ACTS 16:9,10: And during the night a vision appeared to Paul: a certain Mac‧e‧do′ni‧an man was standing and entreating him and saying: “Step over into Mac‧e‧do′ni‧a and help us.” Now as soon as he had seen the vision, we sought to go forth into Mac‧e‧do′ni‧a, drawing the conclusion that God had summoned us to declare the good news to them.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Our Nicaragua Trip

   We've been back from Nicaragua for a couple of weeks now and after reflecting on our trip and my "meltdown" mentioned in the previous post I now ask myself: "what was all the fuss about?" In the end I must say it was an enjoyable trip.
   We spent the majority of our time on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, as unique a place as I have ever visited. The coast differs greatly from the the majority of Nicaragua. While the Pacific side Nicaragua is Puro Espanol,  the coast is like a spicy gumbo; a lively blend of Creole and Indigenous cultures with a flourish of Spanish sprinkled in. English is the dominant language here but almost everyone we spoke to was multilingual. Reggae music and Bob Marley images coexist side by side with 1980's Country & Western music. Caribbean influenced foods like Rundown and Patties share the table alongside rice and beans and plantanos.. Surrounded by water we enjoyed beautiful views of sunsets and tranquil(relatively) evenings and star filled nights sitting by the pier of our hotel.
   Our main reason for going there however was the preaching work. The congregation in Pearl Lagoon has about 12 or so publishers and a large area of territory, some of which has not been preached to in years. We were privileged to share in the work and enjoy several nice experiences while there. On more than one occasion we had people come up to us and ask us for literature while we were in the field. Our most exciting day was visiting Kakabila, an indigenous (Miskito) village about an hour away by boat from Pearl Lagoon.
   The people of Kakibila live in modest homes with wells and outdoor wood stoves. Many are fishermen and cows and horses roam about freely. As we made our way from house to house through the village everyone stopped whatever they were doing when we reached their house, invited us in and listened to what we had to say.

   One woman named Adelia was busy working in the kitchen when we called. She invited us in to the outdoor kitchen that all the homes have. It is a small wooden room outside the home. There is a place to keep a fire going (they use wood to cook there) and a small sink area. Usually a work table or small chair is here as well. When we visited her she listened intently as I shared with her the tract on suffering and read Rev. 21:3, 4 from the Bible. As you can see above her bird was also curious as to what we had to offer!
   We also visited a young couple named Mariano and Maribel. We shared the December magazines "Do we still need God?" with them. I guess the sight of foreigners was a novelty to Maribel because she kept smiling at Suzanne and I the whole time we were there. As we left Suzanne noted Mariano's demeanor and said he had a sad look about his face. We returned to the house and talked some more with them. He listened intently as if what he was hearing was very important to him. We showed them the Good News brochure and reviewed lesson number five, summarizing the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve and how Jehovah's purpose for the earth has not changed. Although Mariano seemed to have much on his mind, he thanked us for coming telling them these things and that he did not know them. As we left the two of them sat on their porch reading the literature we left with them.
   It occurred to me that these people although they live simple, humble lives listen to the Kingdom message. We hope that in the coming weeks the friends in PL will be able to visit them and cultivate the seeds of truth that were sown.                                                  

"all stop Kakabila"

they're "out" of the "house"

Dani living out her "Needgreater Dream"

"Bacon and Eggs"

a "kitchen"

they've got satellite??!!!

we preached until the cows came home...

...but in the end we were happy!


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Confessions Of A Middle Aged Drama Queen

