Along with the team headed to Trinidad we caught the island hopping plane from Kingston, Jamaica across the carribean making stops in St Maarten, Barbados, Trinidad and finally in Guyana.
That morning in team time we had been discussing how its important to not just confine the outreach work to within the projects we are doing but to always be open to talking to and helping others even when we were not in the time specified for projects. I was thinking about this on the plane and I felt I was so rubbish striking up conversations with strangers aswell as telling them about Jesus and the life changing good news of the Bible. I prayed that God would use me and give me the courage and opportunities to speak to strangers.
Not long after that thought and prayer a great Guyanese guy called Earl got on from Trinidad heading back to Guyana. We started chatting and I explained to him what I was doing working for a Christian volunteer organisation helping out in Guyana for six weeks. He then began to tell me about how he was from a family of all Christians himself and he was a Christian but needed to sort himself out and get his life back together as he had been through bad times and had left his faith behind him. He told me he wanted to read his Bible again but he had lost it in Trinidad. I asked him if he wanted one of the Bibles the team had and gave him one of ours and he told me he wanted to learn more from it before we landed!.
I showed him the parable of the prodigal son which helpfully was also printed on the back of the Bible as a stylistic part of that particular Bible. I explained how God is not there sitting there wagging his finger at him for making mistakes in his life but is just like the Father of the Prodigal son parable who is waiting with open arms for his rebellious lost son to come back to Him.
Father welcomes back Rebellious Son
Earl was amazed by this and I could see on his face it was a big revelation for him. I told him he didnt have to wait to be right with God; like the prodigal son’s father he was waiting there for Earl to come back to him right now. It didn’t have to be a complicated process to get right with God again and have the slate wiped clean. I asked him if he wanted me to pray with him and putting his hand in mine he said he was sorry for all the mistakes and messes he had made in his life and that God would give him the strength to live for him and leave the mistakes of his life behind.
He was really excited and gave me about 6 of his different contact numbers asking me to check up on him now and again and telling me he wants to get a little Bible study/discussion group going in his area which was really exciting. After all this I’m not sure who was more encouraged me or Earl. Couldn’t believe God used me in this way to help Earl and gave me confidence that He can use me in similar ways again. I had not even touched down in Guyana yet and was excited to see what would happen next.
Arriving in Guyana
Arriving in Guyana we were greeted by the YWAM Guyanese staff who gave us bottles of drink and tasty baked treats and drove us (on the left side of the road!)in the minibus back to the Guyana base in Parika. On the hour trip to the YWAM base I saw why Guyana is called the “Land of many waters”. Being below sea level there is water everwhere, canals and rivers of a width I have never seen before. One river near us takes nearly an hour to go across on speedboat. Arriving at the base I realised how hot it really was. It was night time and I could feel that it was hotter than Jamaica even at night.
The next day the team led a local Church service and we had a look around the local town of Parika which surprisingly for such a remote town in Guyana had a scotiabank with ATM and a shop which sells Cadbury Dairy Milk!. There was also a lot of great craft stalls and shops selling many handcrafted things I love. I also found out that Guyana has an abundance of animal life. Crocodiles, tigers, snakes, tarantualas many different poisionous kinds of snakes aswell as Anacondas which grow to many times my size. We were told one Anaconda was found in the canal outside the base 1 or 2 weeks before. There are frogs, lizards and iguanas everywhere here, I found a frog in the toilet on the first day and another on the wall.
On Monday we had our scheduled day off and went to Georgetown the capital city of Guyana which is about 40 minutes bus journey . There we saw what until recently was the largest wooden cathedral in the world, St. Georges Cathedral, and had a look around the craft markets there. Compared to Jamaica which is even more expensive than England, Guyana is far cheaper. Most of the team bought these extremely cheap but durable and well made Brazilian hammocks to chill out in on base. In the evening we led a reflection time for the Christian guys in the community where we put on a showing of Louie Giglio’s Indescribable.
St. Georges Cathedral- Completely made of Wood!
On Tuesday in the morning we worked on the base which is still in the early stages of developement. In the afternoon we went to a prayer meeting in the local church which was really encouraging with the pastor there praying over the team as well as all of us praying for the community in particular the rising problem of illiteracy.
On Wednesday morning all the team with some of the staff and locals started work on a bridge over the canals in the area. This bridge when finished will have a large positive impact on the area as farmers can then drive over it and use their tractors instead of having to do their fields by hand with the machete which takes a very long time. In the Guyanan heat this was hard work but we were all in good spirits and worked together well as a team dragging large trunks of trees by hand with chains and using planks of wood to lever and support the trunks as we pulled the trunks into position. We used the the tree trunks to sink the supports of the bridge deep into the mud of the canal, this required some work to lever and lift tree trunks up into position to start the sinking process of the supports.
No tractors, pulling logs for the bridge the hard way
Bridge we built for one of the locals
In the afternoon we came back to work with many of the local kids in Literacy Club, a scheme on the base where kids come on to the property and we help them to read and spell with songs, helping them in various ways to read and spell. Many kids come as the area has a high amount of illiteracy (as I mentioned early) with some kids of 10 years of age and older having problems spelling many basic words and even identifying the letters of the alphabet.
Annieke helping Natasha Read in Literacy Club
Thursday we went to the local primary/secondary school of Parika and were teaching assistants/teachers for a day. I was in class 2C where the kids were about 5 and 6 years old. There the kids called me “Sir Sam”. Throughout the day I went around the class helping the kids with spelling and complete the tasks set out for them. I really enjoyed the day and made a lot of little friends who continually offered me their sweets, telling me they really liked me and were interested in my eyes, asking if they were artifically blue and brown.(They all have brown eyes being indian or afrocarribean)
Later on in the night we took a boat down river with some of the students staff and locals to catch Cayman crocodiles ( mini crocs). They are a delicacy here when marinaded in sauce for about a day. Heading down the river we shone our torchlights on the bank of the river to spot their reflecting red eyes. Half way through the trip the tropical rain pelted down, an experience I will never forget being on a river in Guyana, looking for crocodiles being soaked to the bone, made you feel so alive! We caught a few crocodiles and kept one we called Stanley. Please continue to pray for protection against illnesses and unity and effectiveness in the team.
“Many waters cannot quench love, Nor will rivers overflow it” Song of Solomon 8:7a