M & M in Suriname

Our life with the Wajana indians

5 september 2020
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A Warm Welcome

For the last four weeks, the weather in the Netherlands has done its utmost to make us feel at home. We loved it, but understood that it was a bit too warm for many.

After a good flight (with mouth masks) we arrived in the Netherlands on the last Sunday of July. The first two weeks we were able to quarantine in the home of friends who were on holiday. We cycled back and forth between Pijnacker and Delft every day to do help out in André and Wimke’s new house.The number of Wajanas that were tested positive in Lawa by the Medical Mission last July is 40 out of 100 inhabitants. Fortunately, most of them have mild complaints, but we do hear that they continue to feel weak and tired for a long time. Eleme, who came to Canada with us last year, is on a ventilator at the hospital in Cayenne. Her health situation is very alarming. They have taken her out of anesthesia in recent days, but that did not go as hoped, so she was put back to sleep. She was pregnant and the doctors decided to deliver the baby. The little girl is in the incubator but according to the doctors is doing well. It is quite difficult for her husband Janack that he cannot be with his wife and daughter.

We also hear from Apetina that some people are very ill. Here too people remain tired and weak for a long time. A few days ago one of the elders passed away in the hospital in Paramaribo. Then we feel sad that we are not with them. We keep in touch via social media and telephone. Time and again we realize how recently it is that there is telephone and internet in these villages. We really experience that as a blessing from God right now.

After our quarantine period we attended the wedding of one of Marco’s cousins. Very special to be there, because without Corona we would not have arrived in the Netherlands until the end of September. It was a beautiful party at a beautiful location. Also because of Corona, Marjolein’s sister Mirjam and her family returned from Bali, where they have been living for a number of years. It was wonderful to meet them all again after more than 3 years. If the basis is good, you pick up the thread again. So nice! Also a present for us to see them.

Now that we will stay in the Netherlands for a longer period of time, we bought a set of second hand bicycles. They fit in our rental car so we take them along when we travel. This is one of the few things we miss in the jungle: being able to cycle.

Due to the beautiful weather, we have been able to meet quite a few people outside in the garden in recent weeks. How we can organize our furlough this year is still a big question. Normally we start making arrangements with people in May for a meeting in October and November. Now we look at the options every day. We hope to contact many people by telephone in the next few weeks and months.

24 juli 2020
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Hard pressed, but not crushed

These words of the apostle Paul to the disciples in Corinth were a great comfort to us these past weeks to trust the Lord completely. He knows why we got ‘stuck’ in Paramaribo while our hearts were with the people in the interior. We trust that God is molding us through these circumstances even though it comes with emotional pain of being separated from the people God put in our hearts.

After two months in Paramaribo we really longed to visit the people in Apetina or Lawa. Due to Covid-19 restrictions we were not allowed to fly in. Now the numbers of Covid-19 infections are rising all over Suriname and also in the interior! We don’t envision in the near future to be able to visit the villages. After consulting our supervisors, we decided to try to change our tickets to an earlier flight to the Netherlands. This went very smoothly. Without any problem we were booked for a flight this Saturday, July 25.

We’ll start our stay with two weeks quarantine in the home of a family who are on holidays. Next to this our rental car will be ready by August 7, just at the end of our quarantine. God provides abundantly again!

We hope to fly back to Suriname at the end of November, but that’s still a long way off. We’ll see what the world looks like at that time. We are grateful for internet connection with the Wayana. This way we can stay connected. There’s no difference with us being in Paramaribo and staying at home or being in the Netherlands.

We have been busy these past months with several things. We still can do a lot through WhatsApp videocalls, ZOOM meetings, etc… Marco has been working on laminating some A Beka Bible Stories so they can be used in children’s work in the interior.

Marjolein has dedicated a portion of her time to translate 26 stories about children in the Bible. She is almost done. The rest will be finished in the two weeks of quarantine. Then we will have to wait for the next step in the translating process until we are able to be with the Wayana again. We need the local leaders to give the needed feedback and correction.

We tried to take care of ourselves by enjoying the beautiful nature of Suriname on different outings in some of the weekends.

