It was on Friday 1st February 2013 when Chris, Paul, Ian and Stephen arrived tired, but excited in sunny Georgetown, Guyana following thirteen hours of flight across the Atlantic. It was my fifth time to the ‘land of many waters’ and as always the heat, brightness and smell of the Caribbean was a treat to my dulled air conditioned senses.
The stern faces of the Guyanese immigration and customs officials were soon replaced by the smiling face of Pastor Deoram Timram, or ‘Deo’ as everybody calls him, and we were soon en route to the Full Gospel Fellowship training centre at Hauraruni.
To reach the training centre from the main road meant that we had to slowly negotiate a sandy track which meandered for about a mile through scrub and jungle. As we traversed the sand, a small capybara (a rodent indigenous to South America) scurried across our path and disappeared into the undergrowth. This encounter with local wildlife was to be something of a foretaste (not literally) of things to come.
After settling into Pastor Deo and his wife Janet’s home, we were invited to a graduation service held at the training centre that afternoon. The centre trains students for church ministry from all over Guyana and two of the students graduating were from Yakarinta, an Amerindian village located deep within the Guyanese interior. We were intending to visit this village ourselves within a few days.
On Saturday the 2nd February and after an early start, we headed to the local airport to take a flight into the interior of Guyana. Internal flights in Guyana involve a plane with a single propeller and ten passengers crammed inside it like a tin of sardines! This aspect of the trip was the part that Stephen was least looking forward to. However, after we had taken off, banked and climbed steeply over the tin roofs of the Georgetown houses, he was able to give me a brief grin and release his grip on the front seat cushions indicating that all was well.
We travelled on a south westerly course for about an hour and a quarter, flying over dense green rain forest for most of the flight. At ten thousand feet, the trees looked like a carpet of broccoli stalks and the rivers were as dark as Coca Cola. As the jungle suddenly ended, the terrain below became open savannah. Stephen once again became equated with a seat cushion as the plane suddenly banked, dropped and then landed on a small airstrip at the Amerindian village of Annai. We soon arrived at the home of Pastor Adam and his wife Pam and were amazed to see that they had built a new circular thatched hut for us (a benab), in which we could eat and comfortably hang our hammocks… now that really is practising hospitality! (Romans 12:13). Combined with the blessing of a new latrine, which had literally been dug for our convenience, we just knew that rural Guyanese life was going to be a comfortable experience.
The following day and after a night suspended under thatch, we went to the church service at the nearby village of Aranaputa. Stephen led worship, Paul and Ian gave testimonies and I preached a word on Namaan from the Bible and how Namaan’s leprosy wasn’t really his problem. The children and a ladies choir sang and it was just a joy to be amongst our extended Christian family. After the service we visited various nearby houses and in every home we were made to feel very welcome. At one house in particular, Ian was given an opportunity to pray for a young woman who was struggling with severe headaches, which had troubled her for a long time. Later, I heard that same woman testified that the headaches had totally gone and were no longer part of her life, praise Jesus! Philippines Action
On the Monday we set off to the village of Kwaimatta, an Amerindian community who rarely saw visitors. This village has a few believers, but no church building as yet. We were able to see cassava being cooked the traditional way on a charcoal fire and eat mangos the size of rugby balls – delicious but very messy! Some of the locals kindly took us fishing in the afternoon and though the river was full of piranha, we did not catch a thing as usual, but it was great to travel once again in a dugout canoe. We also saw and heard a flock of blue and red Macaws overhead as they announced our arrival by squawking loudly as they flew.
Late in the afternoon, we returned to the village and held a service inside their local benab. It was so encouraging to see people walking into the village from the fields, some carrying small children and sitting down expectantly to hear the Gospel preached. By the time Stephen started playing his guitar for praise and worship, about fifty people had managed to cram themselves under the thatched roof.
Stephen led worship, Ian gave a testimony encouraging people to become ‘attached to Jesus’ and Paul preached a message about Nicodemus and becoming a ‘child of God’. What a great privilege to probably be the first team from overseas to preach the Gospel of Jesus in this village!
