|Wait for it....|
Let's begin with the titular "big news". Last blog update I had concluded by saying I "awoke this morning to yet another piece of shockingly good news. I believe next blog post will have some information about it". So here we go.
I've discussed at great length the difficulties involved for us to go out for assembly and convention. It involves either three days of nonstop panic and rushing, or a week and a half of sitting around doing nothing. This is due to the inconsistent and sporadic boat schedules. For many years we've joked about how nice it would be if we could just have an assembly of our own in Orealla.
I'm going to pause a moment and see if you can guess where this is going.
Day after arriving back from our convention, we received approval from the branch to hold the upcoming assembly program in Orealla. Even though this was over a month back, I've refrained from sharing much information about it, specifically because we didn't yet have much info. We knew we could do it, but we had to decide for sure where, when, how, etc.
So for the last month, several of us have focused on little else. I'm happy to say that as of yesterday we've locked down the venue, arranged to have a sufficient number of outside help to come in, worked out where most of them will stay, and on and on.
For starters, the venue will be uphill at the Primary School (if you're not familiar with the schooling system used here, it's basically equivalent to Middle School in the US. I think) which is pictured above. We have use of the downstairs auditorium, which seats between 150-180. This left us with the issue of where to seat everyone else, since our attendance estimates are continually being adjusted upwards (we're now expecting over 300). After an exhaustive tour of the grounds yesterday we've sorted out an arrangement to cover the large concrete area outside, fill it with chairs, and set up camera and projector to allow people outside to see the program just as well.
We have no baptism pool, but that isn't much of a worry for us since we have this...
|"Look, a body of water! Good gracious, what a body of water ... what prevents me from being baptized?"|
Assembly is going to be held October 7, and then the following day the regular pioneers will be heading out to attend the pioneer seminar before the other Circuit Assembly, which will be the 14th. We're realizing this will put our congregation in a difficult spot because the pioneers won't make it back in time for the Sunday meeting in Orealla. Consider who the pioneers are in our hall. Both elders and both ministerial servants, among others. So, um, the other brothers should have a lot of fun with this.
On that note, this congregation is insane. We have 35 publishers, and we just hit 11 regular pioneers. I'm going to attempt to soon have a writeup on all of them on this blog, but we'll see how that goes.
Now we move on to the other piece, Changing Attitudes.
For a long time, ministry was difficult in Orealla. Not because people weren't willing to listen, but because it was hard for Witnesses to stand out. Think of it, in most places Witnesses are known for being clean, for being peaceful, for getting along with one another to an unusual degree, and for being people you could trust with anything. Here's the thing though: in Orealla, that's just how everyone is, that's the whole mindset of the village.
Or at least, it was.
It's strange to think that even in the short time I've been here (coming up on four years) how much I've seen change. As more and more modern conveniences come in such as electricity, running water, cell phones, and especially the internet, the modern attitudes have come in as well. Everyone here sees it happening too, but are unsure of how to stop it. People have gone from just expecting to help others out with whatever they need (mashramani in the local language) to being considerably more selfish and even lazy. Monday morning used to be the time that everyone would gather together and clean up the roads and public village areas, but in just the last four years it's become something that people will only do if the village offers to pay them for the work they do.
Except the Witnesses.
Recent example: there's a section of the village where all the houses are populated by widows and single mothers. This wasn't planned, it just kind of happened. A while back a storm came and destroyed the light poles in this small segment of the village (which left them without electricity entirely), so they requested for them to be repaired. Days passed with no reply. Days became weeks. Weeks became months. Finally, acting on his own, one of the congregation's Bible students felled the necessary trees and trimmed them up to serve as poles. Then he called the village office and told them he had the poles the widows needed, and all the village had to do was send some people to drag them down the hill and install them.
Weeks passed, nothing. Now, one of the widows who lives in this area is a Witness, and her neighbors started making fun of her, saying she should ask her "church" to do it for her.
So she did.
Before the day was over, the poles were dragged downhill and placed in the right positions. Since we weren't technically village workers, we weren't allowed use of the tractors or things that were available, so we had to do it by hand. But enough brothers came (and one sister) and we got them downhill, through mud, through bush, and over a creek. One of the brothers is also a qualified electrician and offered to plant the posts in the ground and hook the wiring up right away, but the offer was refused, with the village saying it had to be one of their approved people doing that work.
Three months later, it still hasn't been done.
Later on, another issue came up. The roads leading to this same area became overgrown with weeds and brush. Now again, cleaning up these places is village responsibility since they're public areas, but the path became so bad it was impassable, and yet nothing was done. On this same path is a church, so the women living on the road asked the church members to clean it up, but nothing was done. The churchgoers would merely trudge though and do nothing to clean it.
Once again, the residents of the street told our sister to ask the Witnesses to look after it. Only this time, they weren't poking fun.
In a day the entire path was cleaned. The brush was cut, opening a path six feet wide (for a four foot wide trail) and all the grass was raked up.
So as painful as it is for me to see such an idyllic, peaceful and considerate village be absorbed by the selfishness of Satan's world, I must begrudgingly acknowledge that it's happening and will continue to happen. But there is an upside to this.
As I'd said before, in most areas the Witnesses stand out clearly when compared with others. Now this is happening in Orealla. While the attitude keeps changing, Jehovah's Witnesses stay the same. And people are noticing. How can I tell?
For the longest time, the Kingdom Hall was something of the minority of the village. 15-20 people attending while the nearby churches were pulling in hundreds. What's happened with these changing attitudes? Here's how I like to demonstrate the change:
There's two men who have a freezer and will push ice blocks around the village in a wheelbarrow so people can buy ice or have something similar to a slushie made for them. I began noticing the two men would wait outside the Kingdom Hall every Sunday morning. Finally I asked them why they wait outside, and they said "Because we know once your meeting lets out, that's where we'll find the biggest number of people."
This same day, they sold out. One stop and they went back home.
So yes, in just the course of four years we've become larger than any of the churches in the village. Some days we pull in more than the seven churches combined. Naturally, most of these attendees aren't baptized Witnesses, so clearly we have lots, lots more work to do.
This too is why we continually have to revise our attendance prediction for the assembly. So stay tuned, we'll see how this goes.