A Home in the Jungle
Dear Friends and Family,
It’s hard to believe it’s been over four months since we last wrote you with an update. Time flies…when your in the middle of moving especially! Life has been a continual cycle of adjusting and readjusting for our family during these months…and a few surprises (like bats flying from under our beds at night!). That being said, this update is a bit longer than usual, but we hope by next month to get back to our regular (shorter) monthly updates.
In May we left our home, Tony’s job and our mission on the Navajo reservation, and stepped out in faith to trust God for all of our daily and future needs. He has provided abundantly. Through a series of miracles (if you didn’t see our last update, you can watch the video here: Testing God for One Month: https://youtu.be/hHxrGU_uS8A), God showed us we were to begin a new mission volunteering with GAMAS (Guyana Adventist Ministries and Services) in Bethany, Guyana in South America. Tony will be flying medi-vac flights and making supply trips to the interior mission posts (that are remotely located and far from supplies). Jackson and I will be ground support and hope to find personal outreach around the village where we live.
Though we are now volunteering with GAMAS, we are keeping our family ministry web and Facebook page (www.atgoministries.org or https://www.facebook.com/ATGOministries) as a way to post newsletters, blog posts (this has become Darah's "outlet" while adjusting to our new home) and updates from our current and previous mission field. As we hear updates from the Navajo Reservation we will continue passing them along for those who have helped with the work there to be able to stay updated and connected (you can see the most recent update at the bottom of this newsletter). Our hearts and prayers remain very much connected to the work of reaching our Navajo friends!
During June and July we spent time preparing for our move to South America. We are beyond grateful for family and friends who hosted us during our time of transition. We also stayed busy traveling between Tennessee, Alabama and Florida speaking at various churches. We met many precious new friends and were able to reconnect with old friends and of course spend some much needed time with our families saying our goodbyes. We also had our moments of challenge (when you step out to do anything for the Lord, challenges are to be expected!), but God has been faithful to see us through every obstacle. Darah had to have two teeth pulled unexpectedly (just after we left our job and our insurance ended). God even provided for this, by connecting us with a dentist where her parents live who was willing to do the extractions and the bridge for half price, God never fails us!
We arrived in Guyana in late July and are now settled in our second home since arriving in Bethany Village, and praising the Lord for our new mission post. We are learning to praise God for each small comfort; like the new mosquito net we received a few weeks after arriving, that allowed us to finally sleep without being bitten throughout the night by bugs! We can see we will have plenty of “opportunities for growth,” and can sense that God has brought us here to teach us many things. But, most of all, we hope we can be useful in His service to share with others the love of a Savior who has given so much for each of us! Tony has spent his days helping around the airbase and at the Medical Mission College in Bethany. The first few weeks after we arrived he spent his days helping to pour and lay concrete for the foundation of the hangar on the airstrip. The hangar is now complete, (minus a room on the back for more storage and an attached kitchen for visiting missionaries) which was much needed to keep the tools for the planes out of the dirt and sand under the roof. Now the project at hand is getting loam spread on the end of the airstrip where it has washed away in years past, making it too soft and sandy for the planes to land safely.
Before picture of the concrete work on the hangar floor.
After picture of the concrete work on the hangar floor. It is now completely done!
Adding loam to the sandy side of the airstrip
The loam pit in the jungle where the loam was collected.
Soon after we arrived, he was asked to help co-pilot a medi-vac flight with mission pilot, Jeff Sutton (who also works for GMI) for a terminally ill cancer patient leaving out of Georgetown, Guyana to San Diego, CA in the US. It was an 18 hour non-stop flight except for quick refueling stops. Tony and the other pilot took the patient to the border of Mexico where he was then transported by land along with his family across the border to a medical facility that specializes in treating cancer patients.
About 6 weeks after we arrived to our new mission post, the airplane mechanic for GAMAS and his family moved back to the states. They had served here for three years, and made the decision to move back to the states around the same time God was showing us we were to come to Guyana…(only neither of our families knew the other then or that God was leading us in two different directions).
