Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The End of an Era


It's April, everyone. It's April and I'm in Chinandega. I told myself that I would never be here during the month of April again after enduring the horrible heat it brought in 2013, yet here we are again. To be fair, though, it hasn't been quite as bad as I was expecting. It's still pretty hot - currently 99 degrees Fahrenheit and tomorrow is supposed to be 102 and pretty humid. Maybe I'm going crazy, but it hasn't been draining me as much I thought it would!

The reason I decided to be here during April was for the Memorial, which never leaves us with a dull moment here in Nicaragua. Given that four congregations meet in our Kingdom Hall and it would've been impossible to fit everyone there, our hall had the ceremony in a schoolyard in our territory. It worked out really well because the school is right on a main road, very easy for all to see.

The banner was a nice touch.
Francisco working with some brothers on the stairs.
Because we didn't have our ceremony in the Kingdom Hall, much more work was required. We had to rent chairs, obtain a sound system, and even build a podium. Rolando obtained a great sound system and Elvis did a phenomenal job building the podium himself. We spent Thursday and Friday ( Roberts just went on Friday) cleaning the facility, which included washing each and every single one of the 400 chairs that we rented. We swept the yard about twenty times (It's very important to sweep all the dirt off of the dirt so that no more dirt gets on the dirt, guys). The entrance to the schoolyard is on a bit of a ledge with no stairs, so a few brothers built a mini-staircase themselves the very day of the Memorial! There was a lot of work accomplished with many soda breaks throughout the process. Seeing the congregation come together for this event is always an encouraging thing to see.

Don't let this picture fool you...I so didn't sit here the whole time.
We set up our literature cart with this month's magazines. We only had three new Bibles available because our congregation's Bible supply (as well as many others) has been completely dried up for the past few months. Does that mean we'll be getting the new Bible in Spanish soon?? Hmmm??? Okay, no more speculaysh. (Sorry, I'll try to use proper English now.) Anyway, having the display worked out really well. We placed all three Bibles, 136 magazines, and seven Bible Teach books. I'd say it went well!

If you look closely, you can see the podium Elvis built. Yes, that's my main comment on this photo.
The ceremony itself went great. Rolando did an excellent job presenting the talk, and aside from a few kids trying to drink the wine and eat the bread because they weren't listening, we had no mishaps. We have about 78 publishers and had an attendance of 208! There were also a few young men from the neighborhood who observed the entire ceremony from outside the school fence. It appeared that they were afraid of being embarrassed in front of their friends if they came in, but they stayed for the duration. Four of our Bible students also attended - Felix, Walter, Edwin, and the kids!

Us with Edwin's family and Walter's family. Sidenote: The lighting was terrible.
It definitely made for a busy Memorial, between being an attendant, serving the emblems, and trying to help a Bible student on each side of me follow along, but it was very rewarding. Ben's studies, Walter and Felix, are doing very well. Hopefully everyone continues to make progress!

Ronald showing a video to a young kid this morning.
Speaking of making progress, four new publishers in our congregation were announced at the meeting last night: Ronald, Alex, Tyron, and his mom. All of them were found in the territory! Rolando has been studying with Ronald and has taken very good care of him. I preached with him this morning and got to see the results. He does a great job at the doors and is very prepared! Ladislao has been studying with Tyron and has also done very well with him. He's got a lot of energy, so I've gotta give props to Ladislao for keeping up with him! Braulio and I worked with Tyron on his second day of preaching during the Memorial campaign. It definitely kept us both on our toes. He has so much zeal and started conversations with every passerby.

Now fasten your seat-belts, bros, because I'm about to say some things about Ben & Bree that I would never say to their faces. Like ever. And it's gonna be mushy. Like really mushy.

Ben & Bree doing their last door together working territory.
Ben & Bree's six months in Nicaragua came to an end last week. It was a major roller coaster ride, but like every roller coaster ride, it went by very fast. The sad thing is that it wasn't until after we dropped them off at the airport that I realized how much I had gotten used to having them around. It seemed not too long ago that we experienced a 7.4 earthquake on their first night here and we all huddled together under the front doorway! Actually, that reminds me that I should probably prepare another emergency go-bag.

Because we are members of the Roberts family, we definitely had our ups and downs, (Ben breaking the faucet and nearly flooding the garage, for instance?) but mostly ups. Seeing them experience many things for the first time and deal with the same frustrations I dealt with during my first six months here made me feel a lot better. I know that sounds condescending, but I mean that it drew us all a lot closer together because I knew exactly how to help them deal with those frustrations.
Bree taking a ministry break with Sister Castillo.
Dealing with the language barrier, the heat, and the dust are all necessary evils. The key is how you combat them. Ben & Bree fought them head-on and give it 100%. I mean every word of that. They spent very little time feeling sorry for themselves and found ways to adapt. They studied Spanish every single day, first thing in the morning. That's more than I can say for myself! They practiced the things they learned immediately and were not afraid of making mistakes, as hilarious as those mistakes were. Again, I can't say the same for myself! Cultivating a fruitful ministry was a challenge at first, but they got into their own regular study routine very quickly and did an excellent job taking care of their studies. Not only that, but they also made a real effort to befriend the local brothers and sisters despite the language barrier. They are shining examples of the lesson that with a lot of effort and Jehovah's help, you can make the most of any situation.

Another major help was the fact that the congregation welcomed us with open arms. Every single one of the elders took the time to introduce themselves to Ben & Bree. Several families invited us to their homes for meals. Living close to the territory also made it very easy for us to open our own home for social gatherings (Sidenote: I hate the expression "social gatherings"), so we really felt a part of the congregation. Everybody made the most of Ben & Bree's last couple of weeks here. Last Monday, for example, we went to Campusano, a swimming hole outside of town that I had never been to before. It was a lot more beautiful than I imagined it would be! There were a lot of people (and a fair amount of mosquitoes) because of Semana Santa vacation week, but it was worth the trip.

Ben's public talk.
Seeing the two of them make progress with the language was a subtle process. Gradually, I didn't need to translate things for them nearly as much. (Sidenote: I still need some things translated for me to this day!) They didn't need to be spoken to like five-year-olds. Before we knew it, Ben was giving his first public talk in Spanish! He did a great job preparing it carefully and presenting it clearly. One of his studies even came to see it, as well as our good friends, Andre and Makeda. Like I said before, Ben has made some pretty hilarious mistakes while learning the language, but out of everyone I've seen come here, he has probably put forth more effort into learning it than any of them. All of that effort definitely paid off.

Coincidentally, the night of Ben's first public talk was also the night of their last meeting. The response was overwhelming. We took a few congregation photos and afterward, there were huge lines of brothers and sisters waiting to say goodbye. A few friends gave them presents. Some of them cried to their faces, while others went outside to cry.
Elvis saying bye to Ben. Yes, I intruded on the moment.
After saying goodbye, Elvis came over to me, put his arm around me, and just said, "I'm really gonna miss them." Ugh! That was hard to hear, especially since he's been a fatherly figure to all of us. It was a lot to take in, but it was definitely a testimony to the love we've received during our time in this hall. It's also a testimony to Jehovah. We wouldn't have any of this if we weren't a part of His organization!

The most normal congregation photo we were able to get.
Feel the emotion. Feel it.
Ben & Bree's flight took off about four hours after the meeting, so we had to rush off to the airport immediately! As a proper send-off, a group of our good friends in the congregation rented a microbus to bring them to the airport personally. All in all, 18 of us went on the trip! (Sidenote: They thought I was leaving too, but sorry, bros. I'm here for another week. Do I still get a bus ride?) Thankfully, everyone said their goodbyes without breaking down completely, but like I said before, it didn't really hit me until after we left the airport. I consider myself to be a pretty independent pesron, but I never realized that I had my family with me here for so long. We made so many great memories together here, but I realized it was the simple things that I was going to miss the most. I would no longer have movie nights or Netflix marathons with them in my bedroom with the AC on for hours on end. I would no longer have those nights of the three of us laughing endlessly in the living room about who-knows-what. Instead, I'm back to where I started: writing in my bedroom in a very quiet house. Don't get me wrong, I like my freedom, but at the end of the day, I suppose I didn't mind having them here after all.

Okay, enough of the mush. I'm gonna see them in two weeks.

