Thursday, September 30, 2021

Enthusiasm and Joy


 

Enthusiasm and joy are two qualities that I've never needed to work too hard at. Compared to other qualities I need, they come rather naturally to me. These two things have definitely been a huge aid in staying positive and enjoying the assignment I've had for the last 11 years. But as it turns out, as naturally as they come, my internal sources of joy and enthusiasm are not limitless.

Prior to lockdown, it was obviously easier. Constantly seeing the others in my congregation, getting out and walking house to house past rivers and hills, and so on. It kept me on an easy high plane of enthusiasm, even when it got physically tiring. But after more than a year of quarantine, those feelings certainly took a major hit. More and more it felt as though I was exerting maximum effort for minimal payoff. This didn't come immediately.

At first, everything was great for me in lockdown. Life became easier, I had more free time, and I could delve into study projects and hobbies and all sorts of things I hadn't had time for previously. But slowly as we've adapted and returned to certain standards and practices we had before, the workload increased back to its former level. Unfortunately, while the workload returned to normal, the things I used to relax and rebuild my enthusiasm/joy levels did not return.

Now in the previous blog entry, I shared the main things I've been using to maintain sanity, namely study projects. But even as essential as those have been, you can't realistically study constantly. Your brain needs a break. More often than not, I found myself just staring at a wall trying to determine what to do that wouldn't feel like too much of a burden to attempt. Simply put, I couldn't think of anything to do. It felt almost like a building pressure valve that simply wouldn't open. Happily, even though I personally couldn't find a solution, one was handed to me.

After a stretch of several months with no good news whatsoever, the floodgates opened. In the span of just three weeks we got a new elder and an incredible four new regular pioneers. Immediately our field service groups felt reinvigorated and my personal workload diminished. This means for a relatively small congregation of just 42 (yes, 42 publishers) we have 4 elders, 1 ministerial servant, and 12 pioneers, which is possibly the highest ratio I have ever witnessed.

This development also reminded me of something important. Instead of looking at myself the entire time, examine the congregation I'm with. After an honest look, I realized I cannot help but be impressed by the people I'm surrounded with. Among this small group of 42, we have people who've helped with Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction, served at Bethel, been Special Pioneers, helped with Warwick construction, attended SKE, instructed Pioneer School, done seldom worked and unassigned territory trips, had their life story in the Watchtower, and had their pictures shown at Annual Meeting. Suddenly what felt like being on a sinking ship became an airplane taking off. It became more and more obvious it makes no sense for me to feel unproductive just because I can't go walking up hills anymore. The congregation is growing faster than ever and our territory assignment is still incredibly productive.

Though I think my shoes are grateful for the vacation.

 

Due to financial reasons (aka I was out of money) I had to take advantage of a window of opportunity and leave Guyana and go back to the US for work (see opening pic for the lovely backyard). But thanks to the Zoom connection we worked out, I'm still able to be part of my assigned congregation for meetings and field service, and should be able to continue to do so until I'm able to physically return to Guyana (which will be when? Who knows. Covid cases in the US and Guyana both are going up, so we'll see how things pan out).

But no matter where I am, I can stay busy. Is my boredom still there at times? Of course it is. But is it possible for me to experience enthusiasm and joy despite that? Of course it is.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

1+ Year of Lockdown




The quarantine in Orealla began on April 2, 2020, and from then to now I've been out of the village exactly once. As you can likely imagine, this has been a jarring adjustment for me as I formerly was in the habit of traveling out once per month. While my local circumstances are not nearly as bad as some have been experiencing, being stuck in Orealla over long periods definitely comes along with its own set of issues.

For example, electricity only comes on from 5pm - 10pm each day (and even then, sometimes it's less, or not at all) meaning in the middle of the day when the sun is at full intensity, there is no relief. During rainy season when the place cools off this is no problem, but during dry season, like now, my house is fully capable of hitting 130 degrees Fahrenheit inside.

Fun fact: a reasonably cooked steak has an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

Another major issue here is the lack of reliable internet. There is a government provided wifi, which works perfectly well 20% of the time. I'm also able to use mobile data, but you can imagine how quickly something like a Zoom call burns through that. So between the excessive heat, isolation, and slight stress at having to scrupulously time my Zoom calls so I don't wipe out all my data, what do I do to deal with it?

