Posts Tagged Bethel

Budapest, Hungary – part 1

Having never been in Eastern Europe, I was a bit surprised by the stoic nature of Budapest. “She” (Hungarians refer to Budapest as a beautiful yet neglected woman) was the capital of the Hungarian empire, that took the Great War (WW1) to tear apart. Now Hungary is a small country with a giant capital city, filled with monuments to a lost Emipire.

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After WW2, the Soviets took their turn to rule Hungary. It never got the hang of how to break the spirit of this proud people and there were many bloody revolts and subversive resistance to communism. Massive apartment blocks impose themselves on the wide streets. Each building looks like a museum from the outside, yet the crumbling steps, rusted hinges and weathered doors tell a tale of decades upon decades of neglect.

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Attila and Magdy (friends of friends) invited us to stay in the Bethel for two days. They spoke English (along with a few other languages) and were great fun to spend time with. One night they had us over for tea and snacks with some friends of theirs, Istevan and Edit. Istevan and Edit also work in the Bethel as translators for Bible literature and go to the Spanish Congregation.  As we visited about their lives before the “liberation” of 1998, when the communist powers receded, it struck me, that they had these struggles at the same time I was enjoying my teenage freedom. I really should learn abit more about the soviet culture….As the evening got late, they invited us to go to meeting with them the next night.

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Public transportation in Budapest is great: trams, metros, busses….yet it is expensive. That must have been part of the reason that they loaded us up on bicycles the next evening for a exhilarating 60 minute ride through the brisk traffic, solemn monuments and ending up at a Kingdom Hall deep inside Budapest.

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The Spanish group meets in a converted communist party education center, where the soviet government tried to teach belief in God out of the Hungarian people. Most of the oppressive/abusive history that I have learned about in my reading is hundreds of years in the past…yet here in this building it was only 20 years ago.

The Spanish group was a diverse group of Cubans, South Americans and Spaniards who found themselves in Budapest and were very happy to find a Kingdom Hall that spoke their mother language. I was able to understand 35% of the discussions and both Tamara and I were able to answer at least once in Spanish.

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The ride home as similarly frightening except for the pitch black streets and aggressive drivers. Istevan detoured us past some amazing castles and Hero’s Square, where Tamara’s marathon would start and finish. They suggested that we pick up a pizza for dinner. It was only after we took delivery of the massive pizza, that the reality of transporting the largest pizza I personally have ever seen….on a bicycle, in the dark…. dawned on us. I won’t go into it here but the next 20 minutes was as fun as it was challenging.

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I wanted to end this post with some photos of some equally confusing posters. Both were near one another and I think explains a bit about Hungary.

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Consider yourself “Rick-rolled”.

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One night in Buenos Aires…

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We called the Bethel here in Buenos Aires to request a tour and were invited to stay for a few nights. We quickly packed up our stuff and caught the intricate and efficient subway a few miles out of the center of BA to the Bethel.

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This Bethel in Argentina is focused on translating and organizing the work in Argentina. This includes the building of kingdom halls but also disaster relief work. There seem to have a number of large localized wind storms that cause a lot of destruction from time to time. The translation work is centered on the smaller languages like Guaraní and Quechua.

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During our tour we saw the large printer in action printing magazines. The printer is also used for local forms and KMs.

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A bit further on the tour we saw a small ancient printer the size of a washing machine. It was used during the time the Jehovah Witnesses were banned. From 1976 – 1981 it was illegal to do any preaching as a JW. The Government closed the Branch and all the Kingdom Halls. Like in any country that tries to ban the work, Jehovah’s people moved underground. During this time The printing work was completed with small printers like this one.

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Now there are over 500 congregations just in Buenos Aires and 145,000 publishers in the country. This makes the ratio of 1 JW for every 245 people in Argentina. The photo below shows the concentration of the congregations in Argentina.

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Next we went into the office and translation areas and were introduced to the Branch Coordinator. He was very nice and showed us around his office.

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There was a photo of the previous Coordinator who recently died. His name was Charles and as I looked at his photo it struck me that I had seen this face before. My suspicion was confirmed with the face on the US silver dollar that was sitting on his desk. Charles was from the very first class of missionaries trained in Gilead and was immediately sent to Argentina. He started work in 1948 and until 2 years ago was still working hard. His full name was Charles Eisenhower and he looked exactly like his father, Dwight.

