Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ojo de Agua

Hello there,

These past eight months have been life-changing, to say the least. As I looked around at all the brothers & sisters in Ojo de Agua at my last meeting there on Thursday, I couldn't help but think about how much I've come to love this congregation. Despite all the difficulties it has brought, it has been a truly rewarding experience for me.

When Simon & I first moved to Chinandega, he had already told me that there was an English congregation there. I was pretty happy to hear that because I didn't really want to take on the daunting task of being in a Spanish congregation! Nevertheless, we wanted to go where the need was, so we spoke to David Maragos, the coordinator of the English hall, and asked him if they needed help in their congregation. To my dismay, he told us that they were doing fine at the moment. He then asked us if we would be willing to go to Ojo de Agua, this little congregation in the rural territory that him and his wife, Junea, had been supporting for quite some time. The congregation was in desperate need, especially since there were no local elders. Understandably, supporting both Ojo and English was getting to be too much for David & Junea to handle, so they were very happy that we said yes.

We weren't the first people to be asked to go to Ojo de Agua. Stephan & Maddie were originally in English, but because they both spoke Spanish well and had transportation, they were asked to switch to Ojo as well, over a year ago. Since Stephan was only recently appointed as an elder, the congregation still needed a hand. Their official coordinator was Martin Doubon, also the coordinator of La Florida, but he is so busy in La Florida that he hasn't been able to do anything in Ojo. So Simon & I, two ministerial servants, seemed like a good choice.

Ojo has been through a lot over the years. They've always struggled to maintain their position as a congregation, since they have never had a stable local elder. It even got to the point where they were going to be dissolved, and the Kingdom Hall was put up for sale! Thankfully, after a lot of effort and craziness, they were finally approved as a congregation. Even so, the brothers & sisters have always had this fear of being abandoned. Hence, when somebody moves to the congregation, they want to be sure that they're here to stay.

You can probably imagine that all of this, combined with the heat and language barrier, was very overwhelming for me. I did my best to make it appear that I was doing perfectly fine with everything, but inside, I was losing my mind. Some people saw right through me. Junea, for instance, could tell that I wasn't coping well. However, she told me that despite all the challenges, Ojo is a very loving congregation. I remember thinking, "Even so, what good does that do if I can't understand anybody??" 

As time went on, I got to see how right Junea was. I still remember going to my first meeting out there, and struggling just to give a short comment. I remember the first few times I went out witnessing in Ojo, and having to just stand there & listen to everybody laugh at me because I couldn't communicate with them. That's how it felt at the time, at least. Looking back, I realize that they were simply welcoming me into their family. 

I felt as if I had dug myself into a whole too deep. I cried just about every night for the first month I was here, thinking to myself, "Why did I do this? How can I possibly be of any help to this congregation? Maybe I'm not spiritually strong enough to handle something like this." There were many occasions where I contemplated just flying home, but a part of me didn't want to give up.

Things didn't really reach a turning point until my friend Jamie told me, "Look, I know where you're coming from. Believe me, I've been there. But I'm urging you not to give up. The first couple of months of not understanding anything and feeling unable to contribute - those are necessary evils that you have to go through. If you leave, that congregation is going to be heartbroken. Yes, they may laugh, but they love you and are so happy that you have come. Trust me. You've got a great assignment out there. You just don't know it yet."

After giving some serious thought to what Jamie said, I decided it was time to stop moping around and time to start putting some real effort into it. Was it difficult to cycle out there on rough terrain for all the meetings and service groups in the hottest part of the country? You bet it was! Was it difficult to communicate with the brothers & sisters? Absolutely! But I found ways to enjoy those things. A couple of times, my friend Eduardo & I would race out to the meetings, and I had to learn to laugh at myself whenever I made mistakes with Spanish. I started taking Spanish lessons, taking better care of myself, and of course, prayed every single day. It made a huge difference when we were able to use Simon's motorbike! Having other need-greaters in the congregation was also a major help.

It also helps that the ministry in Ojo is awesome!

Each day got better than the one before. Gradually being able to help out more in the congregation, conduct Bible studies, and building relationships with people was exciting. I remember my major goal upon first arriving was hoping to be able to give a number-three talk. I had no idea I'd be doing things like conducting the book study! (Ironically enough, I still haven't done a number-three talk. I've done literally everything else - Bible highlights, Watchtower reading, and service meeting parts - but not that!)

Like every other congregation, Ojo has its fair share of problems, but I realized something: among all the problems the brothers & sisters have, none of them are with each other. This congregation truly exemplifies the feeling of being in a family that we're supposed to have! 

Kelvin & I out in service.

A lot of these people have made incredible sacrifices for the truth. Take Esperanza, for example. She was baptized at the District Convention this past November, and it was a long journey for her. She was living with the father of her children, Ervin & Yorleni, under one roof for over 30 years. Once she began studying and raising her kids in the truth, he was never interested. When she was serious about getting baptized, she either had to marry him or leave him, and he refused to marry her. So what did she do? Rather than beg him, she took a huge leap of faith, and left him! She moved out of their house, which was just across the road from the Kingdom Hall, to all the way down la linea, almost to Chinandega! She now cycles to all the meetings and service groups herself. Some days, she even walks! Ervin & Yorleni still go stay with her a few nights a week as well. As difficult as it has been, she is so much happier now, especially now that all three of them are baptized. And when her former partner came knocking on her door begging her to take him back, what do you think she said? "NO THANK YOU!"
Esperanza with my good friends, Ervin & Yorleni.