We truly enjoyed getting to know their family even if it was for a brief time, and already miss the only other American family, especially Jax who befriended the children right away. We are praying now for another airplane mechanic to be led here to serve. There are plenty of things to keep a mechanic busy with maintaining the two (soon to be three) planes here at Bethany, as well as tractors, four wheelers, and various other equipment that need routine maintenance. When we arrived in Bethany we were given a one room apartment (11ft x 26 ft) for our family to stay in until we can get our house built. The room was attached to the boy’s dorm on campus with two beds and a bathroom but no kitchen or washing machine. We also found our phones did not work on much of the campus; only when we stood near one of the homes with a signal booster. So, Jackson and I spent a good bit of time the first six weeks walking between the cafeteria to cook meals then over to the opposite side of the campus to wash our clothes in the creek and in between meals and clothes…back and forth between the different missionary’s homes since we couldn’t call one another.
Jax doing laundry and cooling off in the creek!
Soon after arriving, I could sense that support would be very helpful to adjust to our new life, and hoped others would see the benefit from this type of support as well. So, we started a support group for some of the local missionaries in the village, where we could share our stressors and lean on each other for strength. It lasted until the one family left, leaving only two in the group. It was a blessing during our family’s time of adjusting— even if it was temporary! I also stayed busy teaching a Spanish class for Jackson and two of the other missionary children in the village three days a week. Other than this, homeschool, meals and going to the coast (an all day event) to get supplies and food, have kept Jackson and I plenty busy! This last month, we have moved into the home on the airbase where the mechanic and his family had been living. This has kept Tony busy with more things…like putting plumbing in to be able to take showers, setting up a stronger solar system, and cleaning out and organizing the tool shed for the hangar. Things are beginning to really take shape and we are grateful for allowing us a little time for our family to settle and get things ready for when the planes will be running again.
Tony and Jax finishing the plumbing so we can now shower inside the house!
Trip to Kaikan Last month I (Tony) had the opportunity to go with GMI president, David Gates; our mechanic Chris Eno and local helper Dane Dyer to the village of Kaikan. Kaikan is an Amerindian village on the border of Venezuela. Due to lack of funds and resources, there was a mission plane sitting on the ground in Kaikan for almost two years waiting for a newly rebuilt engine. By God’s grace our team of two mechanics and two helpers were able to put the new engine on the plane and fly it back to Bethany where it will undergo more refurbishing until it is ready to be put back into service. We are grateful for the work Chris did during his last weeks here. David and Becky Gates moved to this remote location 23 years ago with their 5 children and lived there for seven years, establishing the medical mission and aviation work here in Guyana. It was heart warming to see that everywhere David went, he was warmly greeted with hugs and affection from the local village people who spent so much time with the Gates' family years ago. Won’t it be a joy to be in heaven to have the time to fellowship with all our friends in the light of our Savior.
Dane, Chris and David working on the Cessna 182 in Kaikan.
The two planes now based at the Bethany Village airstrip.
Flights to the Interior
Tony has not yet been able to begin flying into the interior to start helping the mission outposts or doing medi-vacs. Due to a recent crash earlier this year, there has been no flying since April. Because GAMAS has closely worked with the Guyana Civil Aviation Administration over the years and developed a good relationship with them, we have been given the all clear to start resuming flights, God is a God of miracles for sure! The latest obstacle has been that all US insurance companies have recently made it almost impossible to get insurance if you fly a plane overseas; as we do. The cost has increased by a factor 5 to 10 times! We have been praying and waiting to see how God will work this out, to allow the planes to fly again soon. As of just last week we were told that we may be able to get one plane insured within the next few weeks. Once this is done, Tony needs to be checked out on the various airstrips and then will begin resuming flight services. The government would also like a mission flight manual for operations, this will be another task Tony will be taking on soon.
We have already received a request for air service for one of the missionaries in the interior needing transport from the hospital back to her mission post after treatment in the capital for Dengue fever. We have also been made aware of a new church needing to be built in Monkey Mountain, with a group going out this December to start construction. They are praying for the planes to be running by then, to help haul in the many supplies and people that will be needed to help build the church. We are praying too!
With the planes not currently flying, the missions on the interior are having to spend additional funds to hire commercial air transports to bring in supplies, this has been hard on many of the missionaries, who are all living and working as complete volunteers relying directly on God for their needs (as we are), or living on a very small provided stipend. It is amazing how God continues to supply their needs and ours, even without the planes, but we know these planes will be a huge blessing for everyone!
We can really only imagine how many emergencies we are not hearing about and how many lives will be saved with this service to the far reaching hinterlands of Guyana, where there are locations that are completely unreachable by roads. Some villages with people walking many days to reach even basic medical care! We know God’s timing is best, so again we continue to pray for Him to clear the obstacles.
