M & M in Suriname

Our life with the Wajana indians

12 juni 2021
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10 years ago…

June 1, 2011 we had our first presentation about our plans to move to the jungle of Suriname. Who could have imagined then what has happened in our lives in the past 10 years, at least we could not. We are still so grateful for the place where we are allowed to live and serve.

Wednesday, May 26 we flew with MAF to Paramaribo. We left 2 hours later than scheduled because of heavy rain in the city. For a change, it had remained dry in Apetina that night and morning. Due to the government-planned lockdown weekend, we wanted to do as much shopping as possible on Thursday and Friday. Elsbeth and Quinn came to stay with us for the weekend because otherwise we wouldn’t see each other at all during our short stay in Paramaribo. We enjoyed each other so much, it was a very successful weekend. We were surprised by the announcement that the entire country would go into total lockdown from May 31 to June 18. Would we be allowed to fly to Lawa or were we ‘stuck’ again in Paramaribo, just like last year. To our relief we heard that returnees could be flown to their village. Now we had to wait and see if the weather would cooperate because Wednesday June 2 the Lawa runway was closed due to heavy rainfall. How would it be Thursday?It is Thursday morning June 3rd and today we hope to leave for Lawa. First, we waited for the announcements about the status of the Lawa runway. Just after 07:30 am the phone rings and Sjaak from the MAF announces that the strip is open. We can fly. We quickly wrap up our last things and drive to the city. It is quiet on the road because only people with an exemption letter are allowed to be on the streets. Due to the increasing Covid19 infections, the entire country has gone into a strict lockdown from last Monday. We are grateful that we are regarded as returnees and can therefore return home. It’s been 13 months since we were left Lawa last year.The jungle around our house shows that it has been a long time ago. Marco just needed to get the water pump going so we could fill the top barrel. After some tinkering it worked. Then we enjoy together again the technical talents that Marco has. In the coming weeks, he will gradually transform the jungle around our house into a lawn again. He knows what his workout will be in the coming weeks.

In the house ‘the mess’ is not that bad because Anneke Kempeneers and Melisa already cleaned up quite a bit a few weeks ago. This was urgently needed because the woodlice were building nests in the boxes that were waiting for the cloths market. Fortunately, only 3 boxes were infected, but what a job they had to sort everything out and clean it. We asked for prayer for a good internet connection for Sunday 6 June. That day the new Wayana Bible would be dedicated in Lawa. Just like in Apetina, the translators and their families would join the meeting via ZOOM. We also invited Roy and Margaret Lytle. They worked in Lawa for over 40 years. Roy would preach via Zoom. We can’t quite put into words what went through our minds during the service. It moved our hearts that the first missionaries for the Wayanas were present via ZOOM. Deep gratitude that we have the privilege of witnessing this. We are moved as we hear the elders ask for a blessing for the spreading of His word now and in the generations to come. Gratitude for the visible sign of God’s faithfulness over the past 60 years. The circle is closed for the first missionaries. Their job is done. We can follow in their footsteps. In short: it was one big celebration! And … we had a good internet connection for the entire meeting of more than 3 hours!

After the service, people lined up to buy a Bible. That also touched us deeply.

On Monday, a MAF plane landed with another shipment of Bibles. They were neatly stacked in the ‘bible room’. Young and old helped out. The rest of the week was mainly dominated by the clothing market. Many personal conversations took place during these days, usually at times when there were not many others in our house. It is also great for us to be able to strengthen and deepen relationships with the people.

Saturday June 12 was the first English lesson after last week’s scheduled lesson had literally fallen into the water. Because of the heavy rain, one couple did not come at all, another couple came 1 hour late and the third couple came even later. That doesn’t work if you’re working with a ZOOM meeting. On Friday it rained all day, but Saturday started very promising with some sunshine after the fog had lifted. Very special to be able to have long-distance education via ZOOM from Canada into the jungle with modern technology. We are very curious how quickly they will pick it up. ‘Good morning’ and ‘How are you’ they already know.

21 mei 2021
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So much satisfaction

We are pleased to inform you about the achievements of the last few weeks in Apetina. Friday May 21st 5 men and 5 women received their certificate. They have shown that they have mastered the theory and practice of electricity for building a home installation. In addition, 5 men have received a certificate of participation in the theory of electricity. We hope to be able to do the practical part with them next time we visit the village. We are so grateful for the large turnout of students.