    I surprised myself. I didn't know that I had it in me. I never knew that I could be so fickle. We had planned this trip for quite a few weeks and finally it is here. As I write we are now in Nicaragua; Pearl Lagoon to be exact. We are checking things out, "sp**ing out the land" (want to avoid any issues with the NSA so I don't use the S word :-). The trip started out smoothly but then things went awry and out it came, the DQ in me.
   Our flight to Nica could not have been better. We arrived in Managua this Tuesday morning, even landed earlier than expected. We got our luggage and one of the bags was ripped up when we got it from the carousel. Hey, no worries it's just a bag, it can be replaced. We arrived at the hotel early but no worries they checked us right in. The first sign all would not go well was when we tried to book tickets for our flight to Bluefields the next morning we were told that it was sold out, we had to book on the 2p.m. plane. Slight problem because that meant we would miss the afternoon panga(boat) to Pearl Lagoon, meaning we'd arrive there a day later than planned. No worries still, a quick call to Br. Donovan in Bluefields and he found us a comfortable room in a hotel and we'd leave for PL on Thursday morning.
   Then came the meltdown moments. Arriving in Bluefields my first instinct was to chase the plane down the runway and get back on it. I did not like what I saw. There were crowds of people just standing around as if they had no where to go. There were lots of casinos and bars around; It felt like a scene out of an Indiana Jones movie and at any moment a bar fight would break out and we'd be caught in the crossfire.
   Reaching PL did not ease the pain. When Br. Hendershot met us at the docks he said " welcome to the ends of the earth!" as we got off the panga. He was kidding of course, but in a short while I would begin to wonder if he really meant it. As we walked to the hotel I noticed how hot and humid it was. There were again what seemed like thousands of people just hanging out on the streets, drinking beer and talking loudly. "What kind of place is this?" I thought to myself. When we reached the hotel we would be staying in I was a bit bummed out, it sure looked better on TripAdvisor than it does in person. To make matters worse the power was out, as it regularly is here, so there was no a/c in the room. As we tried to rest up a bit from our journey we were sweltering. I had to step outside to get a little breeze and cool down. It will get better I told myself. 
   So we started out in the field this morning and we walked. And we walked. And we walked. And just when I thought I couldn't take it any longer we walked some more. Yes this is a walking territory; I don't think I have ever walked so much in my life! To make matters worse there is a small village of Miskito speaking people that we went to in the afternoon. To reach it there is about a thirty minute walk down a road that is partially submerged in water, about ankle deep. So off come the socks and through the slightly murky water we go; drain out the shoes when we reach the other side and keep on walking. By the time we ended the day in service my feet were blistered, my ego bruised, and I was seriously doubting if I was at all cut out for this Needgreatering thing.
   But then it happened. Our brotherhood is such a wonderful thing. I began to feel the support of the  brothers who are serving here. We stopped by a home of one of the sisters in the congregation. She invited us in, we sat down, had a cup of coffee and she began to share her experiences with us. Later we went to have dinner with the Hendershots and after a nice meal and upbuilding conversation, I began to feel differently. I had my meltdown but I began to feel ashamed. I am not the only one who is out of their comfort zone. There are other Needgreaters here with us. Each of them has left something behind as well, surely they have their moments and make it through, so can I. 
   I also reflected on my day. We preached all day and not once was I turned away, told " I'm busy or I'm not interested". I actually had a few good conversations and at least two return visits to follow up on before I go. As I thought about the encouragement we received, the ministry we enjoyed, and the reasons we are here, I had a change of disposition. I had to put away the DQ and just enjoy the ride. Yep, it's gonna have some bumps in the road but with Jehovah's help I can deal with them. So over the next week and a half I'm gonna work on my attitude. From here on out it's all going to be copacetic! Now if I can learn to just go with the flow...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Finishing Up With A Flurry

Over the past few months it had seemed as though things just dried up so to speak in the ministry. In house to house we found a number of English speakers who flatly said they were not interested or not religious at all; highly unusual for Mexico. Some of our Bible studies moved to other places, some just stopped studying for one reason or another. We have had trouble locating many of our return visits, work or other pursuits suddenly became available and there was little time left to study the Bible. Still though, we have had a few good experiences recently in the ministry, such as the following:

While working in house to house Tonya and I met Vianney, a woman who only spoke Spanish. She was on her way to work and told us she had lived in Phoenix for a few years. She used to study and attend meetings  there but had done neither since she returned to Guasave. She also had a twelve year old daughter who spoke English. She expressed some interest and said she would like for her daughter to study as well. We were able to arrange for a Spanish speaking sister to follow up with her.


Earlier in the year back in March or April Suzanne and I were doing census work and we came across a woman who told us her husband spoke English but was working abroad in the U.S. She had expected him to be home some time later in the year. So last month we were working returns near there and remembered the woman we spoke to. We went back to the house and she warmly invited us in. She told us her husband was still in the states and would be home she hoped by the end of the year. She stopped doing her housework so we shared a brief thought with her from the Bible and left with her the only Spanish tract that we had. She excitedly told us that her husband had co-workers who were Witnesses in the U.S. He has been reading the magazines and sharing with her what he was learning. We asked her if she would like to learn more as her husband was and she agreed. We got one of the Spanish speaking sisters from the car group and a study was started with her on the spot. We later mused among ourselves what a coincidence that both husband and wife were now studying and hoped they would be able to continue to do so as a family when the husband returns home.


On a Saturday morning late in September Suzanne, Dani and I were working together and passed a house with a sign offering English lessons. There we met Luis an English teacher who had lived in Las Vegas for ten years. He told us he was suffering a number of health issues and his mother was sick as well. We were able to share with him the magazine on the topic of "Why So Much Suffering?" and also read to him Psalms 46:1. We reasoned with him that one way Jehovah helps us is with the meetings. We associate with others who love Jehovah and face their own struggles. As we do we encourage one another and are helped through our own difficulties.
Later on that day Lizeth, one of the pioneers in our congregation, was attending her English class in school. She said the topic of religion somehow came up. She told us the teacher began to speak highly of Jehovah's Witnesses and encouraged the students to "listen to them when they come by your house because they only want to help you and just talk about the Bible." Who was the teacher? Yep, it was Luis whom we had spoke to that morning.
Sitting in the class and listening to all of this was a student named Leo. He has family who are Witnesses and used to attend meetings with his mother. He attended the Sunday and Thursday meetings that week, and has been a regular attender since; even commenting during the WT study. We were able to have a several nice conversations with him after the meetings and he said he looks forward to calling his mom and telling her he is attending meetings again.