Talk soon,


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Great Patience

Hey guys,

My other post was getting too long and I had some other things I wanted to tell you about, so here's a separate post.

My study with Edwin has been getting better and better. I see him & the kids in the neighborhood very often, and the kids always ask me when the next meeting will be. Edgar & Bruno, the two oldest (well, technically the third & fourth, but the two oldest kids are adults and I never see them), always fight over who gets to comment. All of them have loved getting to know my friends as well and always ask about them. This past Saturday meeting was interesting. Edwin had to bring Bayardo, the youngest child, with them. He's cute, I'll give him that, but I'm gonna be real, guys: I clash with this kid. Seriously! He is always getting into my stuff and anytime I tell him no, he says "Yes!" and then it turns into a very heated and mature No!-Yes!-No!-Yes! exchange.
From left to right: Roman, Edgar, Bruno, Bayardo (my BFF), & Catherine.
Again, it's the heat, bros. Anyway, so Bayardo came with Edwin to the meeting and starting whining during the last half-hour. I thought it was because his arm hurt (He fractured it recently and it's in a cast), but Edwin just said, "No, he says he's bored and wants to go home." Okay, kid, no sympathy here. We were studying The Watchtower about having a good marriage, and Edwin was really enjoying it. However, when Bayardo was whining more and more, even Edwin said to me, "This is the work of Satan. He knows that I'm loving this article and that it's just what I need, so he's using my child to get me to leave the meeting!" All I could say was, "Right?!" Go ahead, guys. Tell me that I need to be nicer to kids.

Yesterday, Edwin & I went over the first in the series of worksheets that go with the Bible Teach book. I wasn't sure how it would go over, but it was so effective! It was probably our best conversation to date. I love how the sheets help the students make personal application and meditate on why they believe what they believe. When we went over the scenarios about someone asking you to explain your beliefs about human suffering, we chose two scriptures that we could share: James 1:13 and 1 John 4:8. I suggested to him that it would be good to memorize those scriptures, or at least their locations. Bruno ran inside and got their Bible so he could find it himself. My friend Ashley lent Catherine her Bible so she could find it as well. Just as I was about to explain how the scriptures were organized, (the bold numbers, verse numbers, etc.) Edwin stepped in and did it for me! It was a really, really cool moment.

As Bruno read the scripture, Edwin's face was beaming. Whenever one of the kids comments at the one of the meetings, he gets really nervous as the brother brings the microphone to them. After it's done, he proudly says, "This is the best thing for my kids!"
That is the face of a proud father! Edwin's, not Bayardo's.

While these kids are seriously high-maintenance, studying with this family has been a very rewarding experience. Yes, even with Bayardo...*cringes*. Although Edwin has been making good progress, I'm keeping my expectations reasonable. No matter what happens, though, I'll always enjoy the memories I'm making studying with this family. Sidenote: I'm great with kids.

Take care,


Right Down the Middle

Hi there!

The most productive thing I've done as of late, and even then...
If you're wondering why it's been a while since my last post (and I realize that's a big "if"), it's because the rising heat has been affecting my productivity. For reals, though, we're in March, the second hottest month of the year in Nica, and the heat is getting to our heads. I was going through a number of things I've done these past couple weeks that prove that point, including skipping breakfast, arguing with the neighborhood kids about mangoes, and not caring about wearing dirty clothes. Actually, now that I'm listing those things, I'm realizing that I do of all them on a regular basis anyway.

ANYWHO, almost everyone we know has been getting sick lately, and the Roberts household has not been exempt from it. Bree got a parasite, Ben got a weird infection in his foot, and I lost my voice last week. All of us are doing much better now, although it wasn't easy. Seriously, of all people to not be able able to talk, why me? I hated not being able to shout! I never realized how much I do was a rough week.

We've been up to quite a bit these past couple weeks, so I'll do my best to be concise. HA, that's such a lie. If I wanted to be concise, I'd erase the previous two paragraphs.

With some of our friends from Ojo de Agua.
With my good friends Yorleni and Ervin.
Zach took off last week, and some of the brothers from Ojo got together to have a going-away lunch for him. They didn't get a chance to have one for me when I left, so they made it a dual send-off for both me and him. It was really nice to visit with my old friends there. Being in La Norte has been just what I needed, but I would never trade the memories and experiences I had in Ojo for anything.

