Sooo, I've been sitting on this post for a while, never getting around to sitting down and typing it out or having the patience of dealing with our injured-turtle-speed internet connection. The last post I wrote about our ASL group (of 4 publishers) was two CO visits ago and A LOT has happened since then. Unfortunately, after the initial newness of the group wore off...Nagua congregation wasn't supporting it the way we should have. It mostly had to do with the fact that no one from the congregation had taken the ASL course and the majority of the congregation did not feel qualified to preach or help out with the ASL group. Our poor ASL group publishers had a lot to do and all our their own. Brother Encarnación and his wife quickly fixed this issue, though. Brother Encarnación is our second CO (we are so cool we get two COs!) especially assigned to our ASL group but the whole congregation greatly benefited from his visit.


On Thursday of CO Week, he gave a special talk, the topic being "How do we see our deaf brothers?”. The talk focused on how the Nagua congregation is like the ASL group's mother and has to support the group just like you have to give attention to, spend money on and feed a newborn baby. Likewise, Nagua had to give "attention" and "feed" our ASL group by preaching with the group, giving bible studies, helping out monetarily when the groups need TV repairs, etc.

He also talked about helping out with the attendance for the Sunday ASL meetings. This can be a little difficult since the Spanish meeting is on Saturday and many brothers set Sunday apart as a day to preach. But Brother Encarnación, stressed the importance of the attendance at the meeting which at the moment was only about 10, and how it not only encouraged our visitors but also our hardworking ASL group publishers.

This CO visit was exactly what the congregation needed. Brother Encarnación's talk and encouragement during the week was like a jump start to the congregation's heart (Aren't Jehovah's arrangements just perfect?). The following Sunday, which is the ASL Public Talk and Watchtower Study, had an attendance of 50 (!!!!) with 14 deaf, my bible study among them.




The 14 deaf that came to the Sunday Meeting

All of us 50 in attendance. 

                   

I was really excited. My first time bringing a bible study to the kingdom hall and she being deaf! Remember Denise, the sister from my first ASL post? I've been going out with her every Tuesday for 9 hour service days (something I never thought I'd say) to visit all the deaf studies she has and sometimes to census of the area for about 2 months now. (I'll post more about ASL Tuesdays later). The very first day I went out with her, Denise gave me one of her return visits, crossed her arms, zipped her lips and left me to my own defenses and Charade skills  -talk about jumping right in!-  The return visit and now bible student's name is Lisbeth and she's 13. We are a funny pair because I don't know any sign and neither does she! In fact, that very first time I went to see her, Denise had taught me some animal signs so I could teach them to Lisbeth by pointing it out in My Book of Bible Stories.

When we went to go see her Lisbeth's aunt (who she lives with) was asking us why didn't we talk to her in Spanish. Denise explained to her that we were trying to help her learn to communicate. Lisbeth might know a little lip reading, but she really does not communicate with her family anywhere near the amount a 13-year old girl would want to. Lisbeth's family has a problem that a lot of family's with deaf children have here in DR. They refuse to see reality. They want so much to believe that their child is "normal" that they go on through life talking to a child that can't hear them. I met this one deaf girl that told me that her mom would go to the store and maybe tell her that she's leaving or whatever else. She told me (well, signed and was interpreted to me) "My mom forgets that I can't hear. I nod when I see her lips move but I really don't have any idea of what's she saying!" Another big problem here in DR is that people don't treat deaf as people, Sometimes even the family forgets the name of the deaf member! Everyone calls them "El Mudo" or "La Muda" (The Mute) and no one pays much attention to them.

Although obviously this is not the case for all the deaf, these two issues make it easy for a deaf child to grow up with very little communication skills. What's worse is that there is no school in Nagua that teaches deaf children past 3rd grade. Most of the adult deaf in the area grew up together and developed their own form of "street sign" but my bible student is the only teenage deaf in town.

But her intelligence makes up for her lack of communication skills. She learns the signs I teach her quickly and has almost memorized the alphabet and right now she's almost got her name down pat! name. Don't get me wrong: teaching ASL and Bible to a deaf person when you don't know almost any ASL yourself is hard and can leave you feeling helpless at times, but it's totally worth is when, after trying to sign something a million different ways, you can see that the person finally gets it.
Anyway, back to the congregation....we are all really fired up. My mother has started a bible study with one of our close neighbors, Elba. (She's in the bright blue leggings in the picture of the Sunday meeting.) And more brothers and sisters are supporting the group publishers by going out to preach with them and helping out during meetings, like manning the projector and DVD player. And every Friday, a group of 20 or so, meet at a Brother's house and prepare comments for the Watchtower study. We all chose a paragraph, learn the signs for the ideas we want to say and practice signing in front of the group. It's a lot of fun and is a great way to keep the group motivated.
ASL is on a roll!