We also enjoyed our time with our 4 years old grandson Quinn. We took care of him one day a week. It has been a great time of building relationship with him and the rest of the family.

The coming weeks and months we will see how Covid-19 will develop in the Netherlands. We hope to be able to visit several people. We will have more time to do so anyway. In the meantime, we will be able to assist our son and his family in decorating their new home.

27 mei 2020
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God shows us a way

Let’s start with the good news: the birthmark that was removed from Marco’s face was not harmful. We weren’t really concerned about it, but it’s nice to hear that there is nothing to worry about. The dermatologist then immediately checked Marjolein and took a biopsy of a spot on her nose. Due to the lack of suitable materials she was given a ‘clown’s nose’. We expect the result of this next Friday. With our fair skin, we regularly stay under control. 

There are still no cases of Corona among the Wajana and Trio, even though there are significant outbreaks in the countries around us! We are very grateful.

In Paramaribo we notice little of restrictive measures. In the shops, hardly anyone keeps to the 1.5 meter social distancing. The cashiers are behind a plastic sheet, but they touch the money and groceries with their bare hands. Restaurants are open again. 

Every Thursday our grandson Quinn visits his grandparents for a day. How wonderful that we are given the opportunity to build our relationship with him. He loves to assist us: grandpa in the garden and grandma hanging the laundry. 

Ascension Day we could join a worship meeting in the evening. It was the first time in 2 months that 50 people could meet again, so all needed to register and with 50 people, no more visitors were allowed. Fortunately, exactly 50 people showed up and we could enjoy a wonderful service together. 

Last weekend were the last days to campaign for the general elections. There were road shows, which are long lines of trucks and cars decorated with flags from one political party or the other. People were packed together in the trucks and buses, and by the side of the road. It was a great party. 

Last Sunday we celebrated Marco’s birthday in Corona style. Our daughter Elsbeth came with her husband and son to have coffee and eat our famous Dutch apple pie. 

Then we had lunch with Surinamese noodles, chicken, long beans and fried banana. The children in the Netherlands visited virtually. One family sang Happy Birthday, and our grandson Jayden played the piano after two months of piano lessons! We enjoyed ourselves! Jayden piano

General election day was last Monday and President Bouterse’s National Democratic Party seems to be the losing party. We now are waiting for the outcome of the elections and which  new government will step up. The big winner is the United Reform Party, but whether they have enough members in parliament to elect the president is still unkown.

The travel ban to and from the interior was lifted just before the elections. We wonder if this is permanent, so that we can fly to Apetina again soon. Perhaps the domestic state of emergency will return the coming weeks. We still have a lot of things to do in the city, so for now we will see which way the wind blows.

8 mei 2020
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One thing leads to another. While cleaning our pantry, Marjolein found a number of stickers with poppie flowers. That is a nice wall decoration, but our green wall could use a facelift. Anneke Kempeneers, who is staying with us during the Corona crisis, went to work. Saturday evening layer 1 was on the wall. To test whether the stickers would work, we put one on our front door. The rest of the project is waiting for our next stay in Lawa. Read why later in this post.

One night we wanted to use the power after the village generator was started, but nothing happened in our house. There was electricity on the other side of the village, so there was something wrong with the village network. Fortunately, we have a small generator ourselves, so we were able to get along. The next day Marco and the grid operator went to investigate. Where was the failure? Eventually they found the hitch in the area where the power line was dug in under the airstrip. The pole on one side had electricity, the pole on our side of the village did not. There had to be a problem in the cable somewhere between the two poles. Fortunately, Marco still had a voltage tester. We left it behind with the grid operator afterwards. After a week, the connection was ‘temporary’ restored. Our empty yoghurt bottles came in handy. They now form the ‘insulation’ to protect the coupling against the heavy rain showers … We wonder if we will find it like this when we return to Lawa.

We’re grateful that Corona has not yet reached the Wajana’s and pray daily for God’s protection for the people here. Since the government declared martial law, many Wajana’s are only now feeling the restrictive measures that were announced almost two months ago. Surinamese and French soldiers patrol the river in order to keep the people in their villages. Huge fines are being issued, so people are becoming more cautious and we are happy about that.

