written by Chaney Billips
Day 1 (Saturday)
On Saturday, January 20, we gathered at the church building at 4:30 a.m. to load the vans and go to the airport. We were all very excited, nervous, a little wired, and ready to go. We expected to run into delays of some form ... it would be almost impossible to expect no snags when 12 people travel to two foreign countries with 22 checked bags and half of those medical supplies and medications. But we earnestly prayed that it would be God's hands to get us there. We did!
We made it to Barbados, through customs, claimed bags, put them on another plane, and then made it to Georgetown, Guyana, by that evening. There were a few nervous moments when our bags decided to take longer to arrive in baggage claim in Barbados and when the girls all grabbed hands and prayed for them to come ... they did before the "amen"!
We had wonderful food waiting for us at our hotel, which was just beautiful!! They had remodeled since last year's trip and we had such a lovely place to sit and enjoy that warm weather with beautiful flowers and waterfall and pool. We were really impressed that we would have such a luxurious place to rest each evening. This picture doesn't do it justice, but this is the courtyard for the hotel. This was all open air. That's just a roof over the eating parts, but the whole front of it is open to the street with a gate around it. We had fresh breezes all the time. Kevin and I had our room on the 2nd floor ... it's the last balcony on the right that's furthest away from the camera.
A note about the hotel: we were wondering about running water, clean sheets, air conditioning, phone service. We were expecting that some of these might not be available at all times. Those who went last year were a little more confident than us "newbies," but you never know. Well ... running water was not an issue (we just didn't drink it), in fact ... Kevin and I were even able to enjoy the pool on Sunday, the rooms were spotless (we had the honeymoon suite J that included hair dryer, iron and board, and free laundry service ... well ... that's another story). The air conditioning worked just fine ... I wore a jacket indoors while at the hotel, we were able to rent and carry cell phones with us, AND WE HAD INTERNET SERVICE!!! Talk about luxury! By the time you could get the computer up and logged on, I only usually had about 5 minutes of writing/reading time, but that was enough to get a few sentences to my Mother who had our kids that week. It was wonderful to be able to connect with them that way. Such a surprise!
Day 2 (Sunday)
Sunday we went to morning services at Plaisance church of Christ which was only about 5-10 minutes from our hotel. It has a nice little auditorium building with pews and pulpit and baptistry. There was inconsistent power, but even when it was on, we only used enough to electricity for a few little lightbulbs and some fans in the windows. The temperature was in the 80's everyday ... a couple of days it was almost very uncomfortable. We made sure to take breaks every hour or two to drink our water and cool off. They have another building at the front of the property that is two stories and the front of the top floor has a balcony that we used for our breaks. There was always a nice breeze there and it was very peaceful. The bottom of the front building was what we used for the medical clinic and pharmacy.
The morning services were very much like we are used to here. They sing the same songs and know most of them by heart. Even the children sang wholeheartedly. It was such a comforting thing to hear so many brothers and sisters singing our familiar songs with their wonderful Carribean/Creole English. Mike Dean and Kevin led most of the songs that morning and both of them ended up with huge grins on their faces being able to be up there and hear that beautiful sound. If you've seen the "Living by Faith" and "Heavenly Sunlight" videos that Kevin sent links to you can hear that.
It's customary to greet everyone by the time of day: "Good morning," "Good afternoon," "Good evening," "Good night." That was fun. It sounds so much nicer than our "hey" or even "hello." They all had such warm smiles for us. Jim always does such a wonderful job of speaking God's word ... he really enjoyed sharing with those welcoming hearts.
Our Sunday afternoon was quite relaxing ... that was a surprise also. We lounged around until around 2 p.m. when some of the Plaisance youth came to help us with "Pill Packing." Operation Guyana and Partners In Progress have arrangements made so that the people there and the medical mission teams can have access to prescription medications. The drugs are brought in large quantities and then divided up into smaller prescription dosages. I think there were about 25 of us working for about 2 hours. I'm not sure, I think my brain melted a little ...(have you ever tried to count 30 and 50 little white pin-head-sized pills for 2 hours?). J The youth that met with us were very kind and friendly and helpful. They are just like our kids here. One of the girls had an MP3 player on while counting and Bob (their leader from the congregation and also Steve DeLoach's co-worker) took it away from her ...aaahhh... just like home!! J
Sunday night we had our orientation with Steve, Operation Guyana director. That was enlightening, entertaining, and draining! Steve DeLoach is a fireball. He is the brains and muscle behind these mission efforts in Guyana. Honestly, I don't know all the ins and outs of how this program works or exactly who all is behind the scenes, but Steve and his family and a dedicated crew do some wonderful things with the people there. After our orientation, the "girls" all went and had our first devo together. We really loved our time together. It was so pretty where we met!
