Friday, July 31, 2009

Yearbook Experiences - Honesty Pays Off

*I was looking for yearbook experiences that tie into the theme of today's text about conducting ourselves "honestly in all things" and there were quite a few good I just randomly picked a few from various countries in the 2009 Yearbook. But after today I wanna go back to the experiences I haven't posted yet from Russia and Germany, because there are some really good ones where even the KGB officers and Nazi's would assign the brothers to duties and positions that they wouldn't assign to any of the other prisoners since they had built up such a good reputation of honesty even during their time in the camps.

(experience of Pavlina Bogoevska on pg 224 of the 2009 Yearbook)
Many times when I was preaching, people reported me to the police, who would take me to the police station, where I was interrogated - sometimes for hours. I was fined many times. In court, I was falsely charged with being a political enemy of the State and of spreading propaganda from the West. Once I was sentenced to 20 days in prison, and another time to 30 days. I was supposed to serve my 20-day prison sentence at the very time we were scheduled to have a district convention. I asked the court to please postpone my sentence; but my request was rejected, so I decided to report to the prison 11 days early. The prison officials were suprised to see me there. They could not believe that anyone would want to go to prison as soon as possible. I had an opportunity to give a witness, and they promised to do all they could to take care of me. Eleven days later a police officer came to the prison to see if I had reported there yet. Imagine his suprise when the prison officials informed him that I had already been there for 11 days! As it turned out, I was able to attend the convention.

*This next story is a great example of how learning about God and the Bible can turn a former thief into an honest man...

Madagascar (pg 44 / 2009 Yearbook)

A circuit overseer and his wife were traveling to a congregation in the countryside. On the way, they encountered a group of cattle thieves armed with axes and spears. After silently praying for courage, the circuit overseer's wife offered them the tract Life in a Peaceful New World. She said: "Today, we live in fear. However, God will soon destroy the wicked and establish a new world where peace will prevail." One of the men listened attentively and accepted the tract. At an assembly a year later, a man approached her and asked if she remembered him. He stated that he was with the thieves she had met on the muddy road and that he was the one who had accepted the tract. Then he explained: "We were returning from a raid when we met you. What you said made me think. I said to myself: 'We are not afraid of policemen and soldiers because we can escape from them. But how can I escape from God if he is going to destroy the wicked ones?' So I decided to make more inquiries. Back home I visited a neighbor who was studying the Bible with a special pioneer. I agreed to study the Bible with him too, and now I am going to be baptized at this assembly."

Rwanda (pg 43 / 2009 Yearbook)

While returning home from school, a nine-year-old girl found a large amount of money in a small bag on the road. Her family, who were studying the Bible with the Witnesses, decided to apply what they had learned from the Bible. So they searched for the owner and returned the money. The owner asked the girl, "If I gave you some money as a reward for your honesty, what would you do with it?" "I would buy a Bible," the girl replied. Suprised, the man said, "I thought you would buy some clothes or shoes because I can see that those you are wearning are very old." The girl insisted that she would prefer to have a Bible. The man wanted to know why the family did not keep the money. After learning that they were studying the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses, he purchased two Bibles, one for the girl and one for his own family. He also arranged for the Witnesses to visit his family to study the Bible with them. Both families are making good spiritual progress.

daily text 07/31

Friday, July 31st, 2009
"We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things." (Hebrews 13:18)

An important aspect of Jesus' way of teaching was that he lived in harmony with what he taught. Many people come to appreciate the fine conduct of Jehovah's Witnesses, who imitate Jesus in this regard. A businessman in New Zealand had his car broken into and his briefcase stolen. The police said to him: "Your only chance of getting your property back would be if one of Jehovah's Witnesses was to find it." A Witness did find the briefcase. Notified of this, the owner came to the sister's home. He was relieved to find that a document that was invaluable to him was there. The sister told him, "It was only proper that I return the property, especially as I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses." The businessman was amazed, remembering what the constable had told him that very morning.
(Watchtower issue: 02/15/08, 4:14)

*I had quite a memorable 'lesson in honesty' when I was a kid which stuck with me all my life, because it made such a big impression. In fact, there's a story in chapter 14 of the 'Keep Yourselves in God's Love' book with an illustration about a little kid who had a similar experience to mine...and when I read it I said: "hey thats my story!" (even though I'm sure there are lots of kids who can say the same thing)

