It’s not often that one gets a chance to reflect on his life over the last quarter of a century, but that’s exactly
what’s going on with me while I am here in Guyana. Guyana was the first country I ever visited outside the U.S. I came here with another pastor in 1989, right before my move to pastor a church in Orlando, Florida. It was a difficult trip – it still ranks among my three toughest journeys – mostly due to the conditions here then, along with my own inexperience as a traveler.
In 1989, Guyana was only 23 years old as a country, having broken away from England and changing its name from British Guyana to Guyana. Guyana means ‘land of many waters’ in the local language and it is appropriately named. It has four major rivers, all of which empty into the Atlantic Ocean on Guyana's coastline. Every one of the four are a muddy brown, and all are quite large at their mouth. I remember taking many ferries and water taxis when I was last here. Now they have built bridges and everyone has a car. When I was here in 1989, transportation was difficult. Now the vehicles whiz by on the road outside my guest house, where I am staying with my friends, Pastor Ovid Schultz and his wife Ukline.
In 1989, I don’t think I had electricity for an entire day for the 17 days I was here. We had to fetch water from a backyard tank to flush or bathe. Food was scarce and the mosquitoes were vicious. I spoke 17 times while
I was here and never had electricity during any meeting. I did not bring earplugs or bug spray – that tells you how “green” I was – so I didn’t get much sleep. I had no idea roosters can begin crowing at midnight, and my roommate snored like a chain saw. One night I recorded him snoring and when I played it back to him, he denied it was him on the recording.
Today I am enjoying all the comforts of home. I am staying in a home built by a
Guyanese couple who live in New York. They plan on retiring to this home in a few years. I am lying on the bed under a ceiling fan. My host transports me in a minivan. The electricity has gone off not once. I am eating all kinds of fruits and veggies – I think we call it organic in the States – and I am losing weight for all the right reasons.
As we drive around, there are still many scenes I remember from 1989. What’s more, Guyana reminds me a lot of my experience in Africa. There are animals grazing on the
side of the road. People drive with their horns and not their brakes. The sun is scorching. The rains come unannounced and end quickly. The people walk to where they are going and use parasols to protect from the sun’s rays. Children all have school uniforms and Toyota vans stop to pick up passengers who stand along the side of the road, waiting to go to market or school or church.
And church services remind me of Africa, too. The worship is enthusiastic and vibrant. The accents are thick, but English words can be identified just enough to enter into worship. The buildings are built for the tropics with metal roofs, windows that open for maximum breeze and concrete block construction seems to hold the cool of the night and the heat of the day in place long after either are gone.
I visited with the pastor and his wife who hosted me 26 years ago. They now live in a town called New Amsterdam (the Dutch once “owned” Guyana before the British did). It was special to see Lucius and Esther, who are now running an orphanage as well as pastoring a church. It brought back fond memories of their gracious hospitality as they tolerated my silly questions and awkward attempts to minister in a foreign land.
Since 1989, I have accomplished a few things, one of which is figuring out how to
travel well and minister in cross-cultural situations. I have written books, launched media programs, taught at the university level, made a few church transitions, came in and out of pastoral situations, and earned my Doctor of Ministry. I have awakened every morning thanking God for his faithfulness over the last 26 years. I have made many mistakes during that time, but one constant that has kept me going during the last quarter of a century is my trust in the Lord. He has brought me a mighty long way, and I am ever so grateful.
I have told the Lord I will go another 26 years if that’s what He wants, but I know I may not have that much time. Therefore I am dedicated to making every day count, much as I have done for the previous 26 years. It has been nice to return to Guyana with something to say, and I have had the chance to say it here to government staff, a hospital team, a church and an evening school. My hosts believe I will be back soon, and I am open to that possibility.
Speaking of my hosts, I would not be here if it wasn’t for the friendship and devotion of my friend since 1989, Ovid Schultz and his wife Ukline. Ovid has been a faithful friend over the years, diligent to stay in touch with me whenever he came to the States. We have spent a lot of time together over the years and our friendship has survived the test of time and distance. I am here to celebrate the ninth anniversary for the church that Ovid founded in 2006, Balm in Gilead Ministries in Village No. 30 in East Berbice. I have done my purpose seminar over two nights and Sunday I spoke in the church ninth anniversary celebration. Thank you, Ovid, for your encouragement over the years. I trust we will have many more years to enjoy our relationship, but of course that is in God’s hands.
I will close with this thought. What could you do if you had a 25-year plan for your life? How much could you accomplish for Him? It doesn’t matter if you are 80 years of age right now, if you had a 25-year plan, you would certainly accomplish some of it before you go home. And who knows, God may give you the entire 25 years! If He does that, you will be glad you started now to make those years count to the maximum.
Thank You, Lord, for bringing me back. Thanking you for taking me forward since 1989. My life is yours; I owe you big time. Whatever you want me to do, whether here, in Africa or anywhere else, I am glad to do it, for my Lord and my Friend, who has sustained me all these years. I am a blessed man and this week has allowed me to reflect on just how blessed I am. Now it’s time to start planning and living my next 26 years.