Saturday, December 26, 2009


I did indeed stop today to start the study with young girl and her newly interested mother, and although the mom cried for quite a while (she has a lot of problems) we were able to share some comfort with her and start the chapter on "Why Does God Permit Suffering?"...she seemed to feel better after the study and even had a smile on her face. She told us she DEFINITELY wants to continue her study and asked us to PLEASE come back next week. Goody!

Guess who enrolled in the TMS tonight at the meeting? Jessica, the young girl that I study with in the mountains! I have never had the privilege of sitting with a bible student as they enroll in the school....I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face! She was soo cute! It was funny that Chad was the brother asking the questions (for me anyway!) She seemed glad it was Chad since she knows him well!

Well, I have an early start tomorrow, it is my FAVORITE preaching day...Sunday! So, I better get to bed, but hope things are going well. I am sooo jealous of your snow! I hope some of you have been sledding for me! Miss you all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Meet Jorge Monje....

Hello are you all doing? We are doing well. This past weekend we had our circuit pioneer meeting and our Circuit Assembly! It was wonderful! What a wonderful program! Each year just gets better and better.

We continue to be flying high on bible studies...getting into a routine! The past week I was a little under the weather with a killer sore throat and a cold, so haven't been out as much! But I got to start my first day back out in service with my favorite day of the week....Sunday! Just one great bible student after another....from 8am until 4pm and then I float home! Remember the bible study I started "by accident" and just directly offered the study? She was home today, we had a really nice visit...then a few minutes into it her mom comes outside...I was thinking, "oh, great, here it goes...", but she just sat there and listened. I decided to explain the bible study program to her, she readily accepted and went right inside and got out her Bible! WOW! Good first day back out!

I wanted to introduce you all to Jorge Monje. He is a pioneer here in our congregation and a wonderful example! He is 25 years old and just came back from the USA a few months ago. He went to the USA when he was 15 yrs. old in search of the "dream". He found the truth while there, and got baptized last year! He has SUCH a spiritual appreciation!

Because of not having legal papers to be in the USA, he could not have privileges in the congregation there. His goals were to be a pioneer and MS. So, even though his mom still lives in the USA, he made the ULTIMATE sacrifice and decided to come back to Ecuador to progress spiritually...and boy are we glad that he did! He is sooo zealous! He works 4-5 days a week and still puts in over 100 hours in service a month! He has accomplished his goal of being a reg. pio. and is super happy about it!

We feel that Jehovah really guided him to come back to his home country. Why? Well, he lives up in the "mountain area" of the territory (Cochepamba) is quite a walk from the end of the bus line. Anyway, the people up in that area, while definitely improving, have been pretty opposed as they are VERY catholic! There have even been some attempted "stonings" and "whippings" of the brothers and sisters up there in the past! Anyway...that is where he lives. He has a lot of family and acquaintances up there and he leaves no stone unturned! He preaches to EVERYONE! And he is having HUGE success! He currently has 18 bible studies, the great majority of which are up there near his house! At any given meeting there are 5-10 people that attend with him! Some of the people that are studying, we know for a fact never listened to us before when we knocked on their door!

He has been such a good influence here in the congregation and also, has opened a HUGE door of activity in the "mountains"! What a good example of self-sacrifice, having left his "former life" in the USA to come back here and serve Jehovah more fully! We treasure his friendship and wanted you all to meet him, too!

P.S. We wanted to say hello to Cathy Schnerr and to the Sukilanda family who both recently viewed the blog and wrote comments! Thanks for reading and for the words of encouragement!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Last night Chad had a talk in Paute, a cute little town about an hour from here. So, Fernando (our ride), Chad and I go for the talk...very nice congregation. We were invited to stay for hospitality from a couple in the hall. We headed back to their house after the meeting, and after a few minutes, the brother hosting us gets a phone is the other cong. that shares the KH. They are about to start their meeting, but don't have a speaker. Can Chad come back and give it again? So the brothers run out to the car, Chad grabs his books, runs up on stage, and goes for round 2! He said he was much more relaxed the second time around! Never a dull moment.

This morning he has another talk at 8:30 in another cong...and a different outline! So, he is practicing his little heart away! Just thought that it was funny how he is giving 3 public talks this weekend...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Just had to tell ya....

I wrote my first blog at 5:00pm and was exhausted from the day...but I knew the group was coming to do not at homes at 6pm and then phone witnessing at 7pm. I REALLY didn't feel like going back out...but I did. And boy am I glad! It is almost getting ridiculous, we are standing at the first door of the evening, and this woman walks up to us. She asks if any of us live close by...I thought she must have wanted directions, and since we only live a block from where we were, I told her that I did. Well, guess what she asks me!......

"Can you study the Bible with me? I just got back from spending 3 years in Germany, and I was studying the Bible Teach Book while over there. I would really like to continue my study and I live right around the corner!" So, with a HUGE smile on my face we exchanged phone numbers and I am supposed to call her in the next few days to set up a study....

I know that I said I didn't want anymore studies, but hey....
sleep...who needs sleep? I think it is overrated! is SO difficult here! hahahaha

Serves Me Right....

Hi everyone...things continue to be going well here. We are gearing up for our Circuit Assembly in 2 weeks! Always a special treat, and we have the visit of our CO at the end of the month...lots of spiritual activities to rejuvenate us!

So yesterday we were working in a territory that we work pretty often. But there has always been a gated entrance that we have always just knocked on the gate and nobody has ever come out. Since the last time we worked it, I was given a bible study who lives in there. It turns out that there are some small rooms that they rent out (it is pretty poor), they have a room they rent, and they share a bathroom and kitchen...anyway, because I now have a study in there and know someone, I decided we could go in and try to knock on some of the other doors. When we got back there, there were about 4 people outside doing various things, but all relatively near each other. So, I of course, with my fear of preaching to a group, was a little nervous. But....what else could I do?

