Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Orealla's First Circuit Assembly

Welp. It has finally come and gone. After only a few short years in existence as a congregation, Orealla has successfully hosted its own Circuit Assembly. As a reminder, let me tell you why this was such an important and necessary occasion for us.

Orealla is located far from the main coastal area of Guyana, so going out to the Circuit Assembly requires several days of travel for us, and the cost for many of the families just to attend a one day program is equivalent to about three months of living expenses. Additionally, the boats (the only available method of travel out) are highly unreliable, which has caused us to nearly miss the assemblies numerous times.

Due to this, the branch eventually gave permission for us to host our own assembly, even providing visiting speakers to come in and help us out. Happily, we got this permission several months in advance, allowing us to figure out where we could find a location that would hold the 100-200 people we were expecting for it.

Consider the difficulty in this: for a small village (1,000+ people) to have a venue of that size is unlikely, and the only one that we do have isn't equipped with running water or any of the related facilities.

Finally we learned that the school here has an auditorium that is broken up into smaller classrooms by the use of mobile wooden walls, so if we would come in and reorganize those, the head mistress would let us use the building free of charge.

However, another difficulty quickly arose. Our assembly was scheduled for a Saturday (for numerous reasons no Sundays could be considered), but here we were going to be using a school. Which is in session from Monday - Friday. And hosts evening classes for students seeking extra credit. The question came up, how will we get inside to set everything up? We needed to set up the sound system (including bringing a generator as the school doesn't have a source of electricity), remove the auditorium walls, reorganize the chairs, set up the stage, find spots for the various departments, and install the sign with the assembly theme. We would have to find a way to get all that done late on Friday, all through the night into Saturday morning, and somehow still be awake enough to actually get something out of the assembly. On top of all that, the school's water is provided by water tanks that fill up Monday morning, and usually are exhausted by Friday afternoon, so we'd have to find some way to fill up the water tanks. As if all this wasn't enough, after exhausting ourselves we would then have to clean the entire school all day Sunday and put everything back up the way it was before in time for classes to resume Monday morning.

So you know how anytime on this blog when I begin mentioning some huge obstacle that seems impossible to work around, it always happens that some ridiculously off-the-wall thing happens that makes everything go incredibly smoothly?

Thursday morning the head mistress calls us (she also happens to be my landlady, so we've got a good relationship going, which is an added bonus) and asks if we'd like the keys to get into the school and begin setting up. We're very confused by this, since it's, again, Thursday morning. We ask if we'd be disrupting class, and she says not at all. Why not?

Thursday was a school sports day, so no one would be in the school all day long. That night they would be traveling out to the coastal area to play against the schools out there, and they wouldn't get back until Monday night. So we had from Thursday - Monday to do as we liked with the place. So, as soon as we'd finished with door-to-door work that morning, we proceeded up the hill leisurely to begin setting up. On Thursday alone we finished all the wall removal and reorganizing of the chairs, leaving all day Friday to set up the sound equipment and stuff. And because there was no school for the last two days, the water tanks still had a good supply of water.

OK, so yes, everyone is sitting down in this picture, but that's because they'd all been working nonstop since 5 o'clock that morning.

We were thankful for the slower pace, because the work was intense. See, this school is located at the top of a 140 foot hill, one which is steep as all get out. Our Kingdom Hall, where all the material was stored, is at the bottom of the hill. So repeatedly hauling load after load of generator, sound equipment, speaker stand, cleaning supplies, etc etc etc got tiring incredibly quickly. We started at 5 AM, hoping we could get everything carried up before the sun got hot. We made it. Barely.

Barely any catastrophes to be seen!
The main work finished at about 8 PM that night, though there were scattered jobs needing done that kept some of us there until near midnight (and then of course there was the night watch brothers ...)

The following morning though, all went well. No disasters to be seen, all the parts went off great, and the baptism was amazing.

Best pool ever.

We had two candidates: Florine Herman, a thirty-something woman who had begun studying a little over a year earlier; and Queeneth Miguel, an eight year old girl who is far more spiritually mature than I've ever been.

Speaking of her, she was there throughout the entire process of setting up. She'd heard all the difficulties we'd had getting this assembly to happen. She knew of the things Florine had gone through to reach this point. She knew what the visiting brothers were experiencing, coming into a remote location like this. And she'd thoroughly examined the program for this assembly, about not giving up in dealing with the troubles we face through life. And factoring all this together, she left a message for everyone on the blackboard backstage, a message that I'm now going to conclude this blog by sharing with you.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Changing Attitudes/Big News

Wait for it....