It wasn't until my last meeting that I realized how much I've come to appreciate everybody in Ojo - Esperanza who always calls me "Samuel the baby," Ervin who always makes fun of how fast I walk, Kelvin who has picked up some nice English phrases while we've been here, Domingo who is one of the most easy-going brothers out there, Esperanzita who always gives me enough mangos to make me happy, and many more.
Stephan (who was made our official Coordinator, by the way!) and Domingo, the only local servant and our acting Service Overseer.

The Grillo family, left to right: Sophia, her daughter Paula, Esperanzita, and Moises, Sophia's son. Esperanzita is a riot. We have the service group at her house on Wednesdays, and she is always very hospitable. Because she's pretty advanced in age, it's difficult to understand her sometimes! She'll ask me questions, and a lot of times, I have to ask her to repeat herself. But even if I ask her to repeat herself just once, she just looks at the person next to her and says, "He doesn't understand me," and gives up. Even so, she always makes sure that I have all the mangos I want and that I eat enough food!

It has amazed me how close-knit this congregation is. They work together on many projects but also get together to socialize often as well. Although they are very close as a congregation, they are very welcoming to newcomers! So if you are qualified, have a basic knowledge of Spanish, and can handle the heat, then Ojo is the place for you! We definitely need the help. If anyone is seriously interested in coming to check it out, let me know.

Notice our year text finally arrived!

Roberto & I at my last meeting. He's another ministerial servant, making us four servants total. He is also acting as the School Overseer.

I don't know why I keep saying that it was my last meeting, because it certainly won't be! I will definitely be returning to Nicaragua once again this fall. Hopefully I can be back in time for the Spanish District Convention in September to make the trip down to Managua along with everyone else in Ojo. Until then, I will continue to think about them and pray for them every day. It's a great congregation, and it has been a true blessing to be there.

I know a lot of people say time goes by fast with experiences like this, but honestly, I'd be lying if I told you that. There were periods of time that felt like an eternity! Of course, April has arrived sooner that I thought it would. I cannot express how life-changing it has been for me to move here. This place has become my home over the past eight months. Although I am excited to be home in the States for a while, I will definitely be back here as soon as I can. It was hard to tell people in Ojo that I was leaving. Many of them said, "You can't leave! We're not giving you permission! Are you really gonna come back? We'll be here waiting for you." I reassured them that I would return. When I first arrived and told people that I would be going to Ojo de Agua, everyone told me that it has a great reputation and is a very friendly congregation. They were right!

Thank you all for your help and support! It has meant the world to me. Please continue to stay in touch! I probably won't be posting much on here until I return, but thank you all for keeping up. I should probably wrap this up since I have to head down to the airport soon. I'll be seeing all of you in the States very soon.

Talk to you all as soon as I can.

Take care,


P.S. - I don't know why I put a "P.S." People just always seem to write something really profound when they write a "P.S." 


  1. Sam, this was an absolutely beautiful summary of your thoughts and emotions during this challenging but rewarding time. We look forward to seeing you soon! Kim Bernier

  2. Loved your summary. I had a lump in my throat reading some of that. Maybe Charley & I will organize a visit when you get back.

  3. Great to read your experiences! It was nice to see you right at the beginning of your amazing journey. My journey in that time has also been amazing. All this in the past 8 months. Take care and regards to Simon!

  4. You are going to make me cry Sam!! Beautifully said and I agree with you wholeheartedly. Rob and I have just returned to Canada and love seeing everyone, especially the family, but we will be eager to return in October!! Hope to see you in Nica again in the fall!!

  5. I'm glad I found this blog! Congratulations on all the hard work, Sam! Will you be at the English District Convention in El Salvador on Aug. 30th? By the way, I'm from Tegucigalpa, Honduras (Nicaragua's neighbor country) and six months ago we just started an English group on the southern part of the city. There is huge potential in the territory but also a great need for publishers in our group (especially appointed brothers!) As a matter of fact, there is potential in many parts of Honduras in the English field (like in the Bay Islands!) but there are very few publishers to support the formation of new groups. I'm sorry to use this as an ad but if anyone is interested in expanding their ministry for a few months (or even weeks), you are more than welcome to pay us a visit; we'll get you settled. My email address is

  6. Hi Sam,
    Thank you again for an amazing post. I basically sent this to everyone I know that has done need greating. You put into words what everyone feels when they do this work. You were able to express many of the challenges, yet remain positive, which is why many of us don't try to explain this side of it - it comes out negative, when overall the experience was irreplaceable and such a blessing from Jehovah and a spiritual high. But that doesn't mean it doesn't come with hard work!!! Like the Gilead graduation comments (on the website), Jehovah even feeds the birds of the heavens, but he doesn't go grab the food and put it in their nests :) We gotta do our part.

    Thank you again. Such a memorable post. Hope all your travels go well!


    p.s. Africa is going really well! I've been praying like crazy and trying to keep up on my personal study while I struggle studying the language. If Jehovah can't keep me from missing my family, he can sure keep me busy enough not to think about it ;)

  7. Hi, My wife and I would like more information about serving in Nicaragua. We would like to go there soon and have been planning this for a while so we could use the info ASAP. We are planning to go to San Juan Del Sur. Thank you so much!
    my email: