Friday, March 25, 2016

Big Plans and Little Bananas [Bruce Westfall]

Hard to believe it hasn't even been a week since we arrived. Really getting to know the town and congregation well. Here is a rundown of activities so far:

Airports and a boat. That's all the energy for that. ( I said I would do a separate post about the boat,but decided not to. Much more fun stuff to talk about.)

Got to the dock around 7am, unloaded, unpacked. Before we could finish, a boy comes to the house with fresh pastries a sister had made for us. Delicious, of course. About half hour later another boy stops by and asks if we would like to buy some pumpkin. So we got a quarter pumpkin ( not a huge one – a little bigger than a cantelope ) That cost the equivalent of less than a dollar.
We then went for a walk around the village. If you want a map, go to, then search for Orealla. I think it says it is in Suriname, but it is not. Anyway, click that then zoom into the town. No aerial view, just a map. All the way near the bottom is the police station. Joshua lives 2 doors down. If I had to be a policeman, that would be my first choice. The only siren you ever hear is a bird that sounds like a british police car. Bwee-do-bwee-do-bwee-do-bwee-do.

Kingdom Hall is about in the middle. Pretty sure it is labeled too. ( Offline while writing this.) The main boat dock is very near to he hall. All docks are called “stellings”. I mean, what else would you call them??

Along the “main road” are little shops. One place just has eggs, another has snacks, but the main store is called “Carl's” or “the shop”. It is the Orealla equivalent to Walmart. They mostly have what you want and need, but sometimes are out of stuff. Here's a picture:

Made scrambled eggs and some other thing that is now in the distant past and I cant recall. But it was good too, of course. Then to the meeting at 9:30. Hellos to everyone and names are a blur. Local brother Lennox Johnston (David White likes that name) gave the talk and great participation at the watchtower study. 60 in attendance with 33 publishers.

Came home ( for ease of description, of course), had a quick lunch, gave the hammocks a real workout, then back to the hall for the broadcast at 6pm. Around 30 people showed up for that. Charles and Pamela Chacon ( pronounced Chalk In ) handed us a bag with dinner that was still hot and fresh. Sorry, no pictures, but more yummy stuff. Apparently we looked very hungry because Brother and sister MacKenzie handed us a tote bag with breakfast for the next day.

Ate previously mentioned breakfast. Southeast Ohio and the rest of the country could learn from the following. Every Monday a large percentage of the village spends the day cleaning up. Picking up trash, hacking down overgrown lots and other types of upkeep. I must admit, if Joshua had not warned me ahead of time, I could have really been worried sitting in the hammock drinking coffee and snacking on the breakfast remnants when I look up and see about 15 people walking toward the house with machetes. It was for the lot next door.
Speaking of cleaning, the congregation met around 9am to clean and do touchup paint at the Hall in preparation for the Memorial. The group kept changing in size but there were always at least 15 there at any time throughout the day. Around 3 oclock was a meeting to coordinate Memorial preparations, then finishing setting up and decorating.

The Big Day Out. Around 30 friends from the hall including the visiting Memorial speaker and his wife went out to an area called “The Resort” It is a clearing in the jungle with a slow clear little river flowing alongside with shelters and cooking areas, along with a small house that is used by whoever is care taking. Open to anyone in the village that wishes to use it. Takes around an hour to walk there or 15 minutes by motorcycle ( 2 people) or 20+ minutes using an ATV( 5-7 people). ATV's are kind of like an SUV here.

So we all had a great time rowing up and down the river in a dugout canoe, swimmins and splashing, playing with a soccer ball, cards, following a guide thru the jungle as he clears a path with a machete so we can see the howler monkeys ( yes, but too far for a photo to do any good. ) also eating, roasting the largest marshmallows the world has ever seen and just gaffing ( chit chat ). The only issue came when the 4 wheeler that was supposed to be there by 4pm was still not there after 4:30. So we started walking, Some stayed behind a bit hoping the ATV would show up which it finally did. But we fulfilled the scripture “the last will go first and the first will be last.” But it really was a gorgeous walk along the jungle trail and into the savanna, then down to Orealla again.

