172 days – não adeus, até mais tarde

We remember arriving in Manaus eager for the unknown and now the extent of our life-changing, experience-filled stay is 2 days away. The ministry initiated many interactions between various citizens and created relationships with fellow brothers and sisters that we will never forget.

  

The group and many other friends arranged for a wonderful gathering to express their thanks to us. We had no idea of what to expect for this event. On arrival, we were greeted with music and loud expressions from the group. The gathering wasn’t a surprise to us, but the amount of people and everything that was planned for us was definitely a surprise. It was very touching to hear the group of young ones singing “Joy of Conventions” in English – “we are sisters, we are brothers, sons and daughters and more. And I love you even though I never met you before. ”

We were amazed, in shock and in awe as various brothers and sisters expressed themselves by way of a speech, poem or song. The love among all there is something we enjoyed receiving and being a part of. We hope our efforts to assist were felt by all that we were able to interact with. The positivity and joy that we were able to experience was just a small measure compared to what we await in the future. We pray that the seeds of truth that are being spread by the English group in Manaus will sprout and grow. Only Jehovah’s kingdom will bring about the necessary changes to the spiritually blind world that we now live in.

We’ll miss assisting in the ministry, Portu-glish conversations, the food, the long walks in scorching heat, the friends, the break times in ministry, the discourses, the waterfalls, “that” waterpark, service in Centro, the Amazon, the bus rides, …Brazil. Sentimos a sua falta, meus irmãos e irmãs. Esperamos vê-lo em breve. Sim, saudade.

UPDATE: The Manaus English group is now the Manaus English congregation! Karina and I plan to serve again where the need is great. — 1Corinthians 15:58

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Assembly Hall in the Amazon Rain Forest

We were able to attend a circuit assembly at the assembly hall for Manaus and a large surrounding area. Our only elder in the English group was the chairman. We had 1,530 in attendance and 26 became our spiritual brothers and sisters.

One week, there was a combined effort of the Portuguese, Haitian Creole and English group as we searched for foreign-language speakers.

 

During a special campaign, brothers and sisters from various cities of Brazil volunteered to preach in the more dense parts of the Amazon. The campaign took them to areas where indigenous languages were spoken. One pioneer, in his mid-20s, came from southern Brazil to assist with the campaign for 3 months. He has since shared a few pics (below) with us.

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Encontro das Águas

A venture lies ahead as we tour down and up the Amazon River. We start from the Port of Manaus heading to the Meeting of Waters. As mentioned in “A knowledge exchange“, it is where the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimões (Amazon River) meet and run side by side without mixing for almost 4 miles.

  

After some oohing, awing and allowing everyone their photo ops, we head back up river to see some botos or Amazon pink river dolphins. We also get to hold an anaconda, a young ‘gator and a sloth. Feeding the pirarucu was very exciting and interesting. These fish can get up to 9 feet long and a few hundred pounds! Going further up the Amazon River, we interact with a native tribe before heading back to Manaus. Gotta get ready for ministry in the morning.

    

      

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He travels, we traveled, they travel

A Sunday involved in public witnessing, but today we are setup just outside the main market in downtown Manaus. Among our passersby are a brother and his nephew. The nephew has been studying and would like to talk to us further when we finish our ministry for the day. Karina and I are the first Jehovah’s Witnesses that he has met that are not Brazilian. So, during lunch, he tells us that his uncle had been trying to get him to see the importance of studying the Bible since he was a teenager. At that time, he wasn’t interested. He is now in his mid-40s. He was a police officer for 17 years and then became a lawyer. Due to a bad decision, he also spent a year and a half in prison. While in prison, he started studying the Bible. During this time, his wife left him and took the kids. And he now works in the interior of the Amazon as a traveling salesman. He stated that some trips take him from home for 2-3 months at a time. He wants to get baptized but feels that he needs to have a more steady life and be in one place to make progress. We hope to meet him again one day as our dear brother.

During our stay, the Portuguese congregation had a visit from the traveling overseer, Benjamin, and his wife, Yolanda. There were 175 in attendance for his Sunday discourse. The English group received encouragement also during this week. We were able to work in service with the overseer and his wife. Karina said they talked to everyone on the street and started 3 Bible studies, one of which Karina assisted with, in Portuguese. Yolanda recalls being 9 years old when her mother began searching for a better understanding of the Bible. Two years later, at 11 years old, Yolanda began preaching about what she was learning and decided to get baptized at age 14.