CHICKEN OUT! So, thinking that I would get an automatic "no" and I could get out of there faster, I decided to offer the first girl a bible study directly....and "serves me right"...she surprisingly says, "Yes, I would like to study the Bible with you!" and accepts the Bible Teach Book, so we talked for a while and made arrangements to continue the study the next week! Then, I ran into my bible student, she was really nice, and we confirmed our study for Friday! Then, I knock on the next door...she is already studying the Bible, and very nice! So, now I am on a roll and ready to keep going. So we run into another lady coming out of her door. I thought, "well, why not?" and I offer her a Bible study and show her the book...SHE ACCEPTS ALSO! I almost fainted...the bad news is that she was here visiting only for this week and next week she is going back to the coast. But, we made arrangements for me to go back on Friday, and at least get the study started and show her how to use the book and then she will look for the Witnesses when she gets home! I just couldn't believe it! The preaching just gets better and better...and just so happens that my new bible student picked a day that I had a slot open for a study!

I just keep thinking about all of these people that want to learn the truth here. When the magazines tell us that there are still people out there, I used to think, "Well, there can't be that many", because I was preaching in English in the offense to all of you hard working pioneers there ( I know you are working your little hearts out) ...but to be here and actually see it in action really makes you appreciate the patience of Jehovah in allowing these wonderful people time to learn about Him. Well, enough of my is just such a cool feeling to be here! Are you all sure you don't want to come on down? hahahahaha

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Meet the Criollo Family.....

Some of you may remember a few months ago I mentioned that I had started studying with a young girl who lives way up in the mountains. Her name is Jessica. Well, she and her family have been progressing wonderfully! I had mentioned that her mom had started to sit in on the study also, and continues to do so. They ALL attend all of the meetings, even the mom and never miss! They ALL comment at the meetings. The 3 that were in enrolled in the TMS are now all unbaptized publishers and are doing really well. The older sister is conducting her own bible study right now and is very excited about that! When I first started studying with them they were quiet and shy, but you should see them now...big smiles, laughter and are soooo affectionate! The mom comes up to me every meeting and gives me a big hug, and then she just stands their with her arm around me and won't let me go! They have become very special to us.

The two daughters had to quit school and go to work, because the family is very poor. They work long hours making clothes in a small factory. But they are always on time for the meetings and prepared. The mom sells vegetables at the market, so she gets up early and works hard. One of the days she works is Sundays, but that is the day we have our study, so, whether she has sold everything or not, she makes sure that she is back home in time for her bible study! She told me last week that she cannot expect Jehovah's blessing if she doesn't make sacrifices.
This week she had tears in her eyes as she told me that her family (her brothers and sisters that all live near her) haven't really been talking to them since they all started studying the Bible, but she realizes that she has to continue studying because that is more important, and Jehovah is giving her a new family at the Kingdom Hall. They are such good examples for us!

Last night, they left the KH and waited for the bus to come to go home, but it never came. So, guess what they did? They WALKED all the way home from the KH! IN THE RAIN! I felt soooo bad when they told me today! But, although they said they were soaked and tired by the time they arrived home, they had smiles on their faces and weren't complaining! It took them 1 1/2 hours to walk up the mountain, and in the dark! I asked them why they didn't call us and we could have found them a ride and they just smiled and said they didn't want to be a burden....such humility...but I INSISTED that the next time that happens they need to call us and we will call them a taxi. I felt so bad thinking about how they didn't even have the money to hail a taxi...they just walked and walked...they sure make us feel like LOSERS! hahahaha

Although poor, they always show hospitality, whether it is a piece of bread, a potato, or a few crackers, they always give me food after the study. They truly are adorable, we love them to bits and I wanted to share their experience with you all. I hope to keep you updated as they progress!

I had a really good day today as far as bible studies go...I just walked from bible study to bible study from 8am to 3pm! I only had 3 actual studies, but I studied with 11 people! It is such an exciting feeling to get to a house for a bible study, and have each member of the family, one by one, come in and sit down with their books! They really are starving for the truth here!

My one study that I had today, is relatively new. I have had about 4 studies with the family. Today, a niece was visiting them and she LOVED the study! She was reading paragraphs, commenting and was so excited! I had JUST brought the mom her own bible today, and she was sooo excited, but the niece also wanted a Bible to take back with her today to continue to study. Anyway, even though the mom didn't want to part with her new bible, I convinced her that if she gave her Bible to the niece today, I would stop TOMORROW with another Bible for her. She smiled and reluctantly said, "OK, if you promise to stop tomorrow." I had to laugh!

I just cannot explain to you the joy that you derive from the ministry here. I have had soooo many more good experiences, but I think I have talked enough for one day!

We are plugging along without Mark and seems that the brothers and sisters are trying to fill the void here, as there have been people here every night since they left (and even in the afternoon)! They keep asking..."How are you doing?" They are so sweet! To all of Beth's blogging fans...she sent us an email last night to let us know they have safely arrived in NZ. I am sure they are "knackered" as they would say or exhausted. But we miss them terribly!

Well, I hope things are going well for you all....we miss you and think of you often!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Good Week That Ends Badly....

So, I honestly cannot tell you how ripe that the field here is for harvesting right now! Practically everyday we are starting new studies! It has been wonderful! But, we are already exhausted! I remember the first pioneer meeting that we had with our CO here in Ecuador, one of the things he mentioned for the pioneers to work on is having TOO many studies! I remember thinking, "humph, TOO many just isn't possible!" We are now seeing the wisdom of his words...not that we are complaining in any way....but, it gets to point where you are afraid to do territory because you aren't sure where you would fit in another study! hahaha I think as of now I have 14 bible studies, and will inherit a few more from Beth, making it 16-17 studies....Chad has around 18....I never in a million years would have thought that we would have this privilege! Any of you that need some bible studies...come on down! So, the week has been great as far as bible studies!

The reason why the week ends badly is because our beloved "roomies" head out tomorrow for New Zealand. We just don't know what we are going to do without them (even though they hope to be back in 2-3 months)! It has been good that we have been so busy this week, it is less time for me to concentrate on my sadness! But, we wish them a safe trip and are happy they will be able to spend time with their family!

