M & M in Suriname

Our life with the Wajana indians

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.

24 december 2020
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Christmas Blessings and a healthy, happy and hopeful New Year.

After 4 months in the Netherlands we could travel back to Suriname on the day we originally planned. This time it took some doing, but it worked! The KLM Plane we took was named ‘Snowbell’… We are now safe in Suriname and have also finished our quarantine period in Paramaribo.

Home quarantine was quite an experience. Three times a day an officer from a security company came over to check if we were at home. if so, a note was put in the letterbox stating that we were home with date and time. Our daughter Elisabeth made sure that we lacked nothing by providing our groceries.

After the ten-day quarantine, it was wonderful to hold our grandson in our arms and enjoy his stories. It was a blessing to be at Elsbeth’s birthday again. We enjoy the things that are still allowed and possible.

Meanwhile, the numbers of Covid positively tested people are also rising in Suriname. The restrictions were tightened up again last night. A maximum of 5 people may come together. We are able to celebrate Christmas with Elsbeth and her family of 3.

From the Wajana villages we only hear enthusiastic stories about the planned Christmas celebrations. On December 24 they have the Christmas night service in Apetina from 7 pm, which lasts until after midnight. The next morning everyone is back at church and then they have a meal together. Covid has come to the villages, many people have been ill, but fortunately mostly with mild symptoms. Life is now again as before Corona. In Kawemhakan the boats from the various villages up and downstream have also been moored for the Christmas conference.

Domestic passenger transport is not available from December 24 until the end of the year. We hope that we can fly to Apetina on January 5th.

We can now frame our Christmas greetings with a musical contribution from our grandson in the Netherlands.Jayden plays ‘Silent Night’

2 december 2020
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This fall went very fast

Our last story was in a summer atmosphere, but three months have already flown by.

What we expected has happened in recent months. We mainly lived in our small bubble in Delft. We did meet some people online. In recent months we assisted our son and daughter in law with the makeover of their new purchased (100 years old) house. We really enjoyed that. They moved into their new home November 21, but there is still a lot the need to do.

 

Marco was invited to preach in two different churches in the recent months. All were online services when looking closely into the camera to involve viewers at home was a new focus. It is special that it is possible and that you still feel the connection, while you do not see each other. The first week of November we took care of the children of friends who moved back to living and serving the Netherlands after 11 years of missionary service in Suriname. We know from our own experience how much energy that takes, so we offered to babysit so that the parents could get away together for a midweek.

After this we enjoyed a midweek in the Geul valley in Limburg, the southern part of the Netherlands. We honeymooned there 40 years ago. This midweek was a gift from our children and grandchildren. Mid November an aunt of Marjolein had a brain hemorrhage at the age of 91 and she passed away shortly after. We are grateful that we had the opportunity to visit her in her apartment at the end of September.

Sunday November 22th we were allowed to participate in Missions Sunday in our church. Because of the Corona pandemic, more missionaries were in attendance than expected earlier in the year.

Suriname is struggling economically. People are starving because the Surinamese dollar has devaluated enormously against the US$. There is plenty to eat, but different products have become unaffordable for many people. We have little trouble with this because of our income in Euros. That is very different for the people we work with. There was already a flourishing flow of goods between the Netherlands and Suriname, which has only increased in recent months. Many boxes with food are shipped off to Suriname. Within World Team, one of our colleagues in Paramaribo has started a support program for people who are now having a hard time. We also work with a number of churches in the distribution of food hampers. All good things come to an end … and so is our time in the Netherlands.

We really enjoyed everything that was possible during our furlough.

We are very grateful that we were able to fly to Suriname on Friday November 27th, as planned. That process took a lot of time to get us on the plane this time. We had to submit an application to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Suriname to be allowed to fly to Suriname at the end of November. When permission was granted, that would be passed on to KLM. Then we would be contacted to book a flight. But during this process Suriname changed the rules… so we had to find out if our permission to quarantine in our own location was still valid. We tried to book a ticket but that seemed impossible to do on such short notice. Only with the assistance of vitamin ‘R’(elationship) it could be done!

We set off with a whole folder with documents and declarations of consent from the Public Health Office (BOG) in Suriname. This also includes a negative result of a PCR-test.

Now we are in quarantine until December 7th. Then we’ll start our shopping and packing process to get back into the interior. First, we will take the time to celebrate the birthday of our youngest daughter who lives in Paramaribo with her family and celebrate Christmas together.

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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Surprise

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.