Meet at the Hall around 8am, get everything organized, make sure we are forgetting nothing and then 6 of us into K-Pro the boat (Kingdom Proclaimer) and off to Siparuta about ½ hour upstream from Orealla. ( Refer back to openstreetmaps – the only site that has not just the towns in the right location, but even the streets are fairly accurate.)

We get there, unload some things at Yanets house and take what is needed to the Health Center to setup for the Memorial there. Once that is done we freshen up, get into service clothes and split up to either finish an area that was partially worked or do return visits. I was working with Geno Chacon (our boat captain and a quiet humble man who can do nearly everything.) We approached one house and I was extremely thirsty. Some children were washing something off at an outside faucet and I asked if I could get some water. The lady looked confused at me so I asked “Can I fill up my water bottle here?” She said of course I could with the puzzled look of someone when you ask if you could breathe oxygen in their presence. The only people who did not take the invitation were ones who already had one.

Setting up for Memorial. Had plenty of posters to cover up at the Health Centre.

Then back to Yanets house, relax a bit with that incredible breeze that is almost constantly blowing and get fed more food than I could eat. Finally time for Memorial clothes and we walk the very short distance there. As time approaches, 2 women show up, one of whom is studying and was expected to be at the congregation farther south and across the river in Apoera, Suriname. She was worried about the sister who studied with her not knowing where she was. I'm sure she has found out by now. By the time to start 8 had shown up, with 5 more coming slightly late and 3 who were very sad as they got there as the closing prayer finished. It's OK, we talked to them for another 20 minutes. We all felt it was a fine turnout for the first Memorial scheduled with invitations and all. 14 years ago, 2 brothers do go and did the Memorial in Siparuta since a visiting speaker was coming to Orealla to give their talk. 6 showed up then. Next year will be better since it was a Hindu holiday and soccer (Editor's Note: Football. It's football) tournaments were going on all day long.

So, pack up, back on the boat with calm smooth water and an amazing full moon lighting the way.

Wakeup, start some coffee on the gas stove, then off to borrow the Toyota Pickup of Orealla, the wheelbarrow. Neighbor by the water who repairs boats is not home, so walk down the road about 3 houses away to ask the Miguels ( Queeneth and Kates family ) but it is currently out to bring home a load of cassava. So over towards the hall and up 2 streets to check with Chacons and success! They give Carol some peppers, then next door to buy Corrillia ( wrong spelling I'm sure) and Okra from Allen. I ask how much it would be and he says “lemme see what I have”. Comes back with 8 of these and 8 okra. A dollar.

Next stop is The Mall. So at Carl's we get 2 water bottles, baking powder, some cookies and a few other things. Heading home we stop at a house that raises chickens and get 6 eggs. Pretty sure the grand total was less then a happy meal.

Return the wheelbarrow, then back home and start cleaning, cooking and laundry.

Field Service! Breakfast of okra, onions, eggs and rice. And several cups of coffee.
Then we get ready and meet at the Hall at 9. Or that was the plan. Joshua left first since he was leading the group. Carol and I were getting our service bags together and running a bit behind, but finally got out the door. A breezy cool cloudy morning. Partway to the hall the sun peeked thru and scorched off a layer of my skin reminding me I forgot my hat. It is a very necessary thing here for a freckled old man. So back to the house for that and got to the meeting in time for closing prayer.


Had about 15 meet. Some went to the upper part of town – uphill. The majority worked downhill, the main part of town and a couple did the cart. Our group went to the farthest south part of town finishing a few houses that had not been worked.

Since the Memorial was Wednesday, the mid week meeting is tonight, but all I got assigned was to be a householder. That is a new record here for a visitor, I believe. So now post a blog, say hello to all and get ready for the meeting. Been a busy week and all 3 of us are worn out.