Let's begin with the titular "big news". Last blog update I had concluded by saying I "awoke this morning to yet another piece of shockingly good news. I believe next blog post will have some information about it". So here we go.

I've discussed at great length the difficulties involved for us to go out for assembly and convention. It involves either three days of nonstop panic and rushing, or a week and a half of sitting around doing nothing. This is due to the inconsistent and sporadic boat schedules. For many years we've joked about how nice it would be if we could just have an assembly of our own in Orealla.

I'm going to pause a moment and see if you can guess where this is going.

Day after arriving back from our convention, we received approval from the branch to hold the upcoming assembly program in Orealla. Even though this was over a month back, I've refrained from sharing much information about it, specifically because we didn't yet have much info. We knew we could do it, but we had to decide for sure where, when, how, etc.

So for the last month, several of us have focused on little else. I'm happy to say that as of yesterday we've locked down the venue, arranged to have a sufficient number of outside help to come in, worked out where most of them will stay, and on and on.

For starters, the venue will be uphill at the Primary School (if you're not familiar with the schooling system used here, it's basically equivalent to Middle School in the US. I think) which is pictured above. We have use of the downstairs auditorium, which seats between 150-180. This left us with the issue of where to seat everyone else, since our attendance estimates are continually being adjusted upwards (we're now expecting over 300). After an exhaustive tour of the grounds yesterday we've sorted out an arrangement to cover the large concrete area outside, fill it with chairs, and set up camera and projector to allow people outside to see the program just as well.

We have no baptism pool, but that isn't much of a worry for us since we have this...

"Look, a body of water! Good gracious, what a body of water ... what prevents me from being baptized?"

Assembly is going to be held October 7, and then the following day the regular pioneers will be heading out to attend the pioneer seminar before the other Circuit Assembly, which will be the 14th. We're realizing this will put our congregation in a difficult spot because the pioneers won't make it back in time for the Sunday meeting in Orealla. Consider who the pioneers are in our hall. Both elders and both ministerial servants, among others. So, um, the other brothers should have a lot of fun with this.

On that note, this congregation is insane. We have 35 publishers, and we just hit 11 regular pioneers. I'm going to attempt to soon have a writeup on all of them on this blog, but we'll see how that goes.

Now we move on to the other piece, Changing Attitudes.

For a long time, ministry was difficult in Orealla. Not because people weren't willing to listen, but because it was hard for Witnesses to stand out. Think of it, in most places Witnesses are known for being clean, for being peaceful, for getting along with one another to an unusual degree, and for being people you could trust with anything. Here's the thing though: in Orealla, that's just how everyone is, that's the whole mindset of the village.

Or at least, it was.

It's strange to think that even in the short time I've been here (coming up on four years) how much I've seen change. As more and more modern conveniences come in such as electricity, running water, cell phones, and especially the internet, the modern attitudes have come in as well. Everyone here sees it happening too, but are unsure of how to stop it. People have gone from just expecting to help others out with whatever they need (mashramani in the local language) to being considerably more selfish and even lazy. Monday morning used to be the time that everyone would gather together and clean up the roads and public village areas, but in just the last four years it's become something that people will only do if the village offers to pay them for the work they do.

Except the Witnesses.

Recent example: there's a section of the village where all the houses are populated by widows and single mothers. This wasn't planned, it just kind of happened. A while back a storm came and destroyed the light poles in this small segment of the village (which left them without electricity entirely), so they requested for them to be repaired. Days passed with no reply. Days became weeks. Weeks became months. Finally, acting on his own, one of the congregation's Bible students felled the necessary trees and trimmed them up to serve as poles. Then he called the village office and told them he had the poles the widows needed, and all the village had to do was send some people to drag them down the hill and install them.

Weeks passed, nothing. Now, one of the widows who lives in this area is a Witness, and her neighbors started making fun of her, saying she should ask her "church" to do it for her.

So she did.

Before the day was over, the poles were dragged downhill and placed in the right positions. Since we weren't technically village workers, we weren't allowed use of the tractors or things that were available, so we had to do it by hand. But enough brothers came (and one sister) and we got them downhill, through mud, through bush, and over a creek. One of the brothers is also a qualified electrician and offered to plant the posts in the ground and hook the wiring up right away, but the offer was refused, with the village saying it had to be one of their approved people doing that work.

