Sunday, February 9, 2014

Farewell, Ojo de Agua

Hello there,

Well, after a year-and-a-half of what has been a roller coaster experience, I have made a huge decision: I will be leaving the Ojo de Agua congregation.

This may not be a huge shock to some of you, but allow me to explain myself.

As I said before, I moved to Chinandega in late 2012, hoping to be in the English congregation. Instead, my friend Simon and I were asked to go to Ojo de Agua. At first, it was completely overwhelming. However, with time, I was able to pick up the language and start getting some work done.

Giving my first Bible reading in Spanish. I think this was November 2012.

With a lot of help from Jehovah, I was also able to have a productive ministry. Conducting Spanish Bible studies was such a challenge, but it brought me incredible joy.

Simon and I were also able to help out with a lot of congregational responsibilities. It made both of us very happy to be of good use in Jehovah's service.
Picking up people in our territory for the Memorial last year.

Best of all, I became acquainted with a very loving and welcoming congregation. Breaking down the language barrier allowed me to cultivate friendships that I know will last forever.
Roberto, Simon, and I having some fun about a year ago. Roberto has been a major support system for me. We may bicker now and then, but we have each other's best interests at heart. Those are the kind of friends who are there to help you up when you're down.

Little Juanita and I, over a year ago now.

However, a lot of things changed. Over this past summer, I found out that Simon wasn't going to return to Nicaragua. While I understood his reasons for not coming back, it was going to be a challenge tackling Ojo without a partner. Also, upon returning to Chinandega, I learned that Stephane, our only elder, and his wife were leaving Ojo de Agua. That left us with just three ministerial servants: Domingo, Roberto, and myself.

Ready to take it on alone!

This was another overwhelming situation. As I wrote here before, I was feeling very discouraged, and for many reasons - transportation problems, a huge work load, and going through it alone.

Now, I know you're gonna say that I'm not alone, and I know that. The congregation has been very supportive. I think it's been the fact that I live so far from the territory and I've come from so far away that at the end of the day, I don't really have anyone to vent to. Yes, there are many great friends in Chinandega, but it's different with your living situation. Living alone has been easier in a lot of ways, but difficult in that sense.

Things changed in December. I finally started to feel much more comfortable with my Spanish, and our local servant, Domingo, was appointed as an elder.
This was a major relief! It has brought the congregation a sense of security that they never had before, and has lightened our work load a little bit as well. 

Still, I couldn't help but feel like my joy was slowly being drained from me. I think it was the fact that I was working so hard to keep everything functioning perfectly that eventually, that was what I came to view it as: my job. Soon, I felt myself losing the motivation to comment or even study because I felt like doing those things were part of my job, and not sources of joy. I had been giving so much of myself for the past year-and-a-half that I felt nothing but frustration. My transportation problems had hindered me from getting into a routine and being closer to the congregation that I realized, "Maybe Jehovah is pushing me in another direction."

I was explaining all of this to my C.O., and he agreed. He was very understanding, and said that he would send me to a congregation in the city of Chinandega the next time I return. That way, even though there will still be work to do, I won't have to worry about a commute. I happily agreed, and I'm looking forward to the change. 

Please know that this isn't a reflection on the congregation. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it is a very loving and close-knit congregation. It has been a pleasure to be a part of it. Put simply, for me, I'm just ready for a change!

In the meantime, I had to tell people that I was leaving. That was the part of the process I was dreading. First, I decided to tell my very good friends, Ervin and Yorleni.

This is Ervin. He's 17, and is the younger brother of Yorleni, our only local pioneer. He was struggling with associating with his schoolmates last year, so I really wanted to reach out to him. We worked out in service together a lot, and became very good friends by doing so. I took him and Yorleni aside about a month ago and told them the news.

It didn't go as planned. They were both shocked. Yorleni told me, "You too?! But Sam, we need your joy and spirit here!" I replied, "But Yorleni, I'm losing my joy!" Ervin gave me a quick hug, said, "I don't know what to say," and walked off. Yorleni said to me, "I think he's just sad because we were just saying the other day how much we love you and think of you as family!"

That was when the tears came on.

Later that afternoon, I received a message from Ervin that read, "Sam, you know I don't talk a lot...and even though you're not leaving just yet, I wanted to tell you this: the time that you've spent with our congregation has been very valuable to us all. Our congregation, my family, and myself have come to consider you as another member of our family. You are a great brother and friend. Remember last year's year text: 'Be courageous and strong. Jehovah your god is with you.' And all of us, Sam, hope that we will be in your memories wherever you go. Thank you for everything."

Today was my last final meeting. It was overwhelming having everybody come up and say bye, so much so to the point where I didn't really have time to feel sad. It was very strange...but I know that I'll at least come visit them!

