One of the main reasons we decided to move to Ecuador was the field ministry. While it is true, sheep are being found in all countries around the world and we even had success in the congregation we were in, but the amount of people here that want to discuss the Bible, then study it, come to meetings and make progress, is staggering.
When we visited last year we saw this first hand and it was exciting that most people you speak with would give you the time to have a spiritual conversation. Yes, some say they’re busy or catholic, but the majority are very friendly and enjoy talking about the Bible. In the brief 2 weeks we have been here so far, we have found this to be the case still.
Our first service day was a Saturday morning. We met with the same service group we were assigned to last year, they meet nearby. After a brief meeting, the brother conducting assigned each publisher with a service partner, there are no “car groups,” just service partners. Mel was assigned to work with an experienced sister, Logan with the brother that lead the group out, any guesses who I was assigned with?
Yep, the two gringos, the most gringo brothers out in service were put together, Connor and I! We had simple tract presentations, so that wasn’t a big issue. I also know when someone says they’re busy or not interested, but if they deviated from that, the angels would have to step in.
Actually it went really well. Another (Spanish speaking) brother joined us for a little while but then we were on our own. We both placed a few tracts and I now have a call I can go back on. Mel got to go on a study with the sister she was working with. The lady works in a shop that sells denim jeans. After several interruptions by costumers, they rescheduled their “door-step” study- more accurately: their “inside tiny shop” study.
The people are so friendly it calms your nerves a lot. There is no rush through the greeting. You can politely introduce yourself and your partner(s) and even ask them their name and how they are doing. I usually then apologize for having terrible Spanish, then tell them that I have a question for them. I then say- this tract asks..... show them the options to answer the question and get their response. If going well, I “explain” (barely mumble through) that the tract has many scriptures to answer more, then- “do you want to read the tract?” Connor’s presentation is a simplified version of mine.
Logan’s however, is a presentation a seasoned pioneer was using and so he copied it. The presentation includes asking a few questions, relating that many people have the same answers, reading and explaining 2, count them, 1 and a 2nd scripture, followed by an explanation of what is in the magazine. Oh, boy I’m so jealous of his ability to learn (absorb) a new language!
It was a very pleasant morning, and helped us to start feeling less apprehensive about the ministry. Except one experience. A well-dressed man with a top hat the boys tried speaking to was so rude! He completely ignored them and acted like they weren’t even there. I snapped a quick pic of him and the boys- see below pic.
Informal Witness Experience
The next day we took a bus to Otavalo, a nearby town, to pick up some needed items. Mel sat next to a women who asked (in spanish) an “out of the blue” question. She asked if it was difficult in the USA to find books about missionaries. Mel said yes and it could also be expensive, but we were Jehovah’s Witnesses and offer literature free of charge about the Bible and even had free videos and other content available on our website.
Mel processed to witness for the next 20 minutes or so to the woman. Showing her the website and playing a video for her. Logan said that when Mel played the video the bus got quieter and it seemed like other people were listening. We hope the woman will continue her search using JW.org.
A funny side note to the story has to do with our cell phones. For cell service we are using a network (claro) that you pre-pay in advance and receive a certain amount of data and minutes. The amount you get is based on the cost rate so it can be tricky to know how much you’re using. We limit our data usage as much as possible, but we can use WhatsApp (a text and call app) for free **(so if you wanna call us or text, this app is preferred- email us for our numbers).
Just that morning we had added money to our service, $6 each, and this should have lasted us a little over a week or more- depending on usage. Except, the video Mel had shown on the bus was not yet downloaded (in Spanish) on her phone. The informal witness used all of her data. 😮🤪 Well worth it!
Here’s a typical bus ride, although at times it can be lot more full- standing room only! (Connor and I prefer to stand to help with motion sickness.)
Each day of the week, the friends meet at different locations for service, that way they are within walking distance of the territory. Our first mid-week service day was a Thursday and there was a nice size group out, close to 20. Mel and Connor were assigned to work together and Logan and I. Just like the first time we went out in service last Saturday, I was again asked to say the concluding prayer. 😯😟😲
Being asked on the spot to say a public prayer in a foreign language that you barely know is a great stress test on your heart. Once my heart started beating again I was able to choke out a couple brief sentences and then recall (assisted by Holy Spirit) how to conclude the prayer. While it was nerve racking, I do appreciate being throw in the deep end, it’s the best way to learn the language and I do desire to be used here by Jehovah. So, pray, trust, then act, it’s all any of us can do no matter where we are or what we are doing in service to Jehovah.
