Missionaries to Guyana 1971-1975
Ted and I were married in 1970, about a year and a half after I was baptized. It was his dream, inspired by Bro. Harry Whittaker, to devote a few years to missionary work in Guyana. So in 1971 we set off on a journey that would forever change our lives. Ted was 23 and I was 22; he had just finished his Conscientious Objector alternate military service and I had just finished earning my teaching credentials at the university. We were young, naïve, and inexperienced — but earnest. Ted had signed a 4-year contract with the Guyana government to teach math in a secondary school in Berbice, the “country” part of Guyana. As we flew over miles of uninterrupted, dense, tropical forest, our first glimpse of Guyana, and our new home for the next 4 years, a part of us inwardly gasped, thinking, “What have we gotten into?” We reminded ourselves that this had been a matter of earnest prayer for many months and now the reality was upon us; there was no turning back from the plow. We clasped hands and offered silent prayers for our heavenly Father to overshadow us with his love and his wisdom.
I barely had Jacob & Esau straight in my mind and now we were “the missionary couple”, looked up to by many of our Guyanese brethren, that is, after they recovered from the initial shock of our youth. We grew up in Guyana both spiritually and emotionally. Our lives became entwined with the lives of our brothers and sisters. When the storms raged we looked in the boat and in the eyes of our brethren we saw our Lord there in the boat with us. We many times were challenged to achieve things we deemed impossible and yet the angelic host was always encamped around us. When we were discouraged or frightened or lonely (there were no cell phones or computers to keep in touch, just air letters that took more than 2 weeks to travel to “America”), we learned a dependence on God that we would never have learned had we remained home. We learned what brotherly love was all about, we witnessed it and were challenged to live it.
We came thinking to be teachers but instead through our brethren we were taught. We came to see the world with a new set of eyes. When the four years were finished it was hard to return. This had become our home and our family, our place of belonging. Now almost 40 years later our hearts are still tied to Guyana and the many brothers and sisters who changed our lives. We long for the day when those many asleep in the grave will awake and we shall again be joined to them.
If volunteering in the mission field has ever crossed your mind, please give it prayerful consideration. The need in New Amsterdam forty years later is significant. The experience of service in mission areas, ministering where needs are great and few are able to help is truly life changing. The relationships built with brethren and sisters last a lifetime.
Submitted by Sis. Dolores Sleeper (Ted & Dolores are still the Link Couple for Guyana)