River Outreach and Boat Ministry
One of the things we noticed soon after arriving is the need for better logistics when the planes aren’t available. An easier way to get goods and supplies into Bethany Village is greatly needed. We have been told once the plane is up and running, this will be our cheapest way for all the missionaries here (and in our interior mission outposts) to receive food and supplies. But, until then, and even once they are running, there is still a need for better logistics on the ground in Bethany. Getting food and supplies in Bethany means hiring a boat (which is around $6000-8000 Guyanase dollars or $30-40 US roundtrip); then from the coast to get to the stores and markets inland hiring taxis (which costs about $7-10 US per person, roundtrip). The boat ride takes around 30 minutes into the first small town and the taxi ride takes another 30 minutes to the stores, and the total cost for transportation ranges around $40-50 for the entire trip for two people. Considering we have to carry all our food and supplies on the boats, taxis and with us at each stop, Jackson usually accompanies me to help with the lifting of the heavy bags. One recent trip took us a total of 7 1/2 hours roundtrip to just get basic groceries! And, this is only if you need the basics; if a missionary needs to get to Georgetown for larger supplies they would add on a ferry trip which adds another 3 hours round trip and hiring a bus while in the capital-adding quite a bit of time and extra transportation costs! If there is a need to haul larger supplies (which is often), this also increases the costs.
We are praying now for a suitable boat that will not only be able to help all the missionaries in Bethany get to supplies easier and cheaper, but will also we hope provide for a ministry we are seeking God in prayer over.
Not long after arriving to the Bethany, I (Darah) took a trip with our son to the coast for supplies. As we road the boat there and back I began praying and asking God to give us a way to reach the many, many homes and people along the waterways. Each of these homes have no access except by water. We don’t yet know what this will look like, but feel convinced that there are many along these waterways that need prayer, an encouraging word or possibly would even be receptive to Bible studies if we came to them.
One of the many houses along the creeks and rivers between our village and the coast.
It was about a month after this, that our local church in Bethany announced that our Sabbath School class would be collecting clothes and food for the less fortunate around the area. We were thrilled! We had just filled an entire barrel with items from around the home we moved into that we were hoping to donate somewhere. A few weeks later after church, Tony and Jackson joined the small group that gathered to distribute all of the donated goods, and via boat made their way to homes along the river. The people were receptive to prayer and they read a short scripture and devotion with them. They soon saw that the people they visited had many needs. We hope to do this with the church again, and begin becoming familiar with the routes and the people.
After researching the options we believe an 18 foot Jon boat, with a wide width (for stability while hauling large supplies) or something similar would be a huge blessing for the work here in Bethany Village. Will you please help us pray for God’s guidance to a good sturdy boat that would be suited for hauling people and goods, and spreading the Gospel along the waterways here in Guyana? Several people have already asked, how can they get involved and help with our new mission. We have shared many of the needs that we know so far at the bottom of this letter, and will continue to pass along future projects as they come up. We can see there is a mighty work to be done here (just as we have seen in many locations all over the world!), and we know as we band together we can all help hasten that great and glorious day when we will get to meet our Savior and hear the words "well done, though good and faithful servant!"
In Christ's love; from our family to yours, Tony, Darah and Jackson Varga
If you missed our last update, click video above.
Miracles in Miami
Carlos, Jackson and Darah
Dear Friends, I would like to share with you a few miracle stories that happened to us on the day we left the United States for Georgetown, Guyana. We started our trek driving a rental van from Chattanooga for 24 hours (with a short stop to sleep on the way) to the Miami airport. I wanted to get there early and by God’s grace we made it there five hours before our flight left at 7:30 pm that evening, which turned out to be blessing. With some experience gained over the years of traveling with large bins, we had our plan ready as we pulled up to the curb at the airport. As Darah and Jax worked as a team to get the bins onto rolling carts; I left and rushed to return the rental car on time.
Once we were all inside, we found a scale at the airport and re-weighed our bins. Several were overweight! So, we had to repack our belongings in the busy aisle of the airport. For about 30 minutes, we stuffed and sorted between bins and suitcases until everything was just right. When we got to the ticket counter I was expecting to use vouchers for credit I had, to pay for our checked bags. But, the agent said she was sorry she couldn't use the vouchers to pay for bins or luggage, even though I tried to explain that I had called American Airlines and was told that they could be used. To be very honest, I began to feel frustrated as she told us instead we would have to pay a $240 baggage fee! I said a silent prayer to help me a kind witness for Christ. As a side note, our expectations are often what cause our emotions to react in ways that we don't want to.
