Friday, April 30, 2010

Thursday Thoughts From The Team

Today the team went shopping with a staff member from RCHH. It was a joy to learn how to shop in Guyanese fashion and buy school shoes for the children. We wrapped that up in the morning and then headed to the other side of the river to spend an afternoon in Prosperity City. As we came back later that day, I asked the team to share a few thoughts with me about their experiences today. ~Angie

Buying Shoes Today...
In America, when we go shoe shopping we look at a variety of there is little variety. In the states we would have shopped for a couple pairs of shoes of different colors and, it was one shoe with one color: black for school. Another dynamic that I was aware of as we shopped, was the fact that these children are getting SHOES. After being around the children of Prosperity City who go barefoot or wear slippers (flip-flops)- even to school, it changes you!

We took a big job and made it small. Where one person would have to shop for 20 children and spend half of a day, we were able to divide up the sticks with the children's initials and find four shoes each. It was nice to give Jenny, the RCHCC staff person, a nice break to enjoy the experience and be there to answer our questions.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning the process of buying in Guyana. It was fun and different. It is not much different than our own process, but yet it would confuse you if someone was not there to direct you. Today I learned that:
Step 1: You choose your shoe and then go to the counter to get your size.
Step 2: You take your written ticket and you walk over to the cashier to pay for it.
Step 3: You walk to a different place to pick up your purchase and check to see if it is correct.
I also loved the fact that I was doing this shopping for someone else...and that it was for the children at the home! We all got a chuckle at the thought of telling those in America that we spent $40,000 "dollars" on shoes today!

Shoe Shopping in Guyana

Sticks measured to each child's foot with their name or initials on them.

Prosperity City

Today was different from yesterday in a few ways. Yesterday, we parked in a different place and entered the area from a different way and stayed in one place. Today, we parked in the front area and as soon as our bus pulled up to the wall and parked, smiles met us and kind voices greeted us. A woman I did not even remember said, "Hi Sister Angie! How are you?" I was shocked that she knew my name. We started our afternoon by walking the Jetty Wall to the end and handing out 6 bags that were not collected on Tuesday. The smiles followed us there as well. It was amazing to literally feel the light breaking through in that place. As we returned to Georgetown, I asked the team if they noticed a difference in today and they shared these thoughts:
  • Gary said he noticed that the kids wanted to be around us the minute they saw us. People were acknowledging Angie more and more. She was becoming known there and it brought smiles to the people's faces.
  • Joy found herself trying to understand more of the creoles' and if hearing someone say, "White People, White People", was a good thing. It turned out to be a real good thing. They were getting our attention to help us find someone so we could leave them their bag.
  • Becca found it incredible that the children never lost interest to learn. They would literally finish one book, or flashcard set, or one educational game and run for something else to work on. They lost no interest in learning and it showed her that all they need is time and someone to encourage them.
  • Rhonda was taken up by two small boys probably around age 5 and 3 who latched onto us immediately and stayed with us down the entire jetty wall. She was struck by their persistence in asking for a white bag. And would not believe us when we told them we just dropped one home by their granny. The flip side of that experience is coping with the reality that no one came looking for them. They walked right down to the Jetty wall, jumped on the mud and hit the water to swim. They subsequently got out when we began to walk back and followed us to the end. Rhonda was also encouraged by the people's honesty. When we were looking for people and asked them if they had a bag "like this", they told us the truth. Yes, they had a bag like that and the person we are looking for is two houses down. There is a general sense of looking out for one another.
  • Colin took note of a small step that could lead to another small step and another. As they went to leave a bag with a strong Muslim man, he actually came to the gate and took it from Colin and Gary. On Saturday he had locked the doors and stayed inside. We gave him a bag anyways and we'll see what God will accomplish!
  • As we were preparing to leave we had one more house to go to on the Jetty. We decided to walk quickly and not allow the dark to catch us. Becca shared tonight how that made her nervous. Then she checked herself and realized these children walking with us are so incredibly happy to be with us and they live here every day, all day.
It was our last day in Prosperity City and we did not walk with our cameras. We wanted this day to be just about the children. As the time ended I knew a picture would be a great thing. The children were happy for it, so we took a "big big picture" as it was called, with the future generation of Prosperity City. The moment was sobering, but not as moving as Ginny, my Vreed N Hoop partner pulling me to the side to share her deep appreciation for this past week of partnership. I cannot convey her words in their fullness, but suffice to say, God's body came together this week and those who remain here have been strengthened by those who have come.
Last Day in Prosperity City

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Guyana - Wednesday

Today we wanted you to get a taste of Guyana from some of the team member's perspectives. Becca and Joy were gracious enough to write their thoughts about Wednesday's activities.

