The 5-foot-11-inch, 22-year-old who towers over the average Guyanan, said her visit to one of the most vibrant indigenous cultures, where some of the most hospitable and friendly people in the world exist, enhanced her view of people and what they truly need.
“Guyana was recommended to me by my circuit overseer,” said Owens. “I had taken one previous mission trip to South America and basically explained to him I had the circumstances to do it again — to just tell me where to go.”
Many religions are practiced in Guyana, the predominant ones being Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. Owens, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, said her objective was to share the good news of God’s kingdom with people of various faiths. Only she wanted to focus on a group of Guyanans who could hardly speak for themselves.
“Both times while I was away I was teaching deaf and hearing-impaired the Bible, most of which did not know sign language before I met them,” she said. “This meant that I had to help them with a language and then teach them the Bible.”
The country is ethnically diverse, reflecting East Indian, African, Chinese, and European ancestry, as well as a significant indigenous population. Guyana’s population is around 752,000 inhabitants who speak English, Creole, Urdu, a dialect of Hindi called Caribbean Hindustani and Amerindian.
Owens said the impact of the hospitable people she met made a lasting impression on her as they had in her previous visit to South America.
“I really missed the lifestyle there. Even though I struggled with a certain amount of culture shock on my first trip, the experiences I had while I was away stuck with me,” Owens said.
“Their view of time was something I really missed. Most individuals had far more time than they had money. So the pace of life, which at first had been a struggle, was something I wanted to go back to. I loved having time for a real conversation and using the Bible to help others.”
Although she had lived in Meigs County from age 5 to 18, Owens said her parents always encouraged her to reach out and experience other people, other cultures and to have the “pioneer spirit.” Taking steps toward missionary work in Guyana opened both her mind and heart to a world of beautiful people still hungering and thirsting for truth.
“I fell in love with the people and how warm and hospitable they were. They fed me and taught me how to cook local cuisine, how to find the best deals, gave me hugs, smiles, and words of encouragement. I felt like I had a new family,” she said.
A campaign to invite people to attend the memorial of The Lord’s evening meal in Guyana was under way and the venturesome pioneer said she enjoyed participating in the door-to-door campaign with the local congregation.
“The only campaign I was involved in was the memorial,” said Owens, who is accustomed to using tracts and other literature in her preaching work back home. “Typically, we don’t use tracts (in Guyana). We place DVDs in their own language.”
What Owens witnessed in her weeks of living among the poor but polite people of Guyana — who are mostly self-employed in agriculture or work as agricultural laborers — was an amazing sense of gratitude that transcended their living conditions.
“People seemed to appreciate you stopping to say, ‘hi,’ or give of your time, a notebook for their Bible study, even the fact that you chose to come to the country at all. I’ve tried to cultivate a more appreciative attitude for things done for me,” she said.
“For Guyanese, the people in their life are of far more value than possessions. They treat others with sincerity. It reminded me that we should never be too busy for a friend.”
Although she stayed busy in her ministry while meeting new people, Owens expressed the most difficult part about visiting the third-smallest independent state of South America.
“Wash day! It was a lot of work to wash,” she admits. “And it would leave my clothes stretched and faded. Mostly they didn’t smell good either, due to the humidity. It was a lot of work compared to my washer and dryer back home.”
Still, the unencumbered Owens said being single, ready, willing and able to go where the need is greater has enhanced her life and appreciation for her God, Jehovah, and the work Jesus did when on the earth.
“Right now I’m living on my own for the first time. I am learning to take care of myself which is a different challenge completely,” she admits. “As far as goals are concerned, I am pursuing a career in writing. It has been a dream of mine for some time. I feel now is the time to go for it. Hopefully writing can support me to go on another mission trip again — Jehovah willing.”