Thursday, March 22, 2012

Final Comments

Nicaragua was an amazing experience.  I am so glad that I had the opportunity to experience firsthand serving in a foreign country.  It’s so worth the effort.  Indeed it takes a leap of faith to go against others well-meaning concern and give your all to Jehovah’s service.  I was able to serve in the English congregation in Granada.  This is a young small congregation that has a lot of rich territory.  We would go into some territories that seemed impossible to find English speaking people and we ALWAYS found someone.  Most of the times you were able to place literature and sometimes start a study.  Many Nicaraguans want to learn English or already do.  This coupled with the region’s inherent desire to learn more about God’s Word makes for an awesome preaching experience.  No more apathy and no more hunting people down for studies.  Speaking at every door affords you the opportunity to hone your skills.  Granted this is still a challenging territory due to the search and discover nature of service.  This sometimes means mornings consisting of mostly census.  But Granada is a very touristy area as well.  Many English speaking tourists frequent the area.  Although street witnessing opens you up to many varied beliefs and a variety of ethnicities, this is great to break up the monotony of the constant census work.  I have to admit that I didn’t fully take advantage of this avenue of service but it was easy to speak with tourists simply by asking what brings them to Granada and asking where they are from.  The few people I did speak with certainly were friendly.  It’s always handy to carry meeting invites on your person.

My trip also took me to other parts of Nicaragua.  I was able to sample the coast, where English is predominantly spoken as well as places where Spanish is only spoken such as Jinotega.  Pearl Lagoon is in desperate need of help.  They go overnight preaching trips in order to cover their territory and due to the religious nature of the people there, you could easily share 3-4 scriptures at each door.  I felt so unequipped, but this challenge was good because it helps you prepare for the ministry with a purpose.   Jinotega doesn’t have much territory and it gets covered every 2 weeks.   But surprisingly you meet different members of the family at home and definitely have to keep your presentation fresh.  The most shocking part is that interest is still found daily!  I spent a week there and could have had my own bible study!  In contrast, I was in Granada for 6 weeks before I found a girl who really wanted to study.  I got the information of the sister who took the study in Jinotega and eagerly wait to hear the results of my initial seed.

All in all I think everyone should have the experience of serving somewhere.  The longer you can go the better since more time means more time with your studies before you turn them over.  The cost of living here in inexpensive and the cities are safe.  There are hardly any guns in Nicaragua which contributes to the safety factor.  Travel within the country is ridiculously cheap.  I’m talking $5 to get clear to the other side of the country, how long it will take you is entirely another story.  If you can take cold showers and want an instantly productive ministry, I say go for it!  Try it out for at least 3 months!  I promise you won’t regret it!

Monday, March 19, 2012


What a joy!  This place is awesome.  I am here visiting my friend from Trinidad who lives here permanently.  Jinotega is completely different from Granada.  It’s cold here at night and in the morning.  It is surrounded by mountains and has a slight hometown feel to it.
So far we have gone in service, started the track campaign and started a bible study.  I need to move here!  Too bad it’s too cold.  There are 2 Spanish congregations here each with over 100 publishers.  Yet the meeting attendance still gets up to 188 on the weekend.  I went on 4 of the 11 studies that my friend has.  The field is definitely ripe here.  Today we met the 5pm group and preached until after 6:30pm, it was completely dark when we stopped knocking on doors.  After greeting the householders with a “Buenas Noches”  we just kept the conversation going as if it weren’t nighttime.  (Hilarious if you ask me).  The food here is the same but Jinotega boasts a couple of swanky coffee shops.  Coffee is grown here locally.

In fact we went to a nature reserve yesterday, it’s owned by Germans and serves free range and organic meat and veggies in their restaurant.  The views here, in the rural territory are stunning.  Working with Spanish-speaking ONLY sisters has greatly improved my Spanish.  Chatting with some of the sisters that have moved here from the States, Canada and Scotland has proved to me how worth it it is to take the leap of faith and to sell your stuff and just move.  I’m seriously thinking about it….

Sidenote: There’s a sister here who makes Enchiladas and sells them 2 days a week to support her pioneering, YUM!!       

SideSideNote: It was a hot mess to get here.  The bus pulls out the station and informs everyone that we need to fork over double the money to make it to our destination because the road is blocked and we need more gas to get to Jinotega and it’s going to take an extra hour due to the back roads.  Then, the bus overheats.  Then we blow a tire.  Then it straight up breaks down!  In the meantime I befriend the woman sitting next to me who low and behold speaks English.  She has the Family Happiness Book and is trying to convince her husband to study.  In Matagalpa she helps me find a bank, watches my bags and gets her buddy to give me a free ride in a taxi.  I placed 4 magazine with her, a set in Spanish and a set in English. J

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday and Headed Home

Sunday we attended the meeting.  The brother who gave the talk was from Bluefields.  But, he wasn’t BLACK.  He only spoke Spanish.  After the meeting we discussed Bluefields and difference between being in the Spanish and English fields.  His talk was about Miracles and he used many props in his lively discourse.  I sat one seat away from a deaf woman who constantly made noises during the meeting.  I found out that she faithfully attends every meeting and a special pioneer couple studied with her 2 years ago but left the island.  She has no-one to study with her but loves coming to the Kingdom Hall.  We need people down here from the SIGN LANGUAGE!! 

