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.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Lessons That I Have Learned

   As I reflect upon the past few months we have spent at home, I am very happy how things have worked out. Although we did not want to leave Mexico, things have worked out for the best as we I have learned some valuable lessons which shall remain with me for some time to come. What are they?

I) It's hard to let go.
   Even though we have "simplified our lives" we somehow still managed to keep some things in storage. When it came time to make a decision, you know: "are we using it? No? then it has to go..." we are having a hard time ridding ourselves of some things. In comparison it was easy to sell the house and furniture. The remaining items are different. We know for example we can't use a couch but that portable heater we bought as newlyweds; it kept us warm on those freezing winter nights as we were living in an unheated basement apartment. Or the framed picture that was a first anniversary gift from Suzanne's folks, how can we toss them? They are much more than things, there is so much emotion, so many memories attached to them. They are a part of us, like a  fabric that is woven from a  lifetime of  shared experiences. So for now we have decided to put off the inevitable. Goodwill has to wait a few more months before we hand it all over. We are for now keeping a few select items in storage, at least until we can find good homes for them :-)

II) No fear.
   I dreaded coming back to Florida. After being in Mexico for the better part of 16 months, I had grown accustomed to the culture there; very kind,  almost everyone listens when you preach. Certainly you never get yelled or swore at in the ministry. In my mind I remembered many negative experiences here in the ministry. I imagined we would be yelled at,  at every door. True to my fears within the first weeks back we experienced several negative experiences in the field. In one particularly difficult week, three days in a row we had really bad incidents. Some of our sisters were cursed out, we had the police called on us, a man threatened a young brother and I if we didn't leave his door.  I began to grow fearful, I did not want to go out and preach. "Oh, the sky looks gray, I think I felt a drop. I'll stay home and write letters today. After all, we don't want people to think we're fanatics!" But no matter how much I tried to convince myself there was one simple truth: I was succumbing to fear of man. How could I overcome this?
   I prayed earnestly for Jehovah's help. I used WT Library to research. A scripture in 1 John 4:18 came to mind: "there is no fear in love but perfect love casts fear out." I began to reason with myself : Do I really love Jehovah? Do I believe this is his will for us today? Do I love him enough to experience some hardships in his name? Was I experiencing anything that a faithful servant of old did not face? Hadn't the prophets, even Jesus himself faced the same? If they treated God's son that way why should I not expect the same? What will I do when REAL persecution sets in, how can I be faithful then if  some harsh words are making me wither?
   I had to get tough with myself and learn to TRULY rely on Jehovah. I prayed as never before in the ministry; at every door or encounter. I stopped worrying about rejection and thought about the people and how much they needed the message. I received encouragement from experienced pioneers. As these things occurred, I slowly regained my joy. As I continue to work at overcoming my fears I deeply appreciate what a loving, patient and generous God we serve.

III) It's okay to have fun.
   This one was a bit of a surprise. I thought I was pretty balanced but soon learned otherwise. I used to be of the old school mentality, you know, you go in service all day without stopping, no matter what. Hot or cold, rain or shine. You've gotta use the restroom? Hold it until we're done!  A coffee break, what is that? If your feet aren't hurtin' then you ain't preaching hard enough!!!
   Remember those experienced pioneers I talked about? They have helped me to appreciate the power of the coffee break. It's okay to refresh yourself. Oh yeah and it's okay to tell jokes. And to laugh. And to have fun while you're in service. And to enjoy the company of one another while we are out. After all, we serve a happy God. Did I mention it's okay to take a coffee break? But do you know what else I learned from them? That man must not live on bread alone... he must have DOUGHNUTS!!!
"mmm, doughnuts..."
I tell you these friends don't know what they have started. Have you ever felt the rejuvenating power of a warm glazed doughnut? Can you say HOT NOW? I have been imagining of late what the manna  must have tasted like? It is described as being fine and flaky like hoarfrost. Yep, sounds like a hot glazed one to me!

So, I hope that these lessons remain with me for a long time. After learning about some of my weaknesses and working on them, I am eager for our next assignment. Speaking of which...

   For the better part of a year now we have found ourselves traveling back and forth to Jamaica to visit my wife's father. Some recent developments have led us to decide that due to some serious ongoing health issues he has, it would be best for us to be near him, to help care for him. So we have decided that we will be moving to Jamaica next month and to continue serving there. Although we had in mind serving in some other countries with a greater need in the field than Jamaica, how can we say we "are serving as Needgreaters" when our dad needs us but we aren't caring for him? And if we had any doubts the March 2014 study edition finished them off as the study articles talk about honoring one's parents. So although this isn't quite as exciting as crossing a river or jungle somewhere in Central America, we are confident that Jehovah will be pleased with our decision.
   Now I know some out there are thinking: "Jamaica? Woo-hoo!" But trust me, we aren't sitting on the beach sipping on a rum punch with our feet planted in powdery white sand. Nope, we'll be in the city, trying to adjust to the crazy left hand side driving and such. But we are looking forward to the experience. A new congregation of friends to get to know, a new territory to work in and who knows, maybe more lessons to learn in this journey called life.