We expected a lot of visitors so the day before Marjolein and a number of our lady students prepared 350 cookies

A great morning that ended in backing pancakes to feed the hungry workers

many guests came to join in our festivities

Students explain about the training

How we connected those lights

Johan Neni, chairman of the Piya Foundation adresses the group

Our co-trainer via ZOOM speaks online

a drink and … a cookie

 

look at the bright lights on the balcony

A certificate to show the training was completed successfully

This is the first step in the entire electrification process of the village of Apetina. In Canada, a hydropower turbine is being built so that the village will have electricity 24 hours a day in a while. At the moment there has been no power at all for several months because the village generator is broken and can only be repaired by a mechanic who has to fly in from the city. When electricity will be provided 24/7 the power grid must also be safe. The students presented various situations where the net is very unsafe. They now can see where it is unsafe. The training has always focused on safety, safe working and a safe electricity grid.

The official opening of the guesthouse by the chairman of the Piya Foundation together with the chairman of the Kuluwayak Foundation

In addition, the guesthouse is now officially opened. What a milestone for the village. A number of people have worked hard on this in recent years. Now it is almost finished. An additional incentive to complete it quickly is the arrival of the Minister of Regional Development. He will probably be the first guest in this beautiful building in a few weeks’ time.

Our plan is to fly to the city next Wednesday. We have a dentist appointment and other things next to shopping. Within a week we hope to fly to Lawa to start our ministry there for the next 3 ½  months.

10 mei 2021
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One of those days …

Early Monday morning the mother of Jaliwana (and a large number of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren) died. We saw it all coming because she had not been out of her hammock for a few weeks and she hardly took any food and drink for the past week. Around noon she was taken to her final resting place. You feel the sadness in the village.

At 10:30 that same morning, a MAF plane full of boxes of Wayana Bibles landed. People have been looking forward to that for so long, so they were so happy to receive all those boxes. Now it was quite exciting whether the plane could land. Visibility was not very good with the rain showers. Fortunately, it went just right. It would not be the first time that an aircraft had to return to Paramaribo due to heavy rainfall and insufficient visibility. In fact, that happened to the MAF pilot who took off from the city in the morning towards Lawa. During the flight it rained very hard in East Suriname and the various runways were closed. This pilot had to return to Paramaribo with his cargo. Together we thanked God for His goodness and protection. The Bibles are still in our study for a while. In the coming weeks, the Bible room in the church will be prepared to store the boxes.

 

8 mei 2021
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Installation Technique Online

This week we had a group of 12 youngsters in the house every afternoon to take lessons on installing an electrical installation. This is one of the projects financed through EO Metterdaad in the Netherlands in which we train young people to install a safe switch box in the houses and also to connect cables, sockets, lights and switches. The project provides for the training and installation of the switch box, the people themselves bear the costs of the cables and other parts according to their wishes for their homes.

We issued an open invitation to see who would be interested in the training. This week we had 12 young men and women who came every afternoon to participated. For the next week, 5 more names are on the list who, after hearing the stories of the current group, have signed up to be trained as well. We are very pleased with this interest.

We show a number of photos to get an impression of the training. Our remote trainer is Evert van Klompenburg, an electrician in the Netherlands, who came over December 2018 to think along and work on the power project with Bruce (from Canada). This is part of the project to provide 24 hours electricity in the village. It will be very important that the power installations in the houses are up to date and safe.

The first days we mainly explained how a home network functions and how the switches, sockets and lamp bases must be connected.

the switchbox

 

blue and brown wires

 

cable stripping

 

Evert online

This was followed by getting the picture in the church. Marco had installed a switch box there and the students now could see what it should “look like” in real life.

better on a chair to see the details

 

taking turns

Then we went to the guesthouse. Here the students had to take different measurements. They work in teams of three. Together you know more than on your own. It has also been agreed that each team will call another team to check their work when they have finished their job. Safety first! How much cable is needed for each of the three power groups that we will be connecting. Everyone will do a practical internship in this building the following week. Then we will see if they really understood what has been thought.

floor plan on paper

 

measure  the lenght

 

where will the cable be?

