flag

THE GUYANA STORY

     Guyana, formerly known as British Guiana, is situated on the northern edge of South America between Venezuela to the west, Brazil to the south, and Suriname to the east. The land is rich in minerals, gold, diamonds, Savannah grass lands, rivers, and forested mountains. Guyana is Caribbean rather than Hispanic as other South American countries. Wide avenues, cool wooden buildings, and tropical vegetation go together to make Georgetown, the capital, a graceful city.
     Though once owned by the British, Guyana gained its independence in 1966. In 1970 the government was restructured along socialist lines with strong ties to Russia and Cuba. Now, twenty-eight years later, the country is slowly making economic recovery.
     The 800,000 plus inhabitants are composed of descendants from Africa and India with some Europeans, Chinese, and original Amerindians mixed in.
     All toll they are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Religious beliefs are varied. The British brought the Anglican, Catholic, and various Protestant religions to this nation. A large segment of the population came to this country from India, therefore both Muslim and Hindu religions are very popular.
     The name of the country means, "Land of Many Waters." The huge Essequibo River flows from near the Brazilian border northward for 400 miles. Much of the country is empty and unexplored, a challenge for anyone with a desire for pioneering and roughing it.
     The people themselves are eager to have contact with other peoples, especially those who bring the "Good News." The honest, good-hearted, attitude of most of Guyana's population make this nation one of the whitest unto harvest of any nation in the world today.
     In 1980 the Spanish Fort, Alabama, church targeted this nation with World Bible School correspondence courses. Responses to the newspaper ads were overwhelming, creating a wonderful problem: How to follow-up? Spanish Fort asked their preacher, Wayne Pruette, to gather a few students from the Trinidad School of Preaching to go to Guyana to look for some of the WBS students requesting baptism. Nine were immersed.
     In 1982 Bennie Mullins, one of the Spanish Fort elders, his wife, Kitty, and their preacher Dave Mellor visited Guyana and baptized another ten. A graduate of the Trinidad School of Preaching, John Lewis, was brought in to work with these new converts. Bennie then contacted Don Starks, director of Caribbean Campaigns for Christ, and requested that he organize a formal campaign group to try to reach the ever-increasing number of WBS students.
     The day after Thanksgiving, 1983, 14 American Christians arrived in Guyana not really knowing what to expect. Letters had been sent to all the WBS students inviting them to come to the Park Hotel to study in person with teachers from the United States. Ads were also placed in the newspaper. The hotel had a large verandah that could be used for studies if any of the WBS students came. Well, come they did, more than 200 of them from as far away as two hundred and fifty miles: businessmen, teachers, farmers, ranchers, men, women, young and old. By Sunday there was already a sizable congregation. Worship services were conducted in the hotel. By the close of that campaign, 51 had obeyed the gospel, and a building for the new congregation to meet in had been rented.
     In 1984, the same strategy was used to contact WBS students. Over 400 came from far and near. They came by boat, bus, car, on foot or a combination of these. The first Sunday of the campaign, workers were thrilled to see many of the converts from the '83 campaign. The next Lord's Day, 138 gathered to worship God. But the campaign was not over yet. Some of the new converts brought their friends to be taught. On the last day of the campaign, 21 more were immersed, bringing the total converts in 1984 to 102.
     More than 500 WBS students came to study with workers during the 1985 campaign. One hundred twenty-eight were converted. Among the 1985 converts was Ivan Persaud, a taxi driver. Ivan had a large family and he wanted them to know the Truth he had found. One by one they came. First his son, Godfrey, who would later graduate #1 in his class from the Guyana International Bible Institute (GIBI). Next came his daughters, Samatha and Radha. Samatha also later graduated #1 in her class from GIBI and continues to be a tireless worker for the Lord's church.
     Ivan's good wife, Josada, spreads her love and sweet spirit around to everyone she meets, working alongside her husband as he serves as a leader in the Georgetown church. Every U.S. Christian who has gone to Guyana in the last 12 years has enjoyed Ivan's expert assistance.
North Road building - GIBI      Following the 1985 campaign, Bennie and Kitty Mullins stayed in Guyana. Bennie, an executive with International Paper, was offered early retirement, and he received a Guyana Work permit almost simultaneously. Soon after he arrived, Bennie started the Guyana International Bible Institute, known then as The School of Biblical Studies-Georgetown. Video Bible lessons from various Schools of Preaching were used to teach the courses.