That gets us through Sunday night. There are so many things I want to tell you.
Day 3 (Monday)
My perceptions of the trip ... of how I thought it would be ... are so different from the reality of here and now. The actual church and "mission" and medical are all pretty close to accurate. It is hard ... it's hot, the people are receptive and even the ones that I think might not really be that receptive are still so polite and warm. The only one I had like this so far was a mother and daughter. They marked Hindu on their sheet, but said they believed in God and the Bible. They were polite, but I think they really just wanted to move on. I also studied with several women, three I think, that said they attended churches of Christ either there at Plaisance or Kitty, but were not baptized believers. When asked for more details, they were very forthcoming with their stories. One woman had moved to the area because her daughter lived there and attended at Plaisance church of Christ because it was close. She grew to love that congregation and believes its beliefs, but felt like she needed to be flexible for her daughter. I didn't understand all of what she was saying because of the language dialect differences, but I decided that all I could do was get the message in her ears one more time and hope that it would take root soon. She was very warm and loving to me and loved reading the Bible verses with me. She knew the Scriptures. She knew what she needed to do ...
The next lady also knew. She was accompanied by a woman that I assume was the minister's or elder's wife from Kitty, another local congregation. Dianna was very well spoken, gentle, clean, a very lovely woman. She smelled very nice when I hugged her. J She said it was Avon. J She said she had been attending at Kitty church of Christ for a while and studying with a woman there and knew what she needed to do to be saved. She loves the man she has lived with for many years and has had several children with him, but they never married. She was being taught that until they married and her man was also willing to be baptized, she should not be baptized. This stumped me just a little, not fully understanding all of the culture differences; it was hard to know what to do with that at first. We talked further and looked into the Bible and read about God creating man, how sin separates man and God, and what is needed to cross that chasm. She knew and understood all of it and when we read the verses about baptism, she stopped me and said, "Are you saying that I don't have to be married to be baptized?" Yes! But if you are baptized and are forgiven, then you cannot continue in your sinful ways. It was such a good feeling to see that light go on! She has a lot of issues to work through. Because she was studying with someone else and their teachings, I really had a hard time with knowing how much to nudge her. If the congregation there teaches that she must not be baptized until marriage or that she MUST move out, I don't want them to ostracize her because of me. Again, I felt that I had planted the seed and that God would have to see the harvest. Who knows how it will all work out. Only God knows!
I started off with perceptions. The work is what I expected. I didn't expect all the perks. The meals are wonderful, the fresh fruit and juices in the mornings are great. The rooms are very nice and clean and our room feels like a posh hotel. If everyday is like today and if the meals and snacks and water all stay the same, this would feel like a vacation! I feel wonderful! I almost keep waiting for the bottom to drop out a little. Satan is still lurking around us and waiting to find a chink in the wall.Our schedule for Mon-Thurs was as follows:
9:30 a.m. Breakfast 10:00 a.m. Meeting with Steve 11:00 a.m. Leave for church building 11:30-5 p.m. Work (Bible studies, medical needs) 5-6 p.m. Break and preparations for VBS/Crusade ("Crusade" is what they call their evening service. We would call it a "revival.") 6-?? VBS/Crusade 8ish p.m. Dinner
For Vacation Bible School (VBS) we met upstairs in the front building where we had several windows that could be opened and fans placed in front. We felt like this was heaven after being downstairs in the heat with not much breeze. We had several little "mini-pews" that we would arrange for the children and then overflow would use the floor. The first night we had around 40 kids, I think, and by the last night we had 92! There were seven of our team that stayed in the VBS area for all 4 nights. By the last night, we had recruited a few from the church and Becky from our team. We all took turns leading songs, doing skits, puppet skits, coloring, leading the "March around Jericho" and LOTS of cuddling!! These children were so much fun and so sweet! We, of course, had the few that were handfuls, but that is common with that age and number! Our favorite parts were the puppet skits. We are really kicking ourselves for not getting the skits on video. We think we could win some awards on America's Funniest Videos! Clarynda takes the big award for her rendition of "Charlie" ... KUDOS TO CLARYNDA!
The "hippo song" J
All the little girls wear uniforms to school like the one in the middle here, but they are all different colors depending on which school they go to. But no matter what the uniform color, they all have big red bows in their hair! I just loved it!