Have a safe trip you two! Sell that house and get back here as soon as possible...We need you here! Just make sure that you don't forget about your Ecuadorian-American kids here! hahaha Just like "Motel 6" (which you probably don't have in NZ...haha)
"We'll Leave The Light On For Ya!"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Would Like You To Meet... Mercedes Yunda

She is every bit as adorable as she appears in the photo! I had the privilege of working with this ball of fire today in service and I got her very interesting story. She is 78 years young...and she can run circles around me! Whether we are hiking mountains, or clopping through the mud...there is no stopping her! When we were working to remodel our kingdom hall, she would come during the day and do the hard labor with the brothers! Carrying bricks, moving blocks, digging holes..she did it all (and with a skirt on no less!) She has been baptized for 10 years. Here is her story.... About 11 years ago, her daughter, who was 30 at the time, started to study the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses in the Require Brochure. A few weeks after starting to study, she found out she had throat cancer, was admitted to the hospital shortly thereafter, and passed away a few months after that. She LOVED what she was learning in her bible study, to the point that, although no one in her family was in the truth, she BEGGED them not to leave her alone at the hospital in case the doctors tried to force a blood transfusion. So, her mom, Mercedes, traveled the distance to stay at the hospital with her daughter and defend her decision (although she didn't understand it). While at the hospital, her daughter began to witness to her about what she had been learning. She told her mom that the only thing in the world that she wished for, was that her family would study the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses, so that she would be able to see them again in the new world when she was resurrected. She then told her mom to go into her bedroom, there was a box under the bed that had some magazines, a large print Bible, and a large print Require Brochure that she had been saving for her mom because she had trouble reading. She pleaded with her to start studying. Well, because of her busy schedule caring for the daughter, she didn't have time to start the study. Then, a few days after her daughter died, the sister that used to study with her stopped at the house asking to visit her daughter. When Mercedes, with tears in her eyes, told her that she had passed away, the sister comforted her and offered to study the Bible with her so that she could see her daughter again...and that was that. One year later, Mercedes, and her other daughter, Fanny, were baptized together. Her husband also started studying later and was studying the Bible when he passed away a few years ago. Mercedes is such a shining example of faithfulness. She is out in service every morning! She told me that she usually gets 45-50 hours in service each month, except of course for when she is aux. pioneering, then she gets around 60! Keep in mind that she does not ride around in the car here...she climbs the mountains with the rest of us! She is so zealous, too! Although she has a very hard time reading, and it takes her quite a while to read the scripture at the door, she gains the respect of the householders who are usually very patient with her! I once saw her walk into a construction site full of about 10 workers and preach to them all at once! She personally gave each of them a tract to read when they had a chance! She always has a smile on her face, and never complains, even though she suffers from osteoporosis in her bones and is usually in pain.

I am sure that she has a special place in Jehovah's heart. She has a special place in mine, and I wanted you to meet her.....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things....

It has been a good few weeks back! Of course getting back into the ministry has been wonderful. But, we have also had a chance to do some things that I absolutely LOVE and had not yet had the opportunity to do here in Ecuador....What are they? Last week was a week of festivals here in Cuenca. Most people were off of work, and they had these little carnivals set up around town. It was really neat! One night we went with Mark (Beth was sick) and the Ochoa's to one of the carnivals close to us here. It was PACKED!!! But, we sure did have a lot of fun riding the rides and eating the junk food! It certainly wasn't Hershey Park, but it gave me the fix that I had been looking for! We were pretty careful about what we ate, but we definitely enjoyed some "chuzos" (kabobs)! The weather has been beautiful here, warm and sunny everyday without rain (of course, that means they are now cutting off our power and water pretty regularly). So, the night we went was absoulutely beautiful and we had a blast! The other thing we did that I LOVE? THE BEACH!!!! Yep, last week we went up north about 6 hours to a town called Salinas and spent a few days there with Mark and Beth and the Ochoas. It was kind of a "spend as much time as possible with Mark and Beth" week for all of us since they will be leaving us for a little while! We had a lot of fun! We were there during the week, and this is not busy beach season, so we pretty much felt like we had the whole beach to ourselves! We rented a little house in a private development and we really were the ONLY ones we had the pool to ourselves, the basketball name it, it was ours! The Ochoas had never visited there either, so we enjoyed exploring, and most of all, playing games! We took a boat ride the one day to see some sights a little farther down on the beach. The last day we took a ride on a "banana"! What is that? I don't have any pictures, because, I was on the banana, but it is one of those great big yellow torpedo-looking things that are pulled behind a boat. It had room for 7 people and so we all got on. Beth, Elvia and the little boys stayed rode in the boat to take some photos (which you will see on Beth's blog). We had a blast! They told us they would dump us if we wanted, and, of course we wanted to be dumped! It was a riot! Anyway, sadly the trip came to an end and we got back here on Friday night. We are glad to finally be settled here for a while to get into a routine! I put a little video together of some of the photos! Love you all! Oh, I hope you enjoy listening to music, because for some reason, although the
video is over half way through, the music decided to continue on ....
(It couldn't be the fault of the person who made the movie! hehehe)

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Computer is Back!

Hello all! We are very pleased to have our computer back. Not that we have much time to use it! We have been really crackin' as far as the ministry! And, as usual, Jehovah has been blessing our efforts! Although we were only gone 7 weeks, I am SURE that the territory has become even more productive! It may also have something to do with the brothers and sisters trying to reach more people by doing not at homes, and now phone witnessing!
When we got back, Mark and Beth told us that the lady at the laundromat where we take our clothes had been asking about when we were getting back. So, on Wednesday, Chad went to take the clothes and sure enough she was there! She has been very discouraged lately because her husband, who just got out of rehab a few months ago for the 3rd time, is back doing drugs and drinking. So, she has decided to leave him. It is really bad. We had always tried to share little bits of the truth with her before, Chad had a few studies with her, and we even helped her move right before the husband got out of rehab because she had no one else. So, she feels pretty close to us! It has been a good witness for her parents also, who own the laundromat, that we have been trying to help their daughter. Anyway, she wants to restart her study again. I had to go on a few return visits with a brother who wanted to turn some women over to me, so Chad took another sister this am and restarted the study with her! We are excited about that!

