We are so happy to share with you our experiences during these past several weeks. As we sit down to write this post we have come to the realization that this month marks two years of serving in Spain. Originally when we moved here we said that we would stay at least a year and if things worked out and we liked it we would stay longer. Well, as things have turned out moving to Spain has been one of the best things that we could have done for ourselves spiritually. We have been showered with blessings from Jehovah and have also seen his hand during difficult times.
A few weeks ago we went on vacation to Sicily, Italy followed by attending the special convention in Malta. It had been a long time since we had taken a proper vacation and we were certainly looking forward to it after a very busy service year. In Sicily we stayed in a small coastal town near the village of Taormina as well as in the big city of Catania. Both places were a lot of fun for different reasons. Taormina is a breathtaking, charming village perched on a mountain overlooking the sea. Everywhere you look you are presented with quaint streets and beautiful views. We were able to relax as we strolled leisurely along the narrow alleyways in search of the next cannoli or cappuccino to satisfy our taste buds. Sicily is a beautiful island and we would like to return someday. We had some new experiences such as trying horse meat which is typical in parts of Italy. After a few days in Italy we headed for our main destination the island of Malta.
This was our first time to a special or international convention so we weren’t quite sure what to expect but we knew that it would be unlike anything we could imagine. Upon arriving at the airport we were greeted by the brothers with welcome signs and big smiles. This was a wonderful start and it put us at ease right away. The hotel that we stayed at was a four-star hotel located on the waterfront. Apparently it was where the majority of brothers were staying which was a nice treat. The activities that the organization provided for the delegates were all so special and organized so well. Our first activity was to visit Dingli Cliffs which is an area in the west of Malta where the land mass plummets suddenly into the sea. We were able to gaze out into the Mediterranean sea and feel as if we were standing on the edge of the earth. The bus group was then taken to some beautiful gardens located nearby. We had a nice stroll and got to know some of the friends. After that we visited the ancient city of Mdina which is located on top of a hill as a form of protection from invaders. The city is built with limestone like many of the buildings in Malta. When you enter the gates of the city you feel as if you stepped back into Bible times and you can’t help but be taken in by the sheer beauty and charm of the place. After spending some time touring this lovely city we headed off for tea and some typical Maltese small bites in another stunning location. It was such a joy to get to know the other delegates from the countries of Israel, United States, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Australia. This was of course the highlight hearing how our dear brothers serve Jehovah despite challenges.
The next day was full of activity as we took a cruise that was provided only for the delegates and we toured around some of the attractions with a stop on the island of Comino. This island has what is called the blue lagoon which has some of the bluest water that we’ve ever seen. The next day was the long awaited convention. This was particularly special for the Maltese brothers and sisters who number only about 600. Some of them had never seen such a large group of witnesses together in one place in all their lives. The delegates totaled around 1,500 and the average attendance for the convention was around 2,600. It was obvious that the community in general was taking notice of all of this special activity since we could observe many visitors in attendance. We had brother Lösch as a visiting speaker. He gave talks all three days including the final talk on Sunday. In total there were 14 baptized on Saturday. As the days passed by we got the chance to see more and more traditional outfits of the friends. Many of these ones included the Maltese, Spanish, Portuguese and Americans. This was so heartwarming to see because it really emphasizes that we are a worldwide brotherhood. It is one thing to hear about these kinds of conventions from someone or to see pictures but it is something that must be experienced. If you have the opportunity to apply to a special or international convention we wholeheartedly recommend it!
During the week of the convention one of the local brothers who owns a restaurant on the waterfront closed it down and made it available only to the delegates for a special menu with some entertainment provided by the brothers. We were able to take advantage and visit the restaurant since it was in walking distance to our hotel. This was where Kanicia first tried rabbit and it was quite good especially prepared in the local Maltese style. All of the activity connected with the convention did not go unnoticed by the media. One of the local television stations did a favorable story on the convention and on Jehovah’s Witnesses. This was especially beneficial because many in the territory seem to have thought that Jehovah’s people were not international. There is also opposition that is created by the Catholic church. If you would like to watch the news report you can find it here on the official website of TV Malta. Since the archipelago of the three islands comprising the country of Malta (Malta, Gozo, Comino) only make up 400,000 people with a total size of 316 square kilometers word of the convention spread fast.
