In the United States, especially where we are from, the field ministry for most Jehovah’s Witness’s consists of getting in a car in a group of four or so, driving to a territory, and going from door to door. A few years ago when we joined the sign language group (Congregation), our ministry changed a bit. We still would get in a car and drive to a “Territory”, but it meant having to drive an even greater distance. When we got to the territory, we would canvass for deaf, or maybe try to contact one of the deaf people that lived in that area. We got used to spending a lot of time in our ministry just sitting in a car.
Here things have changed for us quite a bit. Since most friends here do not have cars, we normally are assigned to work with 1 or 2 other brothers or sisters. From that point here we have a “Territory” that consists of 2-5 names of known deaf people. We do not canvass here at all. When I asked why not, I was told that the city has already been canvassed. When we decide where to go, we walk. Not just a few blocks, but for as much as an hour or more. Loja is not flat! It is a town full of hills. Both of us have walked from one end of this town to the other. I work with one brother quite a bit, as there is a shortage of brothers out during the week. His name is Marcos. I have made up a song that I sing to myself when I am with him. ” Caminamos con Marcos” which means “we walk with Marcos” Its a little reminder to myself as to what to expect in service that day.
One day Elena left with one sister, and took a bus to the edge of town, then the sister told her it was a short walk to the study. So Elena walked, and walked, and then came a mountain. And then the rain. Eventually the road ran out, and her and the sister she was with began walking on what I would describe as a “cow path”. Finally they arrived at a shack in the middle of a pasture. It had one dust covered light bulb, and the woman there knew very few signs. They studied, and walked back. By the time they got back Elena had walked over 10 miles. She got home about 2 in the afternoon. Although it’s a rare occurrence to walk this much, it gives you a taste of what service is normally like for us. We walk everyday. Sometime we take the bus if one goes to where we are going.
Another day we worked with a brother on a Friday morning, we took a bus way out of town to study with a deaf man that regularly goes to meetings. His name is Leopaldo. He uses very few signs, only what he has learned since he has been studying. He is however one of only 3 deaf publishers that we have. With most deaf here we study out of the “Listen to God” brochure. It was no different with Leopaldo. We had a decent study, but his limited understanding, and learning disabilities make it difficult. After the study he showed us his parrot.
After the study, the brother we were with told us he knew a shortcut to another deaf persons house. That shortcut took us about an hour. It felt like a hike, as we passed through what felt like 2, or 3 farms. We finally arrived at the call. Here are some pics of the walk.
Like most days here, it was beautiful, but soon the clouds rolled in, and the rain came. It rarely rains heavy here, more of a mist that lasts between 10- 30 minutes. That was the case that day. Eventually we made it to a “house” that once again was little more then a dirt floored shack. The women met us in the front, but we did not meet her deaf son. She listened as the brother preached to her in spanish. We walked back to town. Another long day of walking.
Every Thursday we take a bus ride for about 45 minutes to an hour to a smaller town named Catamayo. There are several Deaf there that we talk to. Elena has one old lady that she calls on there. She doesn’t know any sign language, but is VERY expressive, and she is a real joy to teach the bible to.
Some pictures of Service in Catamayo.
Catamayo sits a couple thousand feet below Loja, so the funny thing is, that it is a several degrees hotter when we get there. It is definitely more remote then Loja, and probably more walking. More heat means more bugs. Elena got bit up pretty bad after her first day in Catamayo.
Now she wears a long skirt and boots when going to Catamayo.
Service here is a great joy, and the people here are very responsive. It is a very different experience then in the states, but really builds your faith that the good news is being preached “in the entire inhabited earth”.