Thursday, December 23, 2010

We’ve had more movement of need-greaters here in Matthews Ridge in the past couple of weeks. Carol and Justina, who were here with us since the end of October, headed back to the United States. It was nice to have Justina back here for her second visit, and Carol for her first visit. Both sisters very much enjoyed their visit, and were a great asset to the group here in Matthews Ridge. Andrew, too, went back to the United States for a short time. Roland, a brother from New Mexico who has served before in Matthews Ridge, arrived back here this past week. We are glad to have him with us.

Construction continues here in Matthews Ridge. Work has started this past week on revamping the water piping system. Up until now, there has been a water tank that had fed water to some of the homes in Matthews Ridge some of the time. But once the water lines are reworked as proposed, water would supposedly be supplied to all the homes in the village area of Matthews Ridge, and this on a more frequent basis. Of course, this would not service those living outside the village in the bush areas. More construction workers, as well as manganese and gold mining surveyors, continue to move in. And we have started to see renovation and expansion become more widespread. One of the bigger shops in Matthews Ridge has been mostly torn down, and structural concrete work has begun to the end of building it into a 2-3 story structure. Many other shops and buildings in the village are being re-painted, renovated, and expanded, with others new shops beginning to be built from the ground up.

I had a nice opportunity to witness to a Canadian surveyor and a Guyanese cook working at a newly renovated home being used by a certain Canadian gold-mining company. As I approached the house, I found the surveyor adjusting his GPS and various other pieces of surveying equipment, while the cook was preparing a large breakfast. I had a chance to witness to them both and to leave the book “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” with them. Although busy getting ready for the day’s work, they were both very friendly, and invited me to return later in the week when they would have more free time. The man who was working as the cook said he was from Georgetown, and had been asking around since he had gotten to Matthews Ridge as to where he could find a church. I explained to him where the Kingdom Hall was, and he sounded positive about attending.

The Seventh Day Adventist church in Matthews Ridge has posted signs all around the village advertising a Christmas concert featuring singing and dancing. On the other hand, Jehovah’s people have been busy offering the December issue of Awake!, which clearly reveals the holidays’ pagan, God-dishonoring origins and traditions. What a contrast between the light of truth Jehovah shines forth and the spiritual darkness false religion is shrouded in!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Brochure Distribution, Auxiliary Pioneers, Development of Area

Many fine efforts were put forth here in Matthews Ridge during the month of November to give the brochure “The Bible – What Is It’s Message?” a wide distribution. We had good support for field service groups, enabling us to cover the entire territory here in Matthews Ridge with the distribution of the brochure. And, as previously mentioned, we had opportunity to distribute the brochure in surrounding areas such as Port Kaituma, as well as other areas.

We are happy to see a couple in the group here auxiliary pioneering during the month of December. This is Eugene Smith and Mary Smith. Eugene and Mary were Rastafarians before they came to know the truth. Even during that time, they were regular Bible readers, although they lacked accurate knowledge. When they heard the truth, they were immediately drawn to it. They have told us interesting experiences from that time in their life when they were Rastafarians. They have told us of how they, along with many other Rastafarians, would use unique expressions. For example, instead of saying “oppressed”, they would say “downpressed”, since the “up” sound the word begins with indicates that there’s something positive about oppression. And instead of saying “I understand what you're saying”, they would say “I overstand what you're saying”, since beginning the word with “under” was putting yourself beneath the person you’re speaking to. Eugene and Mary were baptized on the same day, and since then have been very zealous servants of Jehovah. Mary even takes advantage of opportunities she has while selling snacks she makes outside the school here to witness and place literature with interested ones. We find their good example very encouraging.

The development of commercial interests continues here in Matthews Ridge, as the manganese mining venture and cell phone tower setup work continues. This has resulted in the clearing of a number of pieces of land here in Matthews Ridge. It has also created some jobs, both directly with the companies, as well as in fixing roads and renovating structures for worker housing. One man who works with the manganese mining company told me that it’s estimated that 1,000 or more workers may come into Matthews Ridge by the time the manganese operation gets into full swing. It will be interesting to see what further development happens.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Assemblies, Comings and Goings, and the Brochure Campaign

The internet service here in Matthews Ridge has been down for almost a month now, with the result being that it has been very difficult to stay in touch or update the blog. But I will do my best to summarize what has been going on here in the last month or so. During the last week of October, we had the privilege of attending the Circuit Assembly in Georgetown, with the program being presented in complete English there. It was great to see many brothers and sisters who we hadn’t seen in a while. This good association was so upbuilding. Along with the assembly program, the seminar for those in regular Pioneer service preceding the assembly was very encouraging. During this special weekend, we were able to spend time with a number of different brothers and sisters, and many, including some in special full-time service, shared very encouraging experiences from their theocratic careers.

