God really sends answers when you need it. While talking with a friend, she informed me that there was a school in Guyana that trained medical missionaries and that one of her friends trained there. I ask her to get the information for me so that I could know more about this place. It was the Bethany Medical Missionary College. After receiving the relevant information, I told a sister from church who also showed interest in doing medial missionary training. She made contact with the administrators of the school in mid-2015, but since the training had already begun we had to wait till the next year. This afforded me time to prepare. I then contacted Mrs. Bollers via Skype, where I was interviewed and received the package for registration. I was now set to go Guyana – I would say with some trepidation, but I was on God’s mission. And was determined to learn as much from the experience as I could. As the latter months of 2015 rolled by, my excitement increased. I must say that my family and most church friends were very supportive of my choice.
In January 2016, flying over Guyana, I was amazed by the extensive forested areas and large rivers. There I had to quickly acclimatize to the culture and environment. The city and surrounding areas are typical of any city and abuzz with the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But as we made our way to Bethany Village the terrain changed to open rice fields and then forested areas. The rivers in Guyana are quite expansive, taking hours to navigate and cross. The Supenaam area is where the ferry docked, then we got a boat to the village of Bethany. In these areas, as I suspect with many others in Guyana, are mainly navigated by the rivers. As we boarded the small school boat and headed in, the new experience that awaited me gave both emotions of excitement and trepidation. Small and large houses doted the river banks and the foliage got thinner and thicker as we headed further inland. Large trees hung over the river creating a natural sanctuary type atmosphere. On the banks of the river, washing and cleaning, sitting and working all took place. This reminded me of where God’s people would come to in the very near future. We finally docked at our location and thinking we had finally reached only to hear we had a mile and quarter trek to the school grounds! I kept wondering “where is this place?” The area is quite sandy which makes walking all the more difficult. But as we trekked through the thick forest, hearing the creatures of the evening and the stillness of the air. It was now apparent to me why we as God’s people always are encouraged in country living. After about 45 minutes of walking we finally reached Bethany Medical Missionary College. A lovely, open, cleared area where the forest trees created a natural wall of greenery. This was going to be an interesting 6 months!
The first few weeks took some adjusting to the environment but we quickly got into the routine of things. What was most refreshing was being in the midst of nature! Waking every morning to quiet stillness, except when the howler monkeys and birds sought to make their presence known. The months of January and February were quite cold. The men have a creek area where we usually washed clothes or just went to relax and talk.
Every morning and evening we had worship sessions where our voices would echo through the trees in singing to God as we joined with nature in praises. Each student had an opportunity to conduct a session which was always interesting, usually following our idiosyncrasies. Fridays at sunset, entering the Sabbath hours were particularly special as we testified of the week’s graces and warmly greeted one another. Walking to church one mile away, was always interesting on Sabbath mornings. Whether it was sunny or raining there was always something to catch your attention. I distinctly remember one morning while walking, butterflies and bees buzzing around my head! Walking back from church was always fun speed-walking to see who would get there first, sometimes if fortunate getting a ride with Brother Bollers!
Breakfast, lunch and supper were always anticipated. I learned new foods, also how to prepare them and gained an affinity for some foods that previously I had disliked. Fruits, especially pineapples were in abundance. And healthy tasty treats were always welcomed. Our favorite being pumpkin pie! Someone even wrote a song about it………. I’m wondering who that person was! When one had kitchen duties it was a tiring week. Sometimes in class you would be out cold. Definitely learned some new tricks while starting fires for food preparation. Splitting wood for fireside and stoking coals for the oven.
Classes were great! Spiritually centered and interactive. Every hour on the hour we did our exercises making sure we got good circulation. Our most intense classes were Massage and Hydrotherapy. We had to perform most of the hydrotherapy techniques on one another so we can understand what those who we would treat would experience. It was interesting to say the least but I never though water could be so potent! And on that point I never drank so much water. We always had to keep well hydrated. Everyone had their water bottles in hand. The teachers were very open and ready to answer any questions raised. We also got opportunity to refine our skills through our presentations.
Work time, oh work time. Weeding taught us spiritual lessons of sin in our lives. In that it always had one weed you never saw until you passed over an area again. Gardening really helps your spirituality when reflecting on God in the fields. Whether it was planting seeds, splitting logs, cutting grass, weeding soil, digging coals, digging roots, fixing pipes, scrubbing walls or landscaping, there was something for everyone. We just all anticipated the bell at 5pm for supper!
We did get to go to the coast to do Bible studies with some youths at a high school on some Sabbaths. We also visited churches in the area. It was great to see how Sabbaths were spent outside Bethany. We visited Georgetown for Health Fair after learning our skills, it was now time to put it into practice. So that too was an experience to see the capital and visit the mall, much to some students joy after being in greenery for months! One of the highlights of the six months was meeting David Gates, fondly called Uncle David. That was a fun and inspirational weekend that motivated me even more for missionary work.
When graduation day came it was with joy and sorrow, as we had grown together so much in six months. With challenges and achievements we all got to know each other better and made friendships that would last a lifetime. Standing together, singing our class song we felt proud to be called Medical Missionaries. However, we knew that the hardest test was just before us ….. doing the work. In Bethany we were as it were sheltered from the world but now we were going into the world to meet the needs of the people and share Jesus.
What Bethany taught me was invaluable. I fell in love with nature all over again and understood why God’s people are called to live in such areas. Learning in such an environment is so much easier than in the urban areas. Also developing a Christian character is much easier there. There are challenges yes, but nothing worth doing ever comes easy. You learn to trust in God and understand yourself better. Truly when you graduate you’ll experience just as we sung in our class song … we were called, we were trained now we are empowered to do the work… the work of a Medical Missionary.