So you may wonder what's with the title of this post? Well as I mentioned back in one of my August posts there were some changes underway in the English field in Mexico. One of these changes was the dissolution of the English congregation in Guasave. So for now we are back in Florida, considering our next step from here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Say Hello To:

I thought it would be a nice idea to  interview some of the friends who are serving here in Guasave, to hear their expressions first hand. Each of us whether we are foreigners or locals have a different story of how we came to serve in Guasave. What motivates us to leave behind home and family and come to this small city on the Pacific coast of Mexico and serve? What preparations did we make to come here? How has the experience been for us? So, to answer these and other questions this edition of "Say Hello To:" proudly presents.... 

Barbara Alaluf  is a regular pioneer from Mexico City who now serves with us in the Guasave English Congregation.

How long have you had a goal to serve where the need is greater and why did you make this a goal?
I have had this as a goal for about 10 years now when the English field in Mexico started to develop. I was serving as a pioneer for 3 years and wanted to experience work in another part of the country. I wanted to do more with my life, more than I could while serving in my local congregation. Some mature friends in the congregation who had served where the need was great encouraged me as well, they told me of the blessings they enjoyed. I saw their joy and  I wanted to experience that.

How did you choose Guasave?
I wanted to serve in the English field specifically. When I wrote the branch asking about congregations in Central America and Mexico and they assigned me to Guasave.

How do you support yourself financially while here?
I have a job working online evaluating websites and search engines. While I have done this for the past year I have learned to be able to do whatever to support myself. In the past I have sold clothes, sold desserts door to door, and taught English. I view whatever job I have as a provision from Jehovah to help support my ministry. At times my family has also assisted me.
I made the move to Guasave without having a job here. I lived on savings for two months as I planned to find a job when I arrived here. "I was trusting in Jehovah, very sure I would have a job." Some may view that as risky- to quit a job to come here to serve- but I was confident that with Jehovah's help I would get a job.

What are some positive things you have experienced/learned while here?
I have learned how to trust in Jehovah more: "I've seen his blessings many, many times." At times I have had anxieties over wants, but I have always had what I needed. As a single sister I feel very useful. It's the best gift I can give to Jehovah- using my singleness to further the good news.

What are some challenges you have overcome?
Dealing with my own anxieties and worries, reminding myself that Jehovah cares for me. Loneliness is a challenge. I am away from my family; this is my country but not my hometown.
At times criticism from brothers and sisters who may have good intentions but their comments have been less than encouraging. "Why don't you stay home with your family?" or " It's dangerous..." You expect more from the friends so that can be a danger and discouragement.

What have you learned about yourself?
I have learned to trust in Jehovah, he knows your potential. I may think I can't make it but if he gives you an assignment he it's because he knows you can do it. I am more aware now of what I am capable of. I have also learned to be brave, sensitive, tolerant and modest.

What encouragement can you give to someone who is thinking about serving where the need is greater?
"Just do it, don't think too much." You don't have to worry much, don't question yourself; if you do you will end up not going. Jehovah will take care of you, always trust him.
One of the great joys is getting to see your Bible students make progress. This is a most rewarding experience, you will help many people.
I want to do this as long as I can. My circumstances may change but as long as I am able to I want to do this.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Always Listen To Tyler

"Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty." - Proverbs 22:3

The Guasave River

   Rainy season is upon us and it is taking it's toll on the roads here in Guasave. Almost every day it is raining heavily. The roads are flooding and when they dry out massive craters are left behind, only to fill up with water during the next rainfall. Check out the view from our front door after a recent rainfall. I thought I saw the Harvard Rowing Team taking practice out there! 
   This week during service I have been trying to find a woman we called on earlier in the year during the Memorial campaign. After a nice conversation she accepted an invitation. Unfortunately we have not seen her since but lately she has been on my mind and I've been unsuccessfully trying to find her at home. So today while doing RVS I mentioned I have a call to try and we should go. Her home is located in a far corner of our territory but no problem; I know a shortcut! "This road looks like Tyler getting out and pushing" said Tyler, one of our pioneers. "Don't worry, I've been down here before" I replied just before I felt the rear tires spinning and the back of the car sliding away. I was in deep, a good 4 or 5 inches of mud and sinking. Exiting the car Tyler and I began looking for branches, rocks, anything that we could put under the tires for some traction. We pushed from the front as Suzanne manned the wheel but it was no use the car barely budged; we were dead in the water. 
   Salvation came in the form of a couple of guys who were working on a house down the road. They were watching us for a little while trying to make our way out and I guess they took pity on the Americanos. A most beautiful sight is was, a navy blue Ford F-150 4X4, backing down the road. After hitching up, they began to pull our car out slowly. Tyler and I pushed from the front and walked through the muck that had entrapped the car. Finally we were free! We thanked our heroes and as we futilely tried to clean off our shoes and pants we explained to them what were doing and where we were headed. "There is another road that is better than this on the other side of the canal" one of them said. " Yeah, I know but this is my shortcut to Colonia St. Maria" I replied. "Oh, no you won't make it. The road gets worse as you go farther in that direction" he told me. Great! Some shortcut!
   So after finally getting ourselves de-mudded, we climbed back in, gingerly made a u-turn and took the long way around to the RV in Colonia St. Maria. Of course she wasn't home. Oh well, I finally did get to have a "yearbook experience" in the ministry. And I learned a lesson: always listen to Tyler. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Around the World in 50 Days

