Celebrating ONE YEAR in Spain!

It’s October already! This month has special meaning for many of us, however, we have an extra reason to commemorate this month. It’s been one year since we moved to Spain!! We really can’t believe how time has flown by! So you may be wondering: After one year, what do you guys think of your experiences? Would you change anything? Do you have any regrets? I’m thinking of moving abroad to help a group or congregation, do you have any suggestions? Or maybe you’re wondering… Are you guys coming back??

So, it’s been a year, what do we think?

Honestly, we had no idea what we were in store for when we left California one year ago. We knew that there would be challenges and that there would be joys. What we have experienced in our time here thus far has been beyond what we could have possibly hoped for in so many ways. While there have been challenges, Jehovah has always provided a way out. We have seen his blessing upon our efforts. He has always been extremely generous and has always given us just what we needed. When we take the time to think back over the last year we are very grateful for all that we have been able to experience! We are extremely happy to be in our current congregation, serving together in the full-time service. We have been able to learn so much from all of our experiences, good and bad, and they have helped us to strengthen our endurance and draw closer to Jehovah. The experiences that we have been able to share together makes us feel as David when he said in Psalms 23: 5, 6 “With oil you have greased my head; My cup is well filled. Surely goodness and loving-kindness themselves will pursue me all the days of my life.”

Would you change anything? Do you have any regrets?

I can say that we don’t have any regrets. We have learned so much from our experiences that I think its definitely been worth the effort and sacrifice. Changes? Maybe. They say hindsight is 20/20. Its true. There are many things that we didn’t know before coming that had we known, we could have planned differently and saved ourselves some money, time and stress.

Any suggestions for someone thinking of doing something similar?

If you are thinking about moving somewhere to serve where the need is great, we could say from our own experience that it is definitely worthwhile! The blessings you will receive will far outweigh any sacrifices you make. Of course, serving in a foreign country does have its challenges. While we aren’t in a developing country, I think our biggest adjustments have been with the changes in lifestyle and culture. Adapting to the culture and way of life here in Spain has taken a lot of effort. We have had to show patience, discernment and also a sense of humor. It has taught us to be more open-minded and that the earthly part of Jehovah’s organization is made up of individuals who love him from many different parts of the world. Although we may have differences culturally it is our love for God that allows us to be at peace with one another and serve him side by side. For example, finding a way to support yourself can be a challenge as well as simplifying your life. We had a simple life before but it was simple in comparison to the typical American lifestyle. We have had to learn to be happy with less.

So suggestions? Do a lot of research! Consult the article series ‘They Offered Themselves Willingly’ on jw.org. Talk to others who are serving abroad or have done so in the past. Ask about not only the positives but also the challenges and how they dealt with those challenges. Consider if you could do the same. Be realistic. A great benefit to needgreating is that you can choose where to go, so choose a place where you can be happy! Having a productive territory is great, but you also have to live in whatever place you choose, so make sure you think realistically about what you need to be happy and content.

So are we moving back to Cali??

Not for now. We are so happy that we have taken the steps to move here and that Jehovah has smoothed the way for us to continue serving here so far! We are excited to see what Jehovah has in store for us and our congregation as the service year continues.
During September, we had a wonderful month in the ministry. Jehovah is undoubtedly pouring out his spirit on the congregation. It is practically a completely new hall from the time that we arrived in January. For example, during September we had two new brothers announced as Ministerial Servants who had come over from Spanish congregations to help us. That brings the total of appointed brothers to three elders and five servants. When we came into the hall we had three elders and one servant. During September five new regular pioneers were announced bringing the total to twelve. We also had four new unbaptized publishers announced, all of whom are young children. These wonderful blessings have contributed to such a strong spirit of joy and zeal in the congregation!

Towards the end of the month of September we had the visit of our Circuit Overseer and his wife. It was a pleasure to hear his comments about our congregation since there have been so many positive changes. During the visit of the C.O. we had our pioneer meeting along with the auxiliary pioneers. This was very well supported and the attendance was encouraging to see. We also had our field service meeting in a neighboring town called Durango for the first time . During the following week it was announced that we would be having one public talk a month in Durango which was very welcome news to all of the ones living in that area. Many of the ones living in Durango take the bus or train to the meetings in Bilbao which can take up to an hour not to mention the monetary sacrifice. With Jehovah’s blessing we may possibly see a group that is supported by our congregation in the future in Durango.

