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, October 15, 2015

Joy and Pain

   Two months since my last post, time to update I guess. A lot has happened in the past two months, most notably the passing of Suzanne's father at the end of August.

   Although he had been very sick for some time, when a loved one passes away the sting of death is still there. We are sad that Dad is gone but relieved at the same time. His last months were filled with pain. Now though the pain is no more. He is simply sleeping peacefully, awaiting for Jehovah's call in the resurrection.

   As painful as it was to lose Dad, we have had some joyous things as well. The ministry continues to be very productive here. In fact one of Suzanne's Bible students began sharing in the field last month. I must tell you about her because I think her efforts are pretty incredible.

first day in field service
   Mitsy is a single mother of three, a 15 yr. old, a 12 yr. old and a 1 yr. old baby girl. We have been studying with her since last summer and have seen her make good progress in serving Jehovah. In May we began encouraging her to try to get to the Kingdom Hall on her own as we had been carrying her to meetings, but were leaving JA for a trip home.

   Mitsy lives far from the Kingdom Hall, probably a good 25 minute drive up into the hills north of Kingston. She does not have transportation and there are no buses that go where she lives. Basically it's you have a car or you have to get a cab and then two buses to the Kingdom hall, if the buses are running that time of day. Additionally the drive there is up a winding, twisting, bumpy mountain country road with no guard rails of course. I really was reluctant to drive up there but when someone wants to serve Jehovah how could I say no?

   Seeing that we would not be able to carry her to the KH, we thought it wise to encourage her to get there on her own. How though? Well here in JA in the country, it's still common for people to hitchhike. If you need a ride just go out and wave down a car. More often than not they'll stop for you and take you to the bottom of the hill. We encouraged Mitsy to get to the meetings on her own, as we would be away for a month and she needed to keep attending meetings. We encouraged her to view her efforts as her sacrifice to Jehovah. Was it his will for her to get to the meetings? Would he not answer her prayers for help in that regard? We prayed with her specifically about it and left for our trip. Did we mention to you that she wasn't employed at the time? Bus money would be an issue.

   On our return to JA many of the friends told us excitedly how Mitsy had been a regular at the meetings while we were gone. She did it! But how we asked her? "I just went out to the road and begged a ride" she said. Who could say no to a mother and her kids "going to church" on a Sunday. Sometimes she would get a ride all the way there, sometimes she got to the bottom of the hill and had  a 15 minute walk to the KH with her two daughters.

Suzanne, Mitsy and Carly 
   She got to experience Jehovah's hand in matters on a number of occasions. One particular day she got a ride down the hill but was short of the needed carfare to get home. She stated that she just got in the cab and was praying on the way home. She didn't know what she was going to tell the driver but when he got to her house he simply turned to her and said "don't worry about it"! She got a free cab ride home!

   She has been consistent at meetings, comments regularly and talked of getting baptized. So recently we asked her her plans. She stated she soon wants to get baptized. "Well", we told her, "if you want to get baptized you need to be a publisher first." And so she has. It's been a joy to see her enthusiasm in the ministry and she is looking forward to her first assignment on the Theocratic Ministry School next week.

   So I titled this post Joy and Pain. It's quite ironic in the span of a few weeks to experience a swing of emotions such as these. As joyful as the past weeks have been though we have some uncertainties before us. Our whole reason for being here in JA was to care for Suzanne's dad. Now that he has passed away our assignment is over. As enjoyable as the ministry here is there are a number of lands where there is still a great need for kingdom publishers. It has always been our desire to be fully involved in the work for as long as we can. But we have an enjoyable and productive ministry here. And there are still some congregations here with only one Elder who could use help. What to do? Do we look to step over into Macedonia abroad, or the Macedonia here in JA?
Decision time...

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Trip to The Country

   "…It's a small congregation of 16 publishers but they only have one elder. On Sundays after giving the public talk he has to do the Watchtower lesson as well. We'd like to send a group of friends up there  to support the congregation and give the brother some relief. Can you go?"

   So began the phone call that got me to do something I have dreaded and up to that point avoided doing-driving across the island of Jamaica. Last month we took a trip north to St. Mary parish to support the Camberwell congregation there. Wi a go a country…Jamaican patwa for we're going to the country!

   Jamaica is a mountainous country, full of winding mountain passes. The roads are narrow, not well paved and lacking guard rails in most locations. Nothing quite like driving up a hill, rounding a blind curve and seeing a car coming in the opposite direction straight at you!! As you small up for the pass and look out the window you see nothing but the steep drop off the mountain side and think to yourself: I am so happy for the resurrection hope!