  We returned to Guasave in mid-July after having left here near the end of May. We were enjoying our ministry and hated leaving behind our Bible Studies and return visits. Traveling however was a necessity however as our six month visas were about to expire. We also had another important matter to attend to:  Baby Girl Has Graduated From High School!   There were moments of doubt (see pre-calculus class) but in the end you did it, congratulations Danielle!!!

            the happy graduate with her proud mom and pop

   Our travels took us through Texas where our first stop was in the Dallas area. We got to meet the family and friends of Tonya, a pioneer and fellow Needgreater serving with us here in Guasave. We were welcomed and made to feel like family while there. We visited her congregation and chowed down on some homemade Texas 'que, had lots of deep fried foods (we loved the catfish! and the chicken fried steak! and the fried chicken! We loved all of it!!!) and plenty of sweet tea to wash it down!
   We then headed to Florida where we went to the graduation and then hopped on a plane for a very special trip. We wanted to celebrate Dani's graduation but also keep a spiritual focus while we were away so we took a trip in what I call the "footsteps of the Apostle Paul". We took a cruise that started in Rome and visited Athens, Turkey(Ephesus) and Crete- all locations mentioned in the Bible book of Acts.
   Rome was quite a city to behold! Seeing so many old buildings and streets was amazing! We of course did some sightseeing; visiting the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain. We of course ate great Italian food (Pizza! Panini! Osso Buco-can you tell I am a foodie?) But for me the best part of being in Rome was getting to meet our brothers and sisters.
   Okay now, stay with me on this one. We had two days in Rome before our ship sailed. We were going to be on the ship for a week and did not want to go so long a time without our spiritual food. So we looked up on meetings in English in Rome. Unfortunately the only English meetings were held on Sunday mornings, when we needed to be on the ship. So...we visited a Spanish congregation on Saturday evening. Imagine the picture: the three of us-in Italy- walking into a Spanish meeting ( it's so weird hearing Spanish spoken by the Italian friends. I understand the words it just sounds a bit off) We arrived a little late so there was no sneaking in-we stood out like the tourists we were. But once we felt the love of the brothers we knew we were home. After the meeting one of the sisters asked us what we were doing in Rome. We told her we were leaving on a cruise in the morning and she asked: "oh really, which one?" "The Navigator of the Seas" we replied. "We are going on that ship too!" So it turns out that there was a group of 12 brothers and sisters going on the ship and we were able to join them for meals and some sightseeing. It was quite funny when we asked the waiter to change our table to sit with the brothers. "You want to sit with them? But they all speak Italian" he said. "Yes, they are our friends" we said as we were all smiling and waving to one another, saying "Hola!, Buonasera!" The waiter looked at us all incredulously. Just think had we not gone to the meeting we may have traveled alone and missed the chance to meet our brothers and sisters.                                                                                                       
visiting with the Roma Spagnola Labaro Congregation
   It was very enjoyable spending time with the Italian friends, especially when we were in Sicily. They were so lively and fun to be with! Plus they spoke the language and we didn't worry about getting ripped off while we were with them! So we toured, ate Gelato and Rice Balls and enjoyed the beautiful Mediterranean weather. Our trip really kicked into gear the next two days as we reached Athens, Greece and my favorite stop on the trip Kusadasi, Turkey and the ancient city of Ephesus.
   As a family we have decided that whenever we travel, if there is a Bethel branch in the country and it is at all possible for us to do so, we will pay them a visit. To me Bethel is such a special place, it is Jehovah's house. When there I am reminded of the privilege I enjoy of serving Jehovah. So when we were in Athens we visited the Athens Bethel branch. This was quite an exciting day for us as we rode the trains and buses to get there. What a welcome sight when we arrived at the gates and saw:
  Once inside we took a tour and learned a bit about the history of the work in Greece. In years past our brothers and sisters there faced imprisonment for their neutrality as well experienced restrictions on the work, not being able to meet freely and preach. There is a nice section showing photos from those days, friends gathering in the woods for assemblies disguised as picnics or wedding ceremonies-complete with a "bride and groom"! Thankfully those days are in the past and our friends now worship openly and receive a steady supply of spiritual food. Much of the work done by the 80 member Bethel family involves translating the literature into Greek. On the site there is also a recording studio used to record Kingdom songs, sung in Greek of course! After touring Bethel in the morning we spent the afternoon viewing some historical sights in Athens including the Parthenon and the Agora or marketplace mentioned in Acts 17:17 before heading back to the ship.
  Next stop-Turkey and the ancient city of Ephesus. Being there made the Bible account (Acts 19) come to life as there were so many ancient buildings and ruins. Walking through the old streets I could just imagine the silversmiths rioting, throwing the city into confusion. As we passed by the theater I could almost hear the thunderous roar of the crowd, whipped into a frenzy by Demetrius: "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" The stone walkways, the marble columns; yeah, Ephesus was quite the scene back in the day. Now whenever we read the book of Acts  these images will come to mind.
   Alas our cruise had to end at some point. After a stop in Crete we returned to Rome and bade our new friends goodbye. We stopped off in Jamaica to visit Suzanne's Dad for a bit and then made our way back to Florida to see my folks. After return  flight to Dallas, we attended the convention there (Great Program!!!), and picked up Tonya for the drive back to Guasave together. 
   All told in the month of June we traveled over 16,000 miles (wow), got to visit with family and friends old and new. We return energized and ready to get back to work in the field here in Guasave.