We had a memorable week with a lot of mixed emotions. We will try to summarize it briefly. Marco missed an appointment with the dermatologist because of the Corona measures last March. Now he felt (and Marjolein could see) that the spot on his head was still there. When we called the dermatologist to ask if she was in the clinic again, she insisted that Marco should come immediately. That is why we flew with a medical flight from MAF to Paramaribo last Wednesday. On Thursday, 2 spots on Marco’s head were treated with nitrogen and a birthmark just under his right ear was surgically removed. Next week the stitches have to be removed and we hope that the results of the tissue examination will be that no further operation is needed. Please pray that the result is such that no more tissue needs to be removed. Since no people are allowed to fly into the interior, we don’t know how long we will have to stay in the city. As you may understand this gives us mixed feelings.

In Suriname, there have been no new cases with the Corona virus since March 31. That is also a huge praise to our Lord!

Because of this situation, we celebrate Mother’s Day with one of our children for the first time in years. This is another blessing we enjoy very much.  Kind regards, this time from Paramaribo.

2 mei 2020
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Quite a week

We’re praying that there will be no Corona outbreak in Upper Suriname. So far there are no infections, for which we are very grateful. At times it is also quite difficult for us to keep our distance and not visit people. We have been in self-imposed quarantine since Monday March 16 and that is not always easy. A number of leaders from the village were picked up by plane for consultation with the authorities in the city because of the Corona crisis. During the consultation it was explained (again) which measures should also be taken in the Wayana community. It has also been agreed that support will be provided to help the Chief with regard to enforcement. Last Sunday we heard a number of announcements in the church that are now more in line with official measures.

Last weekend, Sonja, the daughter of a former chief, died of cancer after a courageously worn illness. We woke up with a heavy heart and knew that Sonja had died. The next morning one of the elders also came to inform us. Almost all men were busy cutting open the cemetery and digging a burial place. In the pouring rain they spent all day preparing things for the funeral. The women and close relatives mourned the dead woman, who was wrapped in a blanket in her hammock. On Monday morning an airplane brought a coffin that was ordered in Paramaribo. The body was carefully placed in the coffin in the hammock.

The funeral followed in the afternoon. The people are not familiar with a farewell service in the church. From home they walked to the cemetery, where the coffin was lowered into the ground. A number of bags with personal belongings were also placed there. Then a wooden plate was placed over it. An iron frame was put on top and all was covered with cement. Here too we see that the customs concerning burial ceremonies develop over time. Since there are still no Corona infections here, we took the risk of meeting the people during the funeral. Marco was able to offer comfort from the Bible and that still is very precious to us. We’re outsiders but they like us to be involved. After this we took a shower and changed our clothes, because it was not possible to keep a distance of one meter and a half.

Last Friday Marco had a smart idea while climbing the stairs. Under our house, against the ceiling we had some planks stored since 2018. What if we would use those planks to turn our outside shower into a bathroom. Beams, plugs, screws and planks were all available in our ‘workshop’. What a blessing! Saturday Marco worked on it and that same evening we could take a shower in our bathroom downstairs. He didn’t put planks up to the ceiling because we still want to enjoy our river view.

7 april 2020
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Hunting termites.

Suspecting nothing of the sort, Marjolein opened the wardrobe door to get something. A broad trail of termites ran on the floor of the cabinet. Well, that meant everything else had to wait a while. We first had to find out where they came from and where they were headed. We quickly found the place where the trek started, but where did they go from the wardrobe? It was a mystery to us. The search was complicated because we have floor covering in the house and we couldn’t see what was going on under it. In the end, we thought they might have moved under the shower. We only use that shower for storage, so Marco would demolish the shower the next day and redesign the bathroom.

A day later we had a much more spacious bathroom. But no termites were found, only an old bee nest. So, the search continued. On Sunday evening, we wanted to get clean clothes off the shelf when we discovered that a whole population of termites was moving through our clothes. We needed to knock out every item one by one and put it somewhere else. Now we have an empty wardrobe and stacks of clothes in our bedroom. The next morning, armed with a spray can, knife, and flashlight, Marco checked every seam between the boards for their secret passage. A lot of spraying has been done with pesticide. The only place in the house that has not yet been checked is the pantry. That job will follow. We will continue to hunt these termites.