   Thus the reason for my aforementioned fear of driving across the island. However after hearing about the needs of our brothers, how could I say anything other than "here I am send me!" So off we went, two cars of friends from Kingston to work in the country for the day. Wah gwaan? Weh ya a go? Mi a go country, soon come back.

a banana plantation
   The Camberwell congregation is located in the Parish of St. Mary on the north coast of Jamaica. The parish is noted for among other things having numerous banana farms in the area. It is also the location where the good news was first preached in Jamaica:  
"In 1897 something even more beautiful entered Jamaica—the good news of God’s Kingdom. (Isa. 52:7) This is how it happened: Two Jamaicans who had migrated to Costa Rica learned the truth in that country and felt that such wonderful good news should be taken back to their homeland. So it was that H. P. Clarke and Louis Facey were the first to preach the Kingdom good news in Jamaica.

the blue bags protect the bananas from insects
   Reports tell of their going to the village of Camberwell in the mountains of the parish of St. Mary, where they preached to Patrick Davidson and his brother. Both accepted the Bible’s truth and immediately joined in the preaching. The response to the message was encouraging, and on March 26, 1899, which was two years later, 300 persons attended a convention and Memorial celebration of the death of Jesus Christ."    From 1985 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses pg. 68

   What a day it proved to be as we enjoyed an interchange of encouragement with our Camberwell brothers. We worked together in the ministry in the morning, taking in the beautiful mountain scenery. After having lunch and freshening up a bit, we headed to the Kingdom Hall for our meeting. There it dawned upon me how heavy a load Br. Prendergast is carrying. One of our brothers gave the talk, another read the WT, and another handled mics for the WT study. Had our group from Kingston not come he would have to do the talk and WT lesson. For midweek he has to do all the parts as well as there are no servants or young brothers there. And this he does week after week. So…anyone out there want to serve where the need is greater in the English (mostly) field? Camberwell would love to have you! And don't worry Jamaican patwa nah hard mon! 

   We had a wonderful time serving together that day, made some new friends and look forward to our next trip there. Below are some photos from the day:

suzanne and kara resting after climbing the hills

br. prendergast and son

kara serves with our congregation in kingston but camberwell is her home. here with her mom


the brothers were very hospitable, sending us home with...

...bananas, plantains, yam, pumpkin, tangerines, sugarcane, coconuts & more

the camberwell congregation and visitors for the day!

Monday, July 6, 2015

"Build For Yourself an Ark…"

   In May we left Jamaica for a few weeks to do some traveling. It was time for me to visit my folks as, well, I missed my mom and dad :-(    sniff sniff . Before heading back to FL though we passed through Guasave for the wedding of Aaron and Lizeth.

   We had been looking forward to this visit for quite some time. Since leaving Guasave my heart has longed to return there. The experience of serving where the need was greater, getting to know and understand my brothers and sisters from another culture, of being fully involved every day in the ministry was one I will always cherish. We served with our brothers, we became family, we learned many things about warmth, love and hospitality. We grew spiritually and in many other ways.

   What I didn't realize though was just how much of an enriching experience serving where the need was greater would have on all of us. Each of us have been changed by our experience in the Guasave English Congregation. Some of us from the old congregation were talking about how we are different people now. Some are more mature spiritually, some have new privileges and responsibilities, for some it was simply a realization that they could do more and taking the steps to increase their service to Jehovah.

   For our family it has put us on a new life path, we desire to serve as needgreaters for as long as we are able to. We still have hopes that we may one day have the privilege of attending SKE. We have changed our "family tree", and for Dani we are encouraging her to spread her wings leave the nest, enjoying new experiences on her own as she begins a life in full time service.

   I recently heard a talk in which the brother giving it spoke about Noah. While it's true that he preached before the flood, when he spoke about Jehovah after it we can be sure it was not the same way. His faith would have been strengthened.He would have a greater conviction. When he spoke about Jehovah he would have done so with a greater zeal due to his experience in the ark and Jehovah's delivering his family.

   He likely built a house as well after the flood. That too we can imagine was done in a different manner. In his experience building the ark he would have likely acquired some practical skills that helped him build a better house; no leaky roofs in his home! To be sure, he came through the flood a changed man, bettered by his experiences.

   I think that serving where the need is greater has had a similar effect on us. When we extend ourselves, get out of our comfort zones and put ourselves more fully in Jehovah's hands we come out changed people, changed for the better. We learn to live simpler, to rely more fully on Jehovah, widen out in our love for our brothers,  and become better teachers of God's word.

   As our family continues to build our "spiritual ark", we look forward with anticipation to where Jehovah will lead us in this need greater life.

with our Guasave friends family

Friday, June 12, 2015

Aaron's Rib

"And Jehovah God built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman, and he brought her to the man."- Genesis 2:22

You may recall me writing about Aaron Lee, a brother from England with whom we served  in the Guasave English congregation back in 2013. Aaron went back to England to work for a while but had ulterior motives for returning to Guasave. He found his "spare rib".
another blessing for serving as a needgreater :-) 

   Aaron and Lizeth, who also served with us in the Guasave English Congregation, were married last month in Guasave. We had the honor to be in attendance at their wedding and to enjoy their special day.

Felicidades Aaron y Lizeth y que Jehova bendiga su matrimonio!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Special Pioneers?