Day 4 (Tuesday)
My mother and children sent Kevin and me a letter for each day of our trip. They were delivered by a special post woman each evening. These letters really meant the world to us. It was so nice to see familiar writing and my children's drawings. Thanks, Mom ... Thanks, Angie!
In one of our letters Mom says, "I was thinking about Guyana how little they have, and how much the little kids love those bears and take such good care of them. I've been reading another book called Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindberg. In it she wrote, '... today, more of us in America than anywhere else in the world have the luxury of choice between simplicity and complication.' She says simplicity brings serenity and that 'simplification of outward life is not enough.' She says the final answer is always inside. Then I thought (or wondered) if maybe the people of Guyana might be a little ahead of us in the serenity levels just a little. You'll have to let me know."
Boy, did she hit the nail on the head! She wrote this letter before we left and sent it with Angie, but you would have thought that she was there with us writing in her journal. These people had so little. Their houses made my storage shed look like a mansion. But you could guarantee that they were swept clean every day and very well taken care of. Those who have cars clean them often, they are proud of them. They might be beat up (I'll have to tell you the stories of the roads), but they were clean. The few possessions that the children might have were well guarded and loved and appreciated. Many walk everywhere they need to go or ride public transportation. Many have holes in the ground for toilets (the women's knees were ruined from using these). Some don't have refrigerators to put their antibiotics in after opening once we give them to them. Some are very obviously starving for good nutrition.
This is Whitfield's house, the minister at Plaisance where we were working. Whitfield, his wife, and their preschool son live in that bottom part. His parents live in the top.
We had a young woman come in, named Stacy. Jim met her at the doors and showed her to me. I met with her for a few minutes, but she seemed to be very far away ... she is 16. She had a glazed look about her. I asked her ailment and she told me she had a cold. (For your information, when they say they have a "cold," you have to ask where. It could be in their wrist or leg or stomach ... it just means they don't feel good there.) I went ahead and took her back to the clinic and had her wait there. I pulled Tammy aside and told her that I thought Stacy was starving. Tammy's automatic response was to run to grab her some crackers from her personal bag. I had to stop her and remind her that we couldn't do that. As much as we hated the rules, we understood. If we fed one, we had to feed all. We both cried a little. For those of you who haven't met me in person, I am the skinny girl in all the pictures. I often describe myself as looking like Olive Oyl in Popeye cartoons. Well, Stacy made me look quite curvy and filled in. She was just skin and bones. We all loved on her and gave her MANY months of multi-vitamins and added her to our growing list of people to pray for. She did end up coming back for several nights of Crusade messages. I hope to see her next year.
I tell you about the little they have because I want you to picture their lives. But I don't have the right words to describe their serenity. We saw so many hopeful things ... things that made us smile. We watched a mother and son walking down the road in front of the church property every afternoon. She had evidently just gotten off from work and he from school and they walked home together everyday. This may not sound like much, but he was probably around 12-14 years old. He stayed right beside her carrying her briefcase for her. It was so touching. Kevin and I starting looking forward to watching that afternoon walk.
We saw two of our bears propped up in a house window on a street we were driving down. (FYI: our congregation and some helpers from outside work all year on making fabric teddy bears to send to our mission fields. This is a mission of love for those who make them. This year we were able to take 250 bears ... 200 that we handed out stayed there locally and 50 went to the Guyana interior to children who have even less.) One moment that touched Tammy and Michelle was a man who had some serious foot problems. He had no shoes on and ... well, you can imagine what his feet looked like. He was obviously in some level of pain and discomfort and when he was waiting in the clinic he was watching what was going on around him. The team women started singing a song and when they finished, he started singing. He had the voice of an angel. I wasn't present for this first debut, but I heard that all were enraptured. He sang like he was singing straight to God's face. He cried in places. Then he spoke of all the wonderful things God had done for him. Needless to say ... we were all touched.
I have many stories on topics like that ... but before I finish Tuesday, I want to explain a little about the clinic and the layout of the property. When you are on the street looking towards the church building, there is a little bridge that crosses the canal that runs down beside the road. This is water from WHO KNOWS WHERE!!! We cringed when we heard stories of things that had been drug out of those waters and then stories of some that bathed in them. Anyway, you had to cross over this and walk in the front gate. The front building is where we held the clinic and VBS and pharmacy. If you walk past this, you come to the church building and then to the right of that are the bathrooms.