Louis-Santiago giving his first Bible reading!

My last talk.

Me with Arlen and José-Louis, two siblings who were baptized together about a year ago. They still haven't finished their studies, so Renee asked me to study with them a few months ago. It was a real pleasure studying with them. They are both so smart and have grown so much spiritually. We had a lot of fun together, and I'll truly miss it.

I sometimes wonder what my life would be like had I not been put in Ojo de Agua. It's given me a great opportunity to learn many things about myself and to grow in my relationship with Jehovah. It's proven to me that He can sustain you in any situation as long as you give Him your best. More than that, it's not always about making sure that the congregation is functioning perfectly. It's about the spirit of love among your fellow brothers and sisters. Maintaining that spirit will make it much easier to maintain everything else.

What I'm taking away from Ojo is this: Jehovah loves every single congregation, no matter how isolated it may be. He takes care of all of us. Many times, the ones that are helping out need help themselves, and that is what He has done for me. 

I truly wish all the best for this congregation. It will always hold a special place in my heart. Thanks for everything, Ojo de Agua.

Talk to you all very soon.

Take care,


Monday, February 3, 2014

English Circuit Assembly

Hi all,

I decided to attend the "God's Word is Beneficial for Teaching" circuit assembly in English this past weekend, and I'm so glad that I did. It was a very encouraging and refreshing weekend!

A few of us went down to Managua a day early. We spent the afternoon visiting a house that Dave and Junea rented on the Laguna de Apoyo, a volcanic crater lake in Granada. I've been there a couple times before, the last time being at the same house. It is unbelievably beautiful there - a preview of paradise!

The water is perfect - it's geothermally heated!

I got permission to attend the regular pioneer meeting the next day, even though I'm not in the English circuit. It was a great privilege to be able to attend. There was 168 in attendance. The meeting was all about maintaining joy in our Kingdom service. It was very practical counsel that came at the perfect time for me, considering that's been my biggest struggle this time around! The talks encouraged us to take all the negatives and try to turn them into positives. Much of the outcome of a situation depends on our personal outlook, so keep it positive! That's what I'm determined to do.

This is Brother Ruben Garcia, the English circuit overseer, giving a talk at the pioneer meeting. He's originally from New York, and is a very friendly & effective speaker. He's always got that big smile on his face! He has a way of putting things into perspective and helping you not to worry about the small stuff. 

One thing that stood out to me from the meeting was the experience of Ashley, a sister serving in León with her husband, Nate. The talk was about fighting discouragement despite challenges, and they certainly had many. They had a goal of attending Gilead, but soon after setting that goal, things began to fall apart. They had to spend thousands of dollars on a car repair, which was a waste because that car died soon after! Finding a stable living situation was also difficult. They stayed with many friends of theirs over time. Eventually, they found out that she was pregnant! Giving up would've been easy, but instead, they turned what could've been a depressing situation into a positive one. They prayed a lot, and have adjusted their circumstances so that they can pioneer full-time here in Nicaragua with their beautiful two-year-old daughter, Lily.

The next day was the start of the assembly!

It doesn't look like a humongous crowd, but there were many different countries represented at this assembly: Nicaragua, Australia, Canada, the United States, Austria, England, Ireland, France, Italy, Mexico, Venezuela, and more. We are definitely an international brotherhood!

My friend Moises giving a soliloquy. 

There was one person baptized on Saturday, and her name is Mary. She is a very sweet girl, and has done considerably well with her circumstances. Her family is opposed, but she kept up with her studies, and now she's officially a sister!

Two sisters re-enacting an experience in which someone requested a Bible study at one of the public witnessing stands in Managua.

Josh was the chairman Sunday afternoon!

Jen and I. She has encouraged me a lot during my time here.

Our weekend group. Left to right: me, Moises, Gavin (from England), his sister Amy, Eduardo, and Josue. Gavin and Amy flew out of Nicaragua today. They will be missed!

The program was just what we all needed. The brothers applied the information in the perfect way so that it hit home to us serving where the need is greater. Although I feel pretty comfortable with Spanish, it was refreshing to hear it all in English! As one brother put it, "If this was physical food, we'd all be overweight!"

We relaxed Sunday after the session by watching the Super Bowl (which was a joke) at a restaurant in Managua.
I love football!

We also played some games with some of the brothers from Pearl Lagoon who were staying at the same house as us.
This was the longest game of UNO I've ever played. It went til midnight! We had a blast though. My stomach hurt from laughing so much.

All in all, the assembly was just what the doctor ordered. Jehovah gives us a nice boost at just the right time! Now it's back to Chinatown and back to Ojo. I'm ready for it!

Thanks for reading. Talk soon!