***some photos from our trip***

The Colosseum construction was funded by spoils from the  Judean War 66-70 C.E.

The Arch of Titus, commemorates the victory in the  Judean War

Trevi  Fountain

with our brothers and sisters on the ship

site of the Temple of Artemis, all that remains is the one column

Theater of Ephesus (Acts 19:29)
The Library at Ephesus

"It's all Greek to me!"

for bonus points: can you guess what it is?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Say Hello to:

   I thought it would be a nice idea to  interview some of the friends who are serving here in Guasave, to hear their expressions first hand. Each of us whether we are foreigners or locals have a different story of how we came to serve in Guasave. What motivates us to leave behind home and family and come to this small city on the Pacific coast of Mexico and serve? What preparations did we make to come here? How has the experience been for us? So, to answer these and other questions the premiere edition "Say Hello To: " presents....                                                                                           

Aaron Lee is a 25 year old publisher, serving as a  Ministerial Servant in the Streatham Congregation, in London, England. Aaron served with the Guasave English Congregation 3 months from May-July 2013.

What has motivated you to serve as a Needgreater?
Reading the experiences in the yearbook, especially about Papua New Guinea did. Additionally the series of articles "They Offered Themselves Willingly" appearing in The Watchtower was an encouragement.

Why Mexico and how did you choose the city of  Guasave?
I was influenced by a pioneer sister in my congregation who had served in Guadalajara, Mexico in the past. She had very positive comments about serving in Mexico. After writing the Mexico Branch and inquiring about places that needed assistance, I had a selection of Nicaragua, Guasave and one other location in Mexico. I chose Guasave after prayerful consideration and communicating with the COBE here in Guasave. 

How have did you manage to get the time/money to spend three months in Mexico?
At work my foreman is a Witness. When I mentioned to him my desire to serve, he approached the company director without my knowledge and got an o.k for me to go. He "paved the road" so that when I asked for time off it was granted. They agreed to hold the job for me until I return. Just a few weeks before leaving, the boss emailed me to ask "when are you coming back?"

I paid off my credit cards before coming. I have kept my life simple and saved money. Some in the congregation gave me gifts when I left;  my boss did as well;  that was a surprise. My family also has offered to help me.

What are some positive things from your time here?
How nice it is to spend time in the ministry every day! People listen to you-there is no rejection. I have enjoyed spending more time with the brothers and sisters here. At home it's pure work; here I have more time for the friends.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Being sick (Montezuma) was not easy but I got past it. I would not let that deter me from coming back again though.

Have you learned anything about yourself from the experience?
"When you trust in Jehovah, he takes care of you." There were many potential anxieties but none are really necessary when you trust Jehovah. 

Would you try serving where the need is great again?
Yes! I'm going to!

What encouragement would you offer to others thinking about Needgreatering?
"Pray, plan, and go."

Friday, August 9, 2013

"When Life Hands You Lemons... make lemonade." Boy oh boy, could I ever use an ice cold lemonade right about now! The hot season is here and temperatures in Guasave are routinely around and above 100F  lately. The extreme weather is taking a toll on our ministry as it's very difficult to stay out for more than 40-45 minutes before you are totally drained. We have adjusted our schedule to preach more in the evenings as it's a bit cooler. Yesterday evening for example we were out and at 7:00 pm the temp was still 94F ! The high temperatures however aren't the only worries we have now though.
   On our recent circuit assembly program, we had a needs of the circuit part which placed much emphasis on preaching to people in their native tongues. Under direction from the faithful slave, this means that for example a native Spanish speaker should be witnessed to in Spanish even if they speak another language. This adjustment will greatly affect the English field in Guasave. Why do I say that?
  Well to be honest many of our Bible studies and calls probably should be Spanish studies. Previously we would study with almost anybody. If they had a pulse and could speak a few words of English ( "hello, yes, no" ) we would study with them. The new emphasis however severely limits whom we can study with. In Guasave, there really is not a population of expats so the only ones left are Mexicans who may have been schooled in or lived in the U.S. and prefer to learn in English. How many people are like that in Guasave? We don't know so it places special emphasis on our census work we are now doing.
   Some congregations nearby have been dissolved, some have been changed into English groups. Change is never easy but we see the wisdom in Jehovah's ways. We often are told that a person may understand a foreign language but to reach their hearts what could be better than your native tongue? Also in the English congregations here in Mexico, there are a number of faithful Mexican brothers and sisters supporting the work. Not all of them are fluent in English. Surely it would be a blessing for some of these to return to meetings and be able to worship in their native tongue would it not? In this way they can fully understand all that is being taught and this will no doubt strengthen the congregations.
   Change is never easy. What will become of us here? How will our congregation and territory be affected? We don't know; but until we receive further instructions we will try not to be anxious but keep ourselves busy with the preaching work. By doing so we hope to keep pace with Jehovah's chariot as it moves ahead. And we'll enjoy the lemonade as well.
   In other fruit related news mango season is in full swing and everywhere we go mangoes are cheap and plentiful. Even the thousands of stray dogs we have here in Guasave are enjoying it as they get to feast on all the fruits that have fallen to the ground.
harvesting mangoes from the tree in our yard
 Indeed in some areas the smell of fermenting mango is high in the air. Oh well, when life hands you mangoes; you make mango sherbet!

