Preparing for Missionary Service

Dear prospective SM’s,

My name is Billy Gager. My friends and I just returned from our jungle mission post and are currently readjusting to American culture. The deep joy we have and the many lessons we’ve learned in Guyana have made this one of the greatest years of our lives. When we entered, we had little expectations, and what we did expect, we should not have. The fewer you have the better. The

[School banquet]
On the left is Pam Nickel (Acting Principal), and on the right are four of our five SAU SMs: Billy, Nathan, Marius, and David. Missing is Kelly.

higher your flexibility the better.

However, after being there and experiencing the culture and mission challenges first hand, there are some valuable tips we would like to share with you to prepare you for this exciting adventure. Personally, I have felt guilty for leaving such a needy mission field to return to such an overflowing country. But my biggest consolation is that you will be taking our places and extending the work in ways we could not. I do hope that we have prepared a strong foundation for DIIC, but you will not only continue the work there, but also in other villages. Since there are so many of you going, you will have the opportunity to meet the desperate needs in some of the other villages as well. That is very exciting to me, since I only was able to go to another area once. I was overwhelmed with the amount of work that was needed in Kaikan village and Philippi also. But we were not able to contribute to the advancement to the work there. In short, be prepared to split and pray for God to place you in the place you will grow and accomplish the most.

Some of my biggest lessons were: teach the truth clearly and simply; prayer and meditation are the secret of spiritual life and the power for service; the devil hates our work, so be committed and surrendered; you only know what you have studied, obeyed, and taught for yourself. My hardest experience was facing the emotional and responsibility challenges when my roommate Nathan had to leave. But I learned the most through it.

I’ll be home for most of the summer if you want to e-mail me. I would like to send some of my 8 rolls of pictures to you through e-mail. God bless you as you prepare for experiencing the joy of total consecration to God’s work.

Main positions needed: Bible / Religion Teacher(s)
Nurse / Health Teacher
Math / Science / English / Industrial Arts Teacher(s)

Teaching Expectations:
Materials – According to your gifts and interests, bring your own materials. We recommend 2-4 personal notebooks for your class prep., red pens and a calculator for grading. Students have very small “exercise books” (6″ x 8″) that they can get locally. However, they could use plenty of looseleaf paper (which is a help for tests).

Methods: clear, simple, direct. use native illustrations from farming and the river. do activities they can participate in. have them share everything they learn in class or for homework (Nathan and I made a few students share

[Kaiteur Falls]
Guyana’s most famous tourist attraction: Kaiteur Falls

what they are learning in our Bible classes every day). be practical, basic, and meaningful.

Level of Education: 80% plus of the students have only a Guyanese Primary level education, which is equivalent to about a 4th – 7th grade level in the U.S. They were a lot lower than we expected, which caused a lot of frustration. I didn’t feel I was hitting their level until about 3/4ths of the way through the 1st semester. For these students, Primary is about the highest they get. Only a few of them can afford the emotional and financial stress of studying Secondary school in Georgetown. The ones who do are significantly improved, reaching about 7th – 9th grade in the U.S. To go past secondary level, students must take a standardized test called the CXC. This enables them to go on to specialized schools or university level. I recommend the new missionaries trying to get a copy of this test when they are in Georgetown to give their teaching a goal to reach.

Schedule: this will vary year to year, so don’t get too many expectations. All I can tell you is what we experienced. we worked in the mornings and taught classes from 1-5 in the afternoon (because it is cooler to be in the field in the morning than afternoon). We had individual dorm worships every morning and group worships in the evenings. each teacher usually taught only two days out of the week because we had 7 different classes but only 4 blocks to teach a day. This will change depending on how many teachers are available to teach the 6-7 different subjects (English Reading, English Writing, Math, Science, Christian Beliefs, Salvation / Life and Teachings of Jesus, PE, and Health – that’s just what we taught). What subjects are taught willl vary depending on the teachers who come. We have church programs to plan (AY, Sabbath School, Divine Service) three out of four Sabbaths a month. Friday and Sunday are basically free.

Consolations: anything you teach will be more than they had before. you will learn the most. get to know the students outside of class. the goal is for them to grow spiritually to show an example of Christ to their families and communities.

