Well, here we are eight months (almost 9) into our year in Guyana. We are now at the point where we have to start making plans to go back to the States in October. And at the same time, we want to stay fully focused on enjoying the rest of our time here. It can sometimes be a hard balance to strike.
Last month Tommy’s sister Kim came for a short visit. We took her in service with us and on all of our studies. She fit right in with the congregation and made a lot of good friends in the week she was here. And, at the end of her trip, she went to see Kaieteur Falls, which is always a highlight!
As you may remember, we are not sponsored here so we do not have a visa. As a result, we need to leave the country every three months to get our passport re-stamped for another three months. This is standard practice and a lot of other needgreaters do it too. But it’s also expensive and time consuming. The closest country to us is Suriname. It is only about 45 minutes from where we live to the border so it would be the cheapest and least time consuming border crossing to make. But we haven’t been able to do it because they require proof of yellow fever vaccination which we do not have. We tried to get it before we left the States but they were having a US-wide shortage. So when we heard that May was Immunization Month in Guyana and they were giving yellow fever– for free, no less (its $200US in the States)– we jumped at the chance. But getting it was interesting.
We heard from a sister in the hall that they would be giving vaccinations at a local restaurant not far from us at 8:30am on a certain day. We went there in the pouring rain and joined five others who were waiting. After waiting an hour plus, the nurses finally arrived and started setting up. By this time more people come and started trying to cut ahead. Thankfully everyone was helping us to keep our place in line.
We weren’t really sure if we would be allowed to get the vaccine since we are foreigners. (A friend had previously asked at the health center for us and had been told n.) So when it was our turn at the desk, we nervously explained what we wanted but surprisingly they allowed it and we got out our shots! With everyone watching and hearing our personal information, by the way. We were given pieces of cardboard with our information and a stamp from the health center and were told to take it to the hospital in New Amsterdam 11 days later.
About two weeks later we went to New Amsterdam for our yellow vaccination card. We arrived at 10:00 and, since the offices closes at 11, they closed the gates at 10:30. Still, we waited in line until about noon. We were so happy to finally have those little yellow cards!
But, in the meantime, we found out that we can request an extension of our stay in Guyana by bringing a lot of paperwork and a letter to the Immigration Department in Georgetown. So a few weeks ago we did that. The extension takes 2 weeks to process and then we were advised to call. One couple who got the extension said that they called every day for a month. So we will be patient and hopefully the extension will come through and we can just stay in Guyana until we go back to the States in October. If not, we have the vaccination so we can make a trip to Suriname.
I know that that is a lot of description about jumping through hoops but that’s part of life here too!
Over the last month or two, Tommy has given a few talks out at other congregations: Reliance, Brighton, and Mahicony. It’s always a bit stressful to find your way to a new hall, especially when you can’t be late, but somehow we always make it. It’s always so nice to meet new friends and see new halls!
Last month we were also able to reactivate a study that had been established by a needgreater couple who had been here a few years ago. Tommy had gotten Nalini door to door and was impressed at how she answered his questions. He returned a few times before she told him that she used to study. When we went for the first study she showed us notebooks filled with her notes! We studied once or twice and she did excellently. Then she started calling to cancel, saying that the teachers at her son’s school were asking her to stay after to tutor the children. After a few weeks of cancellations, we stopped by unannounced on a Saturday and she was home and studied. We asked her if Saturdays would work better going forward and she said yes and has been studying faithfully ever since.
On the flip side, I had a study that I reactivated that I finally had to stop. I would call the girl in the morning and by the time I got there in the afternoon, she would not be home or be there but say “not today.” She lives with relatives and they would awkwardly sit and stare at us any time we came by and the girl herself didn’t seem very engaged in the study. After a month and a half of that I finally called her and said that I would stop by from time to time to say hello but not every week and she said that was fine. She sounded relieved… and I was too! So, not all, studies you set up will work out.
But our other studies are progressing well! Some are making changes in their lives based on what they are learning. One woman told us how she explained to her teenage daughter that she couldn’t lie for her anymore. She also has been sharing with others what she is learning and always has good Bible questions.
Another study has been struggling with personal problems but has been seeing Jehovah’s hand in working things out. She also finally got a phone so it will be much easier for us to arrange to meet her and her children and take them to the meetings.
So, even though we only have a few months left here, there is still a lot to be done. For our Bible students, we will be helping them to progress and get firmly established in the Fyrish congregation. And for us, we have some more visitors, the regional convention coming up (July 6-8), and a few trips within Guyana. There is a lot to look forward to!