It has been a good week for us both, between studies we have started in the ministry this week, studies that we had before that we have restarted, and a few that have been given to us, I have a prospective 9 bible studies and Chad has 7! Not too shabby for the first week back! But it certainly renews our zeal being back here again!

We went to our first actual meeting with the congregation on Wednesday and you sure can see the growth! There were probably 20 different new ones that have started coming to meetings that I didn't know! It is such a weird feeling, but really shows the growth here! Currently we have 140 publishers, but normally there has been 180-190 at the meetings. And we only have 2 elders right now, Doug and Mark. They have been doing a great job, and it will get even more wild when Mark goes back to New Zealand for a few months, leaving just Doug. But he can handle it!

We have started telephone witnessing here, which has been interesting! Just finding the numbers has been a challenge! Because we have no postal service, and houses normally don't have numbers, it is hard to find which houses are in our territory. Normally, addresses consist of mentioning the nearest corner to them. For example, even though someone lives in the middle of the block, their address would be: Maple Street and Vine Street It isn't very specific, but it has proven to be enough for us to figure out more or less where they live. It has taken months to go through the entire phone book, and I still haven't finished yet! (I think I am in the "r's")! I make the list of the numbers and Beth inputs them into the computer. As of now, I think we have 500 or 600 numbers! Last Thursday was the first official phone witnessing group at 7pm at our house. We had 4 people come, which was really encouraging to see. Chad and I were out running errands and didn't quite get back in time, so we didn't get to try it! Then on Friday, we were leaving the house in the pm to go to the territory and it began to pour! So, we decided to come back to the house and try some numbers! It went really well! I like it! Last night, as you have seen on Beth's blog, we had our next scheduled group...but we had no electricity (I'll explain why later)! But, that didn't stop the brothers and sisters. Holding flashlights in our hands we made calls and had some good conversations! It was really neat to see 2 sisters (one being Beth) that had NEVER done it before, pick up the phone with that wild look of "I think I am going to die of nervousness", and do it! Jehovah blessed their efforts, as each of them made only one call, but that call was a good one and they each have a return call set up for next week! Just some of the many highlights of the week!

Oh yeah, the no electricity...well, it has been incredibly dry here, hardly any rain, which is very unusual. So, evidently, when there starts to be a water shortage, they just start turning off power in various areas for various periods of time. Yesterday, we didn't have power from 7am until 7pm. Tonight, we won't have power from 7pm until 11pm. They also are going to start turning off the water, so we have been collecting water to at least flush the toilets! And when they turn off the power, entire businesses have to close. It is really interesting! Can you imagine them doing that in the US? I can't. But, it is is never boring here!

Well, that was enough excited rambling....miss you all!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Our Computer...

Hey guys! As you know, Chad´s computer is not working yet, and the computer we were using belongs to a brother here that we brought back from the States for him. So, up until now we have still had a computer. But, he is coming tomorrow to pick up the computers, which means we will technically be without one. We can use Mark and Beth´s of course, but we don´t want to hog it. The technician is supposed to come on Wednesday...but you know how that goes. So hopefully we will have our computer back online Wednesday, but it could be a few days. Just wanted to let you know that communication will probably be seldom for the next few days! It does make you wonder how we ever lived without computers in the first place...

A Weekend of Special Activity....

WOW! That is all that I can say, we had such a special weekend here in Ecuador. Some of you know that they have been working on remodeling the branch for about 3 years now. They finally completed the construction the beginning of this year and it is BEAUTIFUL! This weekend was the dedication! On Saturday evening they had the actual dedication in Guayaquil at the Branch! We were not invited (because we are not yet baptized for 30 years!) boohoo But Mark and Beth were. I haven't checked yet, but I am sure that she already has quite the write-up about it on her blog! But, from what I understand, they had invited over 300 delegates from many different countries to attend also, including Brooklyn, Walkill, and Patterson. When we got here to the airport on Wednesday, we were exiting the customs area and we could see some brothers and sisters from the branch holding up their Watchtower signs for some of the delegates that were arriving at that time. Evidently, on Wednesday alone, over 45 brothers and sisters arrived!

So, they had the special program with a limited number of invited on Saturday night. But, what we thought was so loving was that they had a special program yesterday morning for the whole country! They of course had the main program in Guayaquil at the stadium, with over 40,000 in attendance! Then, what was so neat was that they tied in the coliseum here in Cuenca, which almost 6,000 attended (including us) and also the stadium in Quito with almost 15,000 in attendance! So all together there were over 60,000 brothers and sisters listening at the same time! It was such a cool feeling!

They started out with the Watchtower study, and then the second talk was a review of one of the talks they had had the night before on the work here in Ecuador, the construction that had taken place, and what they especially were dedicating to Jehovah. The main things that are new were:
1) The water treatment plant at the branch--Many of you know that the water here in Ecuador is not the best, and especially on the coast, not only is it unhealthy, but they always have shortages and the water is cut off. You can imagine how this would affect Bethel. So, they decided to create their own water treatment plant on site that cleans the water (probably the cleanest water on earth!) and they also have 3 reservoirs. They mentioned that if the water is cut off, they can function for 3-4 weeks at the Bethel, living off of the reservoirs! I know when we took the tour a few months ago, the sister said that she wouldn't recommend it, but because ALL of the water in the facility is filtered, you could actually drink out of the toilets! hahaha

2) A new section for Ministerial Training School--the first class here in Ecuador just graduated in August, so the country if very excited to have there own here. I think before the brothers had to travel to Peru or Colombia.
3) They expanded the sign language translation department--they have their own translation department here in Ecuador, and they make the videos and dramas right here. They didn't have very much space to work, so now they have their own big section.

4) The newly remodeled assembly hall
5)They added some new residential bldgs.--I am told that the buildings where the single brothers used to live left some things to be desired. They were quite a distance from the actual complex, and I believe very cramped. So, now they have new residential bldgs, connected to the complex, that they now live in.
The work here in Ecuador has been growing at a rapid pace. Last year we had a 7% increase in the country and currently there are 1 publisher per every 930 Ecuadorians!