 

how much is this wall?

everything notes

Last item on the list was how to build the switch box. Everyone built their own box. The switches were interconnected with a blue and a brown wire.

look at the details

 

teamwork

 

pay attention

 

no end to fun things

Strip cables and connect them properly. And check each other’s work again. The cabinets are back in the box, ready to be built into the houses. In the coming weeks, the groups will visit the people in the village to provide the houses with a switch box and to collect the wishes of the residents so that they can make an estimate of the costs to be able to connect the desired cables, sockets, etc. in the houses.

 

6 mei 2021
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Unique!!

Sunday, May 2, was a day of special celebration for the Apetina church. But not only for them, also for the Schoen family in the USA. After 61 years of translation work, the first copy of the complete Bible in the Wayana language could be presented to Nuwahe Aptuk, the headman of the Wayana, but also Ivan Schoen’s language helper for all those years.

Due to the pandemic, it was not possible for anyone from the Schoen family to be present at the ceremony. Fortunately, we were able to use modern technology and that way the ‘whole’ family could be present via ZOOM.

We have experienced unique and moving moments together. What a joy and what a gratitude to the Schoen family, but above all to God. In the church we sang a number of songs together for the family in America, who got up early to attend the Apetina church service online. Each of the elders thanked for the loyalty and dedication of Ivan and Doris, as well as for the generosity of the American brothers and sisters who supported this work over all these years.

Due to Nuwahe Aptuk’s poor health, the official handover was at his home. The family was also present, again via ZOOM. A life’s work has been completed. It is a great legacy for generations to come.

The following Monday morning we woke up and saw ‘no service’ on our phone. Now it often happens that during the rainy season we have no range in the morning for a few hours, so we were not to worried yet. A number of ZOOM appointments were scheduled for the first 3 days of the week. Only on Tuesday afternoon we had coverage again. We are depending people. If you experience this, our gratitude for the good connection last Sunday is even bigger.

16 april 2021
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Easter in Apetina

We very much enjoyed the Easter conference in Apetina. As always, the canoes from Tepoe and Palemeu arrived in a row a few days before Good Friday. They had crossed the rapids again to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus together. It was a joy to see all those happy faces and the enthusiasm in the church. It felt like a big family that we were allowed to be part of.

We wondered whether the pandemic would also be taken into account. The week before the conference, a plane arrived from the city with a few people who came to talk about malaria and Covid. Disinfectants, mosquito repellent and face masks were distributed. We were really surprised to see that we had to disinfect our hands before every meeting. We did our best to keep some distance as much as possible. Until now we have not heard of anyone getting sick, so we trust that God protected us all.

With the help of MAF we have again been able to buy some cans of baby milk powder and nursing bottles. Thanks to the clinic helpers, we can now provide 5 babies and young children with supplementary nutrition through the project fund that we have set up through C&MA Missions. The mothers have asked us to thank all donors on their behalf.

The short dry season of February and March lasted about a week this year. This means that the water level in the river is high due to the many rains. It also rained heavily during the conference when we saw the water level rising day by day. In front of our house there was less and less “field” left to play soccer. The guests from Tepoe and Palemeu could not return to their villages either because the rapids are now so wild that they cannot cross it with their families. This means that Apetina has now had 80 extra mouths to feed for 3 weeks. They harvest, cook, fish and hunt together. We enjoy seeing it and are very happy to have a gas stove to cook on.

Last weekend we had a visit from one of the MAF pilots and his family. They have been in Suriname for a few years now and this was their first jungle trip as a family. They enjoyed it and so did we. The boys were in the water in front of the house almost the whole day, so a trip in the canoe was well spent for them. They even said they wanted to live here! We sure can imagine that. We often feel so privileged to serve these people in this beautiful place.

In recent weeks we have ‘roamed’ the world quite a few times online. It still is special that we can do part of our work via the internet. We started low key with the preparations for a follow up trip to Canada for the Wayana’s. We got in touch with a Canadian English-as-Second-Language teacher who wants to teach the Wayana’s online. We have already had a number of meetings to think about our teaching planWhen two couples from Lawa, who want to go to Canada, were in Apetina during the conference, we took the opportunity to introduce them to the teacher via a ZOOM connection. This became a special meeting for both sides of the ‘line’. When we are in Lawa in June, we hope to start with the lessons. The group that wants to go to Canada already has an English Bible and an audio Bible in the same translation. This way they can get used to the pronunciation. We are curious how quickly they will learn the language.