 _________________________________________________________


On our last Friday meeting, Brother Mendoza, the elder in charge of the group, read this article from a 2012 Watchtower: What Did I Get Myself Into? . I find it to be a great source of encouragement for anyone wanting to serve anywhere or any language where the need is greater.






I've been a terrible blogger and I don't even want to calculate how many days it has been since I posted anything. So I wont. Instead, I'll tell you about the DR's new favorite conversation topic: the Chikungunya.

This might sound like a tasty Asian chicken soup (I mean, that's what it sounds like for me) but in reality, it's a nasty virus, close cousing to Dengue fever, that is sweeping through the Caribbean and is causing a bit of commotion in the Dominican Republic. 


It's trasmitted by mosquito bite - which is wonderful, because there are absoutely no mosquitos in DR (note my sarcastic typing). Really, we're in the middle of the rainy season (a.k.a mosquito season) and everyone seems to have gotten this virus. Those who have escaped it so far (like me) are just patiently waiting to start feeling the pain. There is no vaccine and thankfully, it's not fatal, but the symptoms are chronic fatigue, constant nausea, weird rashes, high fever, dizziness and disorientation and a whole lot of joint and back pain. So, whoever gets this will be sitting out service for at least two weeks, which is why I really, really, really, REALLY cannot get sick with this. I'm the tiniest bit behind on my hours and well...excuse me as I reapply my mosquito repellent. 


Now, pickup trucks are driving all over town fumigating. But then again, I don't know what's worse, the actual disease or the fumigating. It literally leaves me speechless seeing these trucks on the road and the motorists getting lost in the billowing white smoke clouds of mosquito-killing poison on the streets, disappearing in the cancer clouds. Don't know why I'm surprised really, Public Health isn't exactly #1 on DR's list of priorities...or #35.

On the bright side, this Chickungunya is a great conversation starter out in service. Most of the people either think this is the 11th plague from God or that the U.S government secretly covered the Dominican Republic in an airborne death cloud to murder all Dominicans. Though I'm not sure why the U.S government would do this, it's a great chance talk with the householder about Daniel 2:44 and how God's Kingdom will get rid of all those sneaky, murderous governments. With the householders that believe the Chickunguya is a divine punishment, we read James 1:13 and Ecclesiastes 9:11 and either conversation ties into how Jehovah will soon get rid of all sickness and what we should have to do to enjoy the future life that the Bible promises. 

A count three days ago states that there have been 5.000 confirmed cases of the Chickungunya virus in the Carribbean with new cases being reported in Haiti, the Dominican Republic (oh, goody.) and now Cuba every day. Things are a bit crazy...the Chickingunya here in the Carribbean, the Ebola outbreak in Guinea  ....everyday the words of Luke 21:11 are becoming more and more real. Won't it be great when "no resident will say: 'I am sick."? (Isaiah 33:24).


What do we do for fun in Nagua? We like climb mountains and sweat a lot. 


We're pretty wild here in Nagua. Because only a crazy people would choose to climb a mountain on a hot tropical-island-summer day and that's what we did. There is a nature reserve called Loma Guaconejos in El Factor, a campo about half an hour away from Nagua. It's small-ish mountain with hiking trails and many rivers where you can swim and wade around in.


We decided to go on Sunday (it was the 20th) and conveniently, it was ridiculously hot and humid that day. The first hour was hiking steeply uphill and my legs were getting dangerously close to snapping off. I am in amazingly bad shape for all the walking I do in service and I always seem forget that key fact until it's too late and I'm climbing a mountain.

It started to rain halfway up which raised the humidity level to 1000, and made everything muddy and slippery. We would take one step upwards and slide eight steps down. As frustrating as that sounds, it was a hilarious sight. We all were waiting to see who would be the first to fall (I, thankfully, did not get that honor) and by the time we scrambled up to the top, we were sweaty,
sticky and mud-streaked.

      

You can see how happy we were to get to the top! That's me in the Star Trek shirt, by the way.

Now going down the mountain was the fun part. Now that the uphill torture was over, we could enjoy the lush green woods, which were absolutely beautiful and so was the river we followed all the way down. It was really the perfect place to admire God's creation and I'm afraid I got a little shutter-happy again.





 

We finally got to where we were going to take a dip and have a picnic lunch. It was a lovely spot, with a small waterfall and a rock island, where we ate. The water was freezing cold, but after the long, sweaty trek, we all but jumped in. Doesn't it look nice?







:) 





Okay, It's been exactly 38 days since I last posted. It's very bad of me, I know, but things have been a little hectic around here, between getting sick, service, work and school, and I haven't been able to sit myself down to write.

