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 spanish...so, 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 encouraging...you 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!