We are grateful that no cases of Corona have been detected in the Wajana’s area so far. They know a little bit of what is going on in the world, but for them it is a far-off scenario. Some find the many precautions rather exaggerated and they do not fit the culture at all. People live together on short distances. Whole families sleep together in one room, all hammocks tied next to each other. The threat is getting closer, the jungle town where they visit the bank and do their shopping already has some Corona infections. We pray daily for God’s protection, because there are no possibilities to treat the people here when they would get very sick.

We decided that it would not be wise for Anneke Kempeneers, the youth worker for the Wajana youth, to stay alone in Maripasoula. She has been with us in Lawa for over two weeks now. We are doing well together.

Suriname also closed the international airport a few weeks ago. The Wajana’s themselves closed their airstrip two weeks ago because of the risk of contamination with all prospectors who flew in and out. Marco helped the health assistant to record a number of videos about the Corona virus with what was prescribed by the doctors as a new code of conduct. These were distributed via Facebook and WhatsApp. In this way we try to prepare people for what might be coming.

On Sunday during the service, we noticed how little they know about the threat and all the government regulations to protect the people. The leaders were planning to have an Easter Conference at the end of this week. Between 100 and 150 guests from the surrounding villages would then come to Lawa to stay together for three days. That is not allowed by the Surinamese government, but who of the Wajana’s knows that and feels called to adhere to it? We met with the elders yesterday, showing from the Bible that we should obey the government and that it is wise to learn from the mistakes of others. Fortunately, it has now been decided that everyone celebrates Easter in his / her own village. Services are held in Lawa, but the church building is large enough so we can keep a good distance.

bicycle practice

We wish you a Good Friday and a beautiful Easter weekend in this special memorable year.
The Lord is risen indeed!

Dutch pancakes

15 maart 2020
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Living in the jungle

The last few weeks it has been very dry, so when we wanted to fill up our water barrel on top of the tower again on Tuesday evening, the two bottom containers turned out to be empty. Fortunately, we have an extra water barrel on a smaller tower on the river side next to the house that we can fill with river water using a gasoline powered pump. We wanted to do the job before breakfast on Wednesday morning. So we did, but we needed to wait for breakfast until 10 o’clock.

The engine wouldn’t start, so we had to find out what was the cause. Marco and Bruce, our Canadian friend, found the problem to be in the carburetor which was stuck with dirt in old gasoline. They took it off and tried to clean it, but only succeeded after the second try. Thank God the engine would start and we could fill the barrel.

The plan was to get on top of the roof after breakfast to replace two plexiglass corrugated sheets (over 20 years old). They crumbled, which can lead to dangerous situations. This job was postponed until Thursday morning because the sun was already burning too bright again. Do you remember “Be flexible”?

Last week we unexpectedly had 4 guests from the Netherlands for dinner. When we shared our desire to eat pancakes we suddenly all felt like it would be a splendid idea, so pancakes were prepared instead of sandwiches. Because of the large group around the dining table we needed extra plates that were still in the pantry. When taking the box away, the termites turned out to have been using that box as a living quarters. Another job that could not be postponed surfaced right away.

Wednesday morning Marjolein started to empty one side of the pantry. Listening carefully you could hear the termites gnawing at the wood of the cabinet which was made of plywood. We had to demolish the cabinet. We experienced cupboards disappearing from the house one by one in the last few years.

Together with the people in the village we enjoyed the visit of Wilma, ‘our’ maternity nurse. She did a great job in the clinic. The health assistants of the medical mission have been able to learn from her expertise in the field of mother and childcare. Unfortunately she was unable to witness a delivery, so she ‘has to’ come back again. As for the Wajanas of Apetina, she is more than welcome. On behalf of the village chief Nuwahe Aptuk and the captains, we thank her again for coming.

The first Sunday of March we made a beautiful canoe trip to Tutukampoe. Via a number of rapids, along large rocks in the river, which were clearly visible due to the low water level. On the way back we even saw a few otters swimming.