The morning was a hit! Mel got a call and Logan placed 3 magazines. We loved it. Plus Wes did great learning to walk a lot, and I mean a lot- especially for his short legs (more on that later).
Service in Quiroga
Quirgoa is the small town right next to Cotacachi (basically connected), it is where the Kingdom Hall is located. It is much smaller than Cotacachi, with only a few shops spread out here and there. One service group meets there at the hall and another in an elder’s home for Saturday service. The group overseer and his wife +kids that meet at the hall wanted us to work with them the next Saturday. So we joined them.
Logan worked with the group overseer, Mel worked with his wife, Connor with the overseer’s 20 year old son, Sebastian, and I worked with a 12 year old brother that has been an unbaptized publisher for 3 months. Did I mention he doesn’t speak English?
I super enjoyed working with my little partner. He helped me a great deal with my Spanish and taught me how to say some things. I was also very impressed by this new publisher’s preaching skills. At one door of mine, when the women came I told her that we wanted to show her a video about families. She said she was very busy, so I offered her the family tract instead, which she took. Then my young partner said he had a magazine for her. He pulled out the older issue about being too busy. He said something about it, I don’t know what, and placed the magazine with her. I was very impressed.
Here we are- He looks a little scared, but be honest- most of you have been scared to work with me too!
** He is from one of the indigenous tribes, thus the long hair and style of clothes that is their culture.
Here’s Wes with his service partner.
One thing the boys love about Cotacachi is all the ice cream! Many of the little shops sell homemade ice cream, and there are street carts that walk around selling ice cream as well. The street cart vendor sells a cone for $.25! The boys have been taking advantage of that. The small shops sell different flavors of ice creams for $.75. This Saturday morning we actually took our first service break- not coffee break, an ice cream break, at least for the kids. See how they enjoyed it?
Here was one of the roads we worked, the city is currently working on replacing the water line so it’s a little tore up.
el Campo Service
The next time we went out was the following Monday. Just like last year, Mondays are for el campo service, aka: country service, aka: mountain service. After meeting at the hall we walked to the city plaza, la Parka de Quiroga. There, we rented 2 pickup trucks and piled in, sisters inside the truck cab and brothers ride in the truck bed. We love it!
After a 15-20 minute drive up the mountain, we were dropped off. Then we proceeed to walk down and a little bit around the mountain working our way back towards town. Along the way, we do what Witnesses do best- knock on doors or in this case, fences or gates.
El campo service is so much fun. It’s like going on a hike with a bunch of your friends, but wearing a suit and preaching along the way. The people are basically farmers, well most of them. Raising some cattle or growing a small crop. Some just live there but work in town. Dogs are a plenty, but no bad encounters yet. Rocks and sticks are nearby if we need to scare a mean dog away.
Mel (again) had a really nice conversation with a man that expressed repeatedly his love for God, he was sincere and listened as Mel got to share several scriptures.
There are fewer doors in el campo territory because the houses are spread out, plus we were a large group, so my partner and I didn’t have as many good experiences as working in town. I was happy I got to do most of my presentation and share a tract. Getting more comfortable little by little. Here’s most of us posing for a pic.
And Logan with his buddies.
Once we were done with service, we continued to keep walking to the nearest bus stop. Another sister went with us and we rode the bus back to Cotacachi. This is the bus stop.
After we made it back to the main bus station in Cotacachi we began to walk home. And wouldn’t you know it, the boys just had to stop and grab an ice cream!
Even though it’s been only a little over 2 weeks we are getting adjusted to more and more things. One adjustment, a physical adjustment, has been all the walking. We don’t have a vehicle of our own, and we try to limit using a taxi as much as possible. Field Service is all walking, except the taxi truck ride up the mountain. For the first 4 days of field service we walked a total of 14.5 miles.
There have been a number of other adjustments which I’ll mention later, but there has been one consistent that has helped us to stand on firm ground despite all the changes. A Spiritual routine. Which brings me to my favorite picture, Melanie doing her personal daily bible reading.