I asked to speak with a manager. While the agent called for a manager, she then informs us that there was an embargo on bins traveling to South America and we wouldn't even be able now to take our bins! This was going from bad to worse quick. When I spoke with the manager, he also confirmed everything the gate agent said. They suggested we go to the airport store and buy large duffle bags to transfer our things in, but we said we just couldn't do that because the belongings in the bins needed the protection of the hard bins.
As I prayed silently, the manager picked up the phone and began making some phone calls to the baggage area for our flight. Within a few minutes he told us that he was able to work it out and would now put our bins on the plane, praise the Lord! We still paid the fee, but were happy that at least the bins could go. We were now headed to security.
As we waited in line a TSA agent informed us that my son could not take his violin as a personal item, that he would need to check his bag. I felt sure this was also a mistake as we had been on many flights before and this had never been an issue. I am a little embarrassed to share this with you, but for the sake of the story I will. I told Darah and Jax that I think the agent made a mistake and we should try another security check point. I remember saying to Darah and Jax that Christ said we should be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. Unfortunately, my wisdom was not meant to be and God taught me a lesson in humility which actually worked out to be a blessing in the end. We tried a second check point, same result; I almost gave up but decided to try one more time. This time a TSA Manager who had seen us get turned back before, called us out of line and was very direct with us.
We had no alternative but to get back in line at the ticket counter and pay the $140 for an additional bag. This is were God worked all things for good. As I explained the situation to another gate agent, he said to wait while he called his manager. A few minutes later the manager came over and said if we didn't mind waiting for yet another agent he might be able to help us. About 10 minutes later an agent named Carlos came over to talk to us and we explained our latest situation.
He again called the gate, we waited, and then he let us know he would not only check the violin, but ALL of our remaining suitcases at no expense-and apologized for the inconvenience ! We couldn't thank him enough! After talking for a bit, he looked at our tickets and then asked if we were going to preach in Guyana. Surprised by his question, we shared that yes, we were going to Guyana to be mission volunteers. Carlos became very enthused and began sharing his faith with us. He was a very genuine young man. I had an Amazing Facts DVD on Bible Prophecy, and asked him if I could give it to him and he gladly accepted it. We were even able to have a word of prayer with Carlos before we left.
Please pray for Carlos and the many souls who need Bible truth in these last days. Sometimes God leads us, in paths we do not understand, He teaches us and even may have to humble us along the way. But as we look back on our lives we see that God has been directing us along a perfect straight path all along. As we look ahead we see hills, cliffs and valleys but our God makes the path straight.
“A man’s goings are of the Lord; how then can a man understand his own way?” Proverbs 20:24 Friends may your faith and love for God grow each day and may you be richly blessed! Tony
Insurance on the planes
Outdoor Kitchen for Missionary Guest housing on airstrip
Storage Room for tools attached to hangar
Boat for Mission Visits and Water transports
Newer Four Wheeler with trailer
**Physical items may also be donated (ie. four wheeler, boat) for a tax deduction, contact us directly to discuss.
We also have many projects that could be done during a one to two week mission trip. Please contact us if your church would be interested in a possible mission trip or sponsoring some of the above items.
SHORT TERM MISSION PROJECTS
Building/painting kitchen on airstrip for guests/missionaries
Building/painting shed an organizing tools in shed
Mechanical help with various projects and equipment (four wheel drive mule needs much mechanical work to get working again: which would help with land transporting)
Putting in water and solar system
Health fair and local outreach
Depression recovery seminars
PRAISES & PRAYER REQUESTS:
Praising God for the donation to lay the concrete foundation for the airstrip!
Praises for helping our family arrive safely to our new mission post, and to begin our mission.
Praises for the refurbished engine for the plane in Kaikan.
Praises for the one plane that is now ready to fly (aside from insurance issues)
Prayers for an immigration delay when we arrived in Guyana. Our Visas will be expiring in October (they only gave us a three month Visa), prayers requested for getting our three year Visas cleared before we have to leave the country and prepare for re-entry.
Prayers for the insurance to come through quickly, so the plane can resume air service.
Prayers for missionaries in Bethany for strength and God’s spirit as we do His work.
Prayers for a better four-wheeler for land transports and a boat for water outreach ministry.