Marco was asked to speak during the service and to her great surprise Marjolein was asked to translate. Quite a challenge, but luckily shewas familiar with the sermon, that helped a lot. It is moving to see how the former witch doctor continues to follow Jesus.

Last Monday afternoon we had our two weekly meeting with the elders. This time with Bruce as a guest who shared about the progress of the hydro electric power project. He shared about Jesus and that He should be the first in our lives. The elders fully agreed with this call. It was completely in line with their preparation for the Easter conference next month.

morning we had a good meeting with the chief, the captains and a basja at the chief’s home. We were able to tell about the hydro electric power project and the Foundations for Farming project, of which the training on the testing grounds in Lawa will start next month, a week after Easter.

Here too the corona virus keeps people busy. They pray for protection and preservation because they are such a small group. For the time being, we have no infected people here and there is little traffic between Apetina and Saint Laurent in French Guiana, where there are people diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus. Suriname now has shut its borders for international flights. The schools have an early and long Easter holidays of at least one month.

This Sunday morning after service we showed a short movie on how easily a virus can spread. We talked about precautions the people have to take themselves. The government prohibits gatherings of more than 100 people, so this Easter there will be no guests from other villages coming over to celebrate together.

We changed our plans also. Since our trainers for Founations for Farming are not allowed to come and we don’t want to be a risk to the Wajana’s, we decided to fly from Apetina straight to Lawa and stay in the interior. Our daughter Elisabeth bought the needed groceries in the city and MAF will bring them along tomorrow when we are due to fly out again.

22 februari 2020
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A delightful reunion

It was special to meet our friends again after 25 years and to pick up where we left off as if we had just met the other day. That was the case with our friends in Michigan and with our friends from Texas. We enjoyed their hospitality and the nice conversations. Naturally we talked about our children and grandchildren and showed a lot of pictures on our mobile phone.

We were blessed spending a number of days with candidate workers for Manaus in Florida. For Marjolein it felt strange to meet them in person for the first time. Through Skype we have been in contact for quite some time and then you feel as if you are meeting with old friends who are new at the same time. We rented bikes (quite a Dutch experience) and enjoyed the beautiful nature together. Here too we were blessed with warm hospitality.  

At Roy and Margaret’s place we were able to share about a number of developments among the Wayana in Suriname. We enjoyed being together and felt close as co-workers in God’s kingdom. Time was running too fast. On the other hand, we also wanted to return to fly to Apetina, where we left last July.

In Paramaribo we picked up Wilma from the airport and after a few days of shopping, packing and weighing all our luggage, we flew to Apetina. Wilma is a maternity nurse in the Netherlands. She wanted to see what maternity care looks like on the mission field. She will stay with us until March 9. On the flight that Bruce from Canada will arrive in Apetina, Wilma returns to Paramaribo and then flies back to the Netherlands.

It is wonderful to see the people here again and to notice that we also have our place here. People come to greet us when we just arrived in the house.  We felt very welcome!

5 februari 2020
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Vulnerable People

Monday, January 20, the GumAir plane would arrive early. Marjolein wanted to clear up the last things in and around the house and Marco had to spray under the house to keep the termites out of the way. When Marjolein was organizing all the things in the house she suddenly heard Marco shouting from below: “Marjolein, come quickly, please come help me”. Marco had hurt his back when lifting the spray tank on his back. Then the entire schedule had to change. Marco had to be helped out of his working clothes while every movement hurt him. Marjolein thought by herself “How will I fix every ting in time to be ready when the plane arrives”. She realized right away “Let’s deal with things when they arrive, now I work first on the things that have to be done before that time”.

Marco gave instructions on how to use the sprayer while Marjolein, in Marco’s work clothes, was fiddling with the machine. You’re never too old to learn new things, but things never go as fast as when you have experience. Spraying really had to be done because in the previous days we had seen several traces of termites in the storeroom downstairs and in our spare bedroom downstairs. It was the first time in the last 8 years that Marjolein still had to store the wheelbarrow in the storeroom while Marco slowly climbed the steps of the plane and the pilot waited patiently for the last passenger to enter. That is another advantage of a small plane in a small village. In this way we notice how vulnerable we are, but also how God time and again provides in our needs.

