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,



  1. Aww!! It's ok to let it all out my friend!! lol!! Very nice writing, and the best thing is that your the one that brought them to Nicaragua!! Your example and help!! Good job bud!!

  2. I'm very touched by the experiences in this blog. My desire to serve in areas like Nicaragua brought me to start searching about it. My niece's fiancé goes to Preach to Nicaragua from 2-3 months of the year, and he has told us beautiful experiences. I myself would love to travel there for 2-3 weeks. Jehovah continues blessing your effort. Ate. Marie

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  4. Great to hear from you again. Roy & I would have loved to be able to do what you are doing, but, we are past the age requirements & health. Hope to do it in the new system. Keep up the good work, Jehovah is with you all. Looks like a great place to visit, maybe some day. Christian Love, Roy & Wendy Wheeler Leicester Ma Cong.