- portuguese friends
At the end of the convention many of the local brothers and delegates were sad to see it come to a close. The local brothers were so encouraged by the visit of the delegates. The next day we had our last event which was preaching with a local congregation as well as visiting the Malta Bethel. It was a joy to preach in the local territory even though our Maltese was limited. We split into small groups and we worked together with an older couple. We had practiced our presentations in Maltese and were able to share a few things with the householders. Kanicia was able to show one of the organizations videos in Maltese with a young man and an older woman. Both were appreciative of the Bible’s message. The older woman even kissed Kanicia thanking her for sharing such a message for free. I had a touching experience while at the door with an older lady. After offering her the family happiness tract she accepted it and then started to tell my service partner about some of things that she had recently experienced. She had recently lost her husband in death and has been dealing with a difficult situation with her children. She was overcome by her problems and began to cry at the door. As she was speaking in Maltese to my partner she actually took the time during all of this to apologize to me because she knew that I didn’t understand what she was saying. My partner shared Rev 21:4 with her and provided a listening ear. How true it is that people from all parts of the earth including the islands need to hear the good news of the Kingdom. During some free time that we had we decided to be adventurous and rent a kayak to paddle out to the island where Paul was said to have shipwrecked. We must admit that we were nervous because we had never been in a kayak before and we would be out at sea. But after some reassurance we set out in a two person kayak. We visited some beautiful caves, a nearby bay and finally after much effort we reached the island where Paul was shipwrecked. The trip was not easy because the winds were quite strong at times and often we seemed to be going no where as we paddled our arms out because of the currents. The last thing we wanted was to be pulled out to sea with no energy to get back. But before long we got the hang of it and our confidence grew as we finally reached our destination. These are experiences that we will cherish for a long time.
- malta bethel
After the ministry we were taken to the beautiful Malta Bethel where we were treated with refreshments and a tour of the translation work being done there. Afterwards we were provided with a lovely spread of local desserts and coffee. During the following days more and more delegates began to leave Malta for other supplementary trips in France, Italy and Turkey. It was noticeable to us, as each morning in the dining room there were less and less brothers and sisters. The atmosphere was not the same and we missed the presence of all of our brothers and sisters. Now that we had some more freedom with our schedule and since we were staying an additional week after the convention ended we decided to explore Malta some more. On Wednesday we were able to attend the English meeting in Valleta. There we met many from the Britain LDC who are working in Malta to renovate the Bethel. The congregation was lively and had a wonderful spirit. We were able to visit the capital of Valleta which is more of an urban city with influences from the past. On our last day in Malta we took the ferry to visit the island of Gozo. This island is home to the Azure window which is a Limestone natural arch that was created after two limestone sea caves collapsed and is popular with scuba divers. Gozo is such a peaceful and quiet island. It was truly the most relaxed that we had been throughout the entire trip. There is one congregation on the island as well. As we left Malta on our flight back to the north of Spain we couldn’t help but be nothing but joyful and thankful to our great God Jehovah for all of the blessings that he shows towards us. Our time in Malta had been as if we had been allowed to preview life in the new world. It has truly been a life changing experience and it will forever shape how we view the worldwide brotherhood and our immense privilege to belong to this beautiful organization!
Since we are serving as needgreaters in Spain we always are cognizant of areas that need help whether for us or for others that may be looking for new assignments. That being said, Malta has eight congregations. Six in Maltese, one English and one Italian. There is also an English group on the island of Gozo as well as an Arabic group in the capital of Valleta. Malta has seen a large influx of people from other countries coming for work or fleeing conflict. As a result of this there are many language groups that need to be preached to such as Romanian, French, Bulgarian, Spanish, Portuguese and others. You can imagine that with only 600 publishers they just don’t have enough people to preach to all those in the territory. The English congregation in Valleta often receives many that come to help but they usually only stay for a few months because of some challenges with finding employment or for other reasons. In our experience Malta is not an expensive country.
They use the Euro and we found food, and accommodations to be reasonable. Some challenges that a needgreater would likely face would be finding employment. We have heard that the ones that have come to serve from abroad have had to be creative when it comes to providing for themselves. If you are thinking of expanding your ministry by reaching out to serve where the need is great we hope that you are able to reach your goals. Even if you are thinking of doing more by increasing you service hours, supporting foreign language or any other number of things doing so will no doubt bring you great joy. At times it may not be easy but can we really expect it to be easy to do more in Jehovah’s service in this wicked system? As we look back on two years of being here serving in Spain we have had challenging times as well as many blessings. In the end Jehovah has always made the way for us to continue. Consider seriously if you can do more with your circumstances and then work in harmony with your prayers and let Jehovah surprise you! These are some of the things that we observed and we hope that this information can be useful to anyone considering Malta or somewhere else as a place to serve.
We hope that you are all doing well and staying busy in Jehovah’s service and we look forward to sharing with you more experiences as the year continues.