People would come in the front gate and sign in at a little table. They would receive a sheet of paper with their name, age, and address. Then they would come down to the side of the church building where either Jim or one of our guys would meet them and decide which of us they would meet with. Generally, these were Mike Dean, Eugene Moss, Troy Trantham, Kevin, and I. Now, this changed as needed. Sometimes Troy or I would rotate to the pharmacy if needed, and sometimes some of our ladies would rotate in to be able to study with some of the women. Michelle Pugh, Tammy Newsome, Sabrina Smith, and Clarynda Lewis were all able to conduct Bible studies at some point during the week. After the patients met with us, we would sign their papers and send them to the clinic. Once there, they would have their blood sugar and blood pressure checked by Angie Lindsey and Sabrina who would list their top two ailments. If you didn't limit them to two, they could sometimes go on and on!
Angie and Sabrina
Depending on what their ailments were or how their pressures and sugars checked out, they either went to Tammy and Michelle or Rebecca Kidder. (There were twelve of us on our team. Eleven are from Greenbrier church of Christ in Anniston, AL, and Becky is from West Virginia.) Tammy and Michelle saw the patients that had slight coughs, light colds, scrapes, etc. Nothing too scary! J Becky saw everyone else! Becky is an R.N. and became our honorary doctor for the week. She handled everything just wonderfully. Once the ailments were diagnosed, they were sent to our pharmacy where we had all of the medications organized. We had everything from cough drops, toothbrushes and toothpaste, diaper rash cream all the way up to blood pressure medications, antibiotics, anti-depressants, etc. We, of course, ran out of children's Cough and Cold, Pepto Bismal, and Icy Hot cream before the end of the week. We had a pretty well-oiled machine even into the second day. Becky was tired by the end of each day ... she didn't get to take as much of a break as the rest of us. As some of the people would come back to the Crusades in the evenings, it was nice to see them feeling better than they had been originally.
After looking over my notes of people I met in Guyana, I want you to meet some of them.
On Tuesday I met Melissa. She is not quite as tall as me, but about my size. She's 14 years old and beautiful! She was very quiet and had a timid smile, but her eyes never left me. In fact, for the rest of the time that we were there, every time she was on that property, her eyes were on me. She was at the clinic because her ears were hurting and her mouth hurt and it was hard to eat or talk well. She had a slight fever as well. I figured she probably had an ear infection. I have had similar symptoms for the past year and mine is a chronic ear problem. I felt sympathy for her. L Michelle looked in her mouth and she had two back teeth that had severe cavities. That was the source of all of it. Since we didn't have a dentist on this trip, all we could do was give her antibiotics and pain pills. That was frustrating. She could have had relief much sooner. I told her goodbye and went back to my duties and quite a while later, saw her hanging around the back of the building. I asked if she was ok and she said yes. I went on and looked back again in a few minutes and she was still there. I invited her to come sit with me and pulled out my photo album of my family. We spent almost the next hour together talking about my children and parents and things that my kids like to do. She knew about roller skating, but had never been. She liked the pictures of the swimming pools and really loved the pictures of my kids in their Halloween costumes. I enjoyed sharing this with her, but was also a little embarrassed. We don't have a lot of money, but we like to do things together. My kids have been roller skating 3 or 4 times in their lives, swim at least once a week in the summer ... sometimes more, we camp together, dress up together, go to Atlanta to play in the Centennial fountain ... all things that are not that big of a deal, but things that Melissa will probably never get to do. I just wanted to bring her home with me. She came to the VBS the first night and colored a paper plate for me, but then I guess they encouraged her to go in with the adults the other nights. She was there ... always looking for me.
In the afternoon break, while getting ready for VBS, we were watching people walking down the street, many heading to our services. We watched a group of 4 or 5 little girls coming closer and when they got close enough, we realized that one of the little girls looked just a little different. We had seen many things so far, but hadn't seen anyone with obvious physical deformities that were not caused by accidents or such. This little girl is Joelle.
Clarynda helps Joelle color
It's grainy, but I wanted you to see the look on her face. I was Mary and that's baby Jesus. She loved that!! Joelle had some sort of genetic defect that caused her face to be very flat, her eyes were almost completely outside her skull, and her hands and feet were solid. I think she had finger bones, but they were all together in one skin. Imagine, trying to fit all of your fingers into one finger of a glove. That's what they looked like. The skin was smooth and unscarred, so it didn't look like a burn scar, and she had one fingernail that covered the whole end of each hand. You can see this some in the picture with Clarynda. Her feet looked the same. She is 11 years old. She was clean, her shirt tucked in, and hair pulled up. We helped her color the first night, but she really had it all figured out herself. On Friday night, I was helping on her side of the room and had WAY more kids per adult than comfortable J and couldn't help as much. She colored amazingly! I guess we just see her and assume that she needs more, but really she's adapted just fine! She was inspiring to all of us. I don't know what physical issues she has, but I hope that it's something that she can keep adapting with and do ok. I didn't realize we had taken this picture above. It was actually focused on something else and Joelle and I were just by-products. When I saw this, it took my breath away. I had to crop and zoom in to be able to capture her face. It's pure admiration.