We are finding a lot of joys here in Ecuador. In addition to the field ministry being a real pleasure, we are cherishing the increased time together as a family. We get to do pretty much everything together, and all the walking affords us the perfect opportunity to chat, laugh, encourage each other, even get sore feet together and loving it! (Get Smart- not McDonald’s)
The day we had been planning for so long had finally arrived. We made it to our new hometown, Cotacachi. Cotacachi is a small town with less than 9,000 people. There is a small community of retired Americans that live in different parts of town. The center of town, which is several blocks, has many small “stores,” where local people sell small goods, things they’ve grown or made. Cotacachi is know for its leather goods, many shops sell hats, belts, coats, shoes, bags and pretty much anything else you can make out of leather. Other shops in town are small resturants. Everything is homemade, so you can find some delicious food.
The people are very kind, and almost everyone will greet you as you walk down the road. About mid-day the kids get released from school to walk home for lunch and rest. It’s neat to see all the kids flood the streets in their school uniforms. At the same time, ice cream and crushed ice street vendors hit the road. A ice cream cone with a fruit sauce drizzled on it is $.25.- so good too. (I get hungry writing this blog😜)
Our friends that picked us up from the airport drive us the 2-hour long trip to Cotacachi. The drive is not for the faint of heart. From Quito to Cotacachi is mostly windy narrow roads through the mountains. Many roads are right on the edge of a large drop-off, ussually there is no guardrail. Plus the roads are heavily traveled by buses that travel between the towns. Fare is cheap, more on that later.
Considering these facts, you would think great caution would be taken while driving, nope! Enjoy rollercoasters? Many drivers pass buses on an uphill blind curve, some will come from behind and pass several cars at once and still others will make moves that would impress a NASCAR driver. Last year, Connor and I had to keep motion sickness pills with us, not really bothering us this time.
Once we arrived in Cotacachi our friends took us to the condo we will be renting for the first month. An American couple own the place and advertised it online, that’s how we found it. During the first month there, we will look around for something more affordable. The locals that rent houses or apartments don’t really advertise, you just have to look for a note in a window or posted on a door. Your feet really need to be on the ground to find a place like that.
Here’s the view just in front of our condo.
Yes that is a volcano in the background. There are 2 volcanoes near Cotacachi. One is toward the south (the one pictured above) and another is to the north of town. Both appear to be about an equal distance away. The locals call them the mother and father volcanoes, actual names: Cotacachi Volcano (dormant) and the other is Imbabura Volcano. Imbabura is the name of the province we are in.
Here’s a closer look at the one picuted above, to the south of us- Imbabura Volcano.
Now that we were in our (temporary) place, it was nice to unpack, for most of the last 6 weeks we have been living out of our suitcases. However, we were worried about getting altitude sickness so we tried to limit how much we did for the first 2 days. We of course needed some groceries, thankfully the property manager was kind enough to take us into town so we could grab a couple things. Afterward we taxi-ed home and did pretty much nothing for 2 days.
We dodged the bullet and did not get altitude sickness this time. However, I did have a mild headache pretty much 24/7 for the first week we were here, but then it was gone and hasn’t returned.
Our first meeting here was the public meeting which is currently held Saturday night at 6:30pm. It was so great seeing the friends we had made over a year ago when we visited. A few have moved away but the congregation has grown a lot. The hall was completely full, about 100 in attendance. The congregation has 5 elders and many pioneers- I’ll get harder numbers later.
Just like last time, we were warmly greeted with hugs and kisses. The friends made a real effort to make us feel welcomed. We’re looking forward to getting to know them all and working with them in the ministry.
The day after the meeting, we went to a little kid party that one of the families threw at their house. The kids got to play a bunch of different games like, wheelbarrow race, potato sack race, 500, and even piñata. The family throwing the party make and sell cupcakes as a family business, so of course we got some amazingly yummy cupcakes.
The cupcake business allows most of the family to pioneer. The mother and father have 2 older sons and 2 younger sons. The older sons pioneer and the oldest is married and serves a few days a week at a nearby RTO. The father is an elder, he is the Watchtower conductor. Melanie has stayed in contact with the Mom since we left and they have grown really close. They are a wonderful family, and it was an entertaining evening!