"It has been another busy but satisfying day in Guyana! This morning we worked on our bags again, finishing a few more for Prosperity City and one for each child at the children's home. The bags for the children's home were labeled with the children's names and reminders that they have been adopted by God as His children. We are looking forward to passing out these last bags in a few days and seeing the excited expressions on the children's faces. After the bags were filled, we finished organizing all the leftover supplies that will be used for future projects.
One of the most rewarding times we have had on this trip came when prayed this morning over the surveys we took in Prosperity City. We sat in a circle, each with a pile of surveys in our hands and took turns praying out loud for the people of Prosperity City by name. After praying, we talked about the many thoughts and emotions that had come upon us during our prayer time. We felt hopeful that prayer makes a difference, that God can give these people a hope and future, and that God has already started work by bringing the community's needs to the attention of active Christians. For many, this was perhaps the first time that their names have been called out in prayer, but we are encouraged in knowing that God knows each of their names and cares for them. We felt blessed by our own circumstances and convicted to use our resources to bless others. And we felt overwhelmed by the incredible needs which are beyond human help (but fortunately not beyond God's help!).
One of the most poignant moments in our discussion was when Colin, our Guyanese driver, talked about how sad he was over the people in Prosperity City. Our first trip to the community a few days ago was the first time he had witnessed this poverty and his heart was broken for his people. He talked about how ironic it is that the people lack clean water here in Guyana, a place that is called the "land of many waters". It is our hope that eventually through the efforts of the Christians, the people will not only have clean water, but they will come to know the Living Water. More than ever, we realize that there is much work to be done in Prosperity City, but now that the work has begun, we can see that God's hand is in it."
~Written by Becca

Team members praying over the surveys of Prosperity City.

"This afternoon we returned to Prosperity City to interact with the children as we helped them with very basic learning skills. I helped a 19 year old girl form her letters. She has never known the freedom and opportunity to realize her potential. Now, with the involvement of Angie and the local church, a new world may be opened to her. Now, caring believers know her name and her story...and they care! The conditions in which these children live defy description, yet their beautiful smiles speak of a survivor's spirit. Surely God is raising up His people to be their advocates. In many ways, we have seen things come together in such a way that we knew God was and is in control!"
~Written by Joy

Joy with the children of Prosperity City

Gary and Becca helping children with learning skills

Working with the children

Colin (in the blue shirt and white hat) the Guyanese bus driver playing football (soccer) with the children in a rice barn.

Angie and children at the rice barn.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday In Guyana

Tuesday morning was a great recovery day with time spent packing around 250 bags for the residents of Prosperity City. God knows how to put together teams, for this team of detail-oriented people are perfect for this week of work! All of the survey data had been entered by a person who "excels" in Excel. Beyond that, a system was created using house numbers so all the bags correspond with the tickets given out during our survey. Each house received a bag based on the number of children in the home. There is not one "general factory" bag in the mix at all. Each child has a school notebook, pencil, eraser, ruler and toothbrush; the adults have a toothbrush, toothpaste for each house and a few other little things to make the bag complete. The order that went into the project allowed for an easy flow when we reached Prosperity City and distributed the bags.

"Grateful"...."Patient"..."Real"....these were the people who filled the outer gate at Liz's house today to collect their gift bags. Our team knew their faces and the gentleness and love of our Guyanese brothers and sisters overflowed all over the people. The American team were the runners who took the tickets and went to the back to find each person's bag. We let the Guyanese shine bright today and we did all the "behind the scenes" work. The Guyanese worked with the Guyanese to verify information and hand over the bags to each person. It was a smooth operation and God held back the rain. Who could ask for more blessing than that!
As we left Prosperity City today, Rhonda shared a conversation she had with Liz. It seems there are two organizations that bring food into the area every month or so. I knew of one of them, but it was interesting to learn that they only focus on the families who live on the Jetty. The families who live on the West side are overlooked because they don't have it as bad. One of our concerns has been how to bring these two communities together. Today, without realizing it, we took one step in that direction as we handed out bags to ALL the families. It was such a confirmation to all our endeavors and the decision to believe God for resources and knowledge to do more than we could ask or imagine for His children.
And we the team, are the changed people!