During lunch we made friends with a few Brothers that could understand our Spang-lish. Lucas and Pablo were great guys and had been volunteering here for quite a number of years. One evening Tamara and I invited Pablo and his girlfriend over for some snackies. We had a great time visiting and can’t wait until language stops being such a limiting factor to getting to know people.

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I wanted to leave you with some shots of the Buenos Aires zoo. The zoo is quite old and smack in the middle of the city. It was strange to see full sized White Rhinos being over looked by apartments.

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One fun thing about this zoo is they let you buy food to feed most all the animals. They also had many different types of exotic (to us) animals roaming freely around the park.

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Paraguay and Argentina

We could not stand the itchy feet anymore and so are headed South to visit some Friends, Bethels and Glaciers. We hope to post our sights and thoughts over the six weeks.

Check back early June!

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Zambia #16 "End of our Assignment"

End of our Assignment

I cant believe that we are going to start the final week of our assignment. The 3 months have just flown by. We are so happy that Jehovah has allowed us to come here and be two of the hundreds of volunteers that came to assist in this volunteer project. There is still a few weeks left of plastering. Then the Electricians and Plumbers will be set loose inside the building. The Painters have already started painting parts of the outside and inside. I can honestly tell you that I could not have worked this hard, if it were in exchange for money.
Since we have arrived, we have made so many good friends and even a few great friends.

Even though we came here to do Plastering and got to go on Safari and tent camp, we found 98% of our joy in the Service work, Meetings and in visiting with the local Brothers. We were privileged spend much time in Service, visit a few different Congregations, conduct Bible studies with a few, to give a few meeting parts each, give morning worship comments and be a part of the Monday family Watchtower study panel. We visited with Brothers and Sisters from Sweden, Norway, England, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Zimbabwe, Malawian, Zambia, Kenya, South Africa and many other countries. We were able to listen to and visit with Missionaries, District Overseers and just normal Brothers and Sisters give their experiences of working in banned countries like; Zaire and Congo (Bro. & Sis Sharp are mentioned in this years Yearbook); Malawi during the ghastly persecution of the Brothers; life in Refugee camps; being arrested by governments for being a Witness; kidnapped by rebels and threatened with execution; Brothers escape from Malawi, Rwanda and Congo, setting up and attending some of the 65 annual District conventions in Zambia, also the Kingdom Hall construction teams and so many other experiences… I wish I could remember them all but it is like a large meal that in the morning you wonder how you ate so much.

The need for the Kingdom that Jesus prayed to his Father for, in Luke 11:2, is so so needed. Living in the States you see the need for an end to sickness, death, violence and sin yet being here and seeing young people die to malaria, tuberculosis and of course AIDS, the need seems so much more desperate. In a few weeks I will turn 34 in a country with an average life span of 36. The horrible part is that it is only getting worse. If you ask the Zambian government about the Aids outbreak they report it is at 25% HIV infection rate of the population. Think of that…. 25% of an entire country has an incurable deadly disease. The Governments of Africa lie about the infection rate because they don’t want to scare the World and have countries and investors pull out…. if you ask the Doctors here (which I did) or even the World Health Organization (WHO is a part of the UN) the rate of HIV infection for Zambia it is 65% and Zambia is not even the highest country in Africa in infection rate either.

I wont even touch the political instability and wars that affect half of the countries in Africa, the civil wars that are quietly fought or rebel factions that terrorize whole parts of this side of the world. When you pray, please keep in mind the local Brothers and Sisters in Africa. They struggle with things that you and I cant even comprehend, yet do it with more Joy, Love and Peace than I thought humanly possible.

The Truth has taken hold in Africa and is growing at an amazing rate, every Brother and Sister I have talked with has had 3 or more Bible studies…without exception. In many areas the only proper buildings not made of mud and straw are Kingdom Halls. At police checkpoints we are asked for Bibles and Watchtowers. You fill your back pack up with literature to go in service and within an hour you are out. The Brothers have a hard time getting enough literature up here to Zambia. I can’t tell you how many times I have had great conversations or return visits in service and when asked for a Bible, Require brochure or other literature unable to fill their need. It breaks my heart.

As I wrap up this email I could send you a picture of the project before we got here and now or some pictures of some African animals or maybe some of the beautiful country side but looking back that’s not the reason we are here. Let me show you why Jehovah allowed us to come;

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construction crew

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We leave on Feb 10 from our assignment here in Zambia. We would love to spend more time here but the government will not allow us to stay in the country any longer. Our flight home leaves from Jo-berg, South Africa on the 18th of March, so in the mean time we will travel to Tanzania to do some hiking around Kilimanjaro then take the bus (as we don’t have enough money to fly) down to South Africa. We have been accepted to visit and stay at every Branch on the way south. We will keep this Branch informed of our movements, just to be on the safe side. We will be traveling with small backpacks and will probably not have access to email but if we get an opportunity, we will drop you guys a line.