During the last week of September we paid visit to the French group in Bilbao to give a public talk. It was nice to see some familiar faces and to attend a meeting in French again after almost 10 months. The French group will be having the visit of a French speaking C.O. for the first time ever in October. We plan to attend during that visit. We also are looking forward to our one day assembly in October. Currently the congregation is planning to rent a bus so that we can all ride down to the assembly together and return on the same day. In the past this was very common for the hall and it looks like they are starting to do it again. We will be having our assembly in Madrid and we can’t wait to get to know brothers and sisters that are in our circuit specifically.

As we mentioned earlier September was a wonderful month in regards to the preaching activity. We can truly say looking back that Jehovah is speeding up the work and many new ones are being drawn to the organization. Its true that the territory here is not the same as it may be in Nicaragua, Ecuador or certain African countries. In many of those lands the publishers can have as many studies as they want. Nevertheless, the territory here is productive in the foreign language field, namely English. Last month I was able to have five different Bible students and Kanicia had a few as well. What we are learning here is that it is not difficult to start Bible studies but keeping them going can be a challenge. This in part is due to the culture of those in our territory. The custom of many is to always say ‘Yes’ even if they haven’t thought about what they are saying ‘Yes’ to. So if you offer someone a study they will likely accept but only time will tell if the interest was genuine. This has been the case with a couple of my students.

Three of my students are progressive studies who really appreciate what they are learning. They have all attended the meetings and two of them are coming regularly once a week. The studies are from Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. One was first exposed to the Bible while he was in prison, studying with brothers in Spanish. He immediately saw the difference with what we teach from the Bible and what was being taught by other religions. He studies regularly now and really loves his study! I am planning to invite him to the assembly in Madrid. I know that he will be impressed and will come away with even more evidence that Jehovah is truly backing  this organization. We will keep you posted on this in the next post.

All of my studies are done at a park where generally many immigrants can be found. This sometimes leads to interesting experiences. For example, during one Bible study an African passerby took a seat next to us. At first I didn’t think anything of it because it didn’t seem out of place. After a few minutes I realized that he was looking at us and listening to what we were saying. At that point we introduced ourselves and told him that we were studying the Bible. He said “I know, that’s why I stopped.” He wanted to join in on the study. So I asked him if he had a Bible and he did in his backpack! So he took his Bible out and we all continued studying together. I offered him his own personal Bible study but he was not from the area and was going to take the bus back to another city. That was a really cool experience and it caught me a bit off guard!

Another time on a Saturday I arrived at my study one hour late because I had confused the time that the study started with someone else. Despite this fact, the man that I study with was sitting on the bench patiently waiting and actually talking to another African woman there about what he was learning. She also appreciates the Bible and when I arrived she provided her contact information and he invited her to the study next week. I was really impressed that my study was still there and that he was preaching to others as well. Maybe I should be an hour late more often!

This weekend we just had a nice experience with a man from Cameroon. As Kanicia and I were walking to follow up on a referral in the ministry we ran into two publishers from the French group. After chatting with them for a few minutes a man from Cameroon approached us and asked if we were Jehovah’s Witnesses. After we identified ourselves he told us that he would like the address for the kingdom hall in Reims, France. He went on tell us that he had spent the last two weeks in the south of Spain and that he will be leaving for France this evening from Bilbao on an eleven hour journey to Reims. In the past he used to not like the witnesses at all but that all changed. After talking with a good friend of his father who is a witness he began to see things differently. Then after arriving here in Spain he was witnessed to by some brothers in the Spanish field and it really touched him. We spent the next thirty minutes talking to this young man and answering his questions. He asked us what he has to do to become a witness and told us that he sees the clear difference between Jehovah’s people and other religions. We were happy to have been able to provide him with the address of the hall in Reims from jw.org along with the October magazine about God’s kingdom so that he could read it on the bus during his trip.

It’s experiences like these that give us joy and make us happy to be here. It is wonderful to be able to teach others the truth from the Bible and to see them take steps to make changes in their own lives. At every meeting we have visitors from the territory and the congregation has an incredible amount of Bible studies compared to the publisher count.

During a service part in September entitled ‘What have we accomplished?’ I was able to be interviewed and talk a little bit about our experiences here. We want to share with you the last part of this interview, which sums up our feelings looking back on the past year:

“When I meditate on the efforts that I’ve made in order to serve more fully I feel that the efforts were worthwhile. While not always easy, putting forth efforts in pursuit of kingdom interests brings great joy and satisfaction. This is because I realize that whatever efforts I may have made are greatly appreciated by Jehovah God and his son Jesus Christ and will never be forgotten. It makes me think of the words written in Proverbs 10:22 “The blessing of Jehovah – that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.” Indeed working to have a fuller share in supporting kingdom interests has given my life a strong purpose and has allowed me to learn to develop Godly devotion. This has brought me genuine happiness and contentment.”