The next part was VERY encouraging...they interviewed branch committee members from 6 different countries about how the work is going in their countries. We heard from:
Costa Rica--they have 34,495 pubs (if I understood correctly!). Currently 26% of the publishers are in full-time service! They had 64,336 at the memorial this year!
Cuba--They have one publisher for every 123 persons. They spoke about the growth in the sign language field there. They now have 6 cong. and 18 groups. They just had the first assembly in sign language this year!
The United States--They are now taking care over 40 different languages. The brother mentioned the challenges of finding people at home, so he mentioned how much success has been had in telephone witnessing and street witnessing. He gave an experience of a sister that was street witnessing with "Life in a Peaceful New World" tract and gave one to a woman. A few days later another witness knocked on the woman's door with the same tract! She had read the tract and throughly enjoyed it, so she accepted a bible study. Currently, some 20 family members are also studying the bible. All due to this one sister and her little tract!

Peru--This year they had a peak of 106,939 publishers, which was a 4% increase. 22% of the publishers are in full-time service. They had 343,620 at their memorial this year!

Dominican Republic--The last 3 years they have had more than 1,500 baptized every year. They have 31, 115 pubs. and 1500 brothers and sisters serving from other countries. They are conducting more than 60,000 bible studies.

Venezuela--They have 113,000 publishers. More than 362,000 attended the memorial this year. They have 16,000 reg. pioneers.

The final part was the real treat of the day...Guess who gave the part? Guy Pierce of the Governing Body! And, even better, he doesn't speak, although he had to pause for the translator, he gave the talk in English! What a treat for us English speakers! I felt bad though, because everytime he said something funny, Chad and I were already laughing before the translator had a chance to say it in spanish. After we got a few looks from the brothers and sisters sitting around us, we decided to hold our laughter until they heard it in Spanish! What a great talk! He was so could just sense the concern and love he has for all of the brothers. It really was a highlight probably of my life! And it brought tears to our eyes when, as he approached the podium to say the closing prayer, you could see he had a little paper in his hands. He read the first part of his prayer in spanish off of the paper, and then concluded the rest of the prayer in English. What humility! It was so precious to hear him struggling to read his spanish just so that the brothers knew he loved them!

So, as you can imagine, we will be flying high for quite a while after such a special day! I kept thinking, only in Jehovah's organization would we be in a developing country, but watching a program tied in on large screens in 3 locations throughout the country! The whole thing was so organized and well thought-out! All I can say is WOW!
So, that is what we did yesterday...hope you guys are all doing well! We miss you!

The large screen that was at our coliseum so we could see the program!

Brother Pierce giving his talk!

The coliseum was a little smaller than the stadium,
so you can see how packed-in we were...but who cares? It was wonderful!

Chad's picture-taking talent!! Those long arms do come in handy! haha

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Meet the New "Ladies of Catan"!

The FORMER "lords of Catan" bow their heads in submission!

So, many of you will have no idea what we are talking about, but to those who are "Settlers of Catan" must now subject yourselves to the ruling "Ladies of Catan"!
Believe it or not, Chad has found a fellow "settler" here in Cuenca. AJ and Jordanne are serving here from Ohio, and he even has his OWN game! So, they graciously invited us over for a night of "Snacks and Settlers"!
Rachel Willis won the first game and then the Willis family had to leave to meet some guests at their house, leaving only AJ and Chad to play, so they "guilt-tripped" me into playing with them... I know, I know, I supposedly DISLIKE the game....But, the final game of the night my self-sacrificing spirit paid off, when I was declared "Lady of Catan"! I think I am actually starting to like the game! Dad, I know your mouth is hanging open right now! hahaha
Thanks again A.J., Jordanne and Damaris for your hospitality, we had a blast!...
.....and to all of my gracious subjects, I bid you all a good night!

The whole group!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Hills Are Alive!

Hello all! This morning was my first official day in the ministry here, and I just HAD to choose to start with a "mountain day"! haha And it certainly did not disappoint. I like to call these type of mornings my "Sound of Music" mornings, because all I keep hearing in my head is..."climb every mountain, ford every stream..."!!! It is amazing how out of shape you get in just 7 weeks, I was certainly tired by 12:00pm! But, it was wonderful! I placed 3 sets of magazines, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and sun! It has been quite warm here, (for those of you who know me well, it has almost been a little too warm!) But the warmth and lack of rain means no mud, so there is a positive side to things! I am certainly enjoying the lack of rain, which we seemed to have plenty of in the USA!
We have been enjoying seeing the brothers and sisters again, we really did miss them all!
We had left Chad's laptop here in Ecuador, and when we got back on Wednesday, it was not working. (yes his new computer that he just bought a few months ago!) After hours on the phone they determined that it needs a new hard drive. He is NOT happy about it! Supposedly a technician is supposed to be coming to the house today to replace it, but we are not holding our breath. The only negative is that Chad basically has to stay here the whole day waiting for he is currently cooking up a storm in the kitchen and I am heading back out in service!
Hope things are going well up North! Love you guys!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Around the world in 7 weeks....

Ok, so it really wasn't around the WORLD, but we sure feel like it! We spent a whirlwind 7 weeks in the USA visiting with family and friends and working a little bit! We sure enjoyed seeing everyone and had lots of fun, but we are ready to be back to our regular routine again! We arrived at our apartment in Cuenca today at 2pm and were greeted by a "Welcome Home" party. The Ochoa family and Mark and Beth had been cooking all morning, and even had a sign with balloons! We truly do have family everywhere we go!
The flight was long, but we didn't have any problems. Tomorrow we will be unpacking and running errands and then Friday we get back into the service schedule! YEAHHHH! We really haven't done very well service time wise, so we have a lot of catching up to do!
Thank you sooooo much to everyone back home in PA (and NY) that made our visit so enjoyable! The cards, the hugs, the encouraging words, the meals, the hospitality, the shopping trips (that's for you Missy and Dolores), and the extreme generosity of everyone...we can't thank you all enough for treating us like such royalty! It made it even harder to leave...I shed more than a few tears!
I have been horrible at blogging lately, (I know), but I will try to be better and keep you all updated as to what is going on here in good 'ole Cuenca!
We send you all our love and hugs, and again, thank you all for your kindnesses and for being such wonderful friends and family!
OK, I better go before this gets any sappier(?) (is that really a word?) hahahaha

Monday, August 10, 2009

At Last......