The impact of our time and the people we are meeting has been burrowing on our hearts. Yesterday, a team member fought back tears as the children were leaving, wondering about their future. Thoughts boiled to the surface... "I look and wonder who will make sure that they have what they need?" "Who will push them to excel?" "Those who have visible scars of abuse, how will that affect them as they get older? And what is being done now?" The two worlds of Prosperity City and RCHCC are two worlds apart, for certain. God has allowed us to be a part of both and reclaim hope in their lives. Today, it came through a small bag of school supplies for Prosperity City. Tomorrow, RCHCC will be given a lift in their spirits when we take one of the workers to buy school shoes for all the children. Beyond our tangible gifts, we leave a presence of relationship through the local church and prayers that will connect long after we return to our homes.
Written by Angie

Special Treat For The Children

Monday In Guyana

Monday we left Georgetown for a bit. It was nice to get out of the city and see a different side of Guyana. After driving a while we reached a boat dock and took about an hour ride on the Demerara River (that led into Kamuni Creek) aboard a small wooden boat with a small outboard engine. Our destination was the Santa Mission, a community of about 300 Amerindians. We walked the sand, past a four hundred year old tree and had a glimpse of rural life. The residents there make baskets and jewelry out of natural products and many internationals visit them to purchase these well made items. After a short tour and shopping we were back in the boat and headed back to the city.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at a local hotel where we hosted a pool party for the children of The Ruimveldt Children's Home and Care Centre. Concord Baptist Church of Statesville, NC used our Caroline's Promise banks for Orphan Sunday, last November. They were able to collect several hundred dollars. This money was used to host the pool party and later this week, the team will be able to purchase school shoes for the kids. We arrived minutes before the kids...all 20 of them piling out of the van and ready to jump in the water! The team blew up over 20 swimmies and floats which came in handy, since most of the kids couldn't swim. Even the babies got in the pool!
Several years ago, a friend of ours told me the story of a trip to Hephzibah Children's Home in Macon, Georgia. They were at the pool with the kids and one little girl asked our friend, "Can you be my Grandpa today?" Of course he said, "Yes!" Delighted, she jumped back in the pool and said, "Watch this Grandpa!" I've always remembered that story and the impact our friend's presence made in that little girl's life for an afternoon. Something so simple as responding to her cries of, "Watch me!" I wonder how many children around the world would be thrilled just to have someone to "watch me!" Our presence is a simple thing to give. Lord, help us to remember this!
Well, that happened to our team today. Each of us had at least two kids hanging on us at all times yelling, "Auntie - look at me!" "Uncle, play with me!" FOUR hours later our bodies were sore, our faces were red, but we were thrilled. I'm sure the children slept as well as we did that night! It was such a joy for us to watch the children rest on their floats and swim away in their thoughts; and it was a beautiful way to love on orphans.

Written by Lisa and Angie

Sunday In Guyana - By Lisa

On Sunday we had church on the beach! Now, don't get excited. Although Guyana is on the Atlantic Ocean and you can feel the breeze most days, it's not exactly a tropical view. The Demerara River dumps into the ocean in Georgetown, which actually sits below sea level. The city is surrounded by a sea wall that people walk and run on. In most places, there is no beach on the other side of the wall. But Angie took us to a stretch of beach where we could walk and spend some time with the Lord. Our team devotions focused on the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17. Elijah's presence in the widow's life changed both of them. In our time on the beach, God began to give us ideas for Prosperity City. I won't share them all here, but it's exciting to see how He is showing us HIS dreams for His people!
After our time on the beach we drove about an hour to a town called Parika that sits on the Essequibo River. Our destination was Youth With A Mission where the Director, Kim, shared about their vision and ministry to the people of this town. There is an area called Sea Dam with similar struggles as Prosperity City. If you've watched the Plastic City video that Deric Cook did, you'll see this area in the section where children are working with gravel. YWAM fed us a great lunch and then we drove to Sea Dam. Our intent was to visit with the people and deliver school notebooks and pencils. This area has been in a drought and the people have been praying for rain -spiritually and physically. Well, the rain came while we were walking through the community! We didn't get very far but were able to witness God birthing a vision in the YWAM staff. Although we were drenched from head to toe, we were excited to see that our presence there had drawn them to the community. It was obvious that God had given them a burden for the people and it will be exciting to see how we can partner in the future.
We worshipped with the people of the Vreed N Hoop Wesleyan Church on Sunday night. The men were in charge and declared the service a time of "intimate worship". What a treat to be led by these men who so obviously love the Lord! It was almost as if God knew we would need this time, to remind us of His presence in our lives and to fill us for the week ahead. Relationships had been built with several of the church members on Saturday as we worked together in Prosperity City. I love how God connects His people!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Images of Guyana

Sidewalk filled with Trash

Jetty Side

Laundry Day

Children at the Trench and Men Playing Cricket

Goats and Mangos

Bouncy Trench Bridge and West Side House

Collecting Rain Water

Faces of Guyana