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Monday, November 4, 2013

District Assemblies in Uruguay!

An Expat emailed me recently that a big storm was coming! It was due to start Friday, November 1st.

Rain combined with powerful wind gusts can easily wreck havoc down here. Power outages are also a possible threat. I appreciated the warning! However, rather than staying holed up in my house waiting for the icky weather to pass, I had other plans in place.

It's almost the end of the year and while places like the United States have already held their District Assemblies of Jehovah's Christian Witnesses months ago, ours was due to start, you guessed it, Friday, November 1st.

I had already paid for my bus ticket weeks in advance. The District Assembly I was to attend was being held near Pando, in a small town called Colon just outside of Montevideo. Our entire congregation usually rents a couple of buses and we ride together to the Assembly Hall. Which means that I had to be ready and waiting to board it at 7 o'clock AM; from a bus stop on the main Highway/interbalanearia.  Most people that know me, know that I am definitely NOT a morning person whereas, Wally is! I had to set my alarm clock for 5 AM in order to get up in time to get dressed, pack a lunch, gather my Bible, Song book and note pad and pens. etc... At least, I had just had a haircut so that I wouldn't have to do much more than pass a comb through my hair.  I had to make sure that I left the house with at least 15 mins. to spare for the short walk up to the bus stop. There are several Witnesses who live in my same neighborhood, so one of the stops along the way to the assembly hall is at our main Avenue in Marindía, Avenue del Mar. My neighborhood group boarded the bus together at this bus stop and then the bus went down the ruta to Salinas to pick up the next batch of us near the Salinas arch on the ruta. Then it made several more stops and picked up the other groups.

Of course, you don't have to take the group bus to get to the assembly. Some who would rather drive just take their car or motorcycle on down. However, at almost $6 a gallon for gasoline, I think the bus price of about $20, which covers the total 3 days (there and back) is a good deal. This being Uruguay my group rode the bus that morning happily sipping on their Mates, a hot herbal drink similar to tea. It's an acquired taste for those of us not born in Argentina or Uruguay.

There are over 11,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Uruguay. There will be several District Assemblies held this month to accommodate all of us. In Maldonado the congregations there (in the coming weeks) will hold their assembly in a rented stadium. Another group will hold their assembly in Paysandú and link up to Argentina via computer/phone links and watch the assembly program on giant screens/pantallas.

Our congregation's scheduled turn was as I mentioned, the storm weekend. The Assembly is a 3 day event, Friday thru Sunday. It starts at 9:30 with some music and goes till 5 o'clock with lectures, interviews and Bible discourses (all in Spanish) There is an hour and a half lunch break in between the sessions.  When I got to the Assembly hall, under cloudy skies, I saw that other congregations had also been assigned to the same time slot. I could tell, by the other buses already parked in the parking lot.

Our Assembly hall was built about 10 years ago. It's called an "Educational center" here in Uruguay. I've included some photos of what it looks like on the inside.

All our assemblies and meetings are open to the public. They are free and no donation plates are passed. Instead, there are a few discretely placed contribution boxes scattered around. This way if someone wanted to donate, to the worldwide work of Bible publication and lesson materials, they can do so without feeling pressured.

A highlight of the 3 day Assembly is the Baptism held on Saturday. This assembly saw a total of 13 new ones baptized. We had 1 new one from our congregation take the plunge (literally). We practice full water immersion which means, you have to go "completely" under the water. I took a picture of him and his wife Valeria after his dunk. His hair was still wet. His name is Danielo.

There is an Immersion pool built into the floor of the hall. When the Bible discourses are being held, the pool is covered up. I went down during the baptism to watch the brothers, as we call each other (Brothers and sisters/ hermanos y hermanas) uncover the pool.

To help everyone see the Baptism over the crowd of spectators, there are 2 large projection screens. I realized that I wanted a better look, so I ran around to the other side of the pool, a little too late to see Danielo baptized but I took a photo of someone else clearly being dunked fully under the water.

During the lunch break many run into old acquaintances they have known for years through such meetings. I took a photo of one brother from our congregation who posed with someone he has known for 45 years when they used to be in the same hall near San Jose. The couple in the end photo are from my congregation. He makes his living selling sunglasses at the ferias/farmer's market, where he has a table set up among the main venders. His wife's name is Esther which by coincidence was the main character's name (Queen Esther) in the Bible drama presented on Sunday.

My friend Carolina, along with several other members from our congregation had parts in the drama . The music and dialogue are prerecorded so that the actors have to lip synch the part and learn the proper gestures to help convey the meaning and emotion of the scene.

She let me know, that I could go backstage during the noon break and photograph some of the actors in costume before the drama started. Carolina is in the first photo. She said, that I could recognize her in the drama because she would be holding, "a baby" (a prop). She and her husband Hugo shown in the last photo, are still relatively newly married, so they don't have children yet. In the second photo, Katrina, who is a painter in real life, is seen standing before a woman dressed in Pajamas! That woman was to play a girl in modern times, who is at home with her family when they hear some news that they are about to be persecuted for their faith just like the Jews in Queen Esther's time, who were living in Babylon under Exile. The third photo is Darlene, a young woman who speaks a little English.

The backdrops were quite impressive. In the USA we didn't have such professionally painted backgrounds just props. Here in Uruguay there were several background changes to show different places of action during the drama.

The children in the audience were allowed to come up closer to the stage, in order to, see the action better. I am showing the size of the backdrop in the second photo.  The backdrops and costumes really were enjoyable to see. As the story progresses, you can really appreciate the importance of relying on God in times of trouble.

At the District assemblies, we usually get new releases of various Bible study aids and this assembly was no exception. We got 5 new little informational tracts on various subjects to share with people. A video on a modern adaptation of "the Prodigal Son", which is the story of a young man who leaves home and abandons his upbringing only to return years later a more appreciating person. Also, a new book about various Bible men and women who were outstanding examples of faith. There was also handed out at the end of the program a little brochure designed for children 3 years old and younger to help parents start to help their young ones build a strong relationship with God even at that early age.

I appreciated it because it had various simple lessons that were fun for me since my Spanish is still limited. For instance a little section on what sound/noise do various animals make and who created them. A rooster in Spanish says, "kikiriki" instead of "cock a doodle doo".

This Saying, is referring to John chapter 17 verse 17 ,"Your word is Truth"
All in all, I was glad that my stormy weekend was spent indoors listening to faith building experiences and Bible lessons.

 I was glad to be surrounded by like minded people and friends! As you exit now from our District Assembly feel free to visit again. I just thought I'd share where I was and allow you a tour.


Daniela DAtri said...

Hi Wally. My name is Daniela and I sm an Uruguayan living in Oakhurst California. My husband and I have been followed u for a while. We are brothers Wally! We go to a congregation in spanish here in Oakhurst. We have a lot of questions for you since we have plans to move back to Uruguay some time soon. By the way I know a couple of brothers from the pics!! I was so excited about it. I belonged to Solymar congregation in Uruguay so I guess we were very near...and who knows. .may be we have seen in some Assemblies.
We hope to hear from u soon in ur blog!!

charrua59 said...

Hello brother i belong to the Atlantida congregacion in Canelones.Are you in Pando?

enrique LaPorte

charrua59 said...

Hello brother i belong to the Atlantida congregacion in Canelones.Are you in Pando?

enrique LaPorte