Well ... let me take this time to quickly tell you about the driving conditions. When we arrived at the airport in Georgetown, we were greeted by Steve DeLoach. He took care of getting us admitted into the country and then escorted us to our vehicles. We were told to put our bags in the back of a pickup and van and then ride in another van (mini bus). It was at this time that we shed our first tears. I personally shed a gallon, I think. We had a little beggar boy hovering around us like a moth quietly holding his hand out and murmuring for money. For those who have seen my son, Derek, he could have been his twin. He looked just like Derek, but "chocolate." We were not allowed to give him anything and we understood why, but we had had a terribly long day already and I missed my kids fiercely. I cried for my boy and for this boy and wished that he could be at home playing with Legos like I knew Derek was.
Back to the point ... Ivan, our fearless driver started that bus up and OH MY!!! We probably sounded like a hen house!! First of all, they drive on the "OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD" (Right, Steve??) and the steering wheels are on the opposite side, too. That alone takes some getting used to. But then, when you still have cars coming directly at you IN YOUR LANE, it's a little hard to not shriek. You've all heard, I'm sure, of the notorious New York City cab drivers. They have no fear, they are the only drivers on the road, and all lanes and roads are going their ways. Ivan would fit in just lovely there. A car is only going 60 in a 35?? Oh, just pass right around! Don't worry about that big truck coming in the other lane, it will move ... and so will that cow and bicycle rider! Oh ... did we knock off a rearview mirror back there?? No problem! We were amazed! Kevin and I have lived in Washington, DC, Albuquerque, and St. Louis and have never seen anything like that!
The sign on the back of the bus says capacity: 15 persons. We had 13 in there tight -- including Ivan -- not sure where the other 2 were supposed to go ... J
In many of the pictures we took, you will see children. As in most mission trips that I have heard of, the children are one of the most wonderful perks. One of our most memorable children was a little girl named Dianna. She is beautiful, as you can see.
She is one of those children that has such a spark and glow about her. She is very articulate, well-spoken, and is very intelligent. If you have a child like this in the States, you usually know that they will go far. You make predictions that she will be a teacher, or professional ... perhaps even own her own company one day. She is gentle, you guess she will be a wonderful mother. She is lovely on the inside and outside ... you assume she will make a wonderful wife.
But then you remember that Dianna is in Guyana. That will probably change everything. You hope not. But the reality is, that females are not looked on as highly as they are in the States. Many times, they are considered the father's or husband's property.
Some of the ladies on the team held a conversation with some of the young girls where the girls were explaining why they won't get married -- the men beat their wives and take to "the rum." "The rum" is a big reason behind many things that have fallen apart for these children, and it's very common for the men to take to it.
There was a young lady that came to the clinic with her newborn little girl. The mother's name is Neisha. She's 16. The baby's name is Deneisha. Her parents named her with their names. Daddy's name is Deon. She is a beautiful little girl. As you can see, I got a little attached to this sweet thing. I announced that I would be accompanying her through the clinic! J All was well, and I was feeling good about this family. The baby was nursed, she looked healthy and well-fed. Neisha looked healthy and was very gentle with her. We went back to see Becky because she was so little (not quite 2 months old) and had a bit of a cold. When Becky raised the back of her dress to listen to her lungs and heart, she was covered with dark spots. They could have just been dark pigment spots on her skin, but I was sick to think how they sure looked like big handprint-size bruises. Just another reminder that Satan is still in the world.
So, amid all of the sad stories of Daddys and Husbands gone wrong, there was a glimmer of hope. I had a woman that visited with me. I'm a little ashamed to admit, I don't remember her name. I did so well writing everyone down that I visited with because I wanted to always remember that they are real people and not just faces. But this woman captured my heart and everything else flew out the window.
She looked so sad. I figured she was probably very sick, and I had my hand sanitizer ready. She started talking and told me that her husband of 44 years had just passed away in July. I was shocked! Now, I realize how this must sound. If my husband, after 44 years passes away, I will look the same way she did. She was so worn out from grieving and loneliness. I just wanted to sob with her. BUT, keep in mind that this is Guyana, where most husbands are not their wives' favorite people. Here in front of me was a woman that was REALLY missing her husband. I was so amazed. I asked her to tell me about him and she told of a wonderful man, husband and father. I wish I could have met him. It helped me to be able to see a more rounded picture. We had been with the men of the congregation and they were all very gracious and kind to all of us and the others in the congregation, but they are Christian men. You expect that from Christian men. It was so nice to hear of a woman that had not been beaten.
