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, July 21, 2014

"Thanks a Lot!"

   On a recent afternoon in field service an interesting conversation took place amongst the car group. I had asked a hypothetical question, you know the kind we are always told not to ask or speculate about. But anyway… I asked what if Adam and Eve were resurrected, you know brought back to face the music, so to speak, and see their descendants. What would you say or do?
   I was shocked at the replies I got. Most had something to do with a slap or a punch or a kick. Some of you friends are working out some serious anger issues. And I won't even mention what some of my dear sisters had in store for poor Eve, I'll just call it pent up rage from a lifetime of various pains and "monthly gifts". I'm just happy that it was only hypothetical. But there is a reason that I had been thinking about this question.
   Earlier this year our family moved to Jamaica to be closer to Suzanne's dad. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease a few years ago and the time had come that he could no longer manage his own affairs. We knew of his illness before we moved to Mexico so we made it a point to leave every 4 or 5 months to come check on his health and to see if "it was time yet". That day finally arrived earlier this year in January when we visited and saw that his health was quickly declining.
   While all in the association of brothers are are struggling with one thing or another, I find this disease to be particularly crippling. It is not just that someone is a "little forgetful" or can't remember things. It is as if the brain is dying, bit by bit. It manifests itself in forgetfulness but that is by far the easiest of the symptoms to manage. 
   There are the hallucinations to deal with. My father in law worked construction all his life. Items of furniture were imagined to be equipment that needed to be moved; as a result we have many three-legged chairs in the house. And then there were the imaginary people. In his bedroom at night. On the sofa in the living room. In the chair I just sat in: "no, dad there's nobody sitting here, just me".
   A particularly difficult aspect of the disease is something known as "sundowning". Each afternoon it was as if someone fed him espresso and Red Bull and then turned him loose. He would wander the house, insist that it was not his home and demand that we take him home immediately. Many times he would become angry even borderline violent because he would think we were trying to harm him. Knives, tools, any sharp object or anything which could become a weapon was locked away for safety; his and ours. Most nights he would not sleep, but he would roam the hallway looking for who knows what. Locking our room at night has become a norm lest we wake up to him standing over us in the middle of the night. Needless to say, for his own safety we have found it a necessity to keep dad in the house; a virtual prisoner in his own home. 
   When we lived in Florida we would often see on TV a "silver alert",  a message that the police were looking for a lost senior, usually someone with memory loss. I remember I would think to myself: " how can you lose Grandma?" But now I know. A person with Alzheimer's can sound completely rational if you only talk to them for a minute or two. They can tell you they locked their keys in the car and are trying to get someplace. Can you help me? Who could say no to that sweet old man or lady? Most friends in the congregation did not even know that dad was sick as he was by nature a quiet man. He would come into the hall, sit in his seat and wait for the meeting to start. Some would come by and say hello, he would reply:" hi brother", or "hi sis". They would ask how he was and he'd say okay; they'd move on and all would seem well. But it was not. Deep inside his brain is slowly dying.
   I have read that Alzheimer's usually does not kill the patient. They die from pneumonia or some other complication. Eventually the brain slows down to the point that they forget how to swallow, so they can't eat. Or there are problems with their breathing. Week by week it seems dad is regressing rapidly. There is a saying about Alzheimer's: "Once a man, twice a child". We have lived this for the past six months of our lives. There have been some funny moments, some cute moments too. Like when dad would just start dancing in the living room while he was watching TV. Or when he would wear one shoe and one sneaker with each on the wrong foot and you couldn't get him to change it. Or the time when he called us all together and said the electric bill was too high and we needed to keep the lights off; funny because he was the one turning them all on and then forgetting about them. 
   Early on before he had regressed so much dad would start doing something forget what it was in the middle of it and look around. We would help him complete whatever it was and he would realize he was forgetting things and simply say: "oh well, it's no fun getting old".  The cute moments are all gone now. What is left ahead of us is just a painful eventuality. The man I knew as my father in law is for all purposes gone as he is no longer even aware of what goes on around him.
   I have often asked myself if Adam and Eve could have seen what life was like today if they would have made the same decision. Their selfish choice has had such far reaching consequences that we are suffering for it daily. Their choice reminds me that it is always better to obey Jehovah as when we go against what he says it never works out well for us.
   So when I think about what I would want to say or do to Adam and Eve, I have a pretty good idea. I would simply show them my father in law, a man who was once a healthy, vibrant, physically imposing man in his current state of health. I would show them the slow labored breaths that he draws. I would show them the scrapes and bruises from the falls he has taken. I would show them the shell of a man who can no longer bath or dress himself and simply sits in front of a TV all day, unaware of anything going on around him. Then I would look at them and simply say: " Do you see what you did to us? Thanks a lot for leaving us this wonderful inheritance".   

