quite choppy and we had to return to the village. As much as we wanted to get to some more houses, it was quite simply too dangerous to do. Even just returning back to Orealla, what little distance we'd come, we nearly flipped over twice. But we made it back fine, so now we're making plans for another trip up the river next Tuesday. Only this time we'll leave at a different time so we can avoid the choppy waters, and therefore reach more houses.

Until then!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Visitors From Apoera

This last month has presented us (and I personally) with some interesting new developments. For beginners, with our new boat (Kingdom Proclaimer VII, read all about it!) we've been able to extend not only our territory, but also our realm of visiting speakers. You may recall we have a village near us in Suriname named Apoera, where we're able to travel without visa or passport or any of that nonsense since it's another Amerindian village. Two years back I was able to deliver a public talk there (it being an English congregation) while visiting a nearby waterfall/generally cool place. However, this was a rather isolated event as doing this regularly would get very expensive and involve being away from my congregation for at least three days. Boat schedules and all...

However, with the Kingdom Proclaimer VII we've been able to institute a program of regular speaker exchanges between us and Apoera, which had its inaugural event just this last Sunday. We sent over our COBE McKenzie (along with his wife, plus the son and daughter of another couple and a fifth brother to pilot the boat) while Apoera sent to us their COBE Norah along with a need-greater from another part of Suriname and a need-greater couple visiting from the Netherlands.

Poor photo, sorry, I was confined to the sound booth for the meeting.
Our boat captain is also unfortunately our go-to sound guy, so I got to sub.

Had an awesome time with the four, and afterwards a large group stayed behind at the Kingdom Hall and provided a meal for the guests. They stayed around until after 3 PM, after which they piled back into their boat to return home to Apoera.

I'm unclear if their boat has an awesome name too, but seeing as they're Dutch it'd probably be something like "Ikbeneenverkondigervaneenkoninkrijk Berichtnaariedereennummerzeven".

Of course, the new meeting arrangement has been a huge change for us as well. The biggest concern for us was the matter of there being so many videos with each meeting. We've got a projector with which we've been watching the JW Broadcast videos each month with the whole congregation, but it takes a little while to set up, to tear down the whole stage arrangement to view the video on the back wall, etc etc etc. However, two of our brothers were able to work up a great way to make it all function smoothly and easily.

Brother Chacon, our boat captain, sound guy, and "Hey how do I make this
work oh never mind let me just call Chacon he'll know" guy.

By moving the year text up to the front of the stage, mounting the projector behind it in the ceiling (and upside down so we can reach the power switches) and permanently moving the speaker stand to one side, we're now able to activate the projector and get videos playing in just seconds. Way better than the ten minutes we were taking before.

Testing the video setup. Our two pioneer sisters in the front approve.

A personal change for me which I'm quite pleased with is a water arrangement I now have. I still don't have running water, but I do now have a 55-gallon drum to collect rainwater in!

Hey, for me this is the lap of luxury.

Of course my home has no running water (as most of the houses in the village), but someone had offered to get it for me before. I would involve a large 300+ gallon water tank to collect water and some piping, but all in all wouldn't be too expensive. I thought about this offer for a few moments but quickly declined. Here was my reasoning.

When I first moved to Guyana in 2010, I was in a home that had electricity but no running water. Nearly every day I thought to myself "Man, if only I had running water."

After that I moved into a home with running water but no electricity, and nearly every day I thought to myself "Man, if only I had electricity."

Then I moved to a house that had electricity and running water, and definitely every day I thought to myself "Man, if only I had internet."

Then I got that internet, and every day I thought to myself "Man, if only I had faster internet."

Then I moved into a home with no running water and electricity just four hours a day, and of course every single day I began thinking "Man, if only I had running water".

The lesson I learned: I am never satisfied. So might as well keep myself at the lowest living standard and just accept it.

But having a 55 gallon barrel of rainwater at the bottom of my stairs is very nice. Now instead of running to the river five times a day with buckets, I can just take it to the bottom of my steps. May sound like a small thing, but it's been a huge and fantastic change for me.

One final and random note. I really enjoy learning to live more like an Amerindian. Here's the latest thing I've tried. For a long time when I would mop my floors and steps, I would use some floor-cleaning liquid chemical cancer-causing (probably) thing that I'd buy from Skeldon. But while visiting with one of the families here, I noticed they picked a large amount of fruit called Burambi and smashed it into a bucket, and used the juice to clean the floor with. So, I decided to give it a try!

Burambi + bucket + water...

... + foot = SMASH!

I gave it a try, and was shocked to note that a few spots I'd been trying to remove for weeks came off with zero effort. You can also use these fruit things to polish woodwork with too, plus remove stains from clothes and fabric.

But, that's all I've got for now. Upcoming we've got a few other things, each of which suddenly escape my memory. But until then, vergeef mijn slechte vertaling van nederlands.