Becky added, "The woman who had lost her husband was Muslim. She told us that her 'church' didn't show concern and support for her as she grieved, and we were able to tell her that the Lord's church could and would. It gave us the opportunity to show her that as children of God we cared about her right then and there and that if she would return for services at the congregation that they would continue to love her and have care and concern. I know that with the clinic we 'plowed the field' and made it ready for 'the seed' and I know that some day it will bear fruit. God has said that when His word is sent out it will not return empty but will have fulfilled its mission. God is truly the great physician. We're just able to apply a bandaid."
I was the one who met with her initially. Then she went back to either Angie or Sabrina. Then she went to Becky. The three of us ended up on our break at the same time that day and I was telling them of the ones I had met and spoke of her. They each said that they had seen her also. We compared notes and it turned out that all three of us gave this woman the same message without even knowing of the others. We all just sat and stared at each other. We had all said basically the same thing. None of us "preached" at her for being Muslim. We all just spoke of God's abiding love and of the love of His children for each other.
What a wonderful God we have!!!
Another interesting thing happened one day. We had a man come in that visited with Kevin and in doing so, proceeded to immediately lie down on the pew in front of him. Kevin, alarmed, asked if the man was okay, and he starts holding his abdomen and crying. Kevin got him up and took him straight back to see Becky at the clinic. Michelle and Becky started asking questions and found that he probably had several broken ribs and when he started to undo his pants to show the rest of the problem ... Well, let's just say that they immediately called for assistance to escort this man to the hospital. He had some sort of tumor or growth or massive swelling that could not be dealt with in our meager clinic! He was the only one we had to send away though!
On Wednesday I had a rough morning. Nothing really happened to make it rough, but I couldn't seem to get myself going in the right frame of mind. I had visited with 2 or 3 people and did my best to give them my all, but finally decided after the third one, that I needed to take a break and spend some time in prayer to rejuvenate myself. Jim walked in at that moment and asked if I would meet with a woman outside by the clinic. She was older and they didn't want to make her walk any further than she had to. I went to meet her and Jim introduced her as Sister Bell. She is the longest living member of the Plaisance church of Christ.
I sat and wasn't sure where to begin. She's known so much more than me for so much longer than I've even been alive! I'm sure, in her prime, she was a very beautiful woman. Time had taken its tole on this lovely lady, and she only had two teeth left that I could see, so at times it was hard to understand her. I asked if I could read one of my favorite Psalms, 121. I started reading and she started quoting. She knew the whole thing! Then she started reciting Psalms 86. I flipped over there really quick so I could read along with her. I was so touched. She told me stories of times that she had relied on God. She would start telling a story and then would be in prayer with hands raised and then back in conversation with me. I don't know how much longer she'll be in this world, but I hope it's a while longer, so more lives can be blessed by her presence.
One of her stories was of a day that she woke to find that she had no food. She didn't worry, she says, because she knew that God would provide just what her body needed for that day. She never had anything all day, but said she was just fine. Before bed, there was a knock at the door. It was a man from the church with a bag of rice in his hands. She hadn't called for help ...
This story strikes me for two reasons. One is the obvious: God will provide. If we wait upon Him, He will renew our strength.
The other side of this that has really stuck with me -- it was just a bag of rice!! I can't tell you how many times I have opened my pantry and looked over all the cans of veggies and beans and bags of rice and noodles and other things that are not our favorites, and said "there's nothing to eat!!" It really humbled me to hear her say this. One of our team, when she heard me tell this story yesterday, mentioned that she is so much less patient with her children now when they don't want to eat something. I wish I could say it's just my kids turning up their noses to what's in our pantry! J
Well, there are the four ladies for you. Tomorrow may be a medley day. I have either little quips to share or just interesting pictures.
God bless you all!
Here are some other photos that I want to share.
Cricket is to the Caribbean and South America what baseball is to the United States. The children all rush to play in their free time anywhere they are. Above is the alley in front of the church property. We tried to zoom in as close as we could; that's why it's a little fuzzy. You can see the children playing down there. They were out there every day. Our guys really enjoyed watching them and learning all they could. They were given free lessons by some of the congregation's teens, but REALLY wanted an opportunity to get down there and play with those kids.