Mango Sherbet

1 cup simple syrup
2-1/2 cups mango puree(3-4 large mangoes)
1 cup milk or cream(use cream for a rich sherbet)
pinch of salt
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons of alcohol (vodka, rum or Tequila!)
*the alcohol is not necessary but will help the sherbet keep a softer consistency

make simple syrup by combining one cup of water with one cup of sugar in a saucepan. heat until sugar is dissolved and then cool. use one cup of this mixture in the recipe.
stir all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. taste and adjust for sugar( depends on how sweet mangoes are)
add mix to ice cream maker and freeze according to directions.

to make without an ice cream maker: place mix in a metal bowl in freezer. stir every 20 minutes or so to help maintain a smooth product. freeze until firm (about 3-4 hours)


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Our Visit to Mexico Bethel

   We recently were able to pay a visit to the Bethel branch in Mexico and had an awesome time there! We made new friends along the way and as always we left Bethel amazed at the work being done there and feeling quite privileged to be a part of Jehovah's organization.
   My favorite part of the visit was the museum at Bethel. It covers the history of the work in Mexico and has many displays and photos. We learned that up until 1989 there were some restrictions on our brothers and sisters here. While they were able to work and preach, there was no legal recognition of Jehovah's Witnesses as an organization so they operated as a civic and educational society. Among other things this meant that the Bible could not be used in the ministry, nor could songs and prayers be offered at the meetings. When I asked a sister how she felt after the restrictions were lifted she was almost speechless. Her eyes widened and watered up a bit as she recalled what a joy it was to sing in the Kingdom Hall. I can only imagine the joy of the friends to experience a complete freedom to worship.
   We also got to do a little site seeing, visiting Mexico City and the archaeological site at Teotihuacan. I probably won't be going to Egypt anytime soon so seeing the pyramids there was the next best thing. If you ever get the chance to come to Mexico definitely go see them.
   Lastly, but not least, we got to meet an incredible family while we were there as well. We were hosted by the Ramirez and Gonzalez families who are lifelong friends of a pioneer sister in our congregation. The family has a long history in the truth, as Brother Ramirez' great-great grandfather was first contacted in 1938. At present there are over 200 members of the family in the truth and 28 of them serve in some form of full time service. These warm and hospitable friends made us feel like part of the family and we will cherish the memories of the time spent with them. 
   Below are some pictures from our trip:

some of the indigenous languages here in Mexico

The Palacio De Belles Artes, it was in last year's calendar ( I think?)

we walked up and up and up...

" You mean they didn't have wifi back then? "

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Fruits of Our Labors

One nice thing about being here in Mexico is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that are available to us. We recently moved into a rented house and in the backyard there are guava and mango trees. The mango have a ways to go before ripening but we took advantage of the guava making a pineapple-guava-lime refresco...

Apparently, the birds love guava too!

the ingredients....


add water and blend...

strain, sweeten to taste...


Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Night Shift

"You have fooled me, O Jehovah, so that I was fooled. You used your strength against me, so that you prevailed"- Jeremiah 20:7

Well it was bound to happen. You see, I believe that at times we make a statement to ourselves and although no one else hears it, Jehovah does and he deals with us accordingly. He must say something like: " Oh really? Well now, let me just straighten this here out..."
 My issue goes back a few months in our Congregation Bible Study. On page 39 of the Jeremiah book there is a picture of a couple witnessing in a gas station. The picture appears to be either very early in the morning or in the night sometime. I remember at the time studying it and thinking to myself "what a fine example, they are truly extending themselves in the ministry" or something of the sort. Well, Jehovah was listening to my thoughts. He must have known that I really did not mean that; that my true thoughts were " that's way too late to be out in service!". He has seen to it that I have had an epiphany of sorts, yes I have come around and changed my point of view...Welcome to the night shift.
It started off slowly at first just one call. Suzanne met a woman with a teenage son who wanted to study from the Questions Young People Ask book. The problem was he was only free to study on Mondays, our day off. "No problem, he's only 14, I'll get him to change the day" I thought to myself. No can do, you see the young fella truly has a full schedule and Monday was the only day he could study. In fact when I showed up on Wednesday his mom says "you have to come on Mondays when he is here!". After whining about it for a while I snapped out of it and guess what? It has turned not only into a regular study but since I am already out, we keep working doing NH and RV and are finding many people at home. Monday evening witnessing has actually been enjoyable :-) But wait it gets better...
Suzanne too had a study late-Friday evenings at 6:00. Though she tried to make it earlier 4:30, 5:00 the woman was just not home until after 6:00. What was the solution? More studies of course! After staying out later in the evening and working NH, Tonya found another woman who wanted to study at 7 p.m. on Friday evenings. I see a pattern developing here...
Lately we feel as though we have been working the night shift! We have two nights a week- Wednesday and Friday that we are out into the night; our record right now is 9:40 p.m. It is kind of humorous when we meet for service the next day and we ask "what time did you finish? 7:00? Slackers! We were out until 9:00!"
Although we would love for all our studies to be between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. we realize that we have to make ourselves available when the people are home. Any inconvenience we may have felt has vanished; it is worth it as our studies are getting a chance to come to know Jehovah. We have several late evening Bible Studies and we know Jehovah is pleased that we are holding nothing back as we try to accomplish the work he has given us to do.
Now, if you will, please excuse me. I've gotta get some sleep ;-)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Always Ready To Make A Defense