Philippians 4:6: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God...
From the Capital of the Navajo Reservation:
The new pastor for the Window Rock and Kinlichee churches has been keeping the weekly Bible study at both churches running, and has been working to continue the winter heating ministry.
The purchased a wood splitter that had been donated has been a blessing. They have delivered wood to five different families so far, and helped to resupply the Kinlichee church for the winter. They already have several more families who need help with wood and splitting. It’s supposed to be a cold winter, so people are eager to prepare!
In answer to their prayers, God has given them two, Native young men to help in the work here. One found out about medical missionary training at La Vida, seemed interested, and decided to accept our sponsorship to go. He is now attending school in Butler Creek, TN, to teach addiction recovery and other health programs! A second called the church number because he wants to join the SDA church. We found out he’s been watching Doug Batchelor and other SDA programs on YouTube, and he is going through Bible studies right now in preparation for baptism!
We are seeking prayer for a clearing on the utilities for the church property, and for strength and support for the existing church members to stay strong in their faith! If you would like to support the work continuing in the capital of the Navajo reservation, please contact: Pastor Jonathan Chitwood at: PO Box 536, Window Rock, AZ 86515; or by phone: 530-305-9569.
Diné Adventist Radio:
As of June of this year, the most recent update on the radio station progress on the Navajo Nation is as follows:
This will be a reservation wide (as much as coverage is possible) to reach the entire Navajo Nation with the Everlasting Gospel and health programming.
There is a vision for the establishment of several small local production studios, to produce bilingual programs for the station. The stations are planned for Window Rock, Gallup, Lake Valley and Holbrook.
To date: the idea for the station has been presented to local Navajo Chinle chapter leaders with positive results, and will soon be presented to other chapters and leaders throughout the Navajo Nation for acceptance.
If you are interested in helping to support this project with your donations, prayers or labor, or would like to be added to an ongoing Radio specific newsletter please contact: Adventist World Radio headquarters: 301-680-6304, be sure to mark donations: “Navajo Radio Station.”
Adventures in the Mission Field (#1) By: Jackson Varga
My name is Jackson, and my family and I recently moved to Guyana, South America. We live about 10 miles from the coast in a village called, Bethany Village. I am 12 years old. My family and I came to Guyana to share Jesus with the people here. My Dad is a mission pilot and will be flying into the interior of Guyana to help people get to medical care. I hope to be able to fly with him in the future. I do homeschool in the mornings with my Mom, and in the afternoons I like to catch lizards and iguanas. I enjoy being a missionary because I like living in interesting places and seeing neat things, while we get to share Jesus with others.
While we were writing this today, our missionary friend, Valerie, yelled for me to come over with the bucket that I catch iguanas and geckos in. I grabbed the bucket and ran as fast as I could to her house. In the yard there was a four foot long iguana! She is scared of reptiles and creepy crawly things, and doesn’t want them in her yard because they eat things from her vegetable garden. I wasn’t able to catch this iguana, but I hope to help our friend by catching it in the future.
Two weeks ago, I did catch an iguana. I was picking lemons off of one of the bushes close to the place we are staying, and I thought I saw something move on the branch near me. When I took a closer look I thought it was a chameleon, but I wasn’t sure. The reptile was slowly swaying from side to side. It was about two feet long, and bright green with light brown stripes on it’s tail. I ran back to the house and grabbed my Mom’s laundry bucket (my mom washes laundry by hand down at the creek in the bucket).
When I came back to the bush the reptile was still there, but I didn’t know if it was poisonous and was unsure whether or not I should touch it. So, I put the branch it was on into the bucket, and pushed him in with the lid. As I put him in, his tail changed colors! At that time I didn't know our friend, Valerie was afraid of reptiles, so I took it over to her house (after I showed my mom), and she screamed! I was hoping she could tell me what it was, but she didn’t even want to look at it! About an hour later, I took it to show my Dad who was working at the airstrip. Then, I took it to show some other missionary friends of ours, and they told me it was an iguana.
After I found out what it was, I did pick it up by the tail, but was still afraid to hold it. Finally, I held it in my hand. My Mom was getting pictures of my Dad and I holding the iguana, and as I was holding it for the picture it jumped out of my hand. He ran as fast as he could into a bush to get away from us! I saw him two days later in the bush that he ran into, but couldn’t catch him again. This time he was too wise to let me catch him!