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)