Cultural Norms / People: Life here revolves around the church and family. There are about 600 people in the village and about 300 are Adventist (although quite a few “back-sliders”. Most families have 5-7 kids, live by subsistence farming. Sometimes people go out of the village for days/weeks to Venezuela (just across the border) or go mining for extra $. People are more communal than us. Gossip is a big problem. Language is “Arakuna” in this village and mostly “Akawyo” in all the others. They are not written and seem to vary from person to person. It’s been very hard, if not impossible to learn it with any fluency, although we’ve had fun learning a word or phrase here or there. It makes them feel loved. Their English is decent, but they use a limited vocabulary and simple sentence structure. They don’t ask many questions if they don’t understand so you have to ask them if they do. There is a big generation gap between the adults now and the upcoming teenagers. The older generation seems to be very hard-working, satisfied with a simple life in the jungle raising families and farming. They are respectful. The new generation is more aware of the outside world and the opportunities there (furthering education, movies, designer clothes, etc.). Some seem a little rebellious and desirous of breaking the mold of past generations, while most are content to enjoy and advance the current lifestyle with a few improvements. Paruima village is a beacon of Christianity and watched closely by other villages. Not all of the Amerindians and Guyanese support Adventism , while most respect and admire, if not support our church. Food is very simple and nutritional – rice and beans, bananas, bread twice a week, and various other fruits. We really liked the cashews and almonds that we had family send us.

Miscellaneous: Work is the education here; so be brave and learn to wield the hoe and cutlass. Be flexible and adapt to the positions and services asked of you. We’re not missionaries by how far we travel but by the spirit of love and sacrifice we have. I don’t think I spent enough time talking with the students or working with them on the farm or playing volleyball. All these activities will help you bond and be more effective. Work at least 1-2 hours a day. There will always be things you wish you would have known before you come, again, be flexible and willing. Bring clothes and other things you are willing to leave behind. They will REALLY appreciate it.

List of items to bring (in order of our estimated priority):

water bottle / filter
sleeping bag
empty floppy disks (e-mail)
Toilet Paper (2 four-packs have lasted me)
something warm for nights
scrubs are the best!
lots of good reading material (religious and other)
good, large flashlight
batteries (Duracell)
bug spray
first aid kit: hydro. cortizone, bandaids, triple
antibiotic, hydro perox, antibiotics like
penicillin or alternative, snake bite kit
$300 U.S. to convert to Guyanese
camera plus about 10 rolls of film
teaching materials
journal (tape recorder)
1-2 pairs of slacks
1-2 shirts for teaching/church
1-2 ties

long, biggest cutlass (no sheath)
hat (Indiana Jones type preferrable?)
rubber boots!
pillow, flip flops (called sandals)

RECOMMENDED teva sandals
music (CD or tape player)
non-white underwear, t-shirts
malaria pills
work gloves thin
supplemental vitamins
roach trays, ant killer
sunblock (45)
money belt to keep valuable papers and money

OPTIONAL laptop e-mails, plan classes
extra Bibles / hymnals

Communication with the States: We were lucky to have David Regal, who, along with his father in the States, have Ham radio licenses. You don’t have to have a license here to use the radio on the government-assigned frequency (which we do every morning to other villages and Georgetown), but the connection with the U.S. on amateur frequencies enabled us to make “phone-patches” to our family every couple weeks or so if we wanted. Persons considering future service as Student Missionaries anywhere should definitely consider acquiring an Amateur Radio license.

Regular Mail through the village to Georgetown to the U.S. takes 3-5 weeks. Mail sent from Georgetown takes only about 2-3 weeks if David Gates can fly it there to mail it. And E-mail is typed out on our computer here at Paruima, saved on a floppy, then picked up and mailed from the internet access in Georgetown by David when he flies in. This happened about once a month for us, being totally dependent on when the rented airplane could fly in.This coming year plane service should be more regular as the new plane should be in the air. Some of us have enjoyed using a mini-tape recorder to send little tapes through the mail. Give your friends sufficient info. To contact you. Have your Email account forwarded to; or tell your friends to write directly to that address with your name in the Subject. When people send packages have then put it in care of ( c/o ) Winston James. The address that worked for us was

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