Simple. Study projects. So, so many study projects.

Many people have questioned me in the past why I still prefer paper copies of books when I have the exact same publications on my laptop and phone. And the answer is simple. If power doesn't come on for three days straight, and I can't use the solar panel on my house because we haven't had sunshine in a week, the laptop and phone are toast. But that 1989 Awake bound volume? It has a date with me, my hammock, and the jug of coffee that just finished brewing. Bonus of this arrangement: when the phone is dead, nobody can call me and interrupt the reading.

(and using the 1989 Awake bound volume wasn't a random choice. That year the magazine had an epic 24 part series on the history of false religion and it is amazing and you should quit reading this blog and go read that series instead: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/101989002)

Happily I have been slowly building a network of people who are choosing study projects as the best way to use their time, and that has been a huge aid as well. Binging study projects is great, but sometimes you need to embark on a long monologue to someone about what you've been reading, and lately the monkeys in my neighborhood have simply not been as attentive as they used to be.

Another major helping aid has been the frequent appearance of barrels being sent to me from overseas. For a while in the lockdown, getting food was a major problem. Sometimes because food was scarce, other times because I couldn't get to the bank to get money out of my account so I could buy the food that was available. So I'm sure you can see how getting a 55 gallon barrel full of bacon and other things would help out quite a bit.

(Yes, there was things other than bacon. No, I don't recall exactly what they were. Once you see dozens of boxes of preserved bacon, everything else kinda becomes a haze)

This should last three or four whole days!

Oh, and the other very, very important thing consuming my time: writing songs about literally every account in the Bible. My goal is to one day have the entire thing converted into songs. Bible: The Musical if you will. While that may sound ridiculous (which it is) it does work wonders in helping you remember things. I now have all the kings of Judah and Israel memorized thanks to a very strange song that I wrote in about twenty minutes during a day of exceptional pandemic fatigue.

(Saul, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Queen Athaliah, Jehoash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah. Without checking a written record. Huzzah! Thank you Appendix A6, and also the karaoke version of Yakko's World I found one day and revised the lyrics to!)

Obviously I have no idea how much longer quarantine and such will last, especially as things have recently taken a turn for the worse in Guyana. So if anyone has ideas for study projects, please send them along. And I highly recommend you try some for yourself. It'll do you wonders.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Memorial 2021

For the last several blog entries, the majority of the space has been dedicated to the various difficulties we've encountered with trying to handle meetings, field service, etc. So for this entry, I'd like to tell you about how all that work has paid off even better than we could've expected. And since this is in a written form and not a conversation, I'm going to take you the long way around to it.

A particular challenge with the pandemic is that many need-greaters were out of the country when everything shut down and restrictions were put in place. Happily with meetings moving over to Zoom and so forth, they were able to remain with their congregations, but getting back to their return visits and Bible studies proved a challenge. Lots of people in Guyana don't have internet connections, so therefore how can a publisher in the US/England/Trinidad stay in contact with them? International calling isn't really an option considering the cost and the sheer amount of minutes that would be used. Zoom does have a feature to call a phone number and be connected to the meeting, but the number you call is a US number and therefore doesn't do us any good.

Due to this problem, we began working with a network of need-greaters to find a way around this, and we did at last work out a marvelous system to allow someone in another country to join Zoom, and then we (locally in Guyana) call their return visits and patch them together. I won't go into the details because it's long and complicated, but suffice it to say we found a workable system and everyone was happy.

The more we used this system, the more it nagged at some of our minds. Here's why:

I've talked at length about how in Orealla we use phones for our meetings due to even rarer internet than most of Guyana, and the internet we do have we pay based off how much we use. Problem with phone meetings is the signal is bad and the more phones we have on the conference call, the more beeps we get during the meeting. But some in Orealla had internet. Is there a way we can adapt this overseas publisher return visit system to our meetings here?

The breaking point came during a meeting where we had so many phones tied in that we would get 10 beeps every 15 seconds. We couldn't hear anything. It was time to change how we connected our meetings. So we did a test. We calculated exactly how much data it would take to connect to an audio only Zoom meeting, and then called every single household in the congregation with a smartphone and asked if they would be willing to try it. About half the congregation had smartphones and data. We set up a Zoom room and had them join, and then we connected the other half of the congregation by phone like normal.

