Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Guyana - March, 2004

Greetings from Guyana!

“March Madness” is upon us! Similar to what I experienced during the Christmas season, I’ve realized that Guyanese Christians take their Lenten practices with extreme seriousness. This insight came during the weeks preceding Ash Wednesday when people continually asked, “What should I do for Lent? Should I abstain from something? What should I abstain from? Should I start something new? What should I start? What should I do? Why should I do it? How should I do it? Where should I do it? When should I do it?” To be perfectly honest, these past weeks have been so crazy that no longer does the term “March Madness” make reference exclusively to the yearly college basketball tournament! It now holds an entirely new meaning!

What I’ve found amazing about Lent in Guyana is the strong commitment towards personal piety and sacrifice. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that most American Christians are only willing to surrender simple and easy habits like chocolate eating or soda. (I’m a prime example! Last year I pushed myself to the limits by quitting chewing gum…) In Guyana, people are more willing to challenge themselves and make a serious physical and/or spiritual sacrifice. For example, I know people who usually drink ten beers a day that completely refrain from alcohol during Lent. Also, I know people who normally puff two-packs of cigarettes a day and refuse to smoke during the season. And of course, I know people who never see the inside of a church building all year long, but insist on achieving perfect attendance during Lent! Without question, people in Guyana see their Lenten disciplines as a major challenge that hold numerous benefits.

An additional characteristic of Lent in Guyana is the increase of nightly Christian television broadcasts. On any given night I am able to watch a variety of Christ-centered programming. It’s quite unique! This particular reality has opened an unexpected (and rather peculiar) opportunity for me. A few days before Ash Wednesday, I was asked by a neighboring pastor to participate in a weekly television show. I made the appearance, gave a short talk, and played a couple songs on my guitar. I thought I did an adequate job, but I didn’t think it was anything too special. However, after that first show was aired, I learned that the TV station received numerous compliments about my appearance! As a result, I was asked if I could appear every week! So, now I make a weekly appearance - giving talks, playing music, and doing all sorts of funny stuff! It’s been a great experience, for it proves that you never quite know what opportunity God is going to throw on your lap!

Not a day goes by when I don’t continue to thank God for this wonderful opportunity to serve with the people of Guyana. As I’ve said before, I never know what kind of opportunity will present itself. I just have to be open to whatever comes my way! In addition, with each passing day I grow increasingly attached to the people and their way of life. I have developed some meaningful relationships over the past months that I know will last for many years to come. I can already foresee how difficult it will be to leave in August.

I ask that you continue to send your prayers and “well wishes”, for your support is needed and appreciated. I always look forward to hearing from family and friends.

I love you all and can’t wait to hear how you are doing.

With peace, love, and God’s blessings,

Brian Konkol