Elvis fetching us some mangoes.
I'm sorry, can I just get back to the weather for one second? It has been really hot, but not as bad the last March I was here for, and the good thing is that it's mango season! The mangoes here are so good I wrote a whole post about them. There are mangoes almost everywhere you look. Elvis has a mango tree right in his courtyard and he's given us three bags of them just this week. Eating them has proven to be a challenge since they don't last long. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy eating fourteen mangoes in one sitting as much as the next guy, but it's still not easy. At any rate, having these awesome mangoes has been a great way to counteract the heat!
A couple girls dealing with the heat.

Like everyone else, we've been plenty busy with the Memorial campaign. We're confident that a few of our studies will be coming and we've been having some really good experiences as well. I spoke to a man in our territory who invited me in and had some questions. We've talked with him on a number of occasions, but he doesn't have an interest in studying as of yet. However, this conversation was very interesting. While discussing the invitation, I mentioned how many people are familiar with John 3:16 and how the Memorial ceremony explains the details of that scripture. He told me he had never heard of that scripture in his life, and that shocked me. People here quote it all the time! Then he said, "Well, I may have read it before, but I don't remember. Let me check my notebook." He then proceeded to grab a notebook off his bookshelf, and its contents were surprising. He reads his own Bible very often, and whenever he comes across a scripture that captures his attention, he writes it down in that notebook. He even organizes each scripture by category! We looked through the entire notebook, which was nearly full, and out of all the scriptures he had written down, he had never written down John 3:16! He was very surprised and he loved the scripture, so we proceeded to write it down in the notebook. While he still isn't ready to accept a regular study, he really enjoyed our conversation and is very much looking forward to the Memorial.

Sidenote: It was HOT.
This past Sunday, we took another congregation trip to preach in Rancherias, a rural congregation outside of town. We rented a good ol' school bus and overfilled it once again, with over 70 brothers & sisters in our group. Preaching in the rurals is always very relaxing. The people are so friendly and receive us very well. At the end of the morning, we came upon three brothers, all in their late 20s & who all looked so alike they could've been triplets, and had a great conversation with them. We considered the "Bible Questions Answered" article on the back page of The Watchtower this month about why we should remember Jesus' death. They really enjoyed the scriptures we shared with them. At the end, one of them requested a copy of The New World Translation. Since we weren't able to give him one right then and there, we told him that he would be able to obtain one at the Kingdom the Memorial! He immediately said, "I'll be there!"

Me with my buddy Reinaldito.
After a working a lot of territory, we made our way to the local Kingdom Hall to have lunch. Because Ben, Bree, & I were all rushing to get ready that morning, we didn't really have time to pack much food, and neither did Amy & Ashley. Then, Maria, a very sweet sister in our hall, came up to me and gave me a huge Tupperware container full of chicken, rice, fried plantains, and veggies that she had prepared just in case someone didn't bring a lunch! There was more than enough for all of us. It was hands-down one of the nicest things someone has ever done for us. Days like this are always very encouraging for the congregation. Everybody looks forward to them and it gives the brothers just the boost they need. I think it's one of the best ways for a congregation to bond.

Bree entertaining the kids during lunch. Having lunch together in the hall as a congregation felt like being at a convention!
After lunch, we worked some more territory with a nice view of San Cristobal in the background. Sidenote: Rancherias is MUCH closer to that volcano, which probably explains why the territory is so hot and dusty. Seriously, bros, the pants I wore that day started off green, but when we got home, I honestly couldn't tell what color they were. Gray? Beige?