The result? Massive success. Clearer sound than we'd ever had, and fewer beeps (sometimes no beeps at all for, again, reasons that take too long to explain).

With every passing week, more people began budgeting data for meetings and making the switch over to Zoom, which has had the extra bonus of freeing up space on the telephone conference call so we could have more interested ones listening in (because yes, we had to turn people away from the meetings before this due to not having space on the limited size conference call). Our average meeting attendance continues to climb and so far shows little sign of slowing down. The special talk had an attendance of at least 89, more than double our 42 publisher count. Our goal became, for the Memorial, to get all publishers on Zoom so we'd have the phones completely free for interested ones without internet or Zoom or whatnot.

Plans were going great. Everything in place.

Then the day before the Memorial, during a seemingly normal day of field service, I got a text message that one of the brothers in our congregation died.

As I heard other publishers talking in the background on their call, I stared at the phone dumbfounded. I read it about ten times over because I was sure I had misread something. Finally I responded asking for clarification. It couldn't be. This brother was 40 years old. He had no real medical problems. He had a wife and three children between the ages of 17 and 10. He was the picture of health. Turns out an accident had killed him that morning.

We had already experienced trying to organize a funeral in the middle of the lockdown. But this was the day before the Memorial. How do you prioritize?

The man's wife and children gave us the answer. They focused on the Memorial. They were going to address everything else later. They made the bread, got the wine, prepared their home, and that morning watched the Morning Worship video. They invited some of their relatives, who attended.

And what a Memorial. With the Zoom/phone linkup we got 149 in attendance, more than we've had for some of our circuit assemblies. And while every Memorial talk is meaningful, this one was more so than ever for us. 

Sunday morning we began working out the arrangements for the funeral. Monday the family was in field service again. Tuesday I realized the deceased man's father was scheduled for talk at our midweek meeting, so I called him to offer to find a substitute for it. He refused, and Thursday he gave the talk as assigned. Saturday was the funeral and the family strictly adhered to the Covid protocols locally put in place, and made sure all attendees did too. So many wanted to attend that we had to make the Zoom feature available for that as well, and so many came that it filled up our room.

The brother who died was my neighbor in a literal sense. He also did more than anyone else around (myself included) to make sure my home kept well stocked with food and essential supplies during the most difficult parts of lockdown. And someday he'll be delighted to learn his family and congregation made sure to focus more on the death of Jesus than on him. He was that kind of guy.



Thursday, January 7, 2021

Out With the Old, in With the New

 

You may remember five full years ago I moved out of the Kingdom Hall's attached house and into a different one nearby (pictured above). After a half decade, it has come time to move out, and very very hastily as well.

Note to landlords: if you want to keep your tenants, don't raise the rent 150% overnight.

Can't complain though. The house provided me a place, as well as the Circuit Assembly guests we would constantly get, plus a never ending stream of roommates and house guests. Seriously. I got up to 70 people passing through my place before I just quit counting.

But of course, needing to immediately move raises the obvious question. Move to where? Well, by the strangest coincidence (Coincidence? I think not!) one brother needed to move out of Orealla to another village just three weeks prior, leaving behind a fully furnished home. So here's a few of the perks:

1. The person we're renting from is now a Witness instead of someone from the field

2. Our neighbors (on both sides!) are now also Witnesses, as opposed to a police station and a church

3. This house is not on stilts like the previous one, but rather has a complete downstairs and upstairs (seen in the picture below)

Could it use a coat of paint? Yes, but let's not be hasty.

4. One of those neighbors has a freezer and lets us make use of it!

5. We can still access the village wifi from here, which has even allowed me to use Zoom on occasion!

6. This one has a toilet (outhouse) already. At the last house we didn't get one until a full year had passed.

Plus, it is magnificent to get a little further away from the center of town. When I first came here seven years ago it was practically Mayberry, no crime, no disturbance, whatsoever. Now the level of crime has increased somewhat, people are less trustworthy, and Orealla is even jumping on the bandwagon of civil unrest.

It was bound to happen eventually.

In case anyone is worrying about my health and how the village is doing because of the line about how the toshao (village captain) has been handling Covid, you have nothing to fear. The protest is that he's being too restrictive. As far as keeping covid at bay, we're all doing fine.