Oh yes, Little Bananas. Here they are.

"Ladyfingers" as the Arawak call them.


Editor's Note: I may possibly post something of my own soon. Or not.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Blog Hijack [Guest Writer, Bruce Westfall]

In the last two days, my father and mother have each arrived for a one month Guyana stay, coming in for our Memorial and until after our upcoming Circuit Assembly. Since I'm in the habit of updating the blog roughly once or twice per month, my father has stepped in to share things from his perspective. So here goes.


Welcome to the first installment of The Blog Hijack.
Month long trips out of the country require the following:
Long boring waits in airports followed by moments of rushing and panic in airports followed by long boring waits in airports followed by moments of rushing and panic in airports followed by..... Oh. We made it.
I would provide photos of the trip from the airport thru Georgetown, but my fingers were clinched so tightly I would not be able to hold my phone. 

Here is our amazing taxi driver, Brother Nankumar. If I become a movie producer and need a stunt driver, it would definitely be a No Problem job for this incredibly talented man.

You know how you feel on a two lane road and someone decides to pass a large truck in the other lane at the last second?  Panic, right?  Picture that happening every 30 seconds on a 4 hour drive. But it's OK because EVERY SINGLE CAR on the road is driven like that.  I recommend the back seat and close your eyes.

Then the boat ride from skeldon to orealla.  That's another entry.

So, after all that waiting, panic, boredom and terror comes...

The first view you get of Orealla. You can faintly see the chalk hills
off in the distance. The word Orealla is Arawak for "red ore", so named
because of the cliffs.


As soon as the boat docks, we see several brothers waiting for us.  Then the second it is close enough 2 brothers jump on and begin unloading all our stuff. We try to help, but only end up carrying the absolute last little things we can find.
The dock in the heart of the village.

Some of the brothers who arrived to aid with the luggage.
Note to self: Next time bring a wheelbarrow to the airport... and Brother France.).

So, go to the end of the dock, turn left down the main road and in less than 100ft, we see this:
Sister McKenzie, one of the Special Pioneers in the Orealla congregation.

Now just to clarify one point.  The main road is a sand footpath about 6 feet wide.  There are NO CARS in the village.  Foot traffic is the majority, followed by bicycles, men with wheelbarrows, powered scooters, motorcycles and the rare 4 wheeler.  One of which is the Police car.

Everybody smiles and greets you as you pass, you can walk up to any house and take pictures of the macaws in their tree.  If you see a piece of fruit, you take what you can eat right then and all is fine...


I think so.


So there you have it. He'll periodically post blog updates throughout the next few weeks, possibly interspersed with my own. 

But until then, here's another picture he took that didn't necessarily fit into the storyline he'd constructed.

"Welcome.... to Jurassic Park!"

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Preparations For Memorial

Big, big, big news this time around! After years of trying, we've finally been able to establish something for this year. Namely, two Memorial observations! One in Orealla, and a second simultaneous one in our neighbor village Siparuta. This has been impossible up to now due to the severe lack of brothers in our area (and in all the other congregations in Guyana) so we could barely even cover all the responsibilities for one Memorial. This year however, we've been able to snag someone from overseas to come in to aid us. Fella named Bruce Westfall, not sure if that'll ring a bell for anyone.

Even this though, we weren't sure would cover it, until finally all the brothers involved agreed to go ahead and pitch in even more so than usual so we could still hold both programs at the same time. This will lead to some of us handling three or four assignments at once, but we're confident that we can get it done. Here's hoping! And lots and lots and lots of nonstop praying.

Anyway, we of course need to have an invitation campaign in order to let everyone know what's coming up, and today was the beginning of our Memorial campaign over that side, so here's the stories of what happened.

