Friday, July 25, 2014

Changes, Changes!

Hello there!

Yes, it's been a while, hasn't it? I live such an incredibly busy life seeing important people and doing important things that I just haven't had time to come mingle with the common folk. Jokes, jokes! The truth is that I've just returned from working another summer in the States and I am back in Chinandega once again.

It was a busy few months back home. I picked up two really great Bible studies in my home territory, one of which came to the Memorial! That was very encouraging, and they're currently continuing their studies with two brothers in my home congregation. I also got a new job teaching English online, which is a definite answer to my prayers because it's a great way to support myself while living abroad.

In other news, a group of us serving in Chinandega had the privilege of attending the Spanish International Convention in New Jersey last month!

I'm gonna try not to blabber too much about it, but needless to say, it was an unforgettable experience. We had a peak attendance of nearly 60,000. On Saturday, 808 were baptized! They set up four different pools to speed up the process, but it still took almost the entire lunch period to get through everybody! Very encouraging to see.

As delegates, they treated us VERY well. We were in shock of how much they did for us. Every day that we boarded the bus to go to the stadium, one of these lunch bags was waiting in each and every seat for us! That's not even the half of it. They provided just about every meal, had gift bags waiting for us upon checking in at the hotel (which included special notebooks just for the convention), gave us several tours, and we received hundreds of little gifts everywhere we turned.

We also got a special tour of the Stanley Theater, one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen. That was by far and away one of the most encouraging days most of us have ever had. It included a special program (introduced by the brother above who started off by taking a selfie in front of the audience) about the theater's history and renovations.

Oh, and as one last gift for the day, as we were leaving to board our buses back to the hotel, they surprised us with another buffet accompanied by live music! They also handed out more gift backs, and before we knew it, the whole thing turned into a huge fiesta in one of the back rooms of the Stanley Theater. ?!?!?!?! The whole day was very overwhelming - in the best way possible! Jehovah really does love us and gives us just the encouragement we need. It was a day none of us will forget.

Over the course of the weekend, Brother Jackson came to give four talks (accompanied by a great Spanish interpreter). They looked so tiny on the field, so we were glad we had those giant screens. He is an incredible speaker, and he brought so much life to his talks that by the end of each one of them, the audience was not only applauding, but cheering! Definitely an awesome privilege.

One of my favorite interviews over the weekend was from a brother in his 90s. Speaking about blessings he has received from his endurance, he said to the brother interviewing him, "Look around at all these people in the audience. You know who they are? They're my brothers and my family."

I got to see many old friends over the weekend as well, including my friend Lynette. She was the person who convinced me to go to the Nicaragua in the first place. Without her, I probably never would have gone to Nicaragua, attended that convention, or even be writing this blog post.

I also got to bump into my friend Bridget, the person who convinced me that I should stay in Nicaragua. She was serving in Esteli the first time I came. She helped me a great deal to get settled in and was a great pillar of support. To this day, whenever I need Nica advice, I still go to her!

On Sunday, our group had to dress full-on Nica style. Even though there were technically only one-and-a-half Nicaraguans in our group, it was a lot fun - and much easier to wear than a suit in that hot weather!

To end an incredible weekend, we spent some time in NYC, went a Yankees game (where the Red Sox crushed them!), and toured Walkhill. Afterward, Jefte and Zach came to visit me in Maine for a few days. We had a blast!

After a crazy yet very fun couple of weeks, it was time to return to Nica. Jefte, Zach, and I flew in about two weeks ago. Since then, it's been a busy time adjusting to many new changes. I'm still living in the same house, which is good because it adds a level of stability. However, this time I have changed to a new congregation. With some help and advice from my C.O., I've finally chosen a congregation that I feel comfortable in: Chinandega Norte. (Yes, Chinandega North)

My new Kingdom Hall. It's only a few blocks away from my house, which is a huge relief. I cannot tell you how good it feels to go from constantly worrying about transportation to be able to just walk to the hall.

One of the reasons I chose this congregation was that I already knew a few people from there. That made me feel much more comfortable. Surprisingly, they have many elders, servants, and pioneers - four elders, three servants, and ten pioneers. However, from what I've gathered, the major need here is for encouragement and stability. They have a fairly large territory for a city congregation. It takes them fifteen days to cover it, which is actually a long time in comparison with most other city congregations who cover their territories in just a few days. Mid-week ministry support is pretty weak. So far, there's only been about five people out on a given day, which isn't too good for a hall with 72 publishers. Our C.O. said that meeting attendance is a big problem as well. On Sundays, they are averaging 66, but that includes Bible students coming as well, so as a congregation, it's lower than that.

However, everybody has been very friendly thus far. Although I still have quite a ways to go with my Spanish, it feels good not going into it having to start from scratch. I can actually focus on getting to know these brothers and not struggle with the language. The elder body told me they are very grateful for the help.

Obviously, the need in this congregation is nowhere near as desperate as Ojo de Agua. Sometimes I think that maybe I'm being too lazy by being in this hall. However, I realized that not every hall here is going to be an Ojo de Agua. You don't need to be working yourself to death in a congregation in order to be serving where there is a greater need. Actually, it looks like this hall needs help in certain areas that Ojo doesn't. For example, overall, Ojo didn't really have any internal problems. Overall, the congregation gets along like a big family. That doesn't seem to be the case here. Also, witnessing support in Ojo improved a lot over time, whereas it is pretty weak here. The brothers in Ojo were pretty diligent about fulfilling their responsibilities as well, but according to the elder body in Norte, that is an area in which they need a great deal of help. So even though Ojo primarily needed help in that they needed more brothers to do more parts, they were doing fairly well in most other areas. With Norte, even though they have plenty of brothers, they need a lot of help in most other areas.

All in all, I spent two years in Ojo de Agua, and even though I don't have the energy for that in me anymore, I feel like I can use my experience from that to benefit this congregation. I really like it so far. I've already started three new Bible studies - one of which I'm going to go see this afternoon!

As far as the weather goes, it's been rough, honestly. Temperatures have been about as high as they are in April, and this is supposed to be a rainy month. There has been a drought that's lasted about two months now! Thankfully, it rained a couple of days ago. I was overjoyed, to say the least.

All the guys together once again (recreating the same picture we took a year ago in one of my previous posts, "Tu Palabra es la Verdad").

That's about it for now. Between adjusting to a new hall, readjusting to the heat, and living alone again, I have to say I've been missing home a lot. I thought leaving my friends and family would get easier each time, but it's been getting harder. However, I'm determined to make the most of my new situation, and each day gets easier. Nevertheless, please write or send me an e-mail to let me know how you're doing! You may not think it, but each and every message means a great deal to me. Thank you all for your love and support as usual!

Talk soon,