Hello everyone! How are you doing? Well, the Kingdom Hall is officially finished and we had our first meeting there yesterday! It is beautiful! We are so privileged to be able to have this "new" KH! We miss the construction group...they really did come to be like family and we miss being with all the brothers and sisters everyday, but on a positive note, we have been able to get back out in service again!! FINALLY! Yesterday and today I went out (since we actually didn't stop working at the KH and cleaning up the kitchen until Saturday). Jehovah, as usual, has made my first 2 days back in the routine thoroughly enjoyable! There is a young girl, Alexandra (probably about 20 years old that has been studying with a sister in our cong. for a few months and attends all the meetings)....she is really sweet and doing a great job! Recently her younger brothers have also been studying and all 3 are now enrolled in the theocratic ministry school! Chad and I always make a point to talk to them because they are just making such an effort! Anyway, on Friday night, the one younger brother gave his first talk! So, the mom came also for the first time and she was really nice, we invited her back. A few minutes later Alexandra came up to me and said that her other sister would like to study the Bible also, and she was hoping that I could study with her! OF COURSE!!! I was so excited! So, Sunday morning Chad and I went for the study and I came to appreciate their efforts even more! They live really far in the campo (or rurals). You have to take the bus all the way up into the mountains to the end of the line. Then you get off and have to walk another 10 minutes to get to their house! I asked her about what they do when they have to go to the meetings because the bus line that goes to their house didn't take them to the other KH that we were meeting at during the remodel. Because they don't have a lot of money, they walk down the mountain to the other bus line about 20 minutes and then get on the other bus line! They do the same on the trip home, but it is completely dark then! I almost had a tear in my eye when she told me. Even though they aren't even unbaptized publishers yet, they are ALWAYS at the meetings and never miss! WOW... Anyway, we got there for the first study and they all came out to greet us with HUGE smiles. We started the study with the sister, Jessica, and shortly thereafter the younger brother (who already has his own study) and the mom (who has never studied before) come and sit down with us for the study! The mom was answering and everything! She said that she didn't have her own Bible, and I happened to have one in my should have seen the smiles on the kids faces when she accepted it and told me that she would like to start to study! They were sooo happy! We had such a nice time with them and the meeting was in the afternoon on Sunday so of course we invited the mom and sister, who have never really been there, except once. We were so excited when we got to the meeting and there was the whole family! Mom and 4 kids sitting there! The 3 that are in the TMS had such HUGE smiles on their faces! It was wonderful....

There were also 2 good experiences with neighbors due to the remodel that we know of. First, the lady that rented us the lot for the "storage shed" who lives about a block from the KH. Her house is right next to the lot, so of course, she saw us everyday. She used to be very opposed, even when we would knock on her door, she was pretty rude to us, so we wondered how she would be during the remodel, but she was had the only available empty lot near the hall, so we had to use her. She was relatively nice most of the time, a few times she complained about things, or would try to get more money out of us, but of course, the brothers always treated her kindly and respectfully. We always greeted her when we passed by or gave her a smile....
Anyway, the last day, after we had torn down the storage shed they were raking up the stones ((you see, the lot was a mud pit, so the brothers put down stones on the floor of the bodega so it wouldn't be so muddy. Anyway, she had a fit and told them that they would have to rake up the stones when we were done so that she could plant things in the lot (which as we all know, she has never planted anything in the lot! ) But the brothers very dutifully raked up all the stones (not a fun job, eh?)) While they were doing that, she came out and started talking to one of the brothers and started asking questions like: How is the organization set up? How is the work financed? What do you believe about the virgin Mary? The brother was talking to her about a 1/2 hour answering questions. Then the daughter came out and was asking questions too. In the end, she had so many questions that the brother couldn't answer them all. So, he offered to stop back with his wife to answer more of the questions and she readily said, "yes"! We were all shocked! She used to be soo opposed, and now maybe she will be a bible study!

The other good experience was with a neighbor of the "kitchen". Our kitchen for the build was in a brothers house of course. The neighbor has been having trouble with depression and has been seeing a therapist. A few weeks ago the therapist told her that she needed to be around happy people, she needed to try and laugh more and think positively. So, the other day, she came by and was talking to the sister that lives in the house. She said that she wanted to thank her because we had been the therapy that she needed! How? She said that everyday she would sit out in her back yard (on the other side of the wall) and listen to us laugh in the kitchen! She wanted to know why we were always so happy and laughing even though we were working so hard! So, of course, the sister told her that we were happy because we serve Jehovah and we are really a worldwide family! The woman was so impressed with our happy spirit that she accepted a bible study with a sister from one of the other congregations! So the sister told me that I started a study just by laughing all the time!

The remodel was truly a once in a lifetime experience. To see the smiles on the brothers faces yesterday as they were walking into the new KH was so rewarding! Thank you to all you brothers that contribute to the Kingdom Hall fund! It was truly a blessing to see that money at work! I hope to have some pictures of the finished product in the next few days.

I posted a few pictures of my day back out in service today! We worked up in the mountains, and I felt like I had just been let out of prison! The scenery, the fresh air, the preaching...I LOVED it! It sure is good to be back......

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rounding the last turn....

Well, we have started to really get into a routine and have things under control now in the kitchen...and....well, now it is almost over! The brothers and sisters are really working hard this week, since it is the last full week.

I even have to say, we are leaving this morning for Guayaquil (for the English DC), and I am actually going to miss being with the brothers and sisters at the build for the next few days! We will come back on Monday morning (shining brilliantly from the spiritual encouragement!). The construction group should still be here until at least Wed., packing up and finishing the loose ends. And then they will leave and all will go quiet....we will really miss the group! It has been a pleasure to have them in our congregation the last 7 weeks!

We have continued to enjoy the visit of Mark and Beth's son Aaron. He has blended right in with the congregation (well, as much as a 6'5" foreigner can blend....hahaha) He even gave a prayer for lunch at the construction site the other day in spanish and did really well! Yesterday we took a short break from the kitchen in the afternoon and went to Ingapirca....Incan ruins. It was absolutely freezing, but we had a fun time!