One of the challenges of living here is finding the right places to buy what you need. In Cotacachi there isn’t one large grocery store where you can get everything you need, so we’ve been exploring different little shops to find stuff for the best prices. Some stuff, you have to get in another town. Fruit and vegetables are sold locally everywhere and are amazingly fresh.
Pineapples, strawberries, apples, mangos, bananas, and so much more. They are so sweet and fresh! It’s the best. We can fill a plastic grocery bag full of fruit for about $4.00.
On one such shopping journey during our first week in a nearby town we came across a pizza place that some friends had brought us to the last time we were here. The pizza is really good, but the best part is a pepper sauce/salsa that you pour on top. It’s sweet and little spicy, really makes for an amazing slice! Take a look at Logan and see how he’s grown in one year.
During this first week, while the boys were keeping up with school work, Mel began to fill out applications for jobs online. The months leading up to the move, Mel completed some training to teach English online, she received a specific certificate to allow her to do so. So now she began applying with companies that mainly offer English lessons to Asian children. Another possible job is transcription. The work entails listening to an audio file, usually from a corporate business meeting, and typing up what was said.
We are confident that the right employment will come up for Mel and I. Jehovah has helped us and blessed us all along, and we know he will continue to do so.
So, our first week was a success. We are anxious to get started in the ministry next week. It will be a challenge, using a new language in the ministry, but we are excited for the experiences we are sure to have.
We flew from Washington to Michigan, drove from Michigan to New York, next we fly from New York to Miami and drive from Miami to Orlando. After a few days with friends in Orlando, we’ll drive back to Miami to fly to Quito Ecuador, then at last- taxi to Cotacachi!
In Orlando Florida we have close friends that have become part of our family. We haven’t seen them in a few years so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit them. But before we left New York (actually New Jersey) we had one more stop to make. To Carlos Bakery, the bakery from our favorite baking show- Cake Boss.
With that out of the way (worth it!) it was time to load up like the Clampetts and get going.
We got in pretty late once we arrived in Orlando, but our gracious hosts, aka our Friends- stayed up late to welcome us. After a warm welcome, (on their part, I was probably grouchy tired) we all crashed hard.
The day we flew out of New Jersey it was 50 degrees, our first day in Orlando was a sticky 85+ degrees. We woke up late feeling well rested.
Our friends suprised us with a couple days at Disney World. Usually when I think of going to Disney, I imagine long lines, scorching heat and sore feet- The happiest Place on Earth? But our friends both work for Disney and know how to work the park. They got fast passes for rides that we wanted to do, we had nice lunches and saw the good shows. We had a blast together.
In addition to 2 days at Disney we also got to enjoy a morning at the beach, a warm beach. Mel’s happiest place on earth!
The time here went so quick, and before we knew it, it was time to pack up again and say goodbye.
One last flight!
We’ve gotten pretty good flying as a family and the less than 4 hours flew by! - get it? FLEW by, pretty good huh? (I know - it’s terrible) We landed in Quito Ecuador about 8pm and slowly made it through security and immigration. Our plan is to stay in Quito tonight at a hotel that is 2 minutes from the airport. Tomorrow, we have friends picking us up.
The last time we came to Ecuador, Mel and I got real bad altitude sickness- it was horrible! Altitude sickness results from being in a high altitude location and because your body isn’t used to the lack of oxygen you get a severe headache/migraine, and other possible not-fun symptoms. Quito’s elevation is 9,350 ft, Cotacachi’s elevation is 8,000 ft. To help prevent from getting it you are suppose to lay low and take it easy. That’s what we hope to do, however we still have to finalize where we will be staying for the first month here.
Well, that’s for worrying about tomorrow, tonight is about getting some needed rest in our hotel.
Our last tour on the agenda was Wallkill, and it turned out to be one of the most special days. I’ll explain why.
Our tour wasn’t scheduled to begin until 1pm, however we had lunch plans at the Wallkill lunch room with a brother that we were introduced to. After lunch this same brother gave us a 3 hour+ private tour of every part of Wallkill he could get us into. As we would approach new areas he would call people he knew to get us in and take a peek behind the curtain.
The brother made the tour so fun for the boys, even buying them a giant bag of the Bethelites favorite popcorn. What was also very touching was the fact that the brother was scheduled to work an evening shift later that day, (the nature of the task they had) yet he gave up his free time to take us on a very special tour. It was an incredible afternoon.