Benjamin was already serving as a traveling overseer in Brazil and Bolivia for 1 year when she joined him in marriage in 1970. They continued their work in that area for 4 more years. During the early 1990s, they were the first Brazilian couple sent to Mozambique as special pioneers. There were issues due to a war the first year they were there but things got better for the next 5 years of the assignment. They also have a daughter that served as a special pioneer and now lives in northeast Brazil with another pioneer sister.

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A knowledge exchange

Rise and shine…up and at ’em! We need to wake earlier than the norm today as we prepare for a long trip into “the interior”. The trip is by car and ferry. A couple will be visiting a gentleman for a Bible discussion and they have invited us and another young brother to join them. Usually we use the bus system or our feet to get where we need to go. Today we have to get to the couple’s home at a certain time but don’t know if certain buses are working this early. We also aren’t able to communicate in a way that the driver will know how to arrive at our address. Thanks to our Brazilian sister, she calls a taxi to pick us up and we arrive at a good time to start the journey.

We have driven the truck onto a ferry with about 30 other vehicles. The ferry will take us east and across the Amazon River. Along this route, we get to see one of the tourist attractions, Meeting of Waters. The Meeting of Waters is where the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimões (Amazon River) meet and run side by side without mixing for almost 4 miles.  After reaching the other side, we continue by truck and arrive via a little off-road terrain. It’s a wonderful scenery and nice to take in a view of creation without the city environment. The man we have come to talk to is not Brazilian by birth but knows a lot about the land and when and how to grow various fruits and vegetables in this climate. He gave us a tour of his property as he talked about the many fruits, nuts and veggies. Any question we had about them, he was able to answer. Karina and I were surprised to find out that Brazil nuts are in bunches within a very hard coconut-looking shell. And of course after getting them out of that shell, each nut has it’s own shell. I tried my best to imitate what I saw done with a machete to get to the fruit of the nuts. I like the hammer method better.

 

As a meal was being prepared, we sat down for a Bible discussion. It was great hearing about his experiences in life and activities he was involved in before moving to Brazil. Thanks to the source of truth, the Bible, we were able to answer his questions.

We enjoyed each other’s company over a meal made from food that was grown right around us, even the fish. We stayed until late afternoon and decided to leave before the rain gave us any issues with the off-road part of our journey back home. We have since seen him at meetings. 🙂

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várias actividades

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I recently enjoyed a Bible discussion with a young man from Benin. He has been living in Manaus for a few years and speaks 4 languages. During our discussion, he reads the Bible study aid in French, as this is his first language. But he answers questions and speaks with us in English. His progress in Bible knowledge is excellent and continuous.

Before our move to Brazil, Karina and I enjoyed tasting cuisines from various countries. Actually, for each “monthiversary” of our first year of marriage, we tried a cuisine from a different country. Brazilian cuisine has been quite nice. Many people are familiar with Brazil’s famed churracso. The Amazonas state also has some great selections of fish, such as tambaqui and pirarucu.

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We also have a love for the the beach, which is possible to enjoy here on the Amazon river beaches. Different from the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and the Pacific but they are still beaches. 🙂

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Some time was also available for visiting some of the historical buildings and museums. New found friends also took us to some water falls and local zoos that have animals of the Amazonian fauna.

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Every Monday night, brothers get together for some games of futsal. Futsal can be explained as soccer played on a court; but futsal is 5 on 5 with a smaller ball and smaller area of play. Where I’m from, the sports of choice are football and basketball. I have enjoyed getting used to Brazil’s game of choice. I get better each time but considering they have been playing since being a kid, I feel they still see me as having “pernas-de-pau”. This is what they call a bad soccer player because it is as if he has legs of wood.

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Our Kingdom Hall was also used for the Creole Regional Convention. Around the country there were halls that were video conferenced to the convention in São Paulo. We had the privilege of assisting in cleaning and preparing our hall before the convention.

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Efforts for the English group continue in various modes of ministry.

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Getting settled

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Ministry on our first Sunday involved the street fair that occurs each week. We joined a brother and sister for a couple of Bible discussions and were also able to speak to various English-speaking tourists that are present at the fair. A street downtown is closed and vendors setup to sale artwork, jewelry, fruit, veggies, clothes, appliances, Brazilian cuisine, etc. After being drained by the heat of 111°F, I enjoyed being refreshed by an ice-cold rala rala (the Portuguese ‘r’ is pronounced like the English ‘h’).  The rala rala is a slush-type drink made by the Haitian vendors and flavored from local fruits. Coco gelado is a great refresher also; it is cold coconut water that you drink directly from the coconut.

