Assembly time. Never an easy prospect in Guyana, despite how excited we always get for it. Never has that been more readily apparent than this last assembly we had. Here's the story, beginning last Thursday...
Thursday-Saturday: A group of four need-greaters from the Rosignol congregation were coming into Orealla for a visit. Their plan was come in Thursday, stay until Sunday, then travel back out and have a week to get everything ready for assembly that following weekend. But you know that expression "Best laid plans of mice and men".
They arrive fine and have a wonderful weekend. They get to visit all the sights in Orealla, go in the field ministry, have meals with lots of the local families, not get eaten by piranha, etc. All was perfect.
Sunday: One of the brothers delivered an excellent part for us Sunday morning, after which we took lunch with Sis Hendricks and her family. Then off to pack to catch the evening boat out so we'd have a week to prepare for assembly.
However, as we walk out of the house towards the docks, we see a local brother standing in the path with a worried look on his face. We ask what's wrong, and he says "Go take a look."
We reached near the dock to find it packed. Absolutely packed, with no space to even get on the dock. Literally into the hundreds of people waiting there. See, that weekend was what is called "Heritage Day", wherein gobs of tourists travel into Amerindian regions to see and experience those lifestyles. And it so happened that this was the night all those tourists were traveling out. Three boats arrive, fill up, and depart, and there are still people waiting to go out. All the local Witness families and myself turn to the four visiting need-greaters and tell them it looks like they're stuck in Orealla. Happily though, one of the other men in the village tells us he'll be shipping lumber out tomorrow, and we can catch a ride on his boat. Huzzah!
Monday: We arrive at the docks with our luggage and hammocks in tow (always have a hammock when traveling in Guyana). A sinking feeling begins in the pit of my stomach as I see the boat. Packed so full with lumber there is no space to get inside. The captain sees us standing there with our hammocks ready and quickly shouts "No passengers!"
At this point, we're beginning to get rather uncomfortable, as the visitors had brought enough money for the weekend, not for a prolonged stay in the village. Additionally, they had numerous responsibilities to take care of before the assembly began. On top of that, I had also run out of money (having only exactly enough to pay boat fare and get a bus to my bank to draw out more cash), which meant I was unable to call the brother whose home I would be staying in and tell him why I wasn't there.
Happily though, one of the other men in the village tells us he'll be shipping lumber out tomorrow on a different boat, and we can catch a ride with that one. Huzzah!
Tuesday: 6 AM I awake to the sound of someone calling. It's the boat captain from yesterday telling me the boat has been delayed. The people shipping out lumber need to get tags from the Guyana Forestry Commission before they can take logs out of the reservation. Happily though, I'm told it'll be done before the day is through, and we can leave Wednesday.
Wednesday: 6 AM I awake to sound of someone calling. It's the boat captain from yesterday telling me the boat has been delayed. The tags have arrived, but now they're having trouble with the tractor that pulls the lumber out of the jungle. Happily though, I'm told it should finish by tonight and we can leave Thursday morning.
Thursday: Do I really need to say it?
Additionally, Thursday is the only day that there's a specific boat (Neil Boat) that always runs, so we're guaranteed to get out. However, those dreams are crushed when we're told Neil has canceled his regular Thursday run.
Despondent and out of ideas, myself and one of the visitors go for a swim way out at Chalk Hill beach. As we're there swimming, we see afar off on the river a boat approaching. Neil Boat! We scream, jump out of the water and run back to the dock (about 30-45 minutes) and reach just after the boat does. Still dripping I run to the captain and ask "Going Skeldon tonight??" He replies "8:30 tonight."
We continue our run back to the Kingdom Hall, where we have now had our bags packed and waiting since Sunday afternoon. After alerting the others, we grab the bags and sling our hammocks up on the boat to save our places. Then we stay seated on the boat, refusing to leave.
Quickly too, the entire congregation arrives. As they're putting up the hammocks, I ask why we heard Neil had canceled, only to see him arrive after all. The reply?
"Neil says he canceled, but then heard the Jehovah's Witnesses needed to get to an assembly, so he came out to get us."
Friday: We land Skeldon about 5:30 AM, upon which myself and another brother named David Herman immediately grab our bags and head to the home of the brother who's taking us in. Fortunately the brother is already awake and lets us in his house, so we quickly unpack and begin the extensive task of ironing (those suits were packed up inside suitcases from Sunday evening to Friday morning. I'm still trying to get the wrinkles out). We do haircuts, shower, change, and then leave for New Amsterdam. I had to be there at 1:30 for pioneer seminar before assembly and David had shopping to do, as he was getting baptized the following day but didn't have the proper clothes for it (this is what we had originally planned to do from Sunday-Thursday, assuming we had made it out to the coast early). Plus the very very important trip to the bank.