On Tuesday 5th February, we crossed the Rupununi River and walked into Yakarinta, another Amerindian village. I had first visited this area with a team several years ago and it was wonderful to see that a church was now fully operating at this location. We were given the obligatory tour by the village captain (chief) including the local school. To see one hundred well behaved children, all wearing smart blue school uniforms and seated by age group in their various classes all under one roof, was a sight to remember and spoke volumes of their desire to learn.
That afternoon we walked back to the river and under the watchful gaze of a local crocodile (caiman), it was our joy to baptise five people. The river was bath water warm and the home to piranha, sting rays, electric eels and crocs, but the Lord protected everybody and no one was lost when they went under the water - Hallelujah! It was great to see in the faces of those who were baptised just how important this ceremony was to them all. On returning to Annai, our vehicle (an indestructible Toyota minibus) got stuck in the muddy clay and would not budge despite the driver’s best efforts. However, nothing seems to faze the resourceful Amerindians; the driver Trevor disappeared into the bush and returned twenty minutes later with his dad’s tractor, which had been conveniently parked nearby. Our stricken vehicle was quickly pulled clear of the mud and we were able to continue our journey back to Annai. Praise the Lord for His protection and provision.
On Wednesday morning and after some farewell tears, we said goodbye to everyone and flew out of Annai and back to Georgetown. That evening we had a great time ministering as a team in a Full Gospel Fellowship church run by Pastor Deo, which was located close to the airport, and it was encouraging to see the children and young people really worshipping God in song and dance.
Thursday and Friday were committed to fixing solar panels and lighting to the girl’s home at Hauraruni. This communal home provides love and security for teenage girls who have been abandoned, orphaned or in need of care due to pregnancy.
The home is basic and secure, but was lacking lighting. With Paul’s technical knowledge and Deo’s local knowledge combined with Ian and Stephen’s abilities, they all managed to fit three solar panels to the tin roof, run cables to a couple of twelve volt batteries and put permanent lighting into the girl’s kitchen, shower block and a main room. To see the bulbs illuminate for the first time was a very satisfying sight, and we know that it is going to make a significant difference to the lives of the girls within their home.
On Saturday 9th February, we visited a frontier town called Bartica, which is situated on the mighty Essequibo River. To reach the town meant an hour journey along the river squeezed into a three hundred horse powered motor boat, which bounced over the waves at about thirty miles per hour. Great fun! As we travelled, we ended up racing other power boats also full of passengers who were travelling the same stretch of water. It took me a while to realise it, but many of these boats had Biblical names perhaps to ensure the Lord’s protection as they raced at speed over the choppy waves. Ours was called ‘Titus’ and I remember smiling and wondering whether there was any spiritual significance as we overtook a boat called ‘2 Samuel’.
On arrival in Bartica, it was an honour to go to the home of Pastor Yesin, a man who years before had travelled deep into the interior of this region of Guyana by canoe to reach Amerindian river communities with the Good News of the Gospel. Such men always have stories to tell and nuggets of wisdom to impart, and I’m determined to spend more time with this ‘Man of God’ on my next visit. We ended up taking a refreshing dip in the river before catching the boat back. The water was bath water warm and very refreshing, but when the leg and hoof of a dead cow floating past upside down in front of us, we all felt at that point that it was time to get out of the water. I’m really glad that I kept my mouth shut during the swim… at least I think I kept it shut.
On Monday 11th February we said goodbye to the thirty four degrees heat of Guyana and travelled back to minus two degrees in England. It had been a successful mission trip. The Gospel had been preached, people had been saved, believers had been baptised, solar panels fitted, lives changed and hearts encouraged – wonderful! Thank You, Jesus. I can’t wait to go back.
We want to provide help and to be a resource where possible in making a difference to the lives of people who are living in some of the poorest and most deprived areas of the world and to those that God might send us to.