Before we left for the city, we met with the team with whom we went to Canada last August. We made arrangements to visit all villages along the river in the coming months to report about our experiences during the 2019 trip. In the meantime, one couple already stated that they would like to come along to Canada on a following trip.

Wednesday, January 22, we celebrated Marjolein’s birthday. In the morning with a Dutch coffee and cake celebration in our apartment with a number of dear friends. In the evening with a dinner at a Chinese Restaurant with Elisabeth and family, with Jiska (who had arrived that afternoon in Suriname to visit for a week) and with old-time friends (who had just arrived from Denmark) and some Surinamese friends. We were so very blessed!

The last week of January we took part in the annual LEAD meetings of World Team Americas in Orlando, Florida. It was a pleasure to meet colleagues from all over the America’s and to be informed about their work.

We really wanted to visit friends from Suriname, who we met in the nineties, who live in Michigan now. So, after the LEAD meetings we flew over to Michigan. We enjoyed recalling our memories and to be able to share what God is doing in the jungle of Suriname.  We also enjoyed some snow and low temperatures.

In the coming week we will be visiting a WT candidate couple who are preparing to be part of our team in Manaus, Brazil. Other dear friends who we met several times in the nineties in Suriname, will also visit us in Florida and the last few days of our visit we will stay at Roy and Margaret Lytle’s, who taught us all the things we needed to know for our ministry among the Wayanas.

Next week Thursday, February 13, we hope to arrive in Paramaribo again to fly to Apetina after a few days of shopping and preparing in the city.

10 januari 2020
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Christmas and New Year’s Eve in the jungle

After celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve with the Wayana’s eight times, it remains very special for us that we can do this.

On Tuesday afternoon 24/12 the Christmas celebration started with the arrival of a number of canoes from other villages. A lot of work is done every year. This time ‘Joseph’ and ‘Mary’ had traveled with them. The Schleppi family, son of the former Aloekoe missionary, unexpectedly came to visit that morning and could enjoy the spectacle.

Father Helmut showed his children where he used to live. The day before we already received a visit from Anneke Kempeneers. She came from Maripasoula with the taxi boat and would stay until the beginning of 2020. We ate a Dutch Christmas dinner that tasted very good, also at 25 degrees.

Christmas in T-shirt and (short) pants / skirt but with church services and worship songs in Wayana. Seventy years ago these people did not yet know the gospel of a God who loves them and sent His son to earth to become human like us. They lived in fear of everything inexplicable in their lives. It touches our hearts to see how they look to the future with confidence because they know that God loves them and cares for them.

Friday December 27 Marijke and Hannekie came over for a short holiday. They work with the youth in Powakka, a traditionally Arowak community near Zanderij. We had a great time with them. Together we visited Anneke’s house in Maripasoula and were the first to come and visit and have a cup of coffee since she moved in last September (Isn’t this a typical Dutch thought?!). We prayed together for the Wayana youth and the Arowak youth and for each other. Very precious to experience the unity with each other.


Anneke Kempeneers, our youth worker, has coached a number of youth leaders to organize two youth evenings between Christmas and New Year. Great to see 3 Bible School students in action. In addition, she has found a young song leader willing to organize a volleyball tournament on December 30th. She has learned a lot again about living in another culture.

Up to 3 times she was asked what time the tournament would start: 9 a.m. Anneke and Marjolein were there at 9 o’clock, no youth around. At 10 o’clock the megaphone announced that the tournament would start. Still no youth and no tournament management. The first group came to report around half past ten. Eventually the first game started just after noon, in the heat of the day. Still learning…

The 6 groups have turned it into a real sporting event until 5 pm, loudly encouraged by the village community. All in all it was a successful event, but it is difficult to keep on waiting and not take the initiative. They are allowed to do it their way.

The turn of the year did not miss the oliebollen and apple flaps (another Dutch treat). Marijke and Hannekie brought icing sugar and apples from the city, so we enjoyed a delicious meal together. We like to honor some traditions.

We wish you all a special, healthy and blessed 2020.