One really cool thing we got to see was the Bethel fire truck. I was gonna say how much the boys loved it, but I thought it was awesome too! We got to meet a former bethelite fireman that was there with his family showing them around. He talked about the training they do (intensive) and the first call he had to take.
He was in another part of the facility when his pager went off. He was shocked/surprised when it first went off in disbelief but started to head toward the firehouse. Then he begin thinking, “I guess I should be running!” As he was running through bethel, (in his suit) he felt like he was doing something wrong. 😜 Well— it ended being only a false alarm after all that.
Part of the fireman training includes a friendly competition with how fast they can get the hoses ready or pull them a certain distance, things like that. Also, all of the equipment has to be regularly checked to make sure it’s in good condition. The boys even helped inspect some the “equipment,” actually they just got to try on some helmets, boots and coats. They loved it. Wish they had my size😪
As you know, while Warwick was under construction, Wallkill too was being worked on. Many buildings were remodeled and some were expanded. We were able to take a look at the areas that I was able to work on in 2015. Another area we toured that received a remodel was the Wallkill assembly hall. It’s where the bethelites have their Family Watchtower study, bethel lectures and other meetings. It looks really modern. One accent wall (not shown in picture) is decorated with wood that was harvested at Warwick.
Here’s us goofing around in the cabinetry shop.
And touring the printery.
One of the nice features of touring Wallkill is looking at all the artwork in the hallways. I really like the one of Babylon the night it was invaded shown earlier and this next one might be my favorite.
There was a bunch of other cool areas we got to see, and more friends that we got to meet and see how they carry out their assignments. We absolutely had a blast on our “popcorn tour,” and couldn’t have been more impressed by the self-sacrificing brother that worked so hard to make our tour special and memorable.
One last tour we got to take was to see the actual farm at Wallkill. Another brother met up with us to take us. This brother works outside all year round doing all different kinds of stuff. He hopped in our rental van and directed us around. The first area he took us was the apple orchard.
It was early evening by this point but we ran into a couple brothers still working there. They were harvesting the last of the apples for the year. It was neat to hear about all the different crops, mostly fruit, that is grown there. We even got to sample some of the “last fruits.” You may know that Wes’ favorite fruit is apples, I lost track how many he ate.
One funny note was that the brothers working outside had a wild pet or mascot, a Hawk. He would hang around them and fly around or sit on a fence post nearby. They named him Copernicus.
We also got to see Bethel’s cattle. We started off by petting a small calf and concluding with observing the huge bulls.
We had a great time checking out the farm and the boys quickly developed a friendship with the fun brother giving us the tour. The common thread for everyone we met, especially the young brothers that gave us tours, was the loved they showed. They made a real effort to show us as much as they could and make it fun for the whole family. We hope to stay in contact with them all!
Bethel tours summary:
The week we spent at bethel was memorable, exciting, and awe inspiring. Jehovah’s organization is truly beautiful and it all brings so much praise to Him. It’s truly like a bright light in this world, the people, the work, and the facilities. It was a gift beyond compare to be there and to behold with our eyes the wonderful things Jehovah’s spirit can accomplish and the love that His people have for Him. We truly belong to something special, and we hope to hold on to that feeling for as long as possible.
We also felt motivated to be as whole souled in our service to Jehovah as those hard working Bethelites, whose happiness was obvious, their smiles were so precious, you could tell that Bethel is the happiest place on earth. We can’t wait to go back, and can understand why so many friends move near there and commute or volunteer— every minute there is special!
We are so grateful to Jehovah for the experience and for our dear friends that arranged private tours and lunches for us. We cherish the special new friendships we made, and for all the Bethelites that took an interest in us and especially in the boys by encouraging them to pursue the finer things in life- of serving Jehovah full time to the best of our abilities.
In addition to it being spiritually encouraging staying at the NCB hotel, it is also centrally located between all the bethel facilities. A 30 - 40 minute drive gets you to any of the facilities, and this day we went to Patterson.
The Patterson tour is a classic walk through the facility with a tour guide in a group. Although some modern features have been added.
Here was our group and guide.