Tamara and I feel so privileged to have been asked to come and give a small part of our time and effort here in Africa. The assistance and support that our Friends and Family have provided has not only made this possible but proved to me that Jesus’ words are true in John 13:34-35

I am giving YOU a new commandment, that YOU love one another; just as I have loved YOU, that YOU also love one another. 35 By this all will know that YOU are my disciples, if YOU have love among yourselves.

Thanks for letting Tamara and I share our experiences with you.

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Zambia #15 "Happy Campers"

Happy Campers

Hey Guys,
thanks so much for your emails, since we don’t have a TV or radio, we find relaxation in reading your emails. They are very valuable to us.
We took half a day off last Friday and traveled with 2 other couples to a camp ground 4 hours away in the Lower Zambezi area. The Zambezi is the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It was fun driving through the country on such rough roads and even partly on muddy dirt roads, good thing we had a 4X4.

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Just before we arrived we had to cross a small river but there was no bridge, only a hand driven pontoon boat. Two men crank a wheel and pull the ferry back and forth across the river all year long.

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They let me crank the wheel a bit to see how hard it was.

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It took quite a while, so a Brother and I started fishing. Some local kids make a living catching fish here and selling them to the women that come down to the river to get water and wash their cloths. Here is a quick snap of the fish most people eat in the area. And yes, that water jug is totally full of water. The women here have an ability to carry anything and everything on their heads for long distances.

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When we arrived at the camp ground we were the only people there, not surprising. At this campground there is some chalets, a pool, a bar over looking the river and a kitchen that you can use. The kitchen was very primitive but had a stove, fridge and some rat proof storage. We could not afford the chalets but had brought some backpack tents that we set up on the grass by the river. Not too close to the river mind you, because we are right next to a National Game Reserve and of course there are tons of crocs in every river in Africa. As we set up our tents we could look out and see Elephants across the river and and hear Hippos in the river. Of course, our air mattress we had borrowed had a hole in it and the tent leaked when it rained like a “big dog” in the middle of the night, but that’s part of the fun…right? Here is a picture of our tent and a few very large Elephants in the back ground. You might not be able to see him as I had make the picture smaller so I could mail it, his is just above the tent. The Elephants are on an Island that the river creates. Many animals swim out to the Island because on people are on it.

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At night it was quite hard to get to sleep as the Hippos were quite close. Hippos become very active at night and even leave the water to eat grass and parts of some trees. We were up a river bank a bit but still they were playing and fighting quite loud. Their 2 ton size and 5 ton noises were a touch frightening while your laying under a sheet in your underwear.
During the day we had planed to take a canoe or boat around the river but were too exhausted to do much of anything.
Tamara spent most of her time with the other Girls swimming and laying around the small swimming pool being watched by large (3-6 feet) Monitor lizards.

I personally used my time much more frugally; Fishing.

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The last night we were there I woke up at 4 AM, wondering why I was awake. A couple of hippos were arguing or something a hundred feet away down the bank so I thought that was it. But then I heard something that made my blood run cold! Off in the distance a extremely powerful roar followed by a even louder bark of some sort. All the crickets and even the hippos stopped their talking. Again I heard the roar but closer this time. It was a lion on the Island. He had swam out there from the other side of the river and was looking for something to eat… or mate with. I woke Tamara up and she started to ask “What’s up?” when the lion roared again even closer. I felt the Nylon tent and wondered how long it would protect me from something that weights 500 pounds, is 8 feet long and can travel 36 feet in one leap. I think the crickets and hippos were thinking the same thing as they took off. The lion was across the river on the island, he roared for an hour until another lion roared far off in the distance, then he took off in that direction. Not that I got out of the tent ( is was scared to move ) but you could hear where he was each time he roared, which was about once every 90 seconds or so. It was scary but I would not have wished it away for the world.

In the morning we packed up our tents (found a deadly scorpion in my blankets right by my feet) and headed back to Bethel. It was a nice trip and we really needed to get away for a few days to rest up.
I know I have sent many sunsets but I have to send you another one that we watch from the camp ground….

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Tamara and I are on the panel for the Family Watchtower study and we are making a big push on the building to get the outside done before the big big rain starts up, so our last two weeks will be even busier.

Talk to you guys later

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