There were more arrivals and departures of need-greaters in Matthews Ridge in the past month. Garrett Wilson, who had been serving here with us for 3 months, went to Georgetown for the assembly and traveled back to the United States from there. He mentioned a number of times just how much he enjoyed serving here in Matthews Ridge. We really enjoyed serving with him here, and he will certainly be missed. Justina Baker and Carol Wolfe, 2 sisters from New York state, arrived here in Matthews Ridge after having attending the assembly in Georgetown. They will still be here for another 3 weeks or so, and we are very glad to have their help and company. Additionally, a brother named Kenneth Branch from Virginia, USA, who serves with the Haslington congregation on the east coast of Guyana, flew into Matthews Ridge for a brief visit. We enjoyed his help and company very much as well.

As we rode from the airstrip to our home after flying into Matthews Ridge, we saw physical evidence of what had up until now been only talk, of commercial and infrastructural development here in Matthews Ridge. There has been much “gaffing” here about Digicell, one of Guyana’s two cellular telephone services, erecting a tower in Ridge that would provide the area with cell service. In addition to this, there has also been talk of an overseas company looking to perform preliminary work to facilitate further Manganese mining in Matthews Ridge, a venture that has been dormant for over 30 years. Which of these operations was the cause of the development we witnessed is unclear to us at this point. Whatever the case, it was quite surprising to ride into Ridge seeing areas along the roads that had been very bushed up cleared clean by excavators. The Ridge top where the cell tower is proposed to be set up was cleared, with roads to this area being cleared as well. Along with all of this development, we have been seeing a steady stream of visitors to Ridge, these ones being involved in different aspects of these development projects. What this development means for the future of the community remains to be seen. Growth and other changes to Matthews Ridge would no doubt have an effect on the preaching work here. It will surely be interesting to see just how things work out.

It was exciting to see a group of interested ones who live in Port Kaituma show up recently for a meeting here in Matthews Ridge. It’s about a 60-mile round-trip, but they continue making fine efforts to attend the meetings here in Matthews Ridge whenever possible. Since Port Kaituma is not routinely worked by any congregation, we try our best to get out there whenever possible to preach and hold Bible studies with those who have shown interest. One of the couples here in Ridge who are serious Bible students, Keiron and Yvonne, own a large truck they use to transport goods from Port Kaituma to Matthews Ridge. Recently, we had the opportunity to travel out with them as they went on a goods run to Port Kaituma, and we spent the day there distributing the brochure “The Bible-What Is Its Message?” as part of the special worldwide campaign. The response we met with was wonderful. There are so many in that area who are starving for truth. We are hoping to make it out to Port Kaituma again before the campaign is over.

And right here in Matthews Ridge, we have been getting a very good response to the distribution of the new brochure. We’ve even had opportunity to distribute it to some living on the roads toward Arakaka and Baramita, and in all these places people have shown a great deal of interest in learning what the Bible’s message really is.

Sorry, I was not able to include any pictures because of the slow internet connection.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Circuit Assembly in Baramita

The preaching work has been continuing here with good results. We continue to find those who seem to have a sincere interest in learning what the truth really is from the Bible. I had opportunities to reach some living along the roads that go towards Arakaka and Baramita recently. Traveling out of Ridge to reach persons in those areas was a nice change of pace, and I found a number who said they’d like to learn more, especially on the road to Arakaka. Andrew told me what a good time he has had studying with a shop owner here in Ridge named Eddie who recently started studying in the evening when his shop closes. Garrett has been able to have a number of studies with a young man here named Esan. I was with Garrett the first time he talked with Esan. When he answered our call from outside the house, he had in his hands a Bible Teach book and a cell phone playing reggae music. He said he had just begun reading the book after having had it for some time. He said he likes to read it while listening to reggae songs that have scripture quoted in them. Esan has many questions about what the Bible teaches, and how it compares with was he thought to be the truth taught in churches. The great joy that is experienced in the ministry here is always accompanied by unexpected events that make for a very interesting experience week-to-week. For example, I wrote in a recent entry about having gotten a flat tire. Since then, we’ve gotten three more flat tires between Andrew, Garrett, and myself. Things always work out, though, and these inconveniences have surely heightened my appreciation for when travel and such does go smoothly.