We hit all the “touristy” spots. :)
After our tour we got to enjoy lunch at Patterson with some friends of our friends that became friends of ours😜. The married couple were relatively newly married, although the brother had been serving at bethel for many years. They met while the brother participated in a special ministry campaign in a foreign county. The campaign was designed to reach Iranians that were visiting a neighboring country since preaching is extremely limited in Iran. Their story is very cute and the sister’s faith and trust in Jehovah as she moved away from family to a foreign place was very encouraging.
I must mention the food for this day! It was Cuban and so delicious. The brother said Bethel in the past hadn’t served many dishes that offered a spicy option but recently had started to include it more often. This lunch was chicken with a dry rub but had a spicy sauce you could put on top. Makes my mouth water just recalling it! The side dishes were equally tasty, even included a cabbage dish that really surprised me how flavorful it was. Cabbage! Crazy right!? I never thought I’d make such an unusual claim, but it was amazing.
While visiting with the brother and sister we were very impressed how they had carefully made decisions in the past. Each relying on Jehovah for guidance and direction. Being patient to see Jehovah answer their prayers and not to rush into anything. Such a good example for us. A lovely lunch all around.
Another special treat came after lunch when some friends hooked us up with a brother that was willing to give us a tour of Mt. Ebo. Are you wondering what Mt. Ebo is? Well, I certainly was. This is Mt. Ebo.
Mt. Ebo is a purchased building a few minutes from Patterson to help with the Audio Video department at Patterson. If you’re wondering if the name means anything (like I was), it does not. Like the name Tuxedo, Mt. Ebo is just the name of the area, the location.
There are large sound proof sets for filming and a massive prop warehouse. They also build sets and stages, costumes, beards and whatever else is needed for a video. We even saw a boat that was mainly made out of styrofoam but even up close it looked like real wood- the real deal. During filming the boat could even rock and simulate wave movements. Here’s two costumes they had on display.
We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the filming area where the stages were located, sorry. It was very interesting to hear what it takes to make a video, gave us a whole new appreciation for the videos and films we have. They go to great lengths to make sure everything looks right. Even the modern stitching on the above costumes had to be hidden so as not to be seen on film and the old style of sticthing is added to make it look authentic.
The brother giving us the tour told us how they create the beards. For smaller background parts, a pre-made beard could be put on. These are a lower quality but look real good from a distance. For a main character a lot more work is required. Take for example Hezekiah in the film ‘Oh Jehovah I Trust in You’. The brother playing the part has a mold of his face made. Using that mold, real hair is painstakingly stitched to it. Each and every hair is added one at a time. Some sister or brother must know exactly how many hairs are on Hezekiah’s chin. Then the beard is trimmed to the correct style and shape. For filming, the mold with the beard is glued on to the brother. Truly impressive.
We really appreciated the brother giving us this tour and explaining some of the details of how much work our friends do to prepare the videos for us!
Our last tour is tomorrow, Wallkill.
After a wonderful breakfast at the NCB hotel, we headed out to our first tour to start at 8:30am at the World Headquarters in Warwick. As we drove away from Newburgh where the hotel is located and got closer to the branch, we drove away from a busy city into the beautiful countryside. Buildings and telephone poles were replaced with hills and trees. The sound of honking cars and the buzz of too much traffic faded away to the peaceful and calming music of wind and nature.
Although we had previously seen pictures of the headquarters in its setting, it was still a shock of how stunning the property and buildings were.
After checking in and receiving our self-guided tour audio equipment we began our tour. You are allowed 3 hours for your tour, which won’t give you enough time to see everything. Someone told us that there is about 14 hours of recorded audio, we couldn’t verify that but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true.
I don’t want to spoil the surprise for when you are able to visit and take the tours so I’m gonna leave much of those pictures and information out, I’ll just share some of our unique experiences. I greatly encourage all to start making plans to visit as soon as you can. The 3 days we spent touring each facility were by far the best vacation we have ever taken. The museum exhibits are so well put together, their fascinating, encouraging, sometimes funny and sometimes heart-breaking. There is something for everyone to enjoy and the exhibits are displayed so creatively. Warwick is a high quality museum!
Many exhibits have interactive touch screens, like this one.
Probably the largest exhibit was, ‘A People for Jehovah’s Name.’ Many “artifacts” are on display with audio clips you listen to as it describes the item or an experience associated with it. We spent a hour in there but had to fly past much of it so that we would have time for the other exhibits.