The Kingdom Hall + volcano view
During the afternoon, I worked with Salomon, an eight-year-old kid who has recently starting doing his own doors and is very excited about excited that he wouldn't let me do any. That's fine with me, bro, but if you wanna do all the doors, you're gonna do all the doors. We came upon a house and found a girl who was also eight-years-old. When she told Salomon that her parents weren't home and it was just her, instead of asking me what to do, Salomon continued with his presentation anyway. So yes, an eight-year-old asked another eight-year-old, "How do you view the Bible? Do you view it as a book of myths and legends, a book of human wisdom, or the word of God?" and then they both stood in silence, staring off into the distance, each one wondering if the other person even understood the question, waiting for the other to say something to break the ice, but neither ever would. Also, the silence was long enough for me to take a picture.
" we are. Just two kids attempting to talk about something other than juice. Speaking of which, you wanna get a juice box after this? I'm not gonna lie, I'd totally be up for that but I'm just not sure if you want to as well."
Me with the Cáceres family on the bus.
That day is gonna be one for the books because things are going to be changing here very soon. We've received word that they will officially be splitting our congregation! It will take effect in May, at the latest. While it's a really good thing and it shows that there is still a lot of growth here, it is very bittersweet, since being in this congregation has been such a blessing for us. No one is 100% sure on all the details just yet, but the good thing is that we'll now be able to share our five elders. Actually, Erling just told me the other night that our C.O. asked him and Rebecca to transfer to the Acomen congregation in the center of town starting next week. They were my first friends in this congregation, so yeah, I'm sad about that! However, I'm realizing more and more that everything serves its purpose for its time, and change is good.

Just a small portion of our group from that day!
Pase lo que pase, I know that things will work out well wherever I end up. I'll keep everyone posted, as long as I'm not being consumed by dust and mangoes.

Talk soon,


Monday, March 9, 2015

Dust So You Know

Hi there!

Sorry for the delay. If any of you were wondering where I was, I was buried under enough dust to fill up an Olympic swimming pool. Not really exaggerating either! Okay, well obviously I'm exaggerating a little, but for real, yesterday brought the biggest dust storm anyone in Chinandega and León had seen in years, which just figures since I only decided like three days ago to get on this new kick of, "I'm gonna start sweeping my porch every day!" and then this happens:

This picture is from a news report about the storm:
Seriously? Can I just win for once?! León got hit a lot worse than here in Chinandega, but it was still pretty bad, guys. Everything in our house is about five shades darker than it was before. The keyboard that I'm typing this post on STILL has dust on it!!!

Behold: the fish. It's there. Look closer.
And that's pretty much the most eventful thing that's happened here these days. No, there's been plenty of good stuff going on. Last Sunday, I went to Jiquilillo (he-kee-lee-yo), a congregation on the coast of Chinandega, to give the public talk. That involved a two-hour insanely full bus ride where my friends and I had to stand about 80% of the time. Seriously bros, that was easily one of the top three worst bus rides I've ever taken here, if not the worst. I'm not gonna lie - all I could think was, "I haven't had a day where I really wished I was home in a very long time, probably over a year, but this is one of those days." But then I realized that if it had been that long since I'd had a day like that, then that shows how great things have been going this past year, since I used to have them all the time! And people say I'm not positive.

Once we got to Jiquilillo, I knew what I was gonna have to face: fish. The congregation there always feeds the speaker a big fish meal. It's really, really, really nice of them BUT I'm not a fish fan, and I'm sorry, but hey, God did give us taste buds and I like to use mine! I knew that a lot of work had gone into it, so although it took about a full half-hour, I ate it, and I'm glad that I did. Not saying that I'll do it again!

Now, let's take a moment to tip our hats off to the brothers in Jiquilillo. They have their meeting at 1:00 in the afternoon outdoors with no fans and are even doing that during this time of year when the temperature is officially over 100 degrees (F) from now until at least May. We Mainers may have to contend with the snow, but at least we have Kingdom Halls with heating systems! To this day, it still astounds me how tough these brothers are. I may have rushed through my talk a little bit because I was about to pass out if I didn't sit down. Thankfully, a sister from Chinandega who lives out there on the weekends gave a bunch of us a ride back to town in her air-conditioned truck. It was worlds better than taking another bus.
Me most likely telling Marlon to stop
asking why I use that color highlighter and
just read the paragraph.

I know I'm sound like a broken record by this point, but service has been going awesome has been going awesome has been going awesome. I say that because it's true! Ben and Bree have been having some really good experiences and studies, but I'll let them post about that on their blog:

Amy with Bastie, her bestie.
Edwin and his kids have been coming to all the weekend meetings. The kids, especially Bruno, love commenting and getting involved during the Watchtower. They're coming to their first mid-week meeting tomorrow! Very exciting times.