The outboard motor for the project has been repaired in the city and was brought back to the village with the MAF plane last week. That was another gift from God. On Saturday afternoon, the builders left with the canoe to pick up materials in Albina. With the high water they could get along nice and fast downstream, but the rapids along the way were also wilder for them! On Friday April 16 they left Albina with the first load.

At the first big rapids where everything has to be removed from the canoe, they want to stop, unload the canoe and then return to Albina for the next load. Next Monday they hope to leave Albina with the barrels of fuel and come further up the river from the great rapids with two canoes. We hope that next Thursday or Friday they will arrive safely with all their belongings here. It remains quite a trip. We admire how people find their way across this turbulent river!

27 maart 2021
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Plans can change quickly

We were going to show a Bible school module on video recorded by Roy Lytle the first week of March. But since we heard from MAF on Monday that there was a possibility on March 2 and it was uncertain when the next flight would be, we decided to fly to Paramaribo on March 2 and postpone the Bible school until after Easter.

Meeting with Nuwahe, the Chief of Apetina

We made the trip to the city to buy the materials needed to work on two projects in Apetina. We spoke with the leaders about the completion of the guesthouse and about the training to improve electrical installations in the houses. We tried to order everything online and have the goods delivered at MAF, who could fly it in. We tried, but it didn’t work so we needed to go shopping ourselves. There was no other option than to ask the government for permission to fly to the city. We got the permission and so we flew March 2 on a backload seat to Paramaribo.

We were happy to be able to stay with friends in their guesthouse, because that also had to be arranged quickly. This guesthouse is located next to our container where our household goods have been stored for about 9 years now. We hope to build our house on that property in the coming years, but the papers to get it transferred to our name have not yet been finalized. We hope this will be the case somewhere this year, but since we’ve been trying since 2007 … We took advantage of the fact that we were now staying next to ‘our’ plot by having a number of trucks with sand brought to bring the soil to building level, because a large portion remains under water in the rainy season.

Nice workout in 30+ Celsius

Marco had a good workout a few mornings to spread all the sand. Now the sand can settle nicely in the coming rain season. Furthermore, we have been shopping every day. After shopping all purchases had to be properly packed in boxes, with plastic garbage bags around it again, because upon arrival at the Apetina airstrip we would bring everything down to the canoe and then up from the shore of the river to our house. Fortunately, we didn’t have to carry those 300+ kilos alone, but we were assisted by the people who picked us up.

Marco first called a lot of businesses who sold construction and electricity materials, so that we would not need to visit a number of shops in vain. We are grateful that we were able to purchase a lot of materials in these past few weeks. Almost everything for the electricity training came with us on the plane, the heavy rolls of cable will arrive later by canoe. The packs of cement, barrels of gasoline, gutters, drainage pipes and more are also taken up the river by boat. A crew from Apetina will need to make the trip twice after the Easter conference.  

Friday, March 19, we flew with a full plane to Apetina. We’re glad to be here again. During the time we were in town, our neighbor Debbie has been very ill. She has suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes for years. Her stomach no longer tolerates the cassava bread very well, so we share our rice and vegetables with her. Hopefully she will feel a little better in the near future.

 

27 februari 2021
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Plenty of plans

Pasikili, our neighbor, came by to visit. After asking how we were doing, how our kids and grandchildren were doing, he finally posed his question. When you leave permanently will you leave your solar system and freezer behind? We have been talking about our final goodbyes with some of the elders in the past weeks.

Pasikili with his grandchildren

They learn young how to handle a canoe

Marco is turning 64 in May, so an end is coming in sight. We asked some of the elders how we may support them in their tasks in the years to come. We’ll see if there will be an answer some day, maybe not. While talking he came up with the question if Noah was the first human being building a boat. So, we talked about different types of boats through the ages. Last week he came looking for our help. We, being Dutch, would ask bluntly: Would you be so kind to help me with this or that? Well, that is not the Wayana way. One would say: You’re not wanting to help me, are you? I would like to phone such and such a person, but I have no minutes left on my phone. After almost nine years, living with the Wayana is still full of surprises. We love it.

Children play with building blocks we brought from the Netherlands donated by friends

Beautiful pieces of duplo art are on display

Next week Roy Lytle will teach a Bible school training 5 evenings in a row, while being in the States. He recorded this teaching in 2019 and we will show the videos in church. We hope it will turn out as planned because the electricity in the church isn’t stable, it comes and goes as we found out this week while teaching English language. We had to use our flashlights more than once. Fluctuation in the current is not okay for computers and beamers which we want to use next week. Marco will investigate if he can find what is wrong and if he’s able to fix it these coming days.

