Just reflecting over the past service year, and everything that has happened, from surviving a paro, changing congregations, recovering from surgeries, quarantining for 6 months and counting, to doing our ministry a whole different way, what a year! You might be thinking that letter writing and phone witnessing is the same no matter where you live, but let me tell you how it is in our congregation in Pablo Arenas….
You’re probably thinking that you write a letter, put it in an envelope, slap a stamp on it, and mail it out the next day. Right? Wrong! We have no mail service in this part of Ecuador we live in! The letters have to be hand delivered at NHs, but we are not doing house to house ministry. So, the letters pile up at your house. One pioneer brother stopped counting his letters once he hit 150! Because of this, many friends do get discouraged as they watch their letter pile get bigger and bigger. It’s hard to keep the desire to write letters when you are not getting immediate results from them. Yet with the encouragement from the elders and regular pioneers, our friends keep writing. We read our letters out loud to each other for suggestions and/or ideas. The young ones love to come up with their own letters, and enjoy reading them to the group. One benefit from being quarantined is that the youth are picking their own scriptures and then explaining them in the letter, hopefully sounding the truth into their own hearts as they write to their neighbors.
Now that you know how letter writing goes, you probably think that phone witnessing is easier – grab a phone book and start calling. Sorry, wrong again! No phone books in our area, and almost no phones! Our area is so rural that some towns do not have signals nor the ability to have landlines. Or the area is so poor that people can’t afford to have landlines. Yet this is the area of the ministry where the quarantine has been good for our congregation. How? Before the big Q, we had 0 phone territories. We even had one area named Buenos Aires that was too dangerous to preach in due to illegal gold mines. The military had controls at the entrance of the town so as to keep outsiders away. It’s been more than a year since this area has had a thorough witness given. Now during the big Q, two young brothers in our congregation found a way to get phone numbers for some of the areas in our territory, including Buenos Aires! Now we are preaching in this town using the telephone, and having some really nice conversations. We now have 10 phone witnessing territories in our congregation. The quarantine opened our eyes and our minds to new possibilities of reaching some in our territory.
As with anything that is new, the friends were a little hesitant to do this new form of the ministry, but with the Circuit Overseer, the elders and the pioneers taking the lead, little by little the friends are adapting and enjoying this new experience. Once again it was the young ones (the youngest being 10 years old) that jumped right in with both feet. When a friend is calling a number, everyone puts their microphones on silent except for the one making the call. This way friends who were hesitant could hear from our side of the conversation how simple it is to read your presentation, and that it doesn’t need to be a complicated or long call. The young ones listened for about an hour before they started asking for numbers, and when they opened their mouths to preach, how beautiful it was to hear what was in their hearts to share with our neighbors! Several good return visits and studies were made.
Even though studies have slipped a little, mainly due to our territory – a low or no cellphone signal or a very bad connection due to rain – we are able to do studies through Zoom or WhatsApp. With some of our studies, the big Q has made them more regular since they are at home more often, or we are able to Zoom with them at night whereas before it might have been too dangerous for us to be in that area at dark.
What does the future hold for our ministry? When will be able to do the ‘normal’ ministry? Only Jehovah knows and can guide us, but don’t be surprised if you hear about the Pablo Arenas congregation hiring a small airplane to fly over and drop hundreds, if not thousands, of letters from the sky one day! 😉
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