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,


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Don't Sweat It

Hi there!

Apologies for the delay. We have visitors from Maine at the moment and that has kept us busier than usual, but I finally have a few spare minutes to write an update.

For starters, before the hot season hits us like a ton of bricks, I managed to escape back to my first Nica home: Estelí!
With Jeffrey, Jefté, and Eliezer
out in service.

Jefté recently moved up there to help out the Sign Language group. Needless to say, Chinandega hasn't been the same without him. He's the first person everybody meets when they come here, and he's become one of my closest friends, so we were all very sad to see him go. Thankfully, though, I was able to make it up there to visit him for a few days!

Estelí has changed a lot since I went there almost four years ago. For one thing, there have been many more cafés added throughout town to further promote their coffee culture. They've also gotten a La Colonia supermarket, which is a big deal. The biggest thing, though, is their own mall complete with a cinema! I'm sorry, but where was all of that four years ago, Estelí? Why you gotta be like that, huh? Maybe I would've stayed! Jokes, jokes, I love Chinatown.

View from where we preached with the Centenario congregation. (Photo courtesy of Jefté. Actually, all photos in this post are courtesy of him, now that I think of it.)
Out witnessing with the Sign Language group. It actually did
get fairly warm, but only at midday, thankfully.
The Sign Language in Estelí is picking up slowly but surely. While the future of the group is a little uncertain, they are certainly giving it their all. It is a really nice group of brothers and sisters! There are quite a few studies being conducted, a couple of which have been going to meetings.

Sidenote: The trip also gave me a chance to learn some more LSN (lengauje señas Nicaragüense) and realize how bad I am at it! I was able to learn how to say: "Hello, how are you? What's your name? Where are you from? How old are you? Brothers, welcome all. We're going to sing a song of praise to Jehovah. Please turn to song 78. Amen." I have no idea what I'll do if I ever have to introduce song 79...or any of the other songs.

Left to right: Eliezer, Karis, Jefté, Moi, Kisly, and Felix.
Not only was it nice to escape the heat for a few days, but it was also great to see some old friends. Felix and Kisly were my first two friends here in Nicaragua, so seeing them is always one of the first items on my to-do list in Estelí. We were able to have dinner at the infamous Papikar, where you have to wait about an hour and forty-five minutes for your meal even when you're the only person there. Yay!

Although it involves getting up at 3:30 AM to catch a 5:00 AM bus and another complicated bus ride home, escaping to Estelí is always worth it. Yet, it's always good to be at home in Chinatown, where we have been plenty busy as of late. Between our Maine visitors and our C.O. visit this week, I'll have a lot to write about for the next post. Thanks for reading!

Sidenote: Having always taken on the role of my life coach, Jefté told me that the dress shirt I brought was too dirty and made me wear this for service instead. Just barely passable.
Take care,