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

School Days

"...“I, Jehovah, am your God, The One teaching you to benefit yourself..." - Isaiah 48:17

   School seemed to be the theme for the month of June. As schoolchildren across Jamaica entered their summer recesses, our family was thoroughly involved with schools of one type or another.

   The first of these was the Bible School for Christian Couples, class #68 which graduated in late June. The school was conducted at the Old Harbour Assembly Hall here in Jamaica, the same place where our family regularly volunteers to work. During the time the school was in session, we were privileged to increase the number of days we worked there as much help was needed. We were happy to help create a pleasant environment for the students to learn in. In addition to our regular duties we helped in serving meals, cleaning (somehow, there's always cleaning to do), running to the market to buy veggies for the meals, and many other necessary tasks.

   While working we enjoyed meeting the students and instructors of the class. What a joy to associate with such spiritually focused people! We were happy to hear some of their experiences, and get to know their various backgrounds. Some of the students had served for a number of years in full time service, some had served as Bethelites at the former Jamaica branch, one couple we met had multiple family members in special full time service! Being in that environment really fueled the fire for Suzanne and I as we too hope one day to attend the School for Evangelizers.

   We also enjoyed a special privilege in June that I had been looking forward to for many months now. We were able to attend the Pioneer Service School together as a family. Since we had started in September of last year this was one of the things we have most looked forward to; attending the school as a family.
We Got Schooled!

  We received so many encouraging remarks from our classmates and instructors. Again it was a joy to associate with spiritually focused ones. A good number in the class were attending for the second time, some even for the third time. For this "rookie" pioneer it was a joy just to be in the room.

 One surprise to me was the content of the class. I was expecting to spend much time learning how to preach, how to conduct studies, etc. But I would estimate that about 60% of the class was not on the ministry but on how to be more effective in my personal study, on meaningful prayers, cooperating with the body of elders, strengthening my relationship with Jehovah and other such topics. For those who will be attending this year the new book is awesome! as well as the format for the school. There is a lot of interaction and some nifty videos that will surely be enjoyed as well. All in all we have been well instructed and fortified to carry on our ministry.

   As the calendar changed from June to July we continued to enjoy instruction at our District Regional Convention. We really can see how Jehovah is uniting his people and getting us ready for the new world. It was exciting to be tied in with the internationals (not quite as exciting as being there :(  but I'll take what I can get) and to have members of the GB speak to us. One thing I took away was that we really need to spend time thinking about our lives in the new world. Not just in passing but really think about it. Where would you like to live? What type of work would you like to do? What kind of animals would you like to play with? As I listened to the parts it made sense to me. If you are planning on a vacation we spend lots of time looking up where we are going and what sights we want to see, right? Why not do the same for the Paradise? See yourself there. Make it real, no really real to yourself. This is something I plan to do more of as admittedly at times due to all that is going on in our lives, I don't really think about life in the Paradise. But as I have learned it is something to make time for, so I am planning some serious deep thought time for the coming weeks:)

   One thing that we can always count on is that as long as we serve Jehovah, we will be instructed. We are grateful for all that we have been taught of late and hope to put it into practice as we continue our journey on this Needgreater life we have chosen.

the convention was held at a cricket stadium... the states we call cricket...batting practice :-)

keep this one far, far away from your credit cards

this one too!

we enjoyed cool ocean breezes and mountains in the background