Today was also a good day because Karina and I were going to look for an apartment. We greatly appreciated assistance from a couple of Brazilian brothers in the English group. We were able to look at once location only from the outside and take down the contact info. As the four of us are headed to another unknown location, just driving down streets looking for ‘Aluga se’ signs, one of the brothers just happens to glance down a street and sees a place for rent. We call the landlord, he shows up within 5 minutes, receive a quick tour of the 1 bed/2 bath apartment, we like it and make arrangements to begin renting.

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A big thanks and much appreciation also goes to the brothers and sisters that voluntarily assisted us with getting certain items for the apartment and helping us move items into the apartment.  They made sure no one took advantage of the foreigners. After washing clothes, it is my first time hanging items on a clothesline to dry. Thanks to the heat and occasional breeze, the natural dryer is a quick cycle. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_5270 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_5276 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was cool to see the Arena da Amazônia, which I remember hosting games for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. I’ll possibly be able to attend a futebol match in the next few months. Our ministry also takes us near another attraction…the Teatro Amazonas. Many cultural events take place in and around this site. Maybe I can take Karina to a ballet performance.

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“Heart of the Amazon”

The last time I blogged, I stated that “Karina e eu temos planos também”. Well, the plans have come to fruition. We are now volunteering our time in ministry that is assisting an English group in Brazil where the need is greater.

The night before our flight to leave the States, we enjoyed an excellent dinner with family. Karina cooked an herb-roasted turkey with shallot pan gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato soufflé and creamed corn. And I had my first chocolate tres leches cake!

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The next morning we arrive to ORL and find out that our flight will be delayed to the extent that we will not be able to get our connecting flight at MIA. Somewhat a problem since our brothers and sisters are expecting us to arrive this night. The airline provides us with the option of paying for our dinner, hotel stay, breakfast and lunch because of having to fly out the next afternoon. This time, the flight schedule is as planned and we (Ellie also) arrive safely in Brazil.

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After communication by email and WhatsApp, we finally get to meet the brother, in-person, that cares for the English group. We make our way to a place that has been temporarily provided for us until we are able to find an apartment. We are thankful for this provision.

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I’m getting used to wearing short-sleeved dress shirts, no tie and the very hot weather. It has been 100+ degrees everyday that we have been here (plus humidity). The temperature has not hindered the excellent Bible discussions within various public areas.

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Pride Lands

Three days remained of our visit to Zimbabwe and one was supposed to be a day of rest. Of course we couldn’t let that happen after traveling soooo many miles. One day we had nothing scheduled but thanks to our hospitality overseer, we were able to find an excursion for a game park. We saw impalas, elans, zebras (mbizi), giraffes, fish eagles and even enjoyed a boat ride.

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The next day was filled with animal sights also. Lions, nyalas, baboons, a 300+ year old tortoise, gazelles, hyenas, wildebeests, warthogs and rhinos.

Our time in Zimbabwe has ended. We hope to see our new friends again one day. Until then we’ll keep in contact via emails, Skype calls and WhatsApp messages. This unforgettable visit certainly was an exchange of encouragement. Vaughn and I will continue to put forth the effort to assist in areas where the need is great. Seus planos vão levá-lo para a Costa Rica. Karina e eu temos planos também. 🙂

 

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Toonana muParadhiso!

DAY 3 – 2014 Zimbabwe International Convention

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Finally blogging about the final day of the 2014 Zimbabwe International Convention. Another day of upbuilding, encouraging, associating and learning with brothers and sisters we hope to see again one day. We were wowed again as we heard the morning attendance was 78,714. A DVD was released that was translated in Shona showing how a father, at first, struggled but succeeded in caring for the spiritual matters of his family. Vaughn and I found out later that our hospitality overseer’s wife was a voice on that Shona translated video.

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There was also the release of the front and back parts of the revised NWT in the Shona language. In line with Matthew 6:33, “all these other things” were added for the Shona to benefit from as they continue “seeking first the Kingdom and his righteousness”. During the final discourse, all of the missionaries present at the convention gathered to one area on the stadium’s field. After the day’s session was over, many Zimbabweans continued singing a cappella. Such a beautiful harmonious sound.

ATTENDANCE:

  • Zimbabwe Sign Language – 744
  • Ndebele – 4,305
  • English – 14,497
  • Shona – 62,863

TOTAL : 82,409

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Later, in the evening, Vaughn and I enjoyed hospitality of dinner, games and convo at a couple’s home until 1:30 a.m. Good times!

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