This past weekend, the Circuit Assembly program was presented in the Carib language in Baramita. It is hard to express just how refreshing and up building the assembly was. I think we’ve all come away from an assembly or convention thinking “That was just what I needed!” And that was truly the case here as well. For well-thought out reasons, this year it was decided that we would not hire vehicles to take the whole group of us together to Baramita for the assembly. Instead, it would ultimately be up to each person to finalize their travel arrangements for reaching Baramita. Since we were going to have to jump on a vehicle as it was heading out of Ridge for Baramita, last Tuesday morning I decided I would pack my bag and go to the market area to wait and see if a vehicle going to Baramita would pass. After about an hour of waiting in the market, a driver named Baldhead (keep in mind that most people in Guyana are known by their call names instead of their real names) drove up in a bush truck, and I found that he was planning to head to Baramita. I was very thankful for this. I waited for about another hour while Baldhead and his crew had a little breakfast, during which time Andrew joined me. Then we were finally on our way. The first two or three hours were smooth sailing. The trek slowed to a crawl, however, once we hit an area named Warapa. This is basically where the road building crew has reached up to in building the road from Ridge to Baramita. From that point on, the next 3 to 4 hours were full of winching out of deep muddy ruts every few minutes. Andrew and I helped the bush truck crew in doing this, and in that way paid our passage to Baramita, which we reached at about 4:00pm.

After arriving in Baramita we walked up to the house a Witness family, the Smiths, who are pictured in part on page 183 of the 2005 Yearbook. We were shown such hospitality in Baramita, especially by the Smith family. Once we got to the Smith’s house, we unloaded our bags and had something to eat. A number of other brothers and sisters came into Baramita during the week before the assembly. Among these were 12 more brothers and sisters from Matthews Ridge, 5 from Georgetown, and 3 from Berbice. During the next three days we went out in service in the mornings. The field ministry in Baramita is very unique. Baramita is a Carib Amerindian reservation, and so nearly the entire population is Carib-speaking. There are no territory maps, as the camps where residents reside are constantly shifting. We had between 20 and 30 present for field service each day. Many times the entire group would walk to each camp area. Most who went out in field service wore long boots, as there are often muddy patches and creeks to pass over. As we talked with Eustace Smith regarding the arrangements being made in preparation for the assembly, it became clear that an outdoor toilet needed to be built for use by those attending the assembly. And so on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, I worked along with Gordat Bepot, a brother from the Soesdyke congregation who serves on the Country Building Committee here in Guyana, on digging a pit as well as constructing walls, a seat, and a door around the pit. Friday we had rehearsal for the assembly.

Saturday and Sunday came, and the program featuring the theme “You Are No Part of the World” truly bolstered our faith. The parts presented were wonderful, leaving those present more determined than ever to keep focused on Kingdom interests. Andrew has been working hard to get a handle on the Carib language, and it was exciting to see him present his assignments on the program in Carib. Monday was a day of departures, as 18 of the 22 visitors to Baramita boarded planes headed for Georgetown and Matthews Ridge. Only a limited number could fit on the flight to Ridge, leaving four of us to find alternative transportation back. This ended up being quite the adventure, as we had to wait until Tuesday morning to board a bush truck headed in the direction of Matthews Ridge. The bush truck took us to the Warapa area mentioned earlier. From there we took a cruiser back to Ridge, reaching back home just after 4:00pm. It was a very exciting week, offering a nice change of pace and an assembly that was so refreshing!

As you can see, there are no pictures included with this entry as my camera connection is down. I promise to include extra photos if possible with the next entry.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Comings, Goings, Mural, Travels

Since the last entry on the blog, we’ve seen some comings and goings here in Matthews Ridge, as well as other good things that have been happening here. On September 17, Micah Gillen and Blake Weigum left Matthews Ridge. These brothers from the Spokane, Washington area had been here in Ridge for roughly 6 weeks. On Friday they traveled over to Mabaruma, about 60 miles to the north of Matthews Ridge, to visit and help in that area before flying back to the United States. They were very helpful while here in Matthews Ridge, caring for many parts on the meetings and conducting quite a few Bible studies. We enjoyed having their company, and we’re sure they found their visit here to be an encouraging and eye-opening experience.