I did my study with Erling on Friday and was so excited to see that he had underlined the whole lesson ahead of time! He's a really nice guy and has been getting better with each passing week. I'm really hoping he'll come to the Memorial. It should be easy since the location where we're having ours is a block away from his house. Actually, three of my studies live a block away from the Memorial location, so it's my goal that all of them attend!

Caleb time.
I'm still studying with Marlon, the ten-year-old in the park. He loves the book and asks a lot of questions. Like, a lot of questions. He may have the attention span of a chicken, but he's a good kid, as well as his sister, Bastie. Man, has she got spunk! A couple of weeks ago, my friends Amy and Ashley, both from England, accompanied me on the study. They've both visited Chinandega before and are staying here for a few months now, attending our congregation. They are both hilarious and a lot of fun. What was I talking about? Oh yes, they came with me on the study and were gracious enough to watch Caleb videos with Bastie while I studied with Marlon. While Amy was showing her a video, one of their friends in the park came up and started watching, too. It ended with all of us watching one of the videos together. Dealing with kids may not be my strong suit, but it has been fun studying with them.

Also, a group of us spent the night at the Kingdom Hall on Friday working security and printing off our Memorial invitations until 3:30 in the morning. It may have thrown off my sleeping patterns for a couple weeks since I had to work at 5:30 that same morning, but it was still a lot of fun.

Got everything we need to print invitations, including toilet paper.
Trying to think if there's anything else...there probably is but I've gotta bounce since I have friends coming over any minute. Thanks for reading, talk to you all next Monday!

Take care,


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Las Champas

Hi there,

I've had a particularly encouraging day and am probably in the best state of mind to write a post, so here we go!

Last Friday, a group of us joined Zach and Eduardo to go preaching in Ojo de Agua. I've been joining Zach every Wednesday afternoon for witnessing in El Limonal, a neighborhood outside Ojo, so I really hadn't been preaching in Ojo itself for over seven months. It was a really good day.

Our group that morning. Pablo was overwhelmed by all the white people. Sidenote: Why do Ben and I always have to sit in the exact same positions?
Does this picture make sense? Nope, but all
I see is pure joy, bro.
It was really good to get back to my old stomping grounds and out of the city for a bit. We went to Las Champas, my favorite territory in all of Ojo de Agua. While it was good to do it all over again, I had forgotten how completely exhausted I would always get at the end of a morning in Ojo! Zach and Ed are doing a lot of good and hard work out there, much more than I ever did. If any of you are in touch with them, be sure to send them a message of encouragement some time. It's not easy being out there at all!

Ed & I worked together that morning, which was a definite blast from the past. He helped me a lot when I had first moved into Ojo a few years ago, and I mean it when I say a lot. He cycled out there with me on numerous occasions, he proofread all my talks, and he was the one who pushed me to finish every tough morning of preaching whenever my energy started to give out. I really wouldn't have lasted there as long as I did if it hadn't been for his help. Working together brought back a lot of those memories. Yes, Ojo was tough, but I wouldn't trade any of those experiences for the world. Well, maybe some of them, but this is me being positive.

Samuel's Creek.
My studies have been really good. Like crazy good. So good. No but really, Edwin and his kids have continued coming to the public meetings! The Watchtower article we had last week, though, was a good reminder for me not to get too excited over a study attending meetings. Edwin did say, however, that he is coming out of his own accord, and although he has always spoken with Witnesses over the years, he feels that now is the right time for him to start getting serious about it. Out of all his kids, Bruno has been the most excited about it. He gave his first comment last week!

Reading the Great Teacher book with Bruno.
Today was an exceptionally good witnessing day. I got a mega day in, which I desperately needed as I am disgustingly behind on my time this year. Disgustingly. Yet, I have no problem admitting that to you all. It was unbelievably hot today as well, so that's probably affected my mental faculties a bit. What was I talking about? Oh yes. We started the day by working our public witnessing cart. One of my return visits, Marco, approached the cart and requested one of our books to add to his personal library, which was very nice to see! I also had a really nice study with Donald, who is probably the friendliest guy I've ever studied with here. We spend at least fifteen minutes just chatting before the study, which is very refreshing, and the study itself goes really well. He always answers in his own words and has excellent comprehension. Then, I usually show his daughter one of the Caleb videos, and even after all that, Donald still shows me family photos or something he did during the week. He always asks about us and how we're doing down here as well. I guess it's just nice when a study takes the time to get to know you in addition to listening to the information!