This exhibit covers all of Jehovah’s modern-day people’s history, from the beginning to current times. Items that we have only ever seen in pictures or heard about in magazines were on display. One such exhibit was the Photo Drama of Creation. Checking out the slides from that was so cool.
Here’s Wesley standing inside a prison cell that some witnesses were locked in. I forget the county, but as you can see there isn’t enough room to lay down, possibly not even sit.
We quickly ran out of time! But one “must see” is a new Russian Exhibit. It is a temporary exhibit, I’m not sure how long it will be open. This tear jerking exhibit shows what our brothers and sisters have had to endure in Russia over the many decades of persecution. Be warned, take some Kleenex.
One part of this small exhibit is a recreated room that was used by a brother for many years to secretly make copies of the magazines for the friends. The room was underground and was smaller than many people’s closets. He would stay in the tiny space for up to two weeks at time to decrease the chances of being discovered. It’s hard to imagine what that would have been like. For around 7 years this brother spent much of his life in voluntary solitary confinement because he loved his brothers so much.
After our allotted time ran out, we were able to have lunch with some friends that we were introduced to. The lunch room at Warwick was full so we got to have lunch in the Tuxedo lunch room. The Tuxedo complex is a short 5 min drive from Warwick. It was originally purchased to room volunteers working on Warwick. It is now residence for Bethelites and houses the computer department and is where the Broadcasting studio is located.
The procedure for Bethel lunch has been simplified. Eating in the dinning room is now optional. If you desire you can go through a “buffet” line and take your food somewhere else to eat. Only if you are eating in the lunch room do you need to be dressed in meeting clothes. We had a great time with our new friends. We got to learn about their experiences and their assignments. They are now dear friends.
After lunch, we got to tour the Tuxedo complex by another brother that we were introduced to. This brother works with a small group of brothers that overseers the networking connections between branches, remote Bethelites and RTOs- FOR THE WHOLE WORLD!
Okay, they are not connected to the whole world yet, but they are working on it. He showed us on a monitor of all the places they are already tied into and it was mind blowing. This brother has been in bethel for only 2 years and is helping carry out such an important function. He jokingly said it must be a mistake he was working there.
The brother took us all over the complex (except the studio) including what they call the “space ship.” Notice in the picture below the part of the building that is raised and sticks in front of the main part of the building? That is the “space ship.”
What must every spaceship have in it? A helm or bridge, and yes he took us inside to see. It’s really a conference room for their meetings. He tried prank calling someone in his department while we in there together, my kind of brother!
Part of what they do at Tuxedo is pre-building servers, routers, and other necessary electronics needed around the world. They even maintain and repair the video “walls” that are used at conventions. In fact, our organization owns the most videos “walls” in the world. After the equipment is built or repaired, it is tested then shipped to where it will be used.
Here’s Wes getting ready to help.
Well, as you can see we had an amazing time at Warwick and Tuxedo. The brothers and sisters that gave us tours or had us for lunch showed such warm hospitality. Each of them went well above and beyond what we expected. I know that you’ll have a similar experience!
Tomorrow we tour Patterson and Mt Ebo!
Have you ever had a dream where you are in paradise? Everything around you is beautiful and you’re surrounded only by Jehovah’s people. This dream was a reality for us the morning we woke up in one of Bethel’s new hotels, the NCB.
The NCB is a hotel the branch purchased to house volunteer workers during the construction of the new world headquarters. Now that the project is complete, visitors touring Bethel can apply to stay at the hotel. It is a beautiful hotel staffed only by fellow Witnesses. Some of those working there are permanent Bethelites, commuters or local congregation volunteers.
When we first arrived at the hotel, we were greeted by Caleb and Sophia in the gorgeous lobby.
Each morning we would wake up in a clean, lovely decorated hotel room and then get prepared for the day. As we walked out of our room into the hallway, original songs were playing softly overhead. After a brief elevator ride down to the lobby we were greeted by warm smiles and friendly faces- Paradise.
By far the best part of staying at the NCB was visiting with the brothers and sisters. One Bethelite working there was a brother from Rwanda. (I’m withholding Bethelite’s names for their privacy) He was the only person in his family in the truth. We saw him most days working so hard maintaining and cleaning the hotel, often with beads of sweat on his forehead and a giant smile across his face.
