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