After the meeting we went home and prepared lunch.  We made a delicious fresco from the Starfruits from yesterday's bible study.  We then rented bikes and biked 20Km to Ojos de Agua.  We swam for a few minutes and then were joined by 8 others from the congregation.  We had even more fun this second time.  Around 4pm we took our bikes and journeyed through a short cut through pastures until we came to the main road.  We biked down to the river’s edge and ate an upscale dinner at a beautiful restaurant.  I had chicken skewers with onions, tomato, pineapple and banana!  It was delicious!  Then we biked back home in the dark.  We couldn’t help but stop and gaze the awesome stars.   I learned a lot about constellations and colored stars.  We shared our favorite scriptures and star-gazed for over an hour.  We rode home in darkness and arrived tired and sore.  I slept good that night!

The next morning we girls were treated to breakfast by the guys.  We then caught the bus to Mayogalpa.  This path was unpaved and was exceptionally rocky and the way was blocked by oxen.  A blond woman and her husband boarded the bus.  Linda commented that they didn’t seem like they were from around here.  Turns out they were new pioneers on the Route!  She was from Spain and her husband was from Mexico and they were from the English in Rosarito Mexico!  We chatted with them and then 3 more pioneers boarded the bus.  We instantly made new friends!  We took pictures at our destination and then parted ways.  We met up with a special pioneer couple for Missouri and ate a splendid lunch.  The papaya chicken salad was impressive.  The owners also roasted their own coffee beans!  YUM!  We then rushed off to catch the 2pm Ferry.  Guess what!?  The driver had a headache and decided not to drive that day!  So Efrien and I had to quickly board a bus to San Jose- the other port on the island and hope to catch the 3:20pm Ferry.  We made it in time and even had time to grab a quick Tona.  This ferry was heaven compared to the horrible contraption of a boat that brought me over to the island.  We shared pictures and stories and wondered how we’d arrive to our final destination, his Costa Rica, mine Granada.  In Rivas we learned that I had missed the last bus to Granada.  Man! So we went by a Pharmacy owned by witnesses.  She informed us how to get to the bus station where we could plot our next move and offered for me to stay the night at her place in order to catch the bus tomorrow.  So sweet!  We hurried over to the bus station and as always the bus is about to pull off and I made the split second decision to board the bus headed to Managua.  I kept alert and exited the bus in Masaya.  I then waited by the side of the road and tagged along with 2 travelers from Germany who spoke Spanish.  We found out that we were all going to Granada.  We then flagged down a yellow school bus headed to Granada and rode to the end of the line.  I then walked home and arrived by 8pm, whew what a day!

Service and Food!

The next day I woke up and met with another brother staying at the same hotel as me.  He was having a bible-based discussion with a man visiting from Germany.  They were discussing everyone’s favorite subject-THE TRINITY.  The man was saying that there was some scripture somewhere in John that translates Jesus saying “I am”.  But he didn’t know where or what the rest of the scripture said.  The brother tried to reason with the man and quote scriptures , since his bible was in Spanish and not English.  I added my 2 cents and mentioned for him to look up the scripture at Acts 7:55,56 when he got a chance.  Then the brother and I ran over to the house of Linda and sat down to pancakes, eggs and coffee.  Yum!  The group for service was at 8am.  There were like 26 people out that day!  This was leaps and bounds from before the congregation got served 11 pioneers from Mexico on Route assignments.  (*Note,  the Route is a new arrangement from the Mexico Branch that is very similar to unassigned territory in the States.  Individual regular or auxillary pioneers sign up months in advance.  The assignments began in January and run through to June.  Each person can decide to sign up for a 1-6month assignment in a rural area.  Some of these people have never been preached to!  My friend Linda was on a 2 month assignment in Omentepe, the other pioneers were there was various amounts of times.  Linda was serving with father. )  Before hardly anyone would be out in service on a Friday, especially because they have no pioneers.  In fact the entire island of Omentepe only has 2 special and 2 regular pioneers living there!  We did a territory right in town and preached house over house to the locals.  We preached until about 11am.  My Spanish was horrible but I managed to place a truth tract as well as a All Suffering Soon to End tract.  My partner was nice Mexican sister from Mexico City.  We received bananas from a door that she took. 

