Monday, May 12, 2014

Mission Gone South, Part 3 (How it all began)

Thanks to my husband Jermaine for guest-posting this part! He says,

My wife and I have decided to shift from our initial focus of these posts a bit. We have come to see that what truly needs to be communicated is not so much what we went through but what our friends and loved ones in Siparuta and Orealla are going through. First, though, you must be wondering how a couple from Jamaica ended up in the jungles of Guyana with their two toddlers.

Our journey started in summer of 2013. I decided to respond to God’s call to go into the mission field. To stop asking Him to bless my plans, and to seek after His plans and be blessed. To stop working for money and to start working for Him. To truly believe that if I chose to serve Him and not money (mammon), as He asks in Matthew 6:24, I could face the challenges and claim the promises of verses 25 – 34. He then revealed He might be taking us to Guyana and asked us to give away everything and pack light for the possible flight. In faith, we followed through and waited for the call to the mission field. That was our fleece (see Judges 6:36 – 40). We needed to be sure that this was what God wanted, so we wouldn’t contact anyone in the mission field, they needed to contact us. After numerous trials and almost at the point of shifting focus, the call came. The main question we needed answered was “Is there a need for medical personnel in that area?” and the answer was a resounding “Yes!”

This was where our hearts first got touched with the needs of the people. We learned that Siparuta, the sister village to Orealla, lies on the bank of the Corentyne River, the border of Guyana and Suriname. About 75km from the coast, Siparuta is only readily accessible by the river, which increases the traveling distance. To traverse the water course villagers have two options, the expensive speedboats with an average travel time of 2 hours and the inexpensive cargo boat with a travel time of 8 – 15 hours, usually overnight. Most villagers are only able to travel by cargo boat, even in the case of a medical emergency. With all the doctors and hospitals on the coast anyone needing treatment that cannot be administered by the community health worker or midwife has to make the journey out. For most villagers though, being able to acquire gas and secure a speedboat is not always possible or feasible.

With this is mind we made our journey to Siparuta in October 2013, to work for God and for the people. The call had come to us from someone we knew, and considered a friend, when he and his wife were living in Jamaica. They were the administrator and principal, respectively, for a mission project: Siparuta Mission Academy, the only secondary school in the village. Villagers chose to send their children to the school to get a Christian education, an alternative to having their children go out to the coast to live and attend school. For those who did not have relatives on the coast, that would mean paying more to support their children’s education and placing them in a hostel, subjecting them to the possibility of negative influences and abuse. During the course of our experience, we learned that the government had built a school with dormitory in the neighboring village of Orealla, half hour away by speedboat or an hour by cargo boat. We’re not sure about the current status of that school.

We decided that initially I, Jermaine, would teach at the school, Alana would take care of our children, and together we would do the groundwork for the medical missionary work. Our intention was to take those initial months to understand the governance, lifestyle and medical needs of the people. This would thus enable us to tailor our interventions to meet their needs. In the meantime, we would respond to any emergencies we could and offer general medical and lifestyle advice and meet practical needs. I decided to teach the subjects of Mathematics and Human and Social Biology focusing mainly on the fifth form (11th Grade) who had upcoming CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) exams in May – June 2014.  

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