For starters, the reason we've been so eager to get over there for a Memorial is due to the amazing response we get in the ministry each time we go. We've gone for each Memorial campaign the last three years, and each time the reaction from people was the same.

"It's so hard to get over to Orealla. When are you going to start a Kingdom Hall over here so we can come all the time?"

I'm not even joking about that. Unfortunately though, only a small handful could make it each time to the Memorial in Orealla. So today, we go with fancy schmancy invitations that listed date and time in two locations. The Orealla Kingdom Hall and the Siparuta Health Centre. The first door I took was Raymond (whom I have spoken of in several previous blog entries on Siparuta), and as I was showing him the invitation, and he immediately recognized what it was. But then after seeing his recognition, I opened it to the inside and pointed out "Not only is it in Orealla this year, but we're having it here in Siparuta too." His eyes popped out of his head (not literally) and he shouted "It's here this year? Finally! I'll be there!"

Next house my partner Geno takes the door. He points out the two locations to the woman, and her eyes pop out and she shouts "It's here this year? Of course I'll come!"

This happened at nearly every single door.

In fact, remember how we were instructed to offer the March Watchtower at any door where they showed interest? Well, that became every house we took. We also showed the Memorial video at about 80% of the houses.

Geno walking away from a house, disappointed at
only placing an invitation and Watchtower.

I pointed this out to him, how at every door we had covered the options for what to do on an initial call during the campaign. Immediately after this we took a house where a man was swinging in a hammock reading a book. As he sees us approaching, he puts his book down and gives us his attention. As Geno talks with the man, I kept getting brief glimpses of the book as the hammock swung. It seemed decidedly small and yellow. Finally my curiosity got the better of me and I asked what book he had. He holds up a copy of What Does the Bible Really Teach? After recovering from my brief shock, I pointed him to pages 206-208 in the appendix on the Lord's Evening Meal and encouraged him to read more on it after we'd left.

"Sigh... only 9 placements at the last 3 doors."

There was also one house where we were invited inside and did the (by this point) usual routine - invite, video, Watchtower, promise to return - and then prepared to leave. The people there looked shocked and brought out a Teach Book and New World Translation and asked "But aren't you going to study with us?"

See, this is why we need to start a Kingdom Hall over there...

On that note, the top priority on each of these trips has become to visit a woman by the name of Yanet. She had lived in Suriname before and nearly become a publisher when her husband's work moved them back to Siparuta, their original home. Thus being away from a congregation for so long she wasn't able to progress further, much to her own disappointment. She's in fact the one in Siparuta who's helping to put the Memorial together. She works at the Health Centre there and was the one able to secure it for us as the site for the meeting. So after we finished covering the village (the whole village, top to bottom) today, she took us all over so we could take a better look at it and see what would be needed in preparation.

Note to dad: Memorize what this place looks like.

As excited as we are to have this set up, it is gonna take a lot of work to get it ready. Since it's a Health Centre and not exactly built for public speaking, we'll need to set up a basic sound system and find a way to get a lot more chairs. At first we were estimating about a dozen total would be attending the Memorial, which would easily fit on the benches there (which can hold about 25 or so). But after the ridiculous reception of the campaign work today, it could easily get to 40 or more.

Oh yes, and it's mostly outdoor. Has a roof, but still.
(The red hat is the woman helping us, Yanet)

So after getting a good look at the place and figuring out what work needs done, it was time to head back to Orealla. We were absolutely exhausted, but excited about the coming weeks, and happy in a job well done.

In a closing note, yes I reference lots of older posts about trips to Siparuta and all. If you don't feel like digging through a lot of old posts, then use this handy list of links.

My first trip there, September 2010
My second time, with some river witnessing thrown in, January 2011
A very brief mention of a trip there, March 2014
My favorite trip so far, where we re-encountered an old friend, April 2014
The last time we walked to Siparuta, November 2014
Where the saga of Raymond and James begins, May 2015
Further details on Raymond and James, November 2015