So, I hope everyone's Memorial went well. We had an attendance of 335, which was a bit disappointing, can't lie, we were expecting at least 400, but our neighboring rural groups did really well. Most of these small groups usually have less than 20 publishers but they all had 70-150 visitors and I heard of one nearby had 500 in attendance! We did also have a nice ASL attendance of 12, which seems small but it's really 3 times the amount of publishers in the group. There were a couple of deaf that couldn't come because it was Semana Santa (Holy Week) and usually everyone in DR visits their family that live in the campo (countryside) during that week, so I'm supposing that's what affected our hearing-persons attendance as well.
And just as importantly,

*
I did! For the 19th year in a row! I mean, seriously, I know I'm not the only one that gets nervous when the wine gets around to them! I've never had this happen in reality but I always get visions of me spilling the whole thing and having walk around with a huge wine stain on my skirt. But this year both the passing of the bread and wine went smoothly with no mishaps (we did have a few close calls, the bread was slipping and sliding all over the plate).

Due to the hectic pace of the last few months, post ideas have been piling up. I want to write a spotlight on a sister in my congregation, a serious healthcare post (I got sick 2 times with Amoebiasis, yuck), a campo-preaching trip post (we've gone on three since my last post), a post about my new study and about two more posts that I can't remember what I wanted them to be about. So, stay tuned :) 
(Oh, and if anyone's been around for the dizzying array of blog themes I've changed to, don't worry, I'm sticking to this one.)
*haha, just realized that the meme is misspelled. Still funny, though ;)



Two posts in a day!

Today, we were off to a campo (rural territory) giving out the invitations for the Memorial. It was a photogenic little place, not to far off from the town and close to the beach, and it was filled with a bunch of things that scream "Dominican Republic Campo" so I just wanted to share some of the pictures I got to take. 


I wasn't planning on taking any pictures today, but when I saw this darling house, I couldn't help it. Especially when Kirsy (my friend from the Rainy Days post), who was my preaching partner for day, was color coordinated with it. This is one thing I definitely love about the houses in DR, they are so colorful! They can range from Pepto-Bismol pink to blues to really any color, as long as it's bright! I think I heard it has something to do with the sun fading the colors or something uninterestingly practical like that, but I don't care, they're adorable! 

Another thing I couldn't resist the temptation of taking a picture of was clotheslines, haha. Yep, clotheslines. It was so sunny and hot (HOT!) that everyone was doing the washing today, I had to control myself to not take boring pictures of clotheslines. I'm telling you, this place was crazy photogenic (or maybe I was just shutter happy) that even the clotheslines looked amazing!



Here we are tract-flashing. First is David, an elder from the congregation and me and the second is from left to right, is Alba, Gisella, a special pioneer from Puerto Rico and Kirsy.


You wouldn't think anyone lived here but most of the time an unfinished house is the perfect choice for Haitian immigrants. Too bad there were no Creole invites to give them but soon there will be! The Creole class is set up to start in one to two months. 

Oh yeah, we also found a well! I don't think I had ever seen a real life well before but here it was. It would have been very biblical feeling if it wasn't for the bucket and the rusty tin cover but oh well...  



I almost forgot to introduce our new visitor in the congregation. Everyone meet Aric. He's from Washington State and is about two weeks in his two month stay. :)


Bright houses again! There's Aric and Cesar, our other special pioneer and Gisella's husband.





Helloooo,

Here's another cool experience. 

About a month ago, I was on my way to a friend's house and I stopped by a small office supply store to print out something for my dad. The printer guy, a boy about my age, told me to step behind the counter. When I did I spied in the trash bin a brand new Watchtower Magazine! It was the November edition, the one about the three lies that make God seem unlovable. It wasn't even creased and even though, I hesitated a bit, I finally swooped down, grabbed the magazine and told the guy that he shouldn't throw magazines aways, even though we give them out for free, the magazines cost money and that he should know since he deals with the printing at the store. 
One of his friends came up to the desk and asked me if I was a Jehovah's Witness and the guy behind the desk claimed that the magazine was already in the bin when he started his shift. I proceeded to tell them that when a Witness offers a magazine, if they aren't going to read them, that they should say so, so we can give them to someone who will. That is a big issue here in DR. People feel bad refusing magazines or publications because they are afraid that it would look like they are refusing God's word, so they take them and little ways off, the dump them somewhere. 
I was about to leave with the magazine and kind of starting to feel like maybe I was "scolding" too much, when the kid behind the desk stopped me and told me to leave the magazine so he could read it and his friend said he would read it too and not only that, but pass it on to others for them to read. I was obviously happy and while waiting for my prints, I mentioned the highlights of the magazine. 

Flash forward and today while preaching and as we pass by the the same office supply store, my preaching partner starts telling me the same story I just told you. I tell her it was me and to my surprise she tells me that because of what happened, the guy that was behind the desk has started to study the bible! Apparently something in the magazine caused his interest to flare up. This Very Nice Thing left me Very Happy. It reminds me of how the Faithful Slave are always reminding us to be Witnesses 24/7 because we never know when something we do or something we say will cause someone to take in interest in the truth. 

