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‘Where have you been??’
I know, I know. We’ve been on a hiatus from the blog. I really can’t believe it’s been six months already. 2016 has really flown by so quickly! So what have we been up to? Well let me fill you in:
As many of you know, we moved to the south of Spain at the end of January. This has really been such a great move for us for so many reasons. One big reason is that we’ve been able to simplify our lives. ‘Simplify your lives? I thought you’ve already simplified your lives.’
It’s true that we already have been living a simple life but as you know the only thing constant in life is change. In Bilbao the cost of life had really increased for us and so during the last two years there, it had become necessary to work more and more to the point that we had no free time. We were working a lot and the rest of our time was spent in the ministry and with the congregation and continuing with a schedule like that can lead to burnout. So this move has allowed us to cut down on our hours of work and become more balanced in the use of our time. We actually can have time for ourselves now (yay!)
It’s also great that we could make these adjustments and continue to help a congregation that needs help in both the territory and congregation. This has also been a nice experience. The congregation is a bit smaller than our previous congregation in Bilbao and has a completely different makeup. The hall is full of need greaters like ourselves and so that has also been encouraging to hear the experiences of others who are making similar sacrifices to serve in another country or another area of Spain. We’ve also enjoyed some great experiences in the ministry.
So a part of our territory is made up of migrant camps. Many from Africa who have immigrated to Spain come seasonally to work in the different farms and live in these camps for months at a time. So there are a few in our congregation that focus on preaching to these ones. During the peak season, we made ourselves available to support this service group and we were privileged to have some nice experiences. For example, one day we went to return to one of Antoine’s return visits, who happens to live in the ‘French speaking’ part of the camp. Well we knocked at his tent and he wasn’t there, so Antoine tried to call him. The person who answered did not speak English but spoke French. So we’re standing in the middle of this camp and we already stand out and Antoine starts speaking French. I notice that different men keep coming out to see who’s speaking French. I’m wondering “Why is he speaking French?” Anyway, while I’m waiting for Antoine to get off the phone, this young man approaches and keeps motioning for us to follow him. At first I refuse and Antoine also just waves him away. Then about five or ten minutes later (yes, Antoine is still speaking to someone in French) the young man comes back and says in French “come inside because it’s too hot”. It was very hot…so I just start following him and Antoine just follows me (still on the phone). So we go inside his modest “home”, which is really just a structured tent. He offers us water and just sits there. Antoine keeps having his conversation. It’s a little awkward lol. So I say a quick prayer and decide to just witness to him. I ask him a few questions and then show him the video “Why Study the Bible?” in French. While we’re watching another young man comes in and starts watching with us. Afterward we have a nice discussion about suffering. Both men ask for more information. Sadly I didn’t have any French literature with me. I ask them about their mother languages, since Antoine is still talking on the phone. They say they speak Bambara. I notice that I have one video in Bambara. So I ask if they want to see it. Of course they enthusiastically say “Oui!”. Afterwards, they are even more excited to know more about the Bible. I tell them more about the website and give them each one of the cards with the web address on it. Then Antoine suddenly finishes his call. He has some water, introduces hisself and then says we have to go because the other group is looking for us. So we make arrangements to come back the following week.
So you may be wondering…what was Antoine doing on this phone call? Well as I mentioned, initially Antoine thought he was calling a return visit to see where he was. However, it turns out that a French man answered the phone and ended up asking who he was. After explaining that he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the reason he was calling the other person, the man explained that he was Muslim but had many problems. He asked for advice. So Antoine was able to share many Bible principles with him and the man appreciated the wise counsel. He asked Antoine not to forget him and to call him again. He found out that he lives in a town about 45 minutes away from where we live. They talked on the phone that day for almost an hour, so you never know if we hadn’t been standing there so long in the sun, we likely would not have met the two young men and started studies with them and if Antoine hadn’t tried to call his return visit and got the wrong number he wouldn’t have met this man who needed help. As an update, we’ve tried to continue the study with these two young men and they have studied a few times but it’s not so easy to find them home.
We’ve found that in this territory, most of the calls and studies are very transient. So they are here for a few months and then they move on to another area where the next harvest is. So a lot of our work is planting seeds or following up on interest planted in other places. It can be challenging and sad to see good students have to move but we know that Jehovah knows where his sheep are and will make sure that these humble ones can continue to grow in their knowledge of Him.
Other news for us is that we recently were able to visit Marrakesh, Morocco! This was a trip we decided to take after hearing how exotic and fascinating the culture is and it’s true, it is a very exotic place! It’s also a bit of a chaotic, intense place too!
We were able to see quite a bit though. We visited some historic sites like Ben Youssef Madrasa. This is a former theological college that was founded in the 14th century and formerly held 130 student dormitories. The courtyard is beautiful! It’s carved in cedar, marble and stucco. It’s the largest Madrasa in all of Morocco.
We also took a cooking class. We met our cooking instructor in the main square and he took us to the local markets where we purchased all the ingredients we needed to make our lamb and chicken tajines. This was not the typical shopping experience as he actually chose our live, yes live, chicken, which was promptly killed and feathered. That was enough to make someone go vegetarian lol.
We also visited some places outside of the city of Marrakesh. One day we went to the seaside town of Essaouira, which is a sleepy coastal town with a beach and a fishing port. We also spent the day in Ourika Valley. I think this was by far our favorite day we spent in Morocco. It was absolutely beautiful. It was so green and lush! The valley was full of olive and orange groves and even cherry trees! We spent the day hiking up to the Setti Fatma Waterfalls. We needed a guide because this hike wasn’t on a nice paved or even dirt path. There was no path. We crossed rivers, climbed up large rocks, and tried not to fall off cliffs but it was well worth the effort when we reached the falls. We spent some time sipping tea and fresh squeezed orange juice and a cliff side cafe feeling proud that we actually made it up the mountain. We also enjoyed seeing how the traditional Berber people live in the villages, things really haven’t changed much for them in the 1,000s of years. We also saw Macaque monkeys and mountain goats with their shepherds. It was completely relaxing and a nice change from the busyness that is Marrakesh.
Now at the height of summer we are getting ready for our regional convention in Madrid. We are looking forward to seeing our friends from our old congregation in Bilbao and hopefully our friends from pioneer school last year.
We hope you enjoyed this little update. Enjoy the rest of the summer!