Three months later, it still hasn't been done.

Later on, another issue came up. The roads leading to this same area became overgrown with weeds and brush. Now again, cleaning up these places is village responsibility since they're public areas, but the path became so bad it was impassable, and yet nothing was done. On this same path is a church, so the women living on the road asked the church members to clean it up, but nothing was done. The churchgoers would merely trudge though and do nothing to clean it.

Once again, the residents of the street told our sister to ask the Witnesses to look after it. Only this time, they weren't poking fun.

In a day the entire path was cleaned. The brush was cut, opening a path six feet wide (for a four foot wide trail) and all the grass was raked up.

So as painful as it is for me to see such an idyllic, peaceful and considerate village be absorbed by the selfishness of Satan's world, I must begrudgingly acknowledge that it's happening and will continue to happen. But there is an upside to this.

As I'd said before, in most areas the Witnesses stand out clearly when compared with others. Now this is happening in Orealla. While the attitude keeps changing, Jehovah's Witnesses stay the same. And people are noticing. How can I tell?

For the longest time, the Kingdom Hall was something of the minority of the village. 15-20 people attending while the nearby churches were pulling in hundreds. What's happened with these changing attitudes? Here's how I like to demonstrate the change:

There's two men who have a freezer and will push ice blocks around the village in a wheelbarrow so people can buy ice or have something similar to a slushie made for them. I began noticing the two men would wait outside the Kingdom Hall every Sunday morning. Finally I asked them why they wait outside, and they said "Because we know once your meeting lets out, that's where we'll find the biggest number of people."

This same day, they sold out. One stop and they went back home.

So yes, in just the course of four years we've become larger than any of the churches in the village. Some days we pull in more than the seven churches combined. Naturally, most of these attendees aren't baptized Witnesses, so clearly we have lots, lots more work to do.

This too is why we continually have to revise our attendance prediction for the assembly. So stay tuned, we'll see how this goes.

Friday, July 21, 2017

"Don't Give Up!" - 2017 Regional Convention

Let's play a game. See if you can guess how many blog posts I've done.

Now that we've got the jocularity out of the way, on to the news. As you likely guessed from the title of this post, Guyana recently got to enjoy the "Don't Give Up!" Regional Convention. Thankfully, this time there was none of the usual nonsense we go through regarding the boats getting us out (for stories like that, see literally any other blog post I've ever done about assembly or convention season). This time, it actually went better than we could've expected!

See, the boats usually take us out Thursday night, so they land early Friday morning, which leaves a scant few hours available to get to the homes we're staying at, unpack, iron out wrinkles and all, and then book it over to the convention venue. This year, a boat was traveling out Wednesday night, so most of the congregation got to land Thursday morning and have an entire relaxing day to get settled and prepare for convention the following day. Additionally, we were able to find homes for a lot of the brothers and sisters to stay in so they could be closer to the convention location, and thus not have to travel so long, and also pay less in bus fare.

As was usual for me, however, I and a few others came out Sunday night/Monday morning. There was a three day cleaning planned, but I for various reasons couldn't make it to the first two. By time I got there on Thursday, the final for cleaning, most of the work was done. All that remained was getting the stage set up and hooking up the video and audio equipment.

This raises an interesting detail: last two years we've rented everything from a company and they've sent two employees to help us out during the program. That setup changed this year. Turns out someone donated almost all the equipment to the Branch office for use in Guyana, and this equipment was better than what we'd used last two years. The only slight hitch in this is that we no longer have the two specialists from the company to give us a hand in case of accidents or glitches. But not to worry, as there's a crew of brothers from Georgetown who do this kind of stuff for work, so they came down to work with us to figure out how to get it set up properly. In the midst of this process, the convention overseer gathers two brothers and myself and tells us "Pay close attention. They're only here this year, so next year you three are doing this."

Pray for me.

Yes, someone saw this trio and thought to themselves "They look like people I'd trust with $5 million of fragile equipment."

Thankfully though, everything was set up nicely and the test late Thursday showed no signs of worry.

Now if you're a regular reader of this blog, you can probably tell when I'm setting up for a disaster or some such thing. Amazingly though, the story does not take a turn for the worse. At all. It continued running smoothly throughout the program. The closest thing we had to a problem was when we arrived Friday morning and saw the overnight rain had caused some minor flooding, so we had to elevate the wires, speakers, and other items with a variety of hastily assembled mounts. None of us had come to the convention intending to wade through water, so we didn't have long boots or anything of the kind. Thus, Ohio logic quickly wins out...