I can honestly say that things here are going better for me than they ever have before, and I'm very happy with the way everything has turned out. Come visit, anyone??

Talk soon,


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Kids These Days

Hello one and all,

The memory on my iPad is full, which tells me that it's time to share photos and stories once again. February is a transition month here, both from the cool weather to the hot weather and from the busy season to the even busier Memorial season. All of that makes for some exciting times here in Nica! The past month has been kind of a blur, but there's a lot to tell, so here we go...

For starters, our good friends Travis and Nicole came to visit us for two weeks. They came for a few weeks last year and we had a blast, so once again, there were five us living in a house with one bathroom. Never a dull moment!

The Mainers taking over, once again.
Nicole placing magazines.
After they visited last year, they made the decision to join the Spanish congregation back in Maine. It was only on their fourth day here that Travis told me he felt his confidence level had shot through the roof when it came to speaking. Just goes to show that the best way to learn is to immerse yourself. Just do it, bro.

We took a trip to the beach for our friend Ashlee, who has served here for a number of years and is now going back to the States to get married. Her last beach day here was one to remember. A good chunk of the brothers who have served here in Chinandega at one time or another all reunited for that day, and it was pretty cool seeing the variety of people who have come here over time. Our group included our friends from Australia, England, France, Japan, Canada, the U.S., Italy, and of course, Nicaragua.

Part of our beach day group - there were 30 of us!

Showing one of the Caleb videos.
We've been having some really good ministry experiences. A few weeks ago, Ben & Bree were doing some studies in a part of our territory and attracted the attention of a group of little kids. Ben started preaching to one of them, and soon, it turned into a group study. He's given them all copies of the Listen to God brochure. Now, he discusses the brochure with them every Thursday afternoon on the front porch of a woman who is studying with a pioneer sister in our hall. He'll usually discuss a portion of the brochure and then conclude with one of the "Become Jehovah's Friend" videos. Solda, one of the oldest girls in the group, is the self-proclaimed leader who always reminds the kids to raise their hands and makes sure they're all paying attention. She's got spunk!

Marlon studying the brochure.
One of Renee's studies, Claudia, came to the meeting last week and brought her son, Marlon, a very energetic ten-year-old. After the meeting, he asked if I would study with him. As soon as I said yes, he started jumping up and down, saying, "GOOD! DO YOU HAVE A PHONE NUMBER? LET ME GIVE YOU MY MOM'S PHONE NUMBER! HERE'S HER NUMBER! CALL ME! CALL ME! NOW I HAVE YOUR NUMBER! WHAT KIND OF PHONE DO YOU HAVE?? I HELP HER WITH HER STAND IN CENTRAL PARK IN THE MORNINGS SO COME STUDY WITH ME THERE ON SUNDAY! I'LL BE WAITING!! I'LL BE WAITING!!!! ARE YOU GONNA COME? GOOD BECAUSE I'LL BE WAITING!" For those who know how great I am with kids, you've probably already guessed  how excited I was about this. But I thought, "No, no, I won't dread it. This will be good for me...right?" I went to see him on Sunday and demonstrated how we study using the Good News brochure. To show you what his attention span is like, this is how part of the conversation went down: "So Marlon, what is God's good news for us?" "That we'll live in paradise. Why do you have sticky notes on the side of your brochure?" "To mark where I am in the brochure with my other students." "Did it come with the brochure?" "No, I bought them." "Where?" "At the store. So, what do you-" "Why does your brochure have the answers marked and not mine?" "Because you have to mark it yourself." "Do you have a pen?" "No, Marlon." "Let me go get a pen." He got a pen, underlined the answer, showed it to his mom, and said, "Look, mom! I'm studying like you!" I sighed, realizing how sincere the kid is. How can I say no?! I brought him a Learn From the Great Teacher book a couple days later. We'll see how we go with that book, but he really wants to study, and he will definitely keep me on my toes!