After service we walked home and began to prepare lunch.  After all, Linda and I had to feed the brother from Costa Rica, the one from Mexico, her father and another brother, the one from my hotel who I met in Granada but lives in Canada.  After lunch we met up with 2 other sisters and took a private taxi to a lovely pool of water called Ojos de Agua.  This is a beautiful retreat that features a river that flows over volcanic rock that is natural and provides a mineral bathing experience.  It only cost $2 to get in for the entire day!  We bathed and enjoyed each other's company.  Afterwards, we hiked to the top of the hill for a great view of both of Omentepe’s active volcanos: Conception y Maderas.   After dark our taxi took us home and we prepared dinner and then went to sleep.

The next morning we ate a healthy breakfast of Oatmeal and fruit and then met the group at the Kingdom Hall.  Today we had even more people out in service!  We caught the bus to the rural territory.  This was crazy since there were so many of us and so many of the locals.  The bus was packed and we literally had to exit the bus using the back emergency door because there was no way we could get out through the front.  Then we walked another mile or so to the territory.  Then something epic happened, I discovered the Tamarid tree.  This is now my favorite treat!  I picked up the pods and stuffed them into a purse.   They have a sweet and sour tasting paste surrounding a seed.  YUM!  We preached until 10:30 .  This territory was way out and was lined with mango trees that the brothers ate from on our little sitting down break.  I got to put my knife to good use peeling the mangos.  We then went off to do a study: Linda, Efren, her dad and I.  I asked were they sure that we could bring 4 people on to one study.  Don’t worry Linda said.  We hoped to hitch a ride to the top of the long gradual incline that led to the study but NO CAR came our way.  But this afforded us the opportunity to see MONKEYS!!! There were over a dozen of them lurking in the trees on the side of the road.  Finally we reached the study.  No lie, the WHOLE FAMILY sat in on the study.  There were like 8 people present besides us.  There were 4 generations represented at the study.  Everyone who could read had their bible teach books and bibles out.  The older and infirmed ones listened in and offered comments.  I was able to participate by Linda’s dad translating my comments and questions.  It seriously was like a book study!  After the study the family gave us a huge bag of Starfruits to take home.  Then we started the trek back to the town.  This time we hitched a ride.  You won’t believe who picked us up!?  An Italian couple!  I spoke to them in Italian and Linda placed a Spanish Watchtower with them-man I knew I should’ve brought my Italian literature to the island!  We then reached the bus-stop and caught the bus the rest of the way home.  The men went off to a study and Linda and I prepared lunch.  We then ate and attended the meeting.  Afterwards we invited the congregation over and we ate Nacatamales.  (A traditional Nicaraguan dish similar to a Mexican tamale but more squishy).  After everyone left we prepare our Watchtowers together for the next day.  As we took turn reading, the lights went out and we lit candles and finished the preparation.  I slept contently that night as a party raged next door, blasting the newest Merengue, Bachata and Reggaeton hits.