On September 16, Andrew Roybal arrived back in Matthews Ridge. He enjoyed the opportunity to visit family and friends, but he has said how glad he is to be back in Matthews Ridge.

Recently we were able to hang up a mural painting that Ellie Garner, a sister who visited Matthews Ridge this past December/January, had painted. As you can see from the picture included with this entry, the painting is a beautiful depiction of Paradise in a tropical area like Matthews Ridge. We’re very glad to have it displayed in the Kingdom Hall here, and many have commented on what a nice painting it is.

This past Wednesday, I had an opportunity to travel to Port Kaituma. I decided I would take a day-trip there and preach in that town since it is not covered by any congregation and it does not regularly get worked in the door-to-door ministry. The day went very well, as I was able to cover a good-sized area, and there met many receptive people. I was also able to make arrangements to make a start again of a group Bible-study we had been holding in that town. I talked to those that regularly attend to let them know that we will plan to come every week that it is possible from now on to have the study as we were doing before. I even got to pick up some needed supplies that we have not been able to get here in Matthews Ridge. The day was going along generally as planned, until I got a flat tire about 30 to 40 minutes drive out of Port Kaituma. I flagged down a 4-wheeler and asked the driver if he had an air pump. He did, and we were able to pump the tire up. However, after he left, I got on the bike to start it, and the tire again went completely flat. I had very few tools with me, and so I decided to hide the bike in the bush and try to catch a ride back to Matthews Ridge. I was able to get on a bush truck that was headed for a mining camp that was generally in the same direction as Matthews Ridge. I had to get off in a town called Falls Top, realizing that the bush truck would turn off towards the mining area soon after. A few hours later, a pick-up truck was passing by, so I stopped to see if they could carry me to Matthews Ridge. They weren’t planning to, but we went back and forth on how much they would charge to take a side trip there. We agreed on a price, and I finally got into Matthews Ridge at about 7:00pm. We took the back tire off the other motor bike on Thursday, and on Friday morning I got on a truck headed to Port Kaituma with the spare tire and some tools. The truck dropped me where I had stashed the bike, and after a bit I got the tire changed and was able to safely drive home.

Garrett and Andrew have been busy conducting the read and write class held weekly after the public talk and Watchtower consideration. They’ve been working hard at caring for this assignment that has both its challenges and joys.

Andrew and Garrett also had a good experience here in the last week starting a Bible study with one of the shop owners named Eddie. In the past this man, while always friendly, did not seem to show much interest in learning more about Jehovah and his Word. We stop at his shop often for a cold drink, and while doing this, Garrett and Andrew talked with him about whether he would be interesting in spending a few minutes each week learning from the Bible. He agreed, and on Thursday night, they went down after Eddie closed up the shop for the night, and had a first study with him. It always makes us very happy to see people begin to show an interest in learning the truth for the first time.

The pictures included with this entry are of Andrew and Garrett conducting the read and write class, of the Paradise mural Ellie painted, and of Micah and Blake with two of the Bible students, Beatrice and Victoria.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Departures, Painting, Georgetown

This past week or so, both the Conti family and the Caldwells returned to America from their visit to Matthews Ridge. Kyle and Rehanna Caldwell left Matthews Ridge on August 26th. And Dawn, Jessi, and Paige Conti left Matthews Ridge on September 1st. We were very happy that they were able to come to Guyana and to Matthews Ridge to help out. Their hard work and good company was very much appreciated.

The walls of the inside of the Kingdom Hall that we had begun painting have been finished with a first coat of paint. This past week Blake, Micah, Garrett, Dawn, Jessi, Paige, and Eugene completed the painting of the walls. The result looks very nice and really helps to lighten up the hall.

I spent this past week in Georgetown, as I was not feeling so well. I’m better now, and aside from dealing with that, it was a very nice week. I had opportunities to go out in field service a few times in the Diamond congregation, just a bit south of Georgetown. Working in the ministry there is a lot different than doing so in Matthews Ridge. This was a nice change of pace, and it was good to be able to get to know some of the friends in that area.

