Many, many changes here. Our old Paraiso congregation is doing well. The awesome thing about serving in a foreign language is that everyone there is there by choice and it makes for an outstanding group of brothers & sisters. Everyone was sad by the sudden cancellation of our congregation but they also want to serve Jehovah as fully as possible so like when an RBC project is finally completed we think “What next?” For all of us the next thing was to attend the English district convention in Merida. Some did decide to forego the cost of attending and chose to attend a Spanish convention in Villahermosa. But for those who did attend it was an opportunity to see old friends and to exchange contact information so as to stay in touch. Lots of group pictures were taken. Lots of hugs. Some tears but not much. The interesting thing was there was an air of excitement…a new chapter in the theocratic lives of many was starting. Some are choosing to return to a Spanish congregation that needs help. Some will be supporting their family in a Spanish congregation. Some are going to help in the indigenous language congregations or in sign language. Throughout the convention the new changes in the English congregations was referred to...very nice to hear and not just have it ignored.
Merida was nice. We stayed with relatives of friends here. It was a very busy household with eight house guests. Wonderful host family, wonderful brotherhood! The convention was held at the assembly hall. We took an ADO bus to Merida from Paraiso and the host family picked us up at the bus station. Merida is a beautiful city with all of the stores you are accustomed to shop at along with traditional local artists/crafters shops in a colonial setting with cobblestone streets.We had thought that we have a low attendance at the convention but it was about 200 more than last year with a high around 900. The drama was the most beautifully costumed drama I have experienced so far. Lots of rain. Very loud on the roof so that the sound volume had to be increased. ADO buses are great! Not at all like the Greyhound. Clean and well run.
Interesting scene in Merida is---are you familiar with the vendors and beggars who are always trying to sell you something, clean your window or just get a handout when you are stopped at traffic lights in Mexico? In Merida Mennonites sell their cheeses that way!! Strange to see red headed or blonde tall men in overalls and straw hats between the cars! Apparently there is a large Mennonite community in the Merida area.
Most of our Paraiso Ingles congregation are attending a Spanish congregation here in Paraiso who have started a new group in El Chivero which is between Paraiso & Comalcalco. They want to help make the group into a congregation. The territory is rural, in the jungle. We will be working with them in service on Wednesday. For now Robin and I are isolated pioneers in the Villahermosa Ingles congregation. Villahermosa has their meetings on Sunday at 4pm and on Monday at 7:30pm. It is an hour and a half commute for us. We took a bus to our first meetings because there is a huge amount of construction on the highway. They are building a bridge and redoing how the roads run. You can run into construction/traffic jams that can add 30 minutes or more to the commute time. It costs us 40 pesos each to ride the bus one way. Once in Villahermosa we get a taxi to the Kingdom Hall. The friends have given us a ride back to the bus station after meetings.
Some of you have had some questions regarding the changes in the English field here in Mexico. Sadly we have had to experience the downsizing twice. Our new congregation had to make changes on Monday. This is how they handled it, I hope you find it encouraging and that it helps to answer some questions that you might be asking.
“The Monday night meeting was normal until the How Did We Do Last Year? part. The congregation had accomplished much over the past service year. The brother explained how the goal had changed a little...we are now looking for native English speakers and not people who speak English. 2 Tim. 4:5 So different service activities would be set up including public witnessing using the carts, letter writing on Saturdays, telephone witnessing, witnessing at the airport when flights from the U.S. come in, at English schools, getting referrals of other native English speakers from native English speakers, evening witnessing and during your daily activities whenever you hear English start a conversation with them. Get contact information if possible from the person such as phone number, email address, home address or where they work. This all calls for courage to approach strangers. 2 Tim. 4:17 ...if you hear English find out if they are native speakers and if so, get their contact information The Bro. thanked the 43 publishers for their hard work as seen in the figures for the last service year: 43 publishers, 18,800 hours, 230 books, 300 brochures, 6,200 magazines and 55 Bible studies.