You can take the boy out of Ohio, but...

I never thought I'd get to play in the mud, barefoot, during a convention program, and call it sacred service. Scratch one off the bucket list.

As I said before, aside from this the program went incredibly smoothly. I'm not going to share specific points from it, because duh. However, there was one illustration that was used which was so good I simply must share it (and I feel I safely can, as it was a personal experience by the brother, and therefore I can be sure of not copying and distributing material from the branch outlines).

The brother was speaking of 2 Corinthians 4:7 where it tells us "... so that the power beyond what is normal may be God's and not from us."

To illustrate it, he referred to the frequently muddy roads and hills found in these parts. He said he had seen a large hill that, because of heavy rains, had become saturated with mud, to the point where any vehicle attempting to traverse it couldn't reach the top. Happily, there was a bulldozer nearby which had the power to make it to the top. So what would happen is each truck would rev up, accelerate forward, and see how far up this impassable hill it could go. Once it finally got stuck, once it could finally go no further, the bulldozer would come behind it and push it the rest of the way up. Naturally, every vehicle reached different heights. Some were nearly to the top, some could barely get started. But each one made it over the top because the bulldozer pushed them.

Of course, the bulldozer didn't push them from the bottom. Each one had to go as far as it could, but no matter how far they got, they could be sure that after they'd put in their best, the bulldozer would take it from there.

The brother then applied this to that verse. The power that is normal is how far we can make it up whatever our respective "hill" is. Once we've used that up, then Jehovah provides the rest. So as long as we put in our best first, we can be sure to make it over the hill.

Alright, plagiarism over.

After all three days had finished, a group of eleven of us went over to a newly built restaurant in Skeldon that we'd all been wanting to try. This place is clearly too fancy for me.

"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack!"
They use FORKS in this place. Clearly not my scene.
You may spy, all the way to the right, one of my former roommates Kojo seated. He came down for a visit, all the way from .... um, wherever he's living now. I should've checked my records before starting this. Anyway, it was a long travel, and we weren't expecting to see him for this, so it came as a welcome surprise.

So after an entirely stress free, problem free, easy, relaxing, and superbly enjoyable week out, I'm now back home in Orealla, and awoke this morning to yet another piece of shockingly good news. I believe next blog post will have some information about it. Stay tuned. Seriously. This is super exciting.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

"Live No Longer for Themselves"

In our midweek meeting recently, we watched the video together about two Witnesses looking back on decisions they made and how their lives turned out because of it. One giving up a football career, the other a career as an opera singer. In the course of the video, the sister quoted 2 Corinthians 5:15.

"And he died for all so that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up."

Fairly familiar verse. Read it multiple times, heard it quoted even more. Now I'll be perfectly honest, I never gave it much thought. For one, I have no marketable skill that would lead someone to offer me a multi-million dollar contract, so no worries there. But more than that, I felt like I was already doing a pretty good job of applying this verse. When I was 18 I moved to where the need was greater, spent some time at Bethel, and I have no goals of a career in the world, pretty much no possessions, and pretty much no money. So what's the worry?

(Aside from the horrific lack of humility this line of thinking reveals in me, which is definitely something I'll have to give attention to soon)

"I believe this book has some excellent advice for you about that. Let me find that section..."

As the video played at the meeting and the words of the verse were popped up on the big screen, a small piece of that scripture stuck in my mind.

"Live no longer for themselves."

It occurred to me that the way we live involved a lot more than what we do for work. Throughout the rest of that part (and meeting) those words kept nagging at me, so when I got home I decided to do some reading about them. Looking 2 Corinthians 5:15 up in the Watchtower Library led me to the May 15, 2010 Watchtower. Towards the end of that magazine there's an article titled "Sow to the Spirit and Reach Out". In the article they discuss the verse in question over two paragraphs. Here's a brief piece with the most relevance to my sudden rant.

"Meditating on the love Christ has for people stirs up gratitude within us. As a result, we realize that it would be most unfitting for us to keep on ‘sowing with a view to the flesh’ by pursuing selfish goals..."

Perfect, I thought, I'm avoiding selfish goals! (Argh, there's that humility thing again) But the paragraph isn't finished yet.

"... and living largely to gratify ourselves."