So in summary, getting away from all that and further into the bush surrounded by JW neighbors, with semi-reliable wifi has been amazing. And don't even get me started on the yard. Instead of a tiny square of grass surrounded by dirt roads, we have this...





Thursday, November 26, 2020

Pause and Reset



 One of my favorite ways of passing time is rewatching Gilead Graduation programs, and one of the points that stuck out to me more than any other is to, quote, "pause and reset." The advice was specifically in regard to getting away from devices and the digital world, and instead taking some time to meditate on creation, and how doing this will help your mental state.

I have long loathed cell phones, so in general this was easy advice for me to follow. Especially living in a place like Orealla where I only get electricity a few hours a day, it kind of forces you to separate from the devices and do something else.

This, however, has recently become a challenge. Whereas before I spent almost all day outside, routinely walking 5+ miles a day for Bible studies alone, now we're being told to spend our time indoors. As for devices? They're inescapable now. For field service, I've written already about how letter writing is not really an option for us, so it is all telephone witnessing. So there's something like 2.5 hours per day on my phone already. Add another hour for studies and we're at 3.5. Now consider that, even prior to lockdown, getting our literature on time was a hassle, so you can imagine quarantine has made that even more difficult, meaning for the most part all meeting preparation is done using our phones instead of paper copies. Then meetings themselves requires everyone being tied in over the phone. Not to mention shepherding calls, Convention and assembly are watched on my laptop.

Now allow me to make one thing absolutely clear. I am not complaining about these things being available, because without them there's no way we could ever get by or find another way to maintain meetings/service. What I am saying is that the switch has been absolutely jarring for me, and has made me more reliant on the electricity than I ever was before.

So recently in my habitual rewatching of Gilead Grads, I came across the advice once more to "pause and reset," and I will admit my first reaction was the laugh at the advice to give devices a break. How can that be done? It can't.

Or at least that was my first thought. When I thought about it realistically though, it became more clear. The advice was never to give up technology entirely, it never has been. Just put it down sometimes when you aren't in need of it. Go outside and observe creation. If you can't go outside, find another way to observe it.

I'll be honest here, I have no idea how easy or difficult of a thing this is for most of you. I have experienced exactly one location since all this began, so I'm not going to pretend to be qualified to tell you how to adapt to your circumstances. But I can tell you how I've been able to.

Thankfully I live next to a river. It's close enough to my house that I can go to it daily while still "sheltering in place," and without coming in contact with other people. At first I would go to it primarily to swim, do laundry, etc. But it dawned on me that that's a terrible waste of an extraordinary privilege. It is the absolute best opportunity to put down the phone (after service is over) and get away from it. And you know what? It is easy. It's amazing how quickly my mind wanders and how quickly I lose track of time. I have never once missed a vital phone call or an imperative text message. And it feels so much better to get back home to a few messages waiting for me, rather than to be sitting next to the phone and feeling it constantly vibrate throughout the day.

And that electricity I've come to rely on so much? If it doesn't come on when it's supposed to (which is, er, about three times a week) it no longer feels like the end of the world. Go sit on a dock and stare at the water, or the sky, or the sunset, or whatever there may be that day.

Sometimes I sit and think. Sometimes, I just sit.

So again, I have no idea what each of you, with your unique circumstances, are able to do. But I definitely recommend you give it a try. Find a way to pause and reset. Doing so makes the time you're able to spend with other people through devices so much better.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

All Pro, No Con


 

I distinctly recall the first time I began to think the idea of moving where the need was greater was appealing. The 2006 Yearbook had been released, and I decided I was going to make a real, concerted effort to read the entire thing front to back.

(in a twist of irony, the first time I'd attempted this was the year before, aka the yearbook about Guyana, but I also distinctly recall deciding to skip Guyana's section and go to Iceland instead, because it seemed more interesting at the time)

The 2006 Yearbook was about Samoa, and I was enthralled. As fascinating as the stories and all were, what really stood out to me was the life of one man who moved to serve there early on and spent his life slaving away trying to help out. The payoff came, decades later, when Samoa built their first Assembly Hall, and this same brother was invited for the dedication program. I was struck for a moment, wondering how he would've felt looking back on his life, the time and effort he'd put forward, and how magnificently he got to see it paying off. This kickstarted an obsession with me. The idea of reaching old age and being able to look back with absolutely zero regrets about how my life had been used so far. I imagined that was what this man was able to do, and that's what I wanted as well.