The next part started off with Luke 21:1-4 The Bro. said that all in the congregation were like the widow...giving their all. To remember that Jesus noticed what she did and he notices what you do. You are all cheerful givers. He referred to Jehovah’s chariot as described in Ezekiel’s vision and that it feels like it took a sharp turn but that is really not the case. We are being told to re-focus. Acts 2:8 It does not mean that the work has been done wrong all these years it is just a readjustment to narrow our focus. He read from a letter that said “deported and those who have learned English are not part of your territory.” So, calls will have to be turned over to the Spanish congregations as well as Bible studies. It does not have to be done immediately but he felt sure all of the changes could be made by the end of October. He said to continue conducting your studies and take someone who will take it over for you. Take someone from the other congregation on your calls to introduce them to the new person. He also said that the letter said “in the vast majority of cases” so there would be exceptions as to turning over calls and Bible studies. The English speaker database will shrink considerably since now only native speakers will be on it, so the need for a large congregation will shrink too. Spanish speaking brothers and sisters are being encouraged to return to Spanish or other fields that need help. He announced that some of the Spanish speakers in the congregation will be asked to stay in the English field if possible but that after meeting the brothers and sisters were asked to meet up with their service overseers to learn who was being asked to stay. It was sad but very lovingly done. The congregation is now made up of only 18 brothers and sisters. 8 are native English speakers from other countries. 10 were asked to stay from the Mexican English speaking brothers and sisters.
Many have asked why we don’t just go to a Spanish congregation? Our directives from the C.O. is to stay in the English. So, for us that means we have to move. We still have not decided on where. We plan to move from Puerto Ceiba at the end of the year. Until then we will have to travel back and forth to Villahermosa for meetings. We will try to do our service here in the Paraiso area.
We have to decide on moving to beach cities or to a city on a mountain that is popular with tourists and ex-patriots. One brother has offered a house he owns as a rental to us. We are pretty sure that we will take his offer. It is a condo with a modern kitchen. Right now we are thinking maybe we would like to try living in an “american style” home in a gated community where we should be able to walk our dogs and not have stray dogs around. If we tire of it we can always move to a regular house in town.
For now we have to work on getting to Argentina. The practical thing would be not to go but we would lose our cost of the tickets and that was big...close to $2,000 dollars. So we will go on a shoestring budget. When we come back we will face the expense of moving.
We are going to have to be creative with our ministry here. We are only allowed to speak to foreigners. We are calling on our old calls and Bible studies letting them know who will be calling on them and that there is no longer an English congregation in the area but there is one in Villahermosa. So Rob and I are alone in service most of the time. We will be stepping over and working with the Spanish on Wednesdays.
We just got a call from the Immigration office and need to be there in Villahermosa on Monday morning at 10am. Robin’s paperwork has been such a headache. I will be so happy when he is done with it if ever. They asked us to take someone who can translate Spanish for us because no one in the office can do that for us and nothing is in English. We are not in Kansas anymore where everything is in English & Spanish!
I had waited to photograph our new home so that I could make some changes. Otherwise you might have questioned our choice. But now I will stop working on it since I am leaving. I had really wanted to put in a vegetable garden.
All in all it is exciting to be part of the changes in the English field in Mexico. We know Jehovah will bless it. We are excited to see how the congregations develop and grow. We have loved getting to know the friends here in Tabasco both in the English & Spanish field and in sign-language. We love the beauty of Tabasco. We love the people of Tabasco. We have been shown tons of support and lovingly cared for by the friends. This first assignment has not only enriched our lives it has made our love for the brotherhood grow. Most importantly it has helped us to see how time and again Jehovah keeps his promise to care for his people no matter where they are serving in the world. We look forward to the next chapter in our theocratic lives.
Speaking of which, Mexico was invited to apply for international conventions next year in the U.S. Rob and I will be applying but the choices are less than our favorites. We have New Jersey, Texas and Hawaii to pick from and there are only two that will have English all of the others are in Spanish but by then our Spanish should be getting pretty good. We thought since we will be going state side to visit family why not attend one if possible?