There's the problem. Even though I'm serving where the need is greater, this made me consider how much time I'm actually spending doing what I should be doing, versus how much time I'm basically just goofing off doing whatever I feel like.

Case in point: I recently finished reading an 897 page novel ... for the third time. The day I finished it, I was home and laying in a hammock, despite the fact that it was one of my regular service days. I opted to stay home because I'd made my time for the month, and chose to just relax instead.

It's worth noting I wasn't stressed out or overworked or anything of the sort. Obviously relaxation is important, but I wasn't seeking much needed R&R. This was just laziness.

"Siiiiiigh ... for shame Josh. For shame."

I realized this was in fact much worse than I'd anticipated as I thought about how much work I'd put into preparing for that meeting we just had, and specifically the part with that video. Sure, I read through all the material, but did I really take the time to make sure I understood it and could apply it to myself? Clearly not, as I didn't even watch the video. I reasoned to myself I'd seen it when it first came out, seen it a second time when we had a Kingdom Ministry part about it, and seen it a third time when I watched it at Jeff Guess' house. Instead, I willfully chose to skip watching it in preparation for that meeting, and rather watched a Spencer Tracy movie I'd been hoping to see for some time.

Obviously I'm not saying all recreation is bad, but I'm realizing I need to re-examine how much time I'm spending living for me, doing stuff just because I think it sounds fun.

And also work some more on that humility thing, clearly.

"Get your act together. Yeesh."

Friday, April 28, 2017

"Do All Things for the Sake of the Good News"

"Do all things for the sake of the good news, in order to share it with others". This is the phrase that kept running through my head as I held my hands against the floor of the boat, desperately trying to stave off the leak that had suddenly sprung as we hurtled down the Courantyne river in the midst of a heavy rainstorm.

Perhaps I should explain.

After the fantastic assembly we had a few weeks ago (an assembly which three of my Bible students were able to attend) we had to immediately return to Orealla to begin setting up for the Memorial. Both Memorials, in fact, as we have two villages in our territory which are separated by a great distance. This makes it incredibly difficult for people from the other village to attend in Orealla, so we've finally come to the conclusion that it's better for us to bring a Memorial to them.

Better. Not easier.

Due to the manner of the boat schedules, we had less than a week to set up for these two events. Thankfully, we'd known long in advance that this time crunch would come, so we were able to get a lot sorted ahead of time. The venue for Memorial in the next village had already been reserved, we already had the decorations and things put together, we still have a mobile sound system on hand from last year when my parents came to help us out with it, so all that was sorted. It looked like perhaps we'd have an easy time preparing.

Until, of course, the Saturday before.

In technical terms, this is known as a big boo-boo.
With three days to spare before Memorial, the Orealla sound system suffered what we chose to call a "total existence failure". This came as a shock to precisely no one, as this sound system has been on death's door for the better part of four years now, held together only by twine, duct tape, Geno's mad MacGyver skills, and holy spirit. Finally, however, it reached a point of inoperability.

This naturally led to a mad dash of phone calls, texts, emails, etc, to each and every person we could think of who may possibly have anything to lend us. Computer speakers would've sufficed for us. Thankfully, a solution was found. A brother from somewhere (so I don't actually know the guy, apologies) had a subwoofer and two computer speakers he was willing to lend us. The only slight downside was there were no more boats until Monday night, meaning Sunday at meeting we simply did without a sound system.

"Ground control to Major Tom ..."
"Josh! What's going on in there!"
"Just testing out the new system."

Side note: this congregation can carry a tune super well. I mean, sure, North Athens is louder, but still...

So that wrapped up our exciting endeavor of the Orealla sound system. Which leads us to the excitement in Siparuta.

Memorial this year was of course Tuesday, so Monday we went over in order to ensure everyone had gotten invitations and to set up for the venue. Last year we'd used the Health Centre (yes, British spelling), but this year we'd been offered use of the largest school in the village. There was, um, a lot of cleaning needing done.

Before ...
... and after.

Naturally we set everything up and began testing. Except one little issue. Now this sound system wasn't working. We ran through everything, and soon realized it was the microphone. It seemed to have just completely given up. The amp and speakers were working fine, just this one mic. Unfortunately, we didn't have a replacement, and the plug on it wasn't a standard microphone plug, rather being the same size and build as a headphone jack. We returned to Orealla that afternoon and very quickly set about the same routine of calling, texting, and emailing everyone we could trying to find a replacement. This was exceptionally more panicked though, since perhaps you'll recall the boat would be leaving for Orealla that afternoon. Just in case we couldn't get anything, we set about building our own microphone. Yes, you read that right. We built a mic.