(disclaimer: I have not gone back and double checked this story at all, so I may be remembering it incorrectly. Whether I am or not, this was the gist of the affect it had on me)

So honestly, being a need greater was not necessarily the goal, but rather that sense of a life well used. Need greating was certainly an option, but not the main focus. It didn't become so until I was introduced to Guyana (properly this time).

More than ten years have passed, and so far it has turned out even better than I expected. Take my current assignment, for example. When I first arrived in Orealla, there were two appointed brothers (one of which was, well, me). There was about 15 publishers and about the same average meeting attendance. We had three pioneers. Attending circuit assemblies and conventions was a constant struggle. I went into this thinking it was a three month assignment, and at first I remember being grateful that was all the longer it was going to be. This seemed too difficult of a place to be for much longer than that.

That was six years ago. And while we haven't built an assembly hall in Orealla, even in just those six years things have changed dramatically. For the better.

Even in the midst of a pandemic, we've seen our numbers growing. Two new baptized, one new unbaptized, and more return visits/studies than we can handle. The total number of publishers has grown from 15 to 42 at the present moment. The two appointed brothers have become five. The three pioneers have become eight (with a whopping eleven signing up for auxiliary during this last C.O. visit!) It has now become the norm for our attendance at pioneer meetings to exceed our average meeting attendance from years ago.

The biggest difficulty we've had in the midst of the pandemic has been how to tie in all the people for meetings who've shown interest. I've talked before about the system we've been using where we have five conference calls tied together by a conference call. But during the recent CO visit we needed to tie together a total of ten to fit everyone. Working out the logistics was a very exciting challenge.

This was (I think) draft #3, and the one we eventually used.

And while, again, I haven't been able to sit down in the auditorium of a newly built Assembly Hall, I still get to marvel at how quickly the work here has progressed. I've been able to see us even getting our own assemblies (in rented facilities) in this village, sparing everyone the stress and expense of traveling out for it.

If you had told me after my first meeting that we would reach this point in just a few years, I never would have believed it.

Now let's not sugar coat things though. It's been rough at times, and I very nearly got fed up and left on at least two occasions. But in all honesty, would it have been different anywhere else? It's not like life would've been easier or more pleasant if I'd stayed where I was, or if I'd taken another assignment elsewhere. Life is going to be rough at times. That's all there is to it.

The chief difference? This way, despite dealing with stress and all that, I presently have no regrets about what I've done with my time.

And I intend to keep it that way.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Quarantine on the Corentyne

I have battled with how to handle this blog post for a considerable amount of time now. I try to be generally positive on here, but it's difficult to manage that when talking about 2020 and the events it's contained. Eventually it reached a point where I decided I wouldn't even try.

But then I remembered storm clouds. You know the expression "silver linings"? I looked up the full phrase, and it is "every cloud has a silver lining", or in other words, no matter how bad things seem, there is always a positive element to it. And I feel this expression fits our current situation perfectly, because I don't think any one of us would be crazy enough to say everything going on is good. And yet, there are still many things to be thankful for. Dwelling on the positive doesn't mean we're glad these things are happening, but at least we're finding the best part of it.

So with that in mind, let me share with you what's been happening in Orealla since all this insanity has gone down.

When the virus first hit Guyana, I had the incredible misfortune to actually be in Georgetown (the virus epicenter) at the time. Due to this, when I was preparing to return to Orealla, I was told that they were banning anyone who had been in or near Georgetown. I would have to wait two full weeks before I could come back in, or fourteen full days. That wasn't too big a deal, some brothers out on the coast were able to find me a place to crash for the time. It was comfortable, it had electricity, refrigerator, all that good stuff. Like was good.

But as my 14 day ban continued, Coronavirus starting building a stronger and stronger presence in Guyana, and it spread from just being in Georgetown to getting within one hour of where I was staying. The village council in Orealla got understandably worried, and eventually decided they would shut down all boats in and out of the village, so there would be no chance whatsoever of the virus reaching them.

Great idea. Sensible precaution. But I was still outside.

