At pioneer school, about 1994, I met a sister who knew a sister who was serving in Guyana. My friend said, “Do you want to go and serve a month with me?” and I said “Yes… where is it?” She didn’t know either so we went inside the house and pulled out the atlas and started planning.
Fyrish and Georgetown
We planned to pioneer in Guyana for a period of one month. The sister who my friend knew was living on the east coast in a village called Fyrish. I remember tiny frogs in the outdoor shower, the ocean breeze, washing our laundry under the house, and a dead dog on the road. It was a culture shock to be sure. But one day I worked in service with a young special pioneer brother, Philip who was maybe 24 at the time. We did every form of service: door to door, return visits, studies, market witnessing, shepherding calls. We were out from early morning until the sun went down and I saw how Jehovah supported us. If we were thirsty, someone would offer us a drink; if we were hungry, a snack or a plate of food; hot, and a breeze would come up. It was amazing and it turned the tide for me. I called my parents and told them that I wanted to do this, to pioneer in Guyana. My mother said “Do you want me to send you your things?” I paused and said “Well, I want to come home first!” My parents always whole-heartedly supported me.
Toward the end of my visit, I met Gillian who was pioneering in a remote area in the northwest called Baramita. At the time, there were only 8 publishers but meeting attendance regularly topped 200. Philip, the special pioneer from Fyrish, and another brother were to go in and Gillian wanted me to be her partner. So for the next few months in the States, that’s what I worked toward. But a week before I was to leave for Guyana, the branch called and said they didn’t think Baramita would be a good place for me and asked me to go to Vergenoegen, a village on the West Coast Demererra instead. (These photos ae from a visit there.)
I served in Vergenoegen for only a few months. During that time we were building a new Kingdom Hall so every Sunday meeting time was spent making bricks. But the branch knew that I really wanted to be somewhere more remote so they asked if I would like to go to Lethem, in the interior, and I jumped at the chance. The day before we were to start the Kingdom Hall build, a brother from the branch showed up at my house in the middle of the night and told me to pack my bags, we were leaving for the interior that night. As it turned out, the plane wasn’t ready so I went back to Vergenoegen the next day and was able to spend the week working on the Kingdom Hall but it made for a pretty dramatic story nonetheless!
In Lethem I joined Paula, a pioneer from Toronto, and a married couple from Guyana who were there for work. Lethem hadn’t been preached in for over 30 years and Paula and I theoretically had the entire southern half of the country as our territory. In reality we only covered the town of Lethem and the village of St. Ignatius in the year that we were there, in addition to conducting several Bible studies each. Meetings were held at home, with Richard conducting and Paula and I commenting. One bible student, Dawn, and her three little boys were our only attendees. Eventually, Richard and his wife left and Paula had to return to Canada and it was just me in Lethem. I came to the coast and did day work at the branch until the brothers decided what to do with the area. In the end, they decided to send two needgreater couples and a single sister in to help. We started holding meetings in town and the work really took off. Within a few weeks, the Memorial was held and we had 66 in attendance! About a month later I had to leave because my money had run out. But a year later, that small group had become a congregation and it is still going strong!
After going back to the States and saving some money, I went back to Guyana with a childhood friend, Amy. We decided to go to to a village in the Pakaraima mountains called Kato to help a couple from Ireland who were serving there. After we were there a couple weeks, the couple decided to go back to Ireland to work and have us care for the group of 30 Bible students and meeting attendees. As stressful as it was, Amy and I conducted all the meetings except the public talk. She conducted the book study (the Revelation book!) and I was Watchtower conductor. For the school and service meeting we traded off parts: she would do number 1, I would do Bible Highlights and Bible reading, she would do number 3 talk and I would be her householder, I would do number 4 and she would be my householder, and on through the service meeting. We sang songs without music. Years later, a student told me that Be Glad You Nations makes her think of us so I guess we did a good job on that one! Through it all, Jehovah strengthened us. There were many times when I would be looking for a point to include in a talk and not be able to find it in in the index and then randomly turn a section of pages in the bound volume and there it was!
The time I spent in Guyana changed my life. Prior to going I had no desire for a missionary life but now I can hardly imagine anything else. I recommend to all young (and older) ones to make some time to preach in a foreign country because you will never regret it!