August 7, 2012

Guyana – Like a Second Home

Sisters preparing Lunch at the Bible School
Sisters preparing Lunch at the Bible School

We arrived on the shores of Guyana in time for the annual Bible School hosted this year by Eccles. When the presiding brother for the day acknowledged us, he welcomed us home again.  For us Guyana is like a second home. We grew up there spiritually.  We have watched a generation depart and welcomed a new generation.  (We have memories and stories of Brothers and Sisters that are largely unknown to many of the young people in Guyana.) So, we took our seats among our Brethren once again.

The Bible School was supported by all 6 Guyana ecclesias, with the majority from the 3 Demerara ecclesias, as they are close by.  The Bible school speakers were Bre. Clive Drepaul (Brooklyn, NY) and Ian Neblett (Panama).  The classes were well received and thought provoking. Both Brothers were accompanied by their wives: Sisters Christine and Nishla.  Sis. Nishla also gave a Sisters’ class, which we all enjoyed.

The flow of the Bible School was disrupted a bit Saturday afternoon as many drove out to a village on the East coast of the Demerara river to attend a Memorial Service.  The service was held at the family home of young Sis. Shellana Baynes who was baptized less than 2 years ago.  Her sudden death was devastating to her fiancé Bro. Rayon.  We squeezed under tarps, strung over the yard, heavy with rain and scattered with streams of water bursting through small holes.  Between crouching as the weight of the water reduced the height clearance of the tarp and dodging the streams of water pouring through, we wondered if the tarp would give way under the weight of the water!  It was heart wrenching to see the grief etched in the faces around us, but most especially of our dear Bro. Rayon.

As we made the return trip to Georgetown, we were amazed to see waves breaching the sea wall and flooding one side of the road, blocking the flow of traffic.  Georgetown is about 9 feet below sea level and at the mercy of the ancient Dutch sea wall.

Ruimveldt Sunday School
Sunday School Program at the Ruimveldt Ecclesia

The Sunday schools had agreed that each would prepare the parable of the sower to present at the Bible school.  The presentations were creative and unique.  Ruimveldt was the most inspirational. This Sunday School is not an ecclesial Sunday School, but comes solely from outreach in a very poor area of Georgetown.  Just over 20 children participated with the encouragement of their Sunday School teachers.  It was delightful to see the earnestness of all the children from all of the Sunday Schools.

Another special activity was open-air talks given on 3 evenings of the Bible school.  These were public outreach talks given from the front yard and veranda of Bro. Berry & Sis. Elaine Williams’ home using very loud speakers to penetrate the surrounding homes with the Gospel message.  Having learned from many years in Guyana to expect the unexpected, one of the nights we were driven to the shelter of the veranda of the house due to rain falling and another night, in the midst of the first talk, the next-door neighbor blasted her louder speakers with music to celebrate her husband’s birthday.  Ted begged her to turn it down for an hour so we could continue, which thankfully, she agreed to do.  The last night a neighbor lingered in conversation with one of the speakers for nearly an hour after the final talk.  This gave everyone a boost of encouragement.

Since the opening of a floating bridge across the Berbice River, travel time to Berbice has been reduced to a little less than 2 hours, unless, of course, you happen to travel when the bridge is open to river traffic and closed to vehicles.  Then your travel time easily is doubled.

Each year we are so thankful to stay with our widowed Sister, Bibi Rupenarine (nee Hakh), who finishing high school when we first came to Guyana.  She is an amazing example of steadfastness, despite hardship, discouragement, persecution and tragedy.  We admire and respect her for her devoted service to our Lord.  May God continue to strengthen her.

Sister Neisha Hanif
Sister Neisha Hanif – 1931 – 2012

We once again convened at Sis. Neisha Hanif’s daughter’s home for our annual barbecue with Sis. Neisha.  She has been housebound for more than 8 years.  Under the care of her daughter Sis. Annie, Neisha looked contented and better than she has in years.  Hence, much to our great shock, we received a message a month later that she had died suddenly.  She now is indeed at peace awaiting the resurrection.

In Guyana we also learn patience & flexibility.  While heavy rains delayed us starting our day of visiting, they also forced home a couple of Brothers that otherwise would have been working!  We very much enjoy seeing the children of our Brothers and Sisters as they grow up.  We have watched them change from toddlers to questioning young adults searching for answers and challenging the foundations of their beliefs.  We pray that as they emerge from this their spiritual foundation will be stronger because of it.

In Berbice, unlike Demerara, many of the Sisters are at home caring for their children and keeping
the home without the benefit of the many conveniences we have to lessen the labor and time involved.  Our Brothers and Sisters labor to provide for their families in many different ways; they are cane-cutters, civil servants, nurses, teachers, supervisors, farmers, market vendors, shop keepers, etc.

Brother Oris and Sister Shinele
Brother Oris and Sister Shinele

We journeyed the 20 miles to Plegt Anker in just under 3 hours, part way with taxi, part walking, and the final leg in our Bro. Sam’s vehicle.  The changes at the Plegt Anker farm there were nothing short of amazing!  We were delighted to meet Oris & Shinele Chisholm, now residing at the Hammond’s former residence and caretaking and farming the property.  Last year, the house was occupied by more than 200 marabunta nests (a wasp with a nasty, painful sting), bats and wood ants (termites). One year later the vermin were virtually gone and evidence of agricultural production visible.  The results of the dedicated hard work and perseverance of these two are a wonderful testimony to what these two have done, while attending to the needs of their 5 month old son!  Oris was raised in the Plegt Anker Sunday School, as were many of his many relatives.  As a teen he left the area ‘seeking his fortune’ and this last year returned to his roots and his home.  Praise and thanks be to God, he and his wife were both baptized the end of May!  That will swell the number of brothers in the ecclesia to 4!

Their residence is in a state of some disrepair and in need of structural and safety improvements so that they can remain there for the long term.  Parts of the floor and exterior walls on the weather side are so rotted that they have stuffed newspapers in the gap.  They are a delightful and hardworking couple who have brought encouragement to the isolated and struggling ecclesia in Plegt Anker.

Berbice Sisters Class
Berbice Sisters Class

Kilcoy is now the most thriving ecclesia in Berbice.  When we first came to Guyana in 1971, it was considered a satellite of New Amsterdam.  In the mid-80s it boasted a membership of over 40 Brothers and Sisters and a large Sunday School and active CYC.  Then immigration to Canada opened and most of the former members now attend various Canadian Ecclesias.  By the grace of God, they have slowly recovered over the last 10 years, creeping up in membership to about 16.  The warm-hearted and welcoming spirit of Kilcoy continues.  Sis Seerojnie, Sis. Leah and Bro. Charlie are the only ones left from the original members.  Sis. Seerojnie and her husband, Lenny, open their home to us every year.  Lenny’s mother was a member of the Ecclesia before her sudden death from cancer about 15 years ago.  They are a delightful couple with whom we enjoy many Bible conversations each year.