"Even when we're not in service, we're still in service" - Danielle

   This evening we had an interesting experience at the bus station while trying to buy tickets. We had just finished up evening witnessing and went to purchase tickets for our upcoming trip to Mexico City and Bethel.  Even though we practiced ahead of time when it came our turn to go to the window, I just goofed, I couldn't figure out the schedule, and wasn't clearly understanding the woman as her speech was garbled by the microphone.
   A kind gentleman who had been watching came over and spoke to us in English and offered to translate for us. "Yes, thank you" I replied and told him we just needed to find out the schedule for departures. After getting this info I proceeded with the purchase but the man and now two other people are around us at the window, awed by the sight of English speakers trying to buy bus tickets began plying us with questions. "Where are you from? Why are you here? Are you on vacation?..." the usual questions we get. Suzanne and Danielle answered as I completed our transaction.
   One of the persons in the group was a young man who appeared to be about 20 or so years old. When he found out we were Witnesses he said that he had spoken to Witnesses some time ago and they left literature with him. He then asked in amazement after finding out we were living in Guasave: "So you moved here just for your ministry?" I must admit it felt really good to answer that question yes!
   So after finishing our purchase, Dani returned to the car to get some literature, I mean we have a captive audience they're waiting for their buses! We approach the first man who helped us and when he saw the brochure he said "Oh, you're Witnesses!". It turns out that he is having a bible study conducted with him and he was on his way back home to Phoenix. We then spoke with the young man after he bought his ticket and he too listened and accepted a Good News brochure. He also asked about meeting locations in Los Mochis, the town where he attends school and we directed him to the website.
   Interesting turn of events for us. We weren't expecting an opportunity to preach to anyone but found ourselves surrounded by a small crowd at one point all curious about us. It was a joy to hear my wife give glory to Jehovah and to identify ourselves as his Witnesses and tell about our work.  I learned two things this evening: 1) I've really gotta work on my Spanish, it's a little rusty. 2) Always be ready because you never know when you will have a chance to give a witness. The folks we talked to today probably didn't wake up thinking "when I go to the bus station I hope there are some Jehovah's Witnesses there to talk to me." But then again if they did we are just happy to have had the chance to encourage them to learn more about Jehovah God.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

You Know You're A Need-Greater When...

Our family's mid-day routine is that after lunch we clean the kitchen together before enjoying a brief siesta. This afternoon while packing away the leftovers Danielle grabbed a piece of foil off the counter and exclaimed: "this isn't too bad we can reuse this right?" Suzanne and I began ribbing her about how she was really a need-greater now.
So in Danielle's honor our list of top ten ways you know you're a need-greater...

You know you're a need-greater when:

10) You recycle foil/teabags/some other article for reuse. "These still can be used..."

9)   You view any purchase you are considering not in dollars but in months.  "I can buy this or stay in my assignment for one more month."

8)   You carry a little plastic bag in your field service bag "just in case we go to a house with a mango/orange/guava tree"

7)  You manage to travel all over the world while not having a job or any visible source of income.

6)  You buy shoes/clothes based on comfort, not style.   "These will work great in service!"

5)  You consider being without water or electricity for hours "part of the ambiance".

4)  You no longer need an alarm clock as the rooster or tortilla/fruit/vegetable/sound car wakes you out of sleep every morning.

3)  You no longer use a calendar, you tell the day of the week by your bible studies.   "I studied with Alejandro, so it must be Tuesday"

2)  You look forward to your bucket bath at the end of the day.

1)  When you're home visiting family you keep thinking of how much you miss your assignment.  " I can't wait to get back home!"

Just a few of our thoughts. Can you add to the list?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bringing In The Sheep?

   Six months in Mexico has accustomed me to seeing many odd things but never before in my life had I seen something like this. We are used to seeing dogs roam the streets in Guasave, it seems as though there are a million of them around the city. But as we were on our way to conduct a bible study this evening we saw this fellow walking on the sidewalk and chewing up the flowers and grass in someone's yard:

   It was very odd because we were in the middle of a fraccionamiento not in some rural area. It was also odd because of what followed a short time later.
   As we got out of our car to head for the study's house, there were a bunch of kids riding their bikes and playing. As I have mentioned several times on the blog, we are something of a curiosity to many people here. So as we walk by we greet the kids "hola" and one or two say back to us "hello" and "happy to see you". We head for the house and now there is a group of them following us. Unfortunately the study was not home so we continued down the street to do a few not at homes we have on the block. Of course the group of kids continue to follow us.
   "Como se llama?" I ask the one who seems to be the boldest as he is walking very close behind us. "Jonatan" is his reply. "Ah, mi tocayo" I say to him. He asks what we are doing and I explain to him in Spanish that we are looking for English speakers. "Conoce alguien que habla ingles?"  I ask him. "Si" he replies, " un maestro en la proxima cuadra". I ask if he can show me the house and he agrees so off we go, Suzanne, Danielle, the two Jonathans and a now growing crowd of kids on their bikes. All headed for the teachers house who (we hope) speaks English.