The World Cup of Cricket is coming to Guyana this year, so the whole country is gearing up for all of the fans and tourists that will be coming in. I imagine it's comparable to when one of our cities hosts the Olympics. They have built the huge new stadium and much new housing that we saw on the way to the hotel from the airport. They are all so proud and excited.
Mosely is a wonderful older gentleman (in his 90's, I think) who worships at Plaisance. He led singing some on Sunday morning and we were amazed at the strength that came out of this fellow! He has large, strong hands that Sabrina thought would make a wonderful prayer picture. She was right!
Thursday night was our last night of VBS/Crusade. We had the children perform a few songs that we had taught them in front of the evening worship crowd. Yes, those are crowns. Burger King was kind enough to donate 100 crowns for us to take with us. The children loved them! Turns out we had 92 children. Just enough! Coincidence??
Remember, I told you that we had about an hour break before our evening activities? Well, I thought you should see how some of us spent that hour.
Brother Jim ... always working hard. Oh, and yes, his cell phone did work! He took several calls (very short) from people back home needing his assistance ... and helped them very graciously!
No, really I was going to say "playing ball with kids," but I liked the chicken picture better!
You will always either find Kevin with the teens ... or chasing chickens ...
Visiting and showing pictures
of children and grandbabies ...
eating and chatting ...
preparing for the night ahead ...
Have I told you about the food? The first couple of meals at the hotel were mostly chicken strips or nuggets, fish, and French fries. I thought, "It's going to be a long week!" Then they started adding in dishes and fruits and salads. Oh my! I was so thrilled with everything! The only thing I didn't even try to sample was some sort of egg custard thing. I am not afraid of most foods. There is very little I won't try and usually like. That one was not even going to make it to my tongue! Jim and Steve ate the ones that were left over. I had to look the other way! We had foods that tasted Cajun, some that were Indian flavored, some Chinese. We had a nice assortment. We had a salad that was almost coleslaw, but had a tangy Italian dressing kind of flavor with pineapple in it. I'm going to have to try to recreate that one. We had jerk chicken one night, crab cakes, and a fat tortilla item that I think was called Roti. You ate that with a rice/meat mixture. We had a different dessert every night; most had fruit in it in some way. We had ice cream several nights with chocolate sauce and sprinkles! J
During the weeks leading up to this trip, our team prepared in many ways. We met weekly and either studied the religions we would be encountering or worked on our personal Bible studies or talked about our plans. One of the things that was discovered about a week before departure was that our two airlines, Delta and Caribbean Star, had different restrictions on their baggage weights. We could carry a 40 lb carry on for Delta, but only 15 lb for CS. We could check two 50 lbs bags with Delta, but only two bags with a COMBINED weight of 50 lbs with CS. This was a major dilemma for us because we were carrying tubs of medical supplies with us: one per person. The other piece of our luggage was all the things we needed personally for the whole week. We didn't know if we could take either container down below 50 lbs, but both???
You would think this would freak any woman out ... but we all just shrugged and went on. God works in mysterious ways. Then the week of the trip we found out that we couldn't carry the tubs to South America. No problem, we'll just all bring every piece of luggage we've ever owned! We had one with only one wheel, one that had to be put to rest when its zipper finally gave up the ghost, two that had to be laid aside because they weighed 8 lbs empty!!! We spent several hours one night right before the trip repacking all of our tubs into bags. We didn't care. We were so ready to go! J
We made it there fine with everything, obviously. Getting ready for the trip home, we were selling suitcases, packing bags in bags, and spreading things out so we didn't take home empty ones! It was amusing.
Day 7 (Friday)
Here we are ... Day 7. You realize this is the day God rested.
Last years' team worked 5 days straight with no break and then had to leave the hotel at 1:30 a.m. to catch their flight on Saturday morning. They were worn out, several were very sick, and they didn't get to see any of the country they were in except the airport, hotel, and clinic site. Thank goodness, Jim and Steve decided that it would be a better idea to let us work for 4 days solid and then spend a day seeing the countryside. We were all for it!
We woke up early on Friday, January 26, to spend the day on our excursion. We loaded up in a chartered bus complete with tour guide and headed for the river. We crossed a floating bridge: "Demerara Harbor Bridge"
--- Completed 1978. Span 6,074 feet.
--- Located at Georgetown, Guyana, it is constructed with steel pontoon units and is the fourth longest floating bridge in the world.
It was a little nerve-wracking! We were passing HUGE vehicles with not much on our left to keep us on the road!
We got on a boat on the Essequibo River and settled in for the ride.