We also had our C.O. visit last week, which was very encouraging. He, Gerard, is an excellent speaker and his wife, Rocio, was hilarious, as usual. He noted how the change in congregations has not only been good for me, but also for the congregation. Meeting attendance and ministry support have improved dramatically. The biggest thing he emphasized was that the congregation is in a very exciting time right now, so we need to do our best to make sure that they stay consistent after we leave. He told me that even though there is a fair number of elders and pioneers now, he still wants me to stay in this hall to help everyone get more grounded. In the meantime, it's nice to see all the hard work paying off.

Our pioneer meeting with the C.O.. A lot of support this month!
Sister Ortega and Jared out preaching on Friday.
The ministry support for the visit was overwhelming. One day, I think we had 34 people out, which is awesome compared with the fact that we have about six people out on a typical day! At the moment, we have seventeen regular pioneers, and that number looks like it will be increasing even more soon. I didn't count the exact number of auxiliary pioneers we had for this month, but as you can see from the picture above, we had enough to fill up the room! Many people made a lot of sacrifices to support the visit. Our friend Jaziel took the week off from work and was out preaching every day. Actually, it was announced last night that he has now been appointed as a servant! Another encouraging thing to see was Sister Ortega, who has been in a wheelchair for some time now, came out for a couple hours one of the days, assisted by her grandson Jared. Seeing so many people give their very best is a good reminder to continue making the best of my own circumstances.

I worked with Melanie, a very shy but very smart 12-year-old sister. She has done very well for herself. She's the only baptized member of her family, but I think her example has been motivating her family members to keep making progress. We passed by a pulperia to preach to the lady who owns it. Whilst Melanie was doing her presentation, a supplier came up to talk business with the owner, but Melanie continued talking. Just as I was about to tell her to let the man talk to the owner first, he put down his clipboard and started listening to what Melanie had to say as well! It was very cool to see two grown adults listen intently to what a 12-year-old had to say. No, that's not a lesson that we should interrupt businesses. This was just a very rare exception.
The supplier and the owner listening to Melanie.
Me with Edwin and four of the kids after the
meeting. Of course we had to take the picture
from an angle that makes it look like I could
step on and crush them all. 
I started going over the Learn From the Great Teacher book with my study Edwin's kids. I've been studying with him for about four months now, and his kids have been opening up more every time I come. They always try to follow along with Edwin's study or ask for me to show them Caleb videos, so I figured it was about time I started doing something regular with them. They loved it when I gave them the book and are excited to go over it. I invited Edwin to come to the public meeting of the C.O.'s visit. He immediately said yes, and the kids asked if they could come, too. He's come to three meetings with me now and he's loved it every time, so I really hope he keeps progressing! Four of his seven kids (yup, seven) came with him. Actually, each time he's come, they always ask if they can come, too. They all behave really well and pay attention! Edwin also loved Gerard's talks and made sure to follow along with the scriptures. He's got a really good family. Keep them in your prayers, as well as all of our studies, and hopefully, all of them will continue to make progress!

Travis helping Bruno, one of
Edwin's sons, follow along
during the Watchtower.
Travis & Nicole had their last meeting with us last night. Even though they were only here for two weeks, Rolando made an announcement that it was their last meeting and the audience applauded. It was pretty funny, but it once again showed us how loving this hall is. They've welcomed us with open arms and we've gotten very attached, which none of us were expecting. If everybody was that emotional about our friends leaving after just two weeks, we can only imagine how hard it's gonna be when we go! But we will continue to make the most of our time here. It was a really good boost and a lot of fun having our friends visit, but now they are on a plane back to Maine and our normal routine has resumed. We have a couple weeks to take a breather before the Memorial season kicks off, and I'm sure we will have plenty of work to do when it does.

My dad, Bree, Me, Nicole, and Travis at their last meeting. Actually, I need your opinion on this picture, guys. I genuinely can't recall if I was laughing or fake smiling when this picture was taken. I can usually spot my fake smile anywhere, but I really can't tell here. Let me know, since this should obviously take precedent over whatever else you're doing at the moment.
Hope you all are enjoying the inconceivable amounts of snow back home. Rest assured, it's not much better over on the other end of the spectrum. Stay in touch!

Take care,