Thankfully, we were able to arrive early enough to not only visit bank and do the shopping, but even take a relaxing hour long lunch, after which I left for seminar while David went to visit a relative who lives nearby.
|To put this all in perspective, we traveled from the red dot (Orealla) to New Amsterdam in the space of eight hours, by boat, by foot, by bus, and by car, a distance of about 140 miles.|
Of course, the pioneer seminar was amazing. Not just because of the information shared there, but also because of who was there. You see, last year's seminar we had four pioneers from Orealla. This time, we had nine. That "Could You Try It For One Year?" part was quite effective.
Saturday: Morning of the assembly. I could use all this space to talk about the parts and the illustrations and everything, but eventually most of you will get these same talks (or already have), so instead I'm going to tell you about three different people there.
David Herman - As already mentioned, my travel partner for this trip was David, a 16 year old brother in Orealla. He had formerly had a reputation as being Orealla's bad boy, the one who would bully others and all manner of things. Eventually though his family suffered a tragedy, and it served as a wake-up call of sorts for him. Since then he's applied himself in the congregation, in personal study, and has (as of last month) started three Bible studies, one of which is with his former school teacher Percy, who had been impressed with the changes David had made, and wanted to know what the cause was.
So finally at this assembly, he was able to get baptized, and then spent most of last night talking with me and our host about pioneer service and qualifying to serve as a ministerial servant. So looking good!
Tiffany - I don't know her last name. Apologies. Tiffany is a 12 year old girl who was born in Orealla. Her mother had started studying the Bible, but her teacher noticed Tiffany sitting in, so eventually offered her a study as well, which she accepted. Despite having been invited to meetings, Tiffany was never able to make it as her mother was still attending a church.
Here's where we reach an interesting problem. Orealla has no high school, since the government deemed the population as being too small and wouldn't fund a high school, so when students reach a certain age they take a test, and based off their scores, they get sent out to the coastal area to attend high school. In general, the better your scores, the further from Orealla you get sent. A regrettable situation, but all the Witness children will actually request to be sent to the Skeldon schools, as those are the closest ones to Orealla, and in turn, to their families.
Tiffany and her parents are not Witnesses, so she got sent very far away.
Which is why I was struck with shock when, after the assembly, I'm standing by the cleaning desk asking about something, and I turn to my right and see Tiffany there bringing back a mop and bucket.
"Tiffany?" I ask. Before she can reply, one of the sisters I went to pioneer school with runs up, grabs her, and jokingly says "No! She's my student now! You can't have her back!"
It turns out Tiffany was sent to a school that's right nearby the New Amsterdam Kingdom Hall. This sister immediately latched on to her, began studying, and now that her mother isn't around, Tiffany has begun attending the meetings. And was at the assembly, helping clean up afterwards!
Tenisha - Brighton congregation seems to get all the best Bible students. Enter Tenisha. When she was first contacted by Jehovah's Witnesses, she said before she studied the Bible, she wanted to have it be proven that the Bible was true. Her request was to study the most difficult and complicated piece of the Bible, reasoning that if the hardest part of it could have been proven right, it would have to be from God.
So, they studied the Daniel's prophecy book.
I got to sit in on her study on a few occasions. The first time, the study began with "So when we left off on our last study, you were asking how it is that in Daniel 8:25 Jehovah, the Most High, could be called a Prince..."
|Me, while sitting in on the study, uselessly.|
After going through the entire book and becoming thoroughly convinced of the Bible's authenticity, they began a study in the Bible Teach book. And from there, Tenisha showed no signs of slowing down, despite facing increasing persecution from her family along the way, even after receiving threats of being kicked out of the house. I'm told from just the fourth study, she had already set regular pioneering as a future goal.
|Tenisha with her Bible teacher, just before becoming an unbaptized publisher.|
|... and tackling her first set of householders in the ministry!|
Until finally, at this last assembly, she too got baptized along with David and six others. Man, the next two pioneer schools are going to be great!
|David on left, Tenisha in the middle with blue cap, and six others whom I do not know but are probably every bit as awesome.|
The moral of the story: sometimes getting to the assembly is tough. Sometimes, as one of the speakers said, we must make literal sacrifices. But go anyway. It's worth it.