Hope things are going well for everyone back home! We are looking forward to seeing you all when we come back for a visit. We will be home Sept. and October....time sure flies, doesn't it?

Monday, July 20, 2009

...and the work continues

Sorry it has been a little while since I posted last....BUSY, BUSY, BUSY! The remodel continues on, I think we are only one day behind, so not too bad! These past 2 weeks have been dedicated to mainly getting the roof put on, hanging the drop ceiling, knocking down the front security gate for parking spaces and pouring cement to level out the slope in the auditorium! The brothers have been working really hard and we appreciate their sacrifice!

Two Saturdays ago, they had a special day of work planned because they were pouring concrete. They needed a lot of brothers and sisters for this laborious work. So, needless to say, the kitchen was also a little crazy! In the end, we fed over 100 brothers and sisters! Not too bad! They came in different groups because there wasn't enough room for everyone. And the other problem is that we only have about 35 complete sets of silverware, SO, that meant that in between each group we had to run like mad to get the silverware washed a dried for the next group! YIKES! We weren't sure if we would have enough food (since we originally planned on about 75), but Jehovah must have made the pot of rice grow (like the loaves and fishes)! So, in the end, everyone ate! WHEW!! It was CRAZY!

We are having fun although we are wearing out! Chad's back is finally telling him to take it easy, it has been bothering him a little bit. But, it could be because he thinks he is superman! hahaha

We are getting excited about the English District Convention that is coming up at the end of the month! It should be such a spiritual boost. We are all ready to get back out in the ministry again after the remodel is over! I really miss it. Only 2 more weeks to go!

We also had some excitement this week since Mark and Beth's son Aaron arrived from New Zealand on Friday night! He is very fun (well except when he is in a bad mood about his lost luggage!) hahahahahaha....So, we are still on the hunt trying to track down his luggage and of course are getting the run around. Understandably, he is tired of wearing the same clothes. They did manage to find him a pair of pants here, I have no idea how. He is 6'5" tall, which is nearly double the average size of the men here. So, the poor guy has been wearing some of Mark and Chad's clothes, Mark's shoes (which hurt his feet because they are too small)....
But, last night Beth had a party for him here and we had a BLAST! It was so nice to do something recreational again. We danced the night away and Aaron scared everyone with his moves! hahahaha (Think Chad, but 2 times crazier!) But we all had fun! And Mark and Beth are soooo happy that he is here. We are happy to meet our "step brother" also!

I just wanted to post a few pictures from the last 2 weeks...

The sister in the middle has been my savior. I affectionately call her "mama"! She cooks wonderfully and knows how to cook for big groups! She stays with me all day Thurs., Fri. and Saturday and is my "Head Chef"! Although she is over 70 years old, she just keeps on going! We hardly have the breakfast cleaned up and she is already starting on lunch! When she gets going, she gets going! Sometimes she walks through the kitchen pushing everyone out of the way so she can get to her pots and pans! She is adorable and I don't know what I would do without her. Whenever I am stressed, she always tells me, "Don't worry Michelita (which is affectionately "little michele"), I will take care of you today. It will be fine!" And she always does. The Saturday that we had the HUGE group, she told me that in the morning, before she got there, she prayed to Jehovah and asked him to give her the wisdom and the energy to cook for all those people today. So, she said, "We don't have to worry, Jehovah is in charge today!" She is such a humble little sister and she will always have a special place in my heart. I always tell her that she is a blessing from Jehovah in the kitchen and she just laughs.

Here the brothers are knocking down the front wall to make room for parking spaces. They tore down the concrete wall with shovels and picks! It was insane! Poor things. And, you will notice that they are destroying the "watchtower" symbols on either side of the door. Very obedient!

Mark is spray-painting the trusses...

The only advantage that I have noticed of getting up at 4:30am is that you occasionally get blessed with seeing a BEAUTIFUL sunrise!
This was about 6:15am from the kitchen.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Another Week Flies By.....

I absolutely cannot believe how fast time is going by.....Week 3 bites the dust! I had 150 hours in the kitchen last month and Beth calculated that we have put in over 45 hours in the last 4 days! Our boss "Carina" said a tearful good-bye on Friday morning and so far we have managed to continue to feed the brothers!!! It will just take a little while to get into our own routine with her gone...

This week the brothers have been working on painting the metal roof trusses and other metal parts of the roof, and then yesterday was the ENORMOUS job of actually putting the trusses on the walls! I knew that it would be a big day for the brothers when at morning breakfast the construction group prayed for Jehovah to keep everyone safe due to the dangerous work that they were going to do that day! I was a little nervous! But, everything went well. They don't use cranes or heavy is kind of like a "Amish barn-raising"! They have a whole bunch of brothers that lift these HUGE and HEAVY metal trusses up by hand and ropes! Of course, you just know that Chad had to be right there in the middle of it all! Don't worry about your back or anything! hahahahaha

I also am making progress in my "Yuckometer"! Last week when the sister was cutting up the whole chickens: heads, guts, feet, everything...I was a little grossed out. But, sure enough yesterday I got my first lesson in how to do it and gut it and everything! They have a system: First, you cut off the wings, then the legs, then you split the torso in half into breast and back. You then clean off the breast half and clean out all of the organs (saving them of course for the next soup!) Then you cut off the neck and head. They haven't used the head for anything, although some sisters do. You cut the neck into 3 pieces which goes into soup also! After you have cleaned and skinned the torso, then you cut the nails off the the feet (almost any chicken soup here will have claws floating in it!) Today I did one all on my own and it wasn't that bad! (although the chicken's one eye was slightly open and so I felt like he was looking at me!)
I am going to be a REAL woman before this is all over! Although I did tell them that when a live pig or cow comes walking through the door, that is where I draw the line! hahahahaha I have posted a few more pictures so you can see what's been going on!

Chad always likes to play...

I now have new appreciation for "cranes"!

My "chicken gutting" lessons!