He or she was beautiful but, we showed it the way out of the house quickly

In the past weeks we contacted the people we met during our visits to Canada in the past years. We received positive replies on our proposal to visit again with a number of Wayana in 2022. The Wayana also asked us if we still have plans for another trip. We talked with a Canadian ESL teacher, who is a friend of our colleague Pamela Walford, who is willing to help the Wayana with teaching English conversation. Who would have thought that online learning was a possibility in the jungle of Suriname 5 years ago? We certainly did not!

After cutting of the brances only little is left

The orange tree next to our house finally had to let go of its dying branches. The weeds that grew from the seeds in the bird droppings act like a parasite. As a result, there were hardly any living branches left. We decided to prune the tree and now we wait for the tree to grow out again.

Good morning

Again we have plenty of plans and ideas for the coming months in Apetina!

Warm greetings from Suriname

7 februari 2021
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In home quarantine

Last Tuesday, February 2nd, we flew with MAF to Apetina. It was a great joy to see the village and the airstrip coming into view. After 11 months we were able to meet the people again!

Before we left MAF Paramaribo

Well, meeting with them… we had to keep our distance and wear our facemasks. We were summoned by the government to go into home quarantine for 7 days. We all keep to these prescriptions. The Wayana don’t visit us and we don’t go into the village to visit. Next Tuesday we’ll be free again to go and visit.

In the MAF plane with Covid19 precautions

We were very curious to see ‘who’ took over our house in these past months. The bat poo was not as bad as we expected, but to clean everything thoroughly will take us at least a week. So, we can use our home quarantine for that.

Repair of the back side of the cabinet

Unfortunately, the bats made our towel cabinet their home, so we first have to wash all our towels before we can use them again. ‘Coincidentally’ we received new towels from someone in the Netherlands. We could put those to use right away.

Our luggage with food for 3 months

Next to being curious who took over our house, we also wanted to know if our solar system was still functioning. Did the two bulbs keep burning those 11 months? We were happy and so thankful that one of the bulbs was still burning and the solar system is working properly. Our freezer is running smoothly again.

Sad to say but our water filter system wasn’t functioning properly, it was leaking all over the place. One of the big buckets had a tear beyond repair. There were two more buckets of exactly the same size in our dry room, so Marco made a ‘new’ water filter system. So happy that Marco is a ‘jack of all trades’!

Our vegie garden near the house

Our neighbors took really good care of our garden. They enjoyed eating the big leaves themselves also, and took care of the weed from time to time. We already enjoyed two meals with home grown tayerblad.

Great to have fresh food from the garden

In the river we saw some new ‘friends’ just in front of the house.

We’re here only a few days, but it feels like we have never been away. We feel we belong here as the Lord has called us.

27 januari 2021
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Permission to travel!

In recent weeks we had to postpone our flight to Apetina regularly because the airspace to the interior was and remained closed. For the time being, it does not look like the measures in Suriname will get less. We rather expect stricter measures to be taken. The borders with Guyana and Brazil are now closed. We found a way to explain to the authorities why we want to fly to Apetina and have requested permission via MAF. We got that permission today! You can imagine we are very happy and grateful!Last week we heard from the Wayanas in Lawa that they were surprised because this time it started to rain much earlier than expected. Because of this a number of people had not been able to burn their gardens and now they were not able to plant their food. They are very concerned about what they will eat next year. They asked us if we could assist with the project of Foundation for Farming. Last April, trainers would come to explain and demonstrate a new agricultural method. Because of Covid, this has all been postponed. Now that the Wayanas themselves came to ask about this new method, we found a way for the  trainers to teach a course online from Canada. With this they teach about the principles, how to improve the soil and what you can do against natural ‘enemies’. An exciting process for all parties involved. Last Monday 4 women and 2 men from Lawa arrived in the city after we requested permission from the government to travel for our project. Tuesday was the first training day online. Great to see how people in Canada and Suriname responded to questions and explanations. We are grateful that we can be involved this week since Marco is the project leader. Coming Saturday the Wayanas will fly back to Lawa to put what they have learned into practice. We will stay involved in the follow-up training online. We now are busy with this for the next few days and with cleaning the house, the last shopping and returning our things to our container. There is still a lot to be arranged.