One commuter we met was a sister that lived nearby. She has a daughter serving at Fishkill and a son serving in the Dominican Republic. She volunteers a couple days each week and was working at the reception desk at the NCB along with other brothers and sisters. Both the NCB and NCA hotels are overseen by Fishkill, so some of the Bethelites and volunteers may end up serving at different Fishkill properties. It was so encouraging visiting with friends like these each morning.
Our very first morning there, we met an elderly couple that had lived and served in Brooklyn for many decades. They are now living in the Rivercrest Apartments at Fishkill, the property that cares for the elderly. The apartment complex is located about a 15 min drive from the hotel and is right on the Hudson River. As with all other Bethel properties, the grounds are landscaped beautifully and the apartments are magnificently cared for.
Some older Bethelites from Fishkill would come to the hotel during breakfast and visit and encourage those touring Bethel. A wonderful provision from Jehovah that adds to the beauty of this paradise. Not only does it show respect for long time servants by giving them a valuable assignment, but it is also a source of great encouragement for those visiting. The couple brought with them a special souvenir for the young ones. Many of the brothers and sisters at Fishkill are limited due to age and health but some enjoy making souvenirs for the kids. Here’s the one Wesley got.
After visiting with the couple for a few minutes they invited us to their apartment. We had no tours that day so we were able to go. Unlike the Bethel rooms back in Brooklyn, the Rivercrest apartment rooms are spacious. Along with the bedroom and living room, they had a small kitchen, an office space and a spare room for quests.
The brother served in the writing department for many years, and his library was very impressive with notes sticking out of them everywhere. The sister worked in the sewing department and loved her assignment. We were greatly encouraged by their experiences and loved spending time with them.
It was so wonderful to meet many different brothers and sisters that were either serving at the hotel or staying there. Just to mention one more and I’ll give you his name cause he freely gave it out and his life story is in the Watchtower and is a ‘Must-Read’, his name is Brother Eric Beveridge.
Bro Beveridge also lives at Fishkill and came to offer some encouragement and gave another souvenir to Wesley. He was so happy to be there and he made sure to get around to everyone. I wish I had thought to record visiting with him cause you would probably recognize his voice. He is the narrator for the movies, Noah Walked with God and David Trusted in God. He literally spoke those words in his “movie voice” to all those in the lobby. I jokingly asked him to say, “Kevin walked with God,” he did not. He was a real hoot. Bro Beveridge speaks Spanish fluently because he served in Spain for many years. When he heard we were going to Ecuador he had the boys practice their Spanish with him. He is also the new reader for the Bible book Nahum. He is such a good example of those that joyously serve Jehovah to the best they can, and as you can tell by his smile, he still is happily doing so.
The experience of staying at the NCB hotel gave us a taste of what paradise will be like- when everyone around you loves Jehovah, loves you and wants to encourage you. We got so built up, but that wasn’t all that Jehovah had in store for us. As you continue to read, you’ll see a glimpse of the floodgates He poured out on us as we toured The Houses of God.
First tour, Warwick.
En-route to Ecuador we stopped to visit family and friends in Michigan. We visited for nearly a month and stayed in my sisters basement for most of the time, send your expressions of sympathy to her in the comments. 😜
We also quickly got to know my sister’s new congregation- Grand Ledge. They were very loving, fun and supportive. 1 Brother even gave the boys some toy cars and other gifts. Some of the friends we knew from when we used to live in Michigan, back when I still had hair. We had a great time catching up and making new friends too.
Possibly the best part of our time in Michigan was doing Family Worship together. It’s a real blessing to have family members that serve and worship Jehovah, and doing so together brings great joy!
Towards the end of the trip, we went North to where my parents live. While my sister does live “out in the country,” you could say my parents live “out in the middle of nowhere.”
We also went to a water park for 2 days. BOY! It was a lot of work having fun! Took us a day to recover afterward, haha. The kids hit the slides hard, over and over again. I won’t burn scary images into your brain of me in my suit, but one fun activity most of us did was the body surfing. Here’s the bloopers, I mean the highlights.
We had many other ‘Good Times!’ together that time doesn’t permit me to mention.
Goodbyes are always sour. Time is such a limited resource and spending it with those we love is so precious. It will be one of the many great gifts Jehovah will soon give us all, Limitless time. But until then it’s a challenge to know you won’t see your loved ones for awhile.
Next Stop: Bethel