The pictures included with this entry are a group shot and the finished painting of the walls inside the Kingdom Hall.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Arakaka, Painting

This past week we had a real nice time traveling to one of the towns neighboring Matthews Ridge, which is named Arakaka. You may have heard this town mentioned on the blog before. In many ways it is quite similar to Matthews Ridge, with a bit smaller population. Matthews Ridge is the closest group to this town, and so we try to get out there to preach when we can. Having so many visiting Matthews Ridge this month provided a nice opportunity to go out and work the Arakaka area in door-to-door preaching. There were 12 of us in all who went. 10 made the trip in a pick-up truck, and the other 2 followed on motorbikes. It’s about a 50 minute drive or so from Matthews Ridge to Arakaka. Since we’re still in the end of rainy season here, the regular rains have kept the dust on the roads down, meaning you arrive in Arakaka a lot cleaner than you would if you made the trip in dry season, driving into a dust-cloud the whole way.

As I was beginning the meeting for field service, I was surprised to see the cruiser we had hired to carry us to Arakaka pull up, it being about 15 minutes earlier than I had asked him to come. (for the interior of Guyana, arriving 15 minutes early is quite an anomaly) I went over to talk to the driver, whose name is Moses. He said to me: ‘We have to lef. Dem boys takin de bridge out at 9:00, and nobody gettin tru till it finish.’ Apparently, it was this particular morning that a crew of workers were planning to take apart and rebuild a log bridge on a stretch of the road that leads to Arakaka. And so after a short meeting for field service, we piled into the truck and jumped on the motorbikes. There was only one board lying across the bed of the cruiser, and at least 3 rows of 3 people each had to fit in there. So we looked around the Kingdom Hall quickly to find a couple more planks we could lay across the bed of the truck as 6 additional seats. I quickly found a nice fat plank about the right length, but it was hard to find a good thick second plank. We were running low on time, so I put on a smaller plank I found that was the right length. I’m wondering if the 3 that got relegated to that undersized seating would rather have sit on the floor of the truck bed, though, because after a number of good bumps in the road it snapped in half.

We reached up to the bridge right at 9:00, just as they were about to start dismantling it. We got through, though, and got into Arakaka at about 9:20. We went to the police outpost and told them we were Jehovah’s Witnesses from Matthews Ridge, and we had come to preach throughout the town. They had no reservations about our plans, and told us to park the two motorbikes in their yard right up against the police station. We split into 3 groups of 4 persons each, and went into different parts of the town. We were imagining our visit to Arakaka might also provide a nice opportunity to make some phone calls, as there is no phone reception in Matthews Ridge, and making the trek out to a hill that does get service near Ridge can be difficult. And so after we were finished preaching in the immediate town area, we went over to the call spot in Arakaka. There are apparently only 2 or 3 spots in Arakaka that get phone reception. And by “spots”, I literally mean spots of about 1 foot in diameter signaled by a dirt patch worn in the grass by those standing in that “call spot”. We all tried unsuccessfully to get calls through at these fabled call spots.

We finished working the immediate town area of Arakaka in a couple of hours, and then started heading back towards Matthews Ridge at about 12:00. Over the next 4.5 hours, we worked many houses alongside the road leading back to Matthews Ridge, as well as witnessing to some who were working dredges for mining gold. We were relieved to see that the road workers had just finished building the new bridge as we traveled back to Matthews Ridge. So many we met in Arakaka, and alongside the road leading to it, voiced their desire to have someone come to study the Bible with them along with their families. We told them we would try to come back as soon as possible. We are sincerely hoping we can work to further develop that interest, but balance is certainly needed so as not to neglect the work in Matthews Ridge itself.

Also this past week, we started painting the interior of the Kingdom Hall in Matthews Ridge and making improvements to the sound system. All those who have come to visit Matthews Ridge were able to help with this work, and it has gone well. So far, we’ve gotten two of the walls painted, built a sound cabinet into the wall in the rear of the auditorium, and routed the wiring from the front of the hall under the floor and up into this new sound box. Over the next few weeks we’re hoping to paint the other two walls and the ceiling of the hall, as well as to hang a large mural painting of the paradise that was painted by Ellie Garner, a sister from America who visited Matthews Ridge at the turn of this past year.

The pictures included with this entry are of the service group getting organized in Arakaka by the cruiser and police station, of painting the inside of the Kingdom Hall, and of Kyle working on the sound cabinet.