   Our move to Jamaica just happened to coincide with Jamaica being merged into the U.S. branch territory. As a result many people upon meeting us seem to get all kinds of ideas as to why we are here. I have often been asked:  "Are you a missionary? special pioneer? from Bethel?" Yeah, right, if only they knew who they were talking to. I doubt anyone of such questionable character as mine would be granted such privileges. I mean I am pretty special (at least I think I am), and I am a pioneer but that's about the extent of it  :-)

   Usually when I start talking is when the questions arise. Apparently since we have arrived here I have developed an accent or so I am told. "You from foreign?" they will ask. "I hear you have an American accent." Funny I hadn't noticed, too busy trying to understand all the  Jamaican accents around me! Besides, I think I tawk like a poifectly nawmal New Yawka...

   Something special that has been going on however is the Special Metropolitan Public Witnessing Program that was started on the island last year. When I saw in the KM how this program was being done in only 13 cities in the branch territory it amazed me that Jamaica was selected at all. I mean we are talking cities like New York, D.C., Chicago and others. Major metropolises (or is it metropoli?) I think Manhattan alone has a larger  population than the whole island of Jamaica!

   We are privileged to have a share in this form of witnessing; although I must admit at first I was less than enthusiastic about it. When we were asked to participate I thought to myself: "it's just glorified street work, I don't want to do that."  I could not have been more wrong! Clearly I forgot who is driving the chariot!

   The SMPWP or "metro" as we like to refer to it has been nothing short of exciting. Imagine service with no not at homes. Imagine not having to approach anyone but people coming up to you...and asking for a study! We are enjoying such experiences each week as we share in metro.

   Jamaica has a deeply religious culture and most people read their Bibles regularly. It is not uncommon that when you start reading a verse, the householder is able to finish it. One of the unique differences about witnessing in Jamaica is that we get to witness to the young ones. Back home if you even look at a kid, the parent comes out screaming at you. Here, people send their kids out to you so you can teach them something about the Bible. This is especially evident in metro witnessing as we have many young ones stopping by the stands on their way to and from school. Some will get magazines, a number of them have asked for Bibles, some even have studies at the cart on their way home. It is a nice feeling to know that we are planting seeds of truth in tender young hearts, who knows where they may sprout and bear fruit?

somewhere beneath that pile of kids...
     Some recent experiences have shown us that fruitage may come sooner rather than later. One day a woman stopped by the cart and began looking at the literature displayed. When she was asked if she would like anything to read she said yes she would. She said her kids had been bringing home the magazines and books and she had been reading them. Now she wanted to know more for herself and she stopped by.

   Two preteen-age girls came by and asked Suzanne for Bibles. We try to gauge the young ones' interest before handing out Bibles so they are not wasted. So we inquire about what their favorite scripture is or something like that to be sure they really want to read it. So, when Suzanne asked the young girl she replied that she really did want the Bible. Her present Bible was a small one with only Psalms and the Greek scriptures in it. "How can I read Isaiah if it's not in my Bible?" she asked? She and her companion both got Bibles and Bible stories books. A few days later they returned and sang a little jingle they made up, thanking Suzanne for the books and saying that now that they have them,"they are not bored anymore."

...lies a missionary
    At times we joke among ourselves, saying we get "glimpses" into the spirit realm. We know the Devil would love to stop our work, but we can just picture Jehovah's angels forming a barricade around us; keeping us safe and drawing sheeplike ones to us. There have been a number of occasions where we will see someone passing us by and then all of a sudden as soon as they get near the cart they will yell out in a loud voice: "Jesus!" Please keep walking...and take your demons along with you thank you very much. There is one man who passes by regularly. He
never says anything, never looks our way but without fail as soon as he is within ten feet of the stand he just starts shouting: "you must repent for the Lord is coming! The kingdom of god is near!"  or something like that. And as soon as he passes he stops! With all that activity going on  around us, we are getting noticed.

   There is a young woman who has a cart and sells nuts and candies, situated next to us on the sidewalk. Each day she is around us we say hello, maybe talk briefly and go on our way. Little by little we noticed she kept creeping closer, looking at the literature, listening in when others would stop by and talk. One day she took a magazine, then a book, she got an invitation to the memorial, she attended the memorial. She had questions-we had answers. One of our sisters finally asked her if she would like a study and she said "well I'm never home." No problem, I mean after all she is right next to our cart on the street!

   Each week we seem to have some exciting experiences. We are enthusiastic about this form of preaching and think about it on a global scale. How many more persons will be reached by the public witnessing? As we think about how many times people pass us by each day and then one day, all of a sudden an article, a sign, or the color of the magazine catches their eye. What a witness is being given!  How many will come to know the truth by this means? Only Jehovah knows, we're just happy to be playing a small part in the work...and trying to hold on to the chariot as it rolls on! 

crazy homeless guy sat down by Tricia and Dani...

...then he started singing and clapping!
every once in a while we get a goat

happy at the end of the day