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Monday, January 17, 2011

Visiting Speakers!

This month we are keeping busy with religious events. I've mentioned before that we attend a local congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. This has helped us immensely with making new friends here in Uruguay and bonding with this country. Uruguay is a place where family and friendship take precedence over the material, commercial side of life. Wally and I have no family here except for each other so friendship is important to us. It keeps us from feeling isolated and removes the "foreigner" stigma from us as we have been fully accepted into our local group.

This last Sunday, everyone made sure that we understood (we are still language challenged) that the meeting schedule had changed. We all went instead to our Assembly Hall in the town of Colon to attend a 2 hour gathering. We would be listening to 2 visiting speakers passing through on a tour of South American countries (Paraguay was next on the tour). Next weekend we will be returning to this same site for a regularly scheduled 1 day Special Assembly Day. I told you this is a busy month for us.

This weekend, one of the speakers was Brother Thomas (that's what we call each other, Brother or sister depending) He is living in the Dominican Republic serving at the branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses represented there. He is a fluent Spanish speaker so to be honest, I didn't understand everything he said.

I did enjoy however being outside with the overflow crowd sitting under the shade of the trees with my new core group of friends!
I was happy when our friends saw us trying to find them and sent Luisa running after us to show us where (what tree) our group was sitting under. There was a crowd out there on the lawn.

5,000 plus people were in attendance that morning. We were assigned to the morning session. A different group would hear the same talks repeated in the afternoon. There are a little over 11,600 active Witnesses in Uruguay (we don't baptize babies so the attendance would be higher) the second session would accommodate the rest. Some witnesses would have to travel quite a distance to attend as evidenced by the many hired bus lines in the parking lot. Whole congregations will get together and rent a bus and driver for an event or day and the buses stay parked in the lot.

You can see some of the hired buses behind this new dating couple  Andrea and Adrian. How cute with their almost matching names!
Witnesses know that interfaith relationships are fraught with extra hardships so they try and date "only in the Lord". This way a marriage can be built and strengthened through common grounds. We will try and keep an eye on these two and see what the future holds as to any permanent union. As a side note Jehovah's Witnesses do not have sex before marriage! Yeah, Chastity rules!

The second guest speaker was Brother John Larson. He was visiting from the main headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, USA. He is the Printery Overseer. The printery used to be called the factory but is now called the printery because it is a more accurate statement of what is produced there and doesn't have such commerical connotations (all work is voluntary there).

In addition to being known for world wide preaching efforts (preaching in over 235 lands), the organization is a Bible and tract society. The publications are not for sale but are provided as part of a worldwide Bible educational work supported by voluntary donations. The society prints millions of Bibles in different languages, often being in the forefront of getting obscure dialects researched and then providing Bibles and literature in people's native tongues. The Watchtower is published in 174 languages with new issues every month. Have you ever heard of Bicol, Efik, Hiri Moto, Lunda, Luo, Silozi? Even Solomon Island Pidgin is published besides the more familiar languages to us. Many native Indian tribes, and island nations can now read along with us in their own written language. The printery overseer keeps the presses going in a literal, mechanical sense.  As a non-native Spanish speaker (He and his wife are still learning) I was able to understand his discussion quite well. The choice of words, pace and slight American accent actually helped me to follow along better.  John Larsons theme was "What sort of persons are we". Stating that, some people look at themselves in the mirror (James chapter 1 verses 22-25) then walk away, promptly forgetting what sort of men they are. We should become doers of the word not hearers only.

We were encouraged to follow along in our Bibles. Luisa and hubby Jorge doing just that (notice the mate thermos on the ground, a benefit with sitting outside). We are in Uruguay. 

Scriptures included 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and  2 Peter 3:11-13. Each scripture emphasized the sort of person we should be and that talk is not enough but actions and conduct has to be holy too. I was just amazed that I could finally listen with ease to a talk. He of course apologized for talking like a ten year old, While I was grateful. Afterward, I went up and thanked him and met his wife, Tamara (pictured here).

He was married in 1982 and Wally and I were in New York ourselves in the same Branch office as volunteers back then. We worked in the domestic side of the headquarters. I was a house keeper and Wally a carpenter in Bethel (translation, the house of God) Brother Larson, as mentioned, worked in the printery portion so we only knew him by name and sight. Still it was nice to see a familiar face from some 30 years ago. 

On the way home, it was fun seeing all of the brothers and sisters that had attended the morning session, riding back home on their motor cycles dressed in there Sunday best. This is Uruguay after all!


Seamus said...

Denise, such a wonderful witness.

Philippians 4:8 -- Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Filipenses 4:8 -- En fin, hermanos, piensen en todo lo que es verdadero, noble, correcto, puro, hermoso y admirable. TambiƩn piensen en lo que tiene alguna virtud, en lo que es digno de reconocimiento. Mantengan su mente ocupada en eso.

That's why this has become such a popular blog. It is very uplifting as well as informative.

Denise said...

Dear Seamus,
Thank you for such a thoughtful comment! I am glad I can share with an appreciative person.

Since, I am revisiting this post after many months in order to publish this comment, I thought that I would add as a side note, that the young dating couple mentioned in this post are now married!

Again, thank you for taking your time to add a comment. I enjoy reading them!

deborah said...

Thank you so much for your comments regarding the wonderful conventions and the love that is shown by the brothers in Uruguay. I am a sister from South Africa and my husband and I would live to live in Uruguay. My concerns are my spirituality and Love for Jehovah and the congregation. Should I visit Uruguay would I be able to make contact with brothers and would I be able to be up built, attending meetings in English anywhere. Do any of the locals speak the English language should I go out and do the preaching work. I have learn t simple greeting's in Spanish. I would really appreciate any feedback that you could offer us with regard this Beautifully country, my main concern is serving Jehovah.

deborah said...

Dear Brother,
I am a sister from Durban South Africa.
As a English speaking person I would love to know if there are any English speaking congregations?. Should I wish to come over and visit or possible stay, would I be able to witnesses to any English speaking people. I have learned to greet in Spanish and ask simple things. Speaking Afrikaans as well wish using the rolling rrr it has not been to difficult.
Please could you tell me anything more about the conditions in Uruguay.
Your loving Sister Deborah Elston.

Denise said...

Dear Sister (Deborah),
If you would like to leave me your email address so I can write to you in depth then re-post a comment with your email address. We will not publish that comment so your address will stay safe.

There is freedom of religion here. So there is no problem finding a local congregation and making contact with the friends.

As far as I know, there are no English speaking congregations here in Uruguay. In Argentina (a much bigger country), Yes, they do have English congregations there! Our Branch office just got moved to the Argentina branch, so if you contact them, they can now answer whether or not there are any in this country I may not know about.

There are some English speaking people here. For example people from England,Canada, and Australia etc.. and some Uruguayans have learned it in school. So you can always find a way to witness to some in English. During my grocery shopping someone will always ask upon hearing me speak where I am from, then they proceed to speak a "little" English to me. I have a few friends in my congregation who can speak it but by far you can't count on that kind of help. On the good side, reading Spanish can come quickly. I can study for meetings in Spanish now even though I still don't speak it. People in field service are very patient and will try and listen to you despite your massacring their language. The congregations are very loving and caring. They look out for you here!

I hope that helps?