This was an interesting trip.  I planned to leave at 5am and reach the Island by 12pm.  This clearly did not happen because I ended up on the 3:30pm Lancha.  So I didn’t leave Granada until 12pm.  I hopped on a bus going to Rivas.  This is about a 2 hr bus ride going down South.  I enjoyed views of the volcano Mamboucho from the opposite side from Granada.  As we pulled off a young Nica guy sits next to me and decides to play 21 Questions with me.  I limited my Spanish and listened to my phone for music.  Then I remembered that my friend had advised me not to ride the bus to the end, but instead to get off the bus at San Jorge.  I hop off the bus and meet a taxi waiting to escort people to the Ferry Port.  The bus driver informs me that it should cost $2USD.  Instead I end up paying $4, which is $100C, which is a lot.  I was so mad!  The taxi raced to the port only for me to miss the 2:30 Ferry.  Instead I had to take the 3:30pm Lancha.  Man what a difference!!!  I board what I thought was the waiting area for the boat.  There were wooden planks to sit on and there were metal bars around the perimeter.  A Nicaraguan man starts talking to me and comes to sit next to me.  I speak with him in Spanish.  All of a sudden the lancha takes off.  What I thought was a waiting area was the vessel itself!  The waves were insane!  The boat tilted from side to side so violently that one had to hold on to their seat or to the metal bars to avoid falling over.  I said to the man, “Es siempre como esta?  Es horrible!”  He kept talking to me and asked had I eaten and would I feel sick.  I was so sickened by the movement of the waves that I stopped talking and simply tried to keep my composure.  My stomach felt like a blender and I was so thankful that I hadn’t eaten much.  I noticed that my new buddy was laid across the seat and covering his face with his hands- hey maybe he was tired.  After 10 excruciating minutes I notice the blond on the other side of the man quickly got up with a disgusted look on her face.  I look at the man and he is puking his brains out!  I almost lost it when I saw that!  I immediately got up and almost fell onto the other people sitting across from me, since the boat was still rocking forcefully.  I sat across from my original spot and saw the orange vomit and decided to move.  I stood up and clung for dear life to the side of the boat and looked ahead to the volcano, my destination.  I noticed someone below on the deck beneath puking.  I then began to pray and breathe deeply.  I focused on that volcano for the next hour as water sprayed passengers from the unsteady condition of the boat.  I seriously thought we were going to flip over at any moment.  Finally we reached and I thankfully   walked off that darned thing and vowed NEVER to take a Lancha again at any costs.  The crazy thing is that it cost the exact same price as the ferry!  By this point it’s getting late and the sun is starting to go down.  So I rush to catch the LAST bus to Altagracia.  The bus filled up quickly and I sat on an outside seat.  A woman with a huge gut kept knocking her stomach into my arm.  Gross!  Finally we reached!  I was greeted by my friend Linda Campos, who’s on the Route from Mexico.  She informed me that there was gathering going on and that I had to stay at the Bed and Breakfast because a brother from Costa Rica was staying an extra night and there was no room for me.  $8 bought me a room at a cozy hotel right downtown.  (So cheap!!!)  I quickly showered and met her in the lobby.  We started off to the sister’s house.  On the way, we met up with a brother from Mexico who just finished his Route assignment in Costa Rica who joined us for the weekend.  The gathering was so cute!  The whole congregation was there!  Half were inside playing a numbers game and half were outside chatting.  We said a prayer and dinner was served.  The sister served us rice, carrots and chicken out of a huge bucket and bread.  The Coke also came from a huge bucket that they stocked with large chunks of ice.  But, there were no forks.  We ate with our fingers! Lol  I thought to myself, wow these friends sure are poor!  But afterward my friend told me that they simply had forgotten to purchase some and we laughed because we all thought that that was a normal part of life but it wasn’t.  After dinner, the friends gathered around in chairs and Linda sang songs and played her miniature guitar that the friends had given her as a gift.  The friends all sang along to the Spanish tunes and listened quietly at the English ones.  It was a nice way to end the night.  I climbed into bed at 10:30 and fell right to sleep.  Then WHAM!!! A mango woke me up!  They fall periodically onto the roofs of homes where the trees are grown.  Nevertheless I slept happily for I had arrived safe to the lovely island of Omentepe. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sign Language Service

So today I had a study to go on but there's no group for English on Thursday.  So I met with my roommates group for Nica Sign.  We went by my study- she wasn't there :-(.  So we did a few of her calls and territory.  90% of the people were home.  First we stopped by a deaf man 40 yrs old and left him his new DVDs.  He has a broken foot that he hurt by falling and them some little hoodlums dropped a huge rock on the same foot and now he has to wear a boot for a year and it got infected.  But he's sweet and loves learning the truth.  Down the street we run into a deaf woman who's a hugger.  (Im not so touchy feely, but I hugged her)  Next, we go see another call down the street but wasn't home.  We chat with his mom and show her the My Book of Bible Stories Book that we use to study with him, and offer to bring her one in Spanish.  She introduces us to a little abandoned girl.  Her parents up and moved to Costa Rica and straight up left her.   This woman isn't even related and just happened to take her in-poor thing.  Then we goto a study.  On the way at a restaraunt we encouter a deaf man who can't sign properly.  Shelina tries to teach him some new signs using the pictures in the Bible Stories Book.  We stay there about 20 min.  Next, we walk to the study.  Shelina uses the DVD, the Bible Stories Book and Drawings to teach this woman about the Flood in Noah's time.  Then we head home.  Then we decide to call one of her other studies to make sure he's home, he is!  So we walk over and study about Job using the DVD and the Bible Stories Book.  He's 17 and just started working fulltime, OH NO!  Job was the perfect story about keeping integrity under extreme pressure which is what he's going to face.  The deaf community here has a hard time with the truth because there's a deaf society that is heavily involved in politics that offers these jobs, but then they purposely discourage them from attending meetings.  So he's going to have to take a stand at work.  We stayed almost 2 hours and he signed very animatedly.  I prayed and Shelina interpreted for me.  On the walk home we ran into the other call that wasn't home originally, he was on his bike visiting the other deaf guy with the boot.  Then on our street we run into a deaf woman who happily greets us and Shelina encourages her to attend meetings.  It was an amazing way to start off the new month.
PS There are so many deaf in Nicaragua it ain't even funny.  So if you are already in sign I would highly suggest coming down here to serve, Nica sign is easy to learn esp if you already speak ASL.