LESSONS LEARNED IN ANNAI
Annai is located in the interior of Guyana. It is in a section of Guyana known as Region 9. The people who live in Annai are called Amerindians. Annai is made up of 5 villages. These villages are Annai, Rupertee, Kwatamang, Wowetta and Surama. The population of these villages is small; the total population for these five villages is around 3000 people. The leading political official in Annai is called the “Toshao.” Each village also has a council that works with the Toshao to govern each village. Almost everyone in these villages speaks English. Their local language is called Macushi. Most people, with the exception of some of the older people, speak both languages fluidly. Many times, in the services we conduct, as we preach in English one of the brothers translates what is said into Macushi. Translating the message is for the benefit of those few who do not speak English and especially they would have difficulty understanding the sound of “Southern English.” We must do our best to preach the gospel to these people because Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:15-16) There are many lessons that we can learn in Annai.
Let us learn that good people have serious problems. The Toshao over the villages in Annai is a man named Mark George. He is a man who is very caring about his people. He has become a close friend to me and to the church of Christ. His brother, Charles George, was taught the gospel and baptized by Ricky Bagents. His sister, Louise, has cared for us at the guesthouse where we stayed many times. She has cooked for us and even washed our clothes. She attended the services of the Annai Church of Christ for the first time on the last Sunday we were in Guyana. We have shared the gospel with her many times and we are praying that it will take root in her heart. The Toshao, Mark George, is a good man but he has a serious problem. He and I have studied the Bible and we have talked often and studied specifically about this problem. Mark, like other men and women in these villages, has a serious problem with alcohol. God says, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1) Please pray for Mark and for all of those who are struggling with addiction to alcohol or other drugs!
Let us learn that people die. Almost every trip that we have made to Annai, we have dealt with death and dying. On one trip it was a young, pregnant woman who had taken poison. She died on the back of our truck, as we were trying to get her help. On another occasion, a young man had been drinking or taking drugs; he was either murdered or fell in a well and drowned. When his body was taken from the well, we used the truck to take him to the cemetery. On the last trip that I made, one of our first stops in Annai central was for me to visit Mark George. Mark was very glad that we came again and he showed us kindness and hospitality. He told me that a woman had just died that afternoon in the village and asked me if I would go pray with her family. He and I immediately walked across the village and when I saw the house we were going to, I realized that I had been there a number of times to try to study the Bible with this family and to pray for this elderly lady who was sick. Her brother, Leonard, is an elderly man who has been baptized into Christ. He lives next door. When we reach the house, we found the woman’s body in a little homemade box, sitting on the floor and her family surrounding her as they mourned. I shared Scripture and prayed for them. But I am reminded, death comes to everyone. The term “Death” is found in 351 verses in our King James Bible. In one of the most profound Bible statements about death David said, “As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.” (1 Samuel 20:3) Death is coming; are you ready to meet God now? When we left the house that had been visited by death, Mark wanted me to go and pray with some others. We must have visited six or eight other homes and prayed about specific struggles that these people were going through.
Let us learn to be thankful for our blessings and to stop complaining. In Annai there is no electricity. There is a generator in Annai that runs for two or three hours each evening to provide current (most of the time.) In Annai a few places have running water (some of the time.) The water would not be safe for us to drink. Some families have wells in their own yard. The wells are mostly uncovered and they may just have a board across them that a person would stand on to draw the water by hand. The road or “Trail” as it is called, that leads from Linden to Annai is 199 miles long. It is an unbelievably rough road. Not included in the 199 mile trip to the interior is also about 71 miles of paved road before you reach the trail. Our trip out, during the last visit, took about 20 hours to cover the 270 miles. Medical help is almost nonexistent. The small clinic in Annai had a very, very old ambulance when we were there. They had never had it before. The joke there is that the ambulance is sicker than the patient. The people live in very small little huts or houses. Some of them still have dirt floors and roofs made out of palm leaves. The people have very few cloths, even though most of them dress more modest than people here. Not many of the local people have vehicles of their own. It is hard for them to even have a copy of the Bible. In the village of Masaru, a man and his wife have been visiting the church services. They are not members yet, but we are praying that they will be Christians soon. She has a Bible, but it is very old and the pages are coming apart everywhere. We are helping her to get a Bible. She said of this tattered and worn Bible, “I do believe that my Bible is going to get to heaven before I do.” The Wednesday morning ladies Bible class at the Walnut Street Church of Christ helped with the purchase of Bibles and also copies of, the “Muscle and a Shovel” book that were used on our last trip. Before you complain about things, just think about your blessings, which are so many! We would do well to hear the words of Philippians 2:14.” Do all things without murmurings and disputing.”
Let us learn that there are people in Annai who have open Bibles and honest hearts. We now have congregations of the Lord’s church in Annai, Kwatamang, Wowetta and Massara. Massara is not one of the Annai villages; it is a neighboring village about 18 miles from Annai. Of these four congregations Massara is the only one that does not have its own building. In these villages you are not allowed to purchase the land, you must be granted permission to build on the land by the village council. However, in Massara we do have a congregation meeting on a little porch at a family’s house. We left them with money to build a shed to meet under, as they have outgrown this porch. They can build a shed because it will be personal property of the family where the church is presently meeting. It will be in their backyard.
Let us learn to be legally married and to not just live together in fornication. Marriage is difficult and somewhat expensive for the people in these villages. There are only a few marriage officers who can conduct the weddings and many of the people do not have proper identification. The church of Christ has been successful in encouraging many people to get married and become children of God. During this last trip there were three weddings on the same Sunday afternoon. Almost 50% of the babies who are born in the state of Alabama last year, were born to unwed mothers. Within these villages in Annai, you will find many people who are just living together. They have a term that makes the fornication sound not nearly so bad. They say they are “Leaving Home.” The Bible says, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4) God's plan is for one MAN to be joined to one WOMAN for the duration of a lifetime. "For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband." (Romans 7:2) Home and family are serious matters to both the Father and to Jesus, the Son. Jesus said, "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." (Matthew 19:6) It is within the home that the man and his wife find love, companionship and also satisfaction for sexual desires. (1 Corinthians 7:2-5. As we teach people the gospel, we teach them that they must obey the laws of the land concerning marriage. That is included in their “Repentance.”
To get into Christ a person must hear the gospel (John 6:44-45), believe in Jesus as the Christ (Mark 16:16), repent of sins (Luke 13:3), confess faith in Jesus (Matthew 10:32-33), and be baptized to be saved. (1 Peter 3:21) Once in Christ, a person must continue faithful. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) You should seek to live out God’s will in your life.
By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, 306 Walnut Street, Greenville, Alabama 36037.