some of the kids-Jonatan is second from the left

   When we arrive on the teacher's street we see a minivan headed for us. All the kids begin to shout out that the minivan is the teacher's car and his house is at the end of the block. They flag him down and introduce him to us. He tells us he is headed to another house in the community but we can talk there. So after getting the address we head back to our car, kids in tow and all.
  We get to the house and begin a conversation with *Miguel. He brings out a few chairs and we sit in the front and explain to him what we are doing in Guasave. A nice conversation follows in which he tells us that both he and his wife speak English. He spent his high school years living in the U.S. and is quite fluent in English. He apparently has had contact with Witnesses before as he asked us about the green bible. He also mentioned that some time ago he found a copy of the Daniel book for sale and bought it, and we talked for a bit about Nebuchadnezzar's dream, the image of Daniel chapter two and the lion's den. He has an interest in the bible but said he is very busy but was on vacation from work this week so we were able to find him. We invited him to the special talk on Sunday and he mentioned that he and his wife would like to come so we have arranged to follow up with him on Friday evening. We cut the conversation short as it was getting dark and the mosquitoes were beginning to feast on us.
   As we headed for home I thought to myself the angels are busy! Here we were looking for one person and not finding them we happened to be in the right place at the right time and found someone else with an interest in the truth. As we were walking down the street and the kids kept following us I was thinking why don't they go away?  Was it perhaps angelic direction as were it not for them, maybe we don't find Miguel and have the chance to talk to him. We thought about the oddity as well, finding a sheep on the street as we drove up? A metaphor perhaps? We will just have to wait and see...

Monday, April 1, 2013

Little Miss Sunshine

   I can't stand those people. You know the type. They are ultra-positive about everything. They always see the glass as half-full, always see the good in a situation. You know, those people. They make me sick! Never, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my own daughter, my dearest Danielle would become a Pollyanna. Why do I say that? Let me explain...
   I have to go back to late last summer when we were working in the centro of Guasave. There is a little shopping plaza there and Dani contacted a man who runs a store in the plaza. He expressed some interest and going back to last summer she has been trying to reach him but without success. About a month and a half ago she began asking me to accompany her to make a return visit. I was hesitant to go, I viewed it as a waste of time because we went often and never found him. Danielle however was determined to go. You have to understand; Guasave is not a big city but this return visit  happens to be smack dab in the centro where there is no parking. We would go, drive around for ten minutes trying to find a parking space, find one 7 or 8 blocks away, walk there in 90 degree heat, climb the stairs to the second floor only to find out "no, he is not here right now" Aggghhhh! It would drive me nuts!
   So, early in the Memorial invitation campaign, Dani tells me she is going to ask Br. Montoya to accompany her(much to my joy) to call on *Alan, as I had a bible study scheduled for the same time and would not be able to accompany her. Long story short they find him and not only is she able to have a good conversation with him but she starts a study with his 15 year old daughter while she is there! I can't stand those people!
   Another experience this past Saturday, our family was in a car group with Tonya and Barbara two pioneer needgreaters in the congregation. Suffice it to say that we were all having a not good morning due to some confusion getting the group organized. Well all except one that is. When we finally got to the territory (45 minutes after the meeting for service!) we were a bit deflated and thinking " should we go do calls?" "Maybe we'll find somebody, let's just go " says Pollyanna. And of course she did! She had a great conversation with a man who is a teacher and his daughter. She was able to place magazines with the daughter and show her the website. I can't stand those people! 
   Recently our family was having a conversation about our ministry and Danielle said she has been praying and asking to have the opportunity to talk to more people and for studies. She has been aglow these past few weeks, finding interest and starting studies right and left! She is enjoying her ministry right now and is so positive about it, it is a bit infectious. My daughter, a regular Pollyanna. You know what? I could not be more proud of her!

Little Miss Sunshine

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Our First Memorial in Mexico

   So, what's your number? 70, that is how many were in attendance for the memorial this year for the Guasave English Congregation! When we take into account the visitors from the Spanish Congregation we still more than doubled the number of publishers (24) we presently have. This shows potential for the future!
   Our congregation was not the only one with strong attendance. The four Spanish language Congregations combined to meet at two separate venues and there were 503 and 330 in attendance at those places as well. When I asked how many publishers were in the congregations, I was told about 80, so again many visitors and potential for growth here in Guasave. Here are some photos from the Kingdom Hall clean up and the evening of the Memorial:

Brother Lopez has the roof covered...

...the window crew hard at work...

...the chairs were repaired...

...and light bulbs replaced.

Danielle and Daniela

an overflow crowd in the parking lot

Dani, Lizeth and Katia...

...stylin' of course!

...and so were Las Hermanas Lopez

Andrea and her dad were happy to be there too!