     Another significant event in 1985 was the arrival of a Guyanese couple, Troxley and Claudette Norville, who had been living in Trinidad for several years. Troxley took over the preaching at the Georgetown church which by this time had a membership of about 65 faithful Christians.
     By 1986, it was felt necessary to have 2 World Bible School campaigns because of the number of students enrolled in the correspondence courses as well as the great track record of responses to the previous campaigns. Five hundred twenty-two registered for studies in April '86; 127 obeyed their Lord. Evening services were conducted for the first time in Guyana in the August '86 crusade. David Lusk, presently the minister of the Webb Chapel church in Dallas, Texas, was the speaker. All crusade records were broken with 622 registrations and 152 baptisms.
church in Berbise      People were coming to these campaigns from all over the nation of Guyana and were being won to Christ. However, many of the converts lived outside the capital city and had no place near their home to worship. A few congregations had sprung up meeting in homes throughout the nation but most new Christians were alone.
     Thus in April, 1987, the "mini-crusade" concept was introduced. The crusaders were divided into 5 groups, one meeting with students at the hotel in Georgetown. A few workers canvassed the area around Leonora on the West Coast Demerara. Another group went to the Island of Leguan in the big Essequibo River. Others met students at a guest house in Anna Regina on the Essequibo Coast. And others went on to Charity on the Pomeroon River. A combined total of 157 were baptized and 4 new congregations were established.
     Brethren found a dilapidated church building in the village of Wales on the West Bank Demerara. It was purchased and renovated. Then in September '87, Don Starks took a group to Wales and planted another congregation of the Lord's church. Another group went out to Enmore on the East Coast Demerara where a group had sprung up in the home of a young man, Kenneth Finlayson, converted in 1985.
     In 1988 Don Starks took 5 separate groups, conducting 2 World Bible School crusades in the capital city and 3 more campaigns in remote areas.
     Don, who had initiated these WBS campaigns, was diagnosed with cancer in December 1990. His last trip to Guyana was in July of 1993, just 5 months before he lost the battle and passed away on New Year's Day, 1994. Don's wife, Marian, continues to coordinate these efforts. She also maintains a database of WBS students in Guyana.
     World Bible School Campaigns each year continues to add hundreds to the body of Christ and to establish congregations in outlying areas such as the one in Bartica that was established in 1989. Bartica is a gold and diamond mining community some 60 miles inland. The only way to reach this town is by boat.
remote Dora Mission assembly      Several congregations have been established during campaigns in the Berbice area in recent years by David Lusk and members of the Webb Chapel church. These new congregations include: Bath Settlement, Blairmont, #8 Village, as well as in Pouderoyen on the West Coast Demerara and Alexander Village in the Georgetown area. Campaign workers in Guyana frequently have found themselves in strange and unusual situations, such as crossing the huge Essequibo River in a small speed boat, and even paddling down jungle rivers infested with piranha fish to look for WBS students. Churches have been established up and down the many rivers of Guyana, in homes of those who first learned the truth in the many campaigns conducted in Georgetown and the villages alongside the highways and byways of this South American nation.
     Many American missionaries have worked full time in Guyana including: Eunice Conn, Claryce Arnold, Bennie and Kitty Mullins, Noel Lynd, Steve and Linda Hurst, Brad Smith, Bruce House, Jack and Margaret Epperson, Lonnie Hargett, Glen and Marianne Wilcutt, Bob and Flo Calderwood, Samantha Finlayson, Steve and Colleen DeLoach, and Jerry and Mary Alice Cantrell.
PIP Operation Guyana      Today the work continues to reap a tremendous harvest among the Guyanese people. Partners In Progress conducts between 8-10 medical missions each summer resulting in more than 400 people being saved. Other independent campaigns result in an additional 200 people surrendering their lives to the will of God. So, each summer some 600 precious people learn and obey God's truths. Seventy-six congregations now dot the countryside of this very receptive nation.
Abe Lincoln teaching students      The challenge remains: how do we continue to teach and mature these new converts? GIBI is desperately trying to train preachers to minister to all these new churches, but we are losing ground each year. More churches are being established than preachers can be trained. Men like Truitt Adair, the late Abe Lincoln, and Ed Wharton have come from the Sunset International Bible institute to help. Jack Exum, the late Jim Massey, Mike Cagle, Eddie Bhawanie have offered their talents in help to mature the immature.
     Through the grace and goodness of God the work in Guyana is as profitable and productive today as it has been in the past. Truly this is a nation where the "fields are white unto harvest."
the future of the work in Guyana

by Jerry Cantrell
and Don Starks
18 March 1998



Link to Guyana International Bible Institute Home Page