The photo on the right above is from our seat looking back. We were about halfway back in the boat. That guy in the very back is "Machete Man." When we got out of the boat to take our walk in the rainforest, he carried a HUGE knife with him. I'm not terribly knowledgeable about knives, but that was the biggest knife I've seen in a long time. We couldn't decide whether we should stay far away from him or right beside him! J
We went south on the Essequibo to Shanklands Resort: "Shanklands is a small family owned property, nestled between the mighty Essequibo River and the unspoiled Rainforest and is located 60 miles from the city of Georgetown; 60 minutes by road and 60 minutes by boat or 90 minutes by 4-wheel drive from the International Airport through the forest. Shanklands has begun operation as a resort in 1990 and tour operation since 1999. The property size measures 145 acres of which 125 remains virgin rainforest joining state owned forest. In our efforts to conserve and sustain tourism, we have been working closely with the Smithsonian Institution, the Calgary Zoo, and the Bio diversity Section of the Guyana University along with Mr. Davis Finch of Wings. With these organizations we have been able to start the process of recording the Diverse Flora and Fauna on property; for example: 210 species of Birds, 7 out of 8 Primates, 11 of the 12 families of Butterfly in all South America, 56 species of Trees, Spectacle Caimans and a host of other Flora and Fauna."
We landed at Shanklands and went up to a little beach house where they served us a snack and drinks. It was so relaxing and tropical! We loaded back up and went further down the river and down the Mazaruni River to a spot that looked like nothing special. They pulled the boat to the side of the bank and pulled us all up on the shore and started off for our hike.
We crossed scary bridges...
saw the biggest ant hills ever with a hole coming out the top about 2" in diameter. We decided we didn't want to run into those ants ... or whatever they were...
Jim's leg ...
NO, I didn't do it! The ground decided to swallow him, but he heroically muscled his way back to us! J
... and arriving at the waterfall!
Ok... so I can hear what you are thinking: That's just a teeny waterfall! Or "WHAT IS THAT ORANGEY MURK???"
It wasn't as big as the Kaieteur Falls, but it was beautiful! The orange hue is actually almost a tea. We asked about it and Paul, our guide, told us that it's like a big tea bag up there with all of the foliage steeping into the water. I thought that was pretty neat. We really enjoyed this time here.
I can't tell if Paul (our guide) is pulling her up or pushing her in ...
We spent the rest of the day at the resort. We had the whole place to ourselves with just the staff. They had a giant chessboard, many cottages with lounge chairs and hammocks on their huge front porches. We wandered around and explored most of the houses. They were breathtaking. We enjoyed an amazing lunch. I remember eating one item and exclaiming over it's greatness and then trying the next thing and doing the same over and over! We had bottled fruit sodas that were so good: tangerine, pink grapefruit, pineapple, etc. I still miss those. We took another rainforest hike and saw many great trees and flowers, butterflies, and MONKEYS! One was a huge spider monkey way up in the trees that was about as big as me, I think. The other was a little Gold Pawed Tamarind that enjoyed watching us eat and then scampering through the kitchen! That was so much fun! We did a little hiking, snacking, table tennis, exploring, chess, and napping! It was so relaxing and beautiful! I would love to spend a week there!
Our house for the day...
Our visitor... A Toucan...
Below is in front of the base of a tree. The "roots" spread out like big fins above ground, they only go about 10 feet deep into the ground, and I couldn't see the top of this tree! It's huge!
You can see more about this place at www.shanklands.com. It's beautiful!
Day 8 (Saturday)
The next day, we started for home. We had a 6-hour layover in Barbados, and hated not being able to see the country at all, so Steve and Jim arranged for us to have a driver take us to a resort for 3 hours to lay on the beach. That 3 hours was heaven!! You can see more at their site at www.bougainvillearesort.com. I highly recommend that place, also.
This photo is from the plane flying into Barbados, we didn't know until after we got home and looked at the pictures, but the resort we were at is in this picture. I thought this was neat.
We took this from our room that we all shared for our "3-hour tour." Simply breath-taking.
Well, friends ... that's the end of our tour. I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to share this with you all. I thank you for hanging in there with me ... it's really been therapeutic for me. This is how I remember things; by writing them down and having pictures to see. Please feel free to peruse the Operation Guyana website for more information on their work.
We thank God for each one that supported us in spirit and prayer and monetarily. I sincerely hope that each of you are able to take a journey like this sometime in your life.
May God bless your life as you have blessed ours!
14 February 2007
The Greenbrier Guyana Mission Team 2007
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