One night (the final night of my 14 days ban) a brother in Orealla calls me and tells me there is one last boat going into Orealla the following day. If I don't catch it I'm stranded. So I pack up and run down to the dock the next day. After some slight hassle on the boat where I had to try to find proof that I hadn't been in Georgetown for 14 days (which I managed to find!)I was allowed back in. And with that, the river shut down.

Obviously, the biggest question became how to do meetings? Many congregations are doing Zoom meetings, but we don't have the internet requirements for that. We considered downloading and distributing the streamed meetings, but then realized about half the congregation doesn't have the equipment necessary to display the videos.

Finally, the solution came. Everybody at least has an old touchpad style cell phone, so we found the maximum size conference call our cell provider allows (six phones total) and split the congregation up into four groups of six households. Each group would have to do their own meeting individually.

This lasted about a month and a half, when we discovered an odd but workable way of expanding the conference call so large we could fit the entire congregation on one call. Each hosting phone has to purchase a considerably expensive cell plan to allow it to happen, but thankfully we've gotten some overseas contributors who have enabled us to keep renewing this plan month after month. As of last week, we've even figured out how to tie in phones from other congregations (and even overseas!) to allow visiting speakers, which is giving the local congregation a nice break from hearing the same three voices every single Sunday, over and over and over again.

However, this left another problem. Field service. Letter writing doesn't work here because there's no mailboxes or delivery service. The only way we could deliver our letters would be if we were to go house to house leaving them in doors, but I'm sure you can see the problem with doing that.
Of course, with the swanky new phone plan six of us got, phone witnessing became an option, but there was a problem with that too. Even though practically everyone in Orealla has at least a cheapo cell phone, there's no phone directory. I personally have the numbers of only witnesses and the local hospital workers. So who can we call for field service?

Here's where our C.O. stepped in and worked out a deal for us with a city congregation. They have literally thousands of homes with landlines, whose numbers you can find on the internet and on a phone directory. So this congregation went through the work of compiling around 2,000 phone numbers and sending them to us, so we could do phone witnessing. So now, each of the six hosting phones (which all have unlimited talking time) simply call the others in the congregation who want to share in ministry for the day, and there we go. We remain in our homes, we get an almost endless supply of people to call, and all is well.

Now if you're wondering how we're getting on with the river shut down and no boats coming in bringing supplies, honestly we're fine. Orealla has only gotten electricity in the time that I've been here, so everyone is pretty skilled at living without conveniences. On top of that, they have also worked out a deal with the Suriname government (who has legal oversight of the river) to send out two boats a week now, with only necessary crew on board, and buy in bulk whatever supplies people in the village need or want. So far, this system has worked out great. The village hasn't even run out of Coke yet for crying out loud, so really we're having a pretty good time through this.

However, my coffee supply has nearly run out. There is that.

So in the face of everything going on, what has been the silver lining for us?

First off, even though we've had to overhaul how we do our meetings, our average attendance has seen a huge uptick. We went from averaging 58-59 on Sunday to getting 65-75 each week. Our Memorial attendance was an all time high, even without tying in our neighboring village. Numerous ones in the congregation who couldn't get out in the ministry because of being home bound, or easily getting sick in the intense sun, are now simply staying at home and doing phone witnessing on a weekly basis. Some have even been auxiliary pioneering throughout all of this. We've been cooperating more with other congregations, both through contact with brothers in the city congregation offering us phone numbers, and even through simply joining phone witnessing groups in other halls. I personally have worked now with people from about eight different countries now, and that's just off the top of my head. And instead of the congregation being subjected to public talks from the same three people all the time, they're now getting to hear a limitless influx of voices from basically anywhere in the world with phone signal. Just yesterday one of my studies was gushing about how nice it was to hear someone else for a change ("not that I don't enjoy your talks!" he hastily added).

We've even seen formerly opposed relatives of our studies start taking an interest because of seeing how well the Witnesses have been handling the situation, in stark contrast to the churches of the village (one of which has had members repeatedly get arrested because they kept sneaking into their church at night for services)

The biggest annoyance for us though was the cancellation of our Circuit Assembly (which happened literally one week before the day it was scheduled for). While not having the do the related work was nice, the disappointment was that a local brother was meant to get baptized at the assembly, and now wouldn't be able to.

But no fear! We did indeed get our silver lining!