Anyway, that was the Very Nice Thing I wanted to share. :) 


~3/18/14

Hi again, I feel like it's been forever since I posted anything but things have been really jumping these past two months. Between strikes, illness, the light going out 3x a week, CO visit, assemblies, schoolwork and getting my hours in, these past two months have been busy, busy, busy.

These days it's also been raining a bunch but that doesn't stop us from going out in service! My friend, Kirsy (who unfortunately forgot to take a picture of herself), my sister and I went out for early morning service. There are decidedly less people out on the streets but we still find a few people out there, usually motorists trying to seek shelter from the rain.







Halfway through battling the morning weather, it began to rain especially hard and we were forced to seek shelter in a covered front of a restaurant. There were four other people with the same idea and we took the opportunity to witness to them. I had an especially nice conversation with one man with the "Can the dead really live again?" tract. He told me he didn't believe that they could because his mother died earlier this year and he hadn't seen her since. Since we were both stranded because the rain, we had a really nice chat and I was able to read him a couple of texts showing what Jehovah is going to do in the future and analyze the rest of the tract with him. 

After getting ourselves thoroughly wet, we went to go visit ASL for their Watchtower Study. Denise's, one of the sisters who interpret the meetings, father was visiting and was going to give a special talk in English. There was a nice attendance of 20 something, which is pretty amazing for a small group of 4 witnesses. For the first time since moving to DR, I was cold during the meeting, I was wet and the fans were at full blast, but it was heartwarming to see the deaf visitors nod and really understand what was being "said". 

The deaf people here in the DR, especially those who don't live in the cities or big towns, extremely appreciate the effort we make to reach them, much more, I think, than in the States or other "developed" countries. Here there are very, very few schools for the deaf (the closest one from Nagua is 2 hours away!) and very, very few deaf people know how to communicate with each other or others. Too little people learn ASL and those who don't they grow up inventing their own sign to use with a close circuit of neighbors and family. Here in Nagua, the Witnesses are the only religion that offers any type of religious service for the deaf *fist pump* and usually the brothers and sisters have to teach their Bible students how to sign at the same time while teaching them Bible principles. 



Signing the Kingdom Melody

 Denise interpreting her father's talk


Very soon ASL isn't going to be the only foreign language group in Nagua. A couple of meetings ago, a letter was read inviting us to apply for the Haitian Creole class. It is exciting news since there are almost as many Haitians as Dominicans in Nagua and it will be excellent to finally be able to take care of that territory the way it should be.

Oooh, I almost forgot that I wanted to end this post with a great experience for those who are a little skittish in asking for donations while out in service, like myself (guilty). After having a great conversation about how God does not cause the suffering seen nowadays, my sister mentioned that our preaching work is supported by voluntary donations, the householder asked her to wait a moment. When he returned, he handed my sister a 1,000 peso-bill (about 25 U.S dollars), telling that one should give God everything. My sister tells me that she had to hold in her happy dance while she thanked the householder. Pretty good stuff, eh?



3/1/14 ~ We just had our Special Day Assembly in the Bethel Assembly Hall in Santo Domingo and, as always, it was amazingly encouraging. We were given extremely helpful tips on how to get the most out of our bible usage in field service, almost every talk had a number of interviews and experiences and we even got exciting new announcements, which I won't mention in case I ruin someone's surprise, but no new bible :(  . I didn't really think we would get the new bible in Spanish so soon, but I could hope, couldn't I? Hopefully, we'll get them in the District Assembly this summer. I have my own English copy that I stole from my grandma back in the States (muahahaha),  but I can't wait to preach with the Spanish edition and really try out the changes and additions in the ministry!

Anyhoo, back to the convention. This Special day was especially special because one of my good friends took the biggest step in her life and dedicated herself to Jehovah. She was baptized along with her stepmother and both of them were, needless to say, very, very happy.
This is Leslie ----------------------->
So many people came to see Leslie and her stepmom, Melissa, that the even attendants by the baptism pool were surprised.
 Besides her friends from the congregation, Leslie had invited all the friends and family that she could. Her grandmother, who she lives with, and her stepfather, who are both not witnesses, came to see her and stayed for the rest of the program, so they both received a good long witness to last them a good long while. She isn't wasting any time to start preaching as one of our sisters!

Another memorable occurrence: It's pretty common to have the light go out during meetings here in DR. But I have never had an outage happen during an assembly! The electricity failed right before the last verse of song 114 and it left the 3,029 attendees singing A Capella (or is it accapella?). I'm not going to say we were as good as the official JW chorus in the Kingdom Melody CDs, but we weren't so bad either. The brothers went on without missing a beat and it was a beautiful thing to hear really.

I hope you all enjoy your own Special Day Assembly :)







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