These 2 fleshly sisters arrived here last week from Georgia. They are here to serve for at least 6 months. They will be going to Canar, which is about an hour from here. There is a HUGE need there to cover the territory. That congregation has 40 publishers and an average of 100 in attendance at the meetings. There are people who want to study and no one to study with them! We are very excited for these sisters! Last week they were kind enough to come after lunch for a few hours just to help us with the dishes!

...and Fernando, our new Chef! Fernando had to quit his job a few months ago because he was missing some meetings. He decided not to find another job until after the remodel, because he wanted to be there to help out everyday! Out of the kindness of his heart, he has been coming for a few hours everyday just to help us with the dishes and the cleaning since he knows we are tired! He also works at the construction site everyday, guard duty at night sometimes, and since many of us have to walk home in the dark, he waits around so that he can drive us all home! The other plus to him working with us in the kitchen is that the sisters all love him! So, we have been getting more help with the dishes! hahahahahaha He recently just sat in on his first pioneer meeting with us. We were SOOO excited when he turned in his reg. pio. application last month!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Still Smilin'!!!!

Well, we now have another week under our belt and we are learning a lot from these sisters! They make EVERYTHING from scratch! Doug was encouraging more to have a share in the work this past week in his talk and he said, "The Kitchen is FUN! The sisters all talk and laugh..." and it really is true...we sure do laugh (with Beth and I it is mostly at ourselves!) hahahahaha

Just wanted to post some more pictures of the activities! Next week will be the real test, because Carina (our boss that was sent by the branch) will be leaving us on Thursday! BOO HOO!

Who needs to strap things down when the brothers can just hold onto it? hahahaha

Because the storage area is pretty far away from the KH, the members of the construction group have been using bikes to get back in forth. This brother is carrying his ladder on his bike!

The brothers and sisters all fell in love with Beth as she shows them her "pizza making skills"! They were so excited to have pizza that night...and we bought them chips and Coke and everything! They loved it!

Mark and Chad help us with the dishes after dinner sometimes
just so we can go home!
Here is mark showing off his stylish hair net!!

Saturday morning we made these "Bolones De Verde"! They were delicious! You cut up a plantain into these slices, fry them, mash them up, mix them with fried sausage. Then with your hands (and believe me it is tough), you compact them into these little balls of food (which you can see in the top of the picture), hence the name, bolones!

Saturday lunch was quite the experience! They made "guatita"! Which as you can see in the picture is cow stomach! (Otherwise known as "Tripe") In the morning I wasn't quite sure about it, because they pulled out this huge white raw stomach and were cleaning it (it stank). Even while they were cooking it it was very smelly! But, when it was all said and done, they cut it up into very little pieces, made a very flavorful sauce for it (with peanut butter in it--VERY YUMMY) and everyone LOVED it! The construction brothers especially were soooo excited, some of them had 4 or 5 helpings! I have to say that it was good! I would definitely eat it again!

Here are Mark and Chad with their new "buddies" eating the cow stomach! We have all enjoyed the many new friendships that we have made. The brothers from the construction group are absolutely HILARIOUS! (Especially the one in red between Chad and Mark). And the amount of energy that they all have! They work like DOGS all week long, and then Sunday and Monday they go out in service with the congregation. We are also using them pretty hard for meeting parts! Three of them had parts on the school and service meeting this past week.
What a pleasure to have them with us!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Day of Reckoning....

Yes, we are indeed still alive...BARELY! hahaha We now officially have one week under our belt and only 5 more to go! All in all it was a good week, we all had our good moments and bad. It has been really nice getting to know all the brothers and sisters that come to work. Beth and I continue to work from 6am until 6:30pm, so as a result, there have been a few moments of COMPLETE exhaustion where I just wanted to cry (oh, wait, I think I did that today!) I came running home to clean up a few things since the CO and his wife come today to stay with us for 2 weeks and I was washing dishes. Anyway, I broke a glass, didn't hurt myself, but I started crying! Chad immediately recognized the need for a nap and made me go to bed for a little while. After that everything was just fine! Just a small meltdown! hahahahaha

Chad managed to step on a nail Day 2 of the INCREDIBLY rusty nail I might add for which he had to go get a tetanus shot and has been gimping around ever since! He should be back in action tomorrow! Mark came home today with a high fever and body aches and has been in bed all day. As I mentioned before, I had a small nervous breakdown this am for a few minutes, and Beth suffered the whole day with an intense headache...are we falling apart or what? hahahaha

Actually, I think the exhaustion just caught up with us all today, but we have really been enjoying ourselves. What a privilege to be with the construction group. They are an extension of the bethel family, so they start everyday with a text discussion, then they eat breakfast, then the read the yearbook for 10 minutes. They are very sweet! We truly are looking forward to getting to know them better!

Well, I took a few photos to share with you all, so I am going to post them and then go to bed!!!
I am officially OLD and go to bed early! hahahahah

We miss you all, and don't worry about us, although it seems like we are in sorry shape, we are doing fine and enjoying ourselves!!!

I'm glad to see that the "Gringo's" aren't the only ones starting to feel tired!!

"The Kitchen Crusaders"
(the sister next to me is the one the branch sent to help us for 2 weeks)

The current state of our KH! It should be done any day now! hahahaha

Chad...trapped! (pre-hole in the foot)

We had our Special Assembly Day on Sunday, and Chad, of course had a slight limp in his walk due to the fact that he has a 1 inch hole in his foot. Anyway, I see this brother also limping around. So, I jokingly ask Chad, "What happened to him?" And Chad replies with a grin..."He stepped on a nail at the remodel!" So after laughing uncontrollably about the irony of the whole situation...I decided to take a picture of the first 2 members of the "Hole in your foot" gang!

This is Chad's hand after the first day of the remodel. Can you tell that after all those years of a nail gun and cordless drill, the good old-fashioned "hammer and nail" was causing him a bit of difficulty!!!! I jokingly told the brother in charge today that he was slowly killing all the "gringos"!
As our friend Doug says, "The motto here is kill a gringo, save an Ecuadorian!"

Just a lovely photo of one of the "whole" chickens that we get and have to cut up into little pieces for the food!! Doesn't he look peaceful? hahaha