Necessity is the mother of invention.
In case it's not readily obvious, what you're looking at here is a six inch piece of PVC pipe with a mic cover on the front, with an old pair of earbuds stuffed inside, taped shut. Why earbuds work as a mic, I don't know. This isn't even one of those earbuds with a mic built into it. Just ordinary earbuds. Still baffled by it. But hey, it worked!

Thankfully we didn't have to use this, as shortly after someone who lived nearby the dock in Skeldon found a suitable mic and sent it down to us.

Finally, the day came. A brother from New Amsterdam came in Monday night to give our Memorial talk in Orealla (and to deliver the mic and sound system), leaving a group of six of us to travel over to Siparuta Tuesday morning to finalize preparations for Memorial there.

Loading up K-Pro, as Joel Freeman from New Amsterdam sees us off.
4 of 6
5 of 6. I'm 6. In case that wasn't obvious.

All was going well on the journey, until all of a sudden a hole appeared in the front of the boat and water began shooting through the opening and spraying us in the face. At first we had a good laugh at the spray, but then the hole began to get noticeably bigger. And water began pouring in more quickly. Really quickly. We were too far from Orealla to turn back, too far from Siparuta to continue, but it would be senseless to pull over and land on one of the islands since we had no tools to patch the hole, and there's no phone signal in that part of the river.

Having nothing else to do, I pulled a handkerchief out and stuffed it over the hole, and held it as tightly as I could. Sherine (the sister in the back row) began bailing as fast as possible. Naturally, the weather chose this exact time to begin pouring buckets of rain on us.

Normally the trip to Siparuta takes us 15-20 minutes in our boat, but the leak necessitated our traveling at a lower speed to avoid undue pressure on the front of the boat, which likely would've widened the hole. All told, it took nearly an hour to reach. Just as the village finally came in view, I turned around to everyone else and said something to the effect of "Once we get off the boat, this is all going to be really hilarious."

No one laughed. Or smiled. Or agreed.

Anyway, we made it alive, though considerably wet and cranky. We were able to dry off and finish setting up for Memorial.

Guyana has a thing about curtains. Still confused by that.

With a few hours to spare, we set about changing into our meeting clothes. While doing this, I realized something...

Shower? Shower.

I think it's a good sign you've been in the jungle too long when you see a shower that has three walls and no door, and is overgrown with weeds, and you think "Oh awesome! Running water!"

Anyway, we all got cleaned up and ready in plenty of time. Memorial was amazing, having a grand total of 33 attending by the end. Orealla as well set a  new personal record with 117, bringing us to 150 total between the two venues.

After all this was done and finished, we had ourselves a lovely congregation outing at the end of the week. We traveled out to the furthest edge of the village for a bush cook/swim day/etc.

And I finally found someone who is a worthy match of my football skills.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Have "Plenty to Do in the Work of the Lord"

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you may have lately noticed something seems amiss. The complete and utter lack of updates for 2017 so far. I do apologize for this, but I have my reasons.

(pauses and looks back at older blog posts, and fully realizes how much has happened since last update)

Wow. This is worse than I thought.

Alright, let's start with February. Two brothers arrived to help out with Memorial this year, Tyrell and Kaleb Schuetz from Nebraska. They each have extensive Bethel service under their belt and were up for a new challenge, so through a variety of contacts they wound up with Guyana as an option and were assigned to Orealla by the branch.

And before you ask, no, I have no good pictures of them.

We had a few weeks of little activity, which allowed them to get settled and familiarize themselves with the routine of life in a place like this. However, the busyness level quickly upped its game. Since I (still) haven't much time to go into it, here's a brief rundown.

From March 5 to 12 we were preparing for Circuit Overseer visit (LOTS to do, especially when the labor is being split between just four brothers), then from 14th to 19th was the actual visit, which naturally included a Siparuta trip.

A tiny portion of the group that day.

An interesting aspect of this visit was the support in field service. Wednesday we had 18 in ministry, Thursday (Siparuta day) was 20, Friday was 25, and Saturday was 34. Considering we have 33 publishers, I'd say the congregation is doing well. Particularly notable for me was that at pioneer meeting we had 15 people, which is more than we had at my first meeting in Orealla.

Finally, Sunday for the final talk, the attendance was 82, which is more than we've had for any meeting outside of Memorials.

As soon as overseer had left, we moved on to preparing for our Circuit Assembly, which is going to be held April 2. Considering how unreliable boats are in and out of the village (and the fact that they'll only go twice a week at best) many of us choose to leave an entire week in advance so as not to miss our opportunities to get out. This would've left us heading out exactly one week after the CO visit finished. Obviously this causes some stress as we must find a source of lodging for the whole week, on top of having money to get food and travel and all that, on top of getting all our Bible studies done early. So all this we're expecting. What we weren't expecting ...

Letters to Russia.

This whole campaign presented a major problem for Guyana, as the cost of sending just one envelope to Russia is equivalent of $55 USD. On top of that, in order to get them delivered in time, we would have to send them out by Sunday. Yes, that same Sunday. So with very little time left, what would we do? Just write one letter and have the whole Kingdom Hall sign it on the back?

Our parent branch in Trinidad had a much better idea. If we could get all our letters to the literature depot in Guyana, they would mail everything in bulk, free of charge for us. As long as we got them there by Sunday (or at the very, very latest, Monday noon). This led to some very, very rapid work in writing, printing, sorting letters, and on and on. All told, Orealla congregation was able to piece together 92 letters to ship out. And all in time to catch the Sunday night boat and get our stuff to the branch by Monday at noon.

"Dear Russian People, why are your addresses such a pain to write?"

As we were doing all this we heard the boats arriving, giving us less than one hour to reach home, pack up, and catch them out for the night. Needless to say, when we get back home, there's going to be an incredibly insane amount of house cleaning to do.

I am not looking forward to next Monday.

Anyway, we finally reached out this morning, and we're now preparing to sleep until our assembly on Sunday. I'm very happy to say that three of my studies are contemplating coming out for it, with one having made definite plans and arrangements to get out here for it. Will report back when we see how it goes.

His son Lucas, overjoyed that they get to come to the Assembly!

Friday, January 27, 2017

"Beg the Master to Send Out Workers"

Bit of a long winded introduction. I'll get to the meat of the story eventually.

It's been an inescapable fact for a very long time that congregations in Guyana don't have nearly enough support. Even in the heavily populated, city areas, congregations are struggling for help. The further out you get from there, the more sparse the help is. Naturally, any help is quickly snatched up and assigned.

However, this obviously means that for those of us further into the interior, the search for help is even more difficult. The current standing of the Orealla congregation is two elders and two ministerial servants, which is head and shoulders the best it's ever had. So on top of trying to manage one congregation, we're attempting to hold meetings and get a group started in another village (Siparuta) three hours away from us, which adds quite a burden in the workload and the travel time.

Of course, we're far from alone in this. Across the river from us in Suriname is the Apoera congregation, which has three elders and no servants, who are handling Dutch and English meetings, on top of also having distant territories (Washabo) to work in and maintain.

But, yeah, you already know this. Why bring this up again?

Because we've recently learned there's yet another village much, much further down the river, which is larger than Orealla, Siparuta, Apoera, and Washabo combined. So not only is there a vast unworked territory, this one will come with certain challenges.

For one, when I say it's much further down the river, I really mean it. Last estimate I heard was it would take one week of traveling just to get to it, and it isn't simply paddling a canoe down the river. There's waterfalls and jagged rocks along the way, which leads to having to carry the boat over huge tracts of land.

Two, since it is so isolated, there's basically no technological development. Electricity, running water, etc. So anyone going there would have to be a bit of a trooper to not only get there, but deal with living conditions while there.

Three (and this is likely the single biggest obstacle), they don't speak English. Or Dutch. They seem to use an undocumented indigenous language, which one brother in Apoera has attempted to learn bits and pieces of, but is having slow going of it.

So then, before any progress can be made at all there, Orealla and Apoera will need about three more appointed brothers each to stabilize the congregations. Then about three more pioneers each to get meetings rolling in those nearby-ish territories. Then on top of that, a big batch of people able to deal with moving into an isolated area and learning an unknown tongue.

Now, let's get one thing clear. I am not recommending that some of you pile up a boat and head down to this village to get things started. There's a method to dealing with this madness, and the local branch offices know how to handle it. What I am recommending is Matthew 9:38. "Beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest."

Because seriously, we need it.

Caveat: some details in this blog may be inaccurate, seeing as I have never visited this village, and likely won't for a good many years, or even decades. But my point stands, regardless.