Ok when I was four years old I was grocery shopping with my mom and I asked her if she could buy this bottle of nailpolish with red sparkles that I really wanted, so she said yes. Well I put it in my pocket and forgot to give it to her at the check-out. So on the way home from the store I reached in my pocket and found the nailpolish bottle and remembered we hadn't paid for it. And at first I was afraid to say anything, but finally I told my mom (who of course lets out this huge gasp, since she can be the biggest overreactor sometimes! lol) -So when we got home we told my dad about it, and in this firm tone that I wasn't used to hearing him use, he told me we needed to go back to the store. I was so scared all the way there wondering how I was going to explain myself (even though it was an accident since I had meant to pay for it) But fortunately my dad knew how nervous I was, so he decided not to make a big issue of it and embarrass once we got there we just went through the check-out lane and paid for it. But that one event (which many parents would probably just ignore or act like "its no big deal") made such a big impression on me about honesty, that from that day forward, taking something or keeping something I found which didn't belong to me, never even crossed my mind. So the way a parent handles even small matters involving honest behavior can really play an important role in determing how their child will view bigger issues involving honesty when they grow up.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yearbook Experience - Pioneers in Fiji, & local experiences

(experience of Nagamma, Reshma and Ushla on pgs 63 & 64 of the 2009 Yearbook)

In a rural area, pioneers conduct their ministry on foot, traveling on roads that are either dusty or muddy. Nagamma and her daughter, Reshma, who are regular pioneers, invited Ushla, a blind sister, to accompany them and pioneer for a month. They would walk, one on each side of her, for many miles every day. A family sitting on their porch one humid day watched as the three sisters negotiated the puddles on the muddy road. They then saw the blind sister step in a puddle and splash mud on her leg. The sisters stopped to wipe her leg clean. Unable to control his curiosity, the father of the family called the sisters over. He said: "Every day we see you three walking. Where are you going?" They explained that they were going to conduct a Bible study. In response, he said that if their message was so important that they would walk that far to teach it to people, he wanted to hear it too! A study was started with this family.
Local Experiences
There are two encouraging experiences which were related by sisters during my congregation meeting that I wanted to share. The first one is really funny, and was actually told by a sister visiting our congregation from another state a few months back. (I had forgotton about it, but today's text discussion reminded me, since this is definitely an example of how persistent evangelizing can yield unexpected results!)
The sister who gave this comment was relating the story about how she had first learned the truth and became a Witness. She said for years she hated Jehovah's Witnesses and even had "no trespassing" signs posted every 10 feet around her property to keep us away. lol. Well she ended up moving to another house and within just a month of moving in, (before she even had a chance to put up her "no trespassing" signs around her new home) a very nice elderly couple came to her door and engaged her in a friendly discussion about the Bible and other topics of interest to her. Well apparently she didn't realize they were Jehovah's Witnesses right away (since she had alot of misconceptions about our religion and the kind of people we are, like alot of people do) -And she was so taken by their kind demeanor and by what she was learning, that she kept inviting them to come back. So before she knew it, she was having a regular Bible study with them, and eventually was baptized and became a Jehovah's Witness herself! lol isn't that funny?
This second experience was related this past Sunday, by an elderly pioneer sister in our hall who is so cool...I love her! She said she came across a woman in service who was interested in having a Bible study, but everytime she returned, she could never find the woman at home. Well before giving up, the sister said she prayed really hard about it this one morning, prior to going out in the ministry, because she really wanted to contact her again. So on her final attempt to find the woman, she caught her just in the nick of time, since the woman was getting ready to move...(there were literally moving vans outside her house that day when she finally found her!) And when the woman saw her, she ran and threw her arms around the sister and said she had been praying that she would find her before she moved, because she really wanted to study the Bible with her! So now this sister has the woman's new address and they've already had a few Bible studies so far. Isn't that awesome??? =)

daily text 07/30

Thursday, July 30th, 2009
"You . . . received the Law as transmitted by angels but have not kept it." (Acts 7:53)

The first-century Jewish religious leaders failed to discern the intent of the Law. For example, consider the Sabbath law. (Mark 3:4-6) The scribes and Pharisees “disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness.” (Matthew 23:23) Nevertheless, Jesus did not give up and cease to declare the truth. Jesus had a willing spirit. He was moved by love for people and keenly wanted to help them. He never lost the evangelizing spirit. And because of his faithfulness to Jehovah while on earth, Jesus “became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.” Moreover, “in that he himself has suffered when being put to the test, he is able to come to the aid of those [like us] who are being put to the test.”—Hebrews 2:18; 5:8, 9.
(Watchtower issue: 02/15/08, 3:7, 8)

*there are 2 extra points I wanted to mention which are especially applicable for anyone who feels discouraged due to friends or relatives who are unresponsive or even opposed to the Bible message on account of their firmly-held religious beliefs or traditions. First off, reading the book of 1 John is particulary encouraging, because it emphasizes the need to display love above all else (which is something the first century Jewish leaders completely ignored in favor of uncompassionately enforcing 'rules and regulations' to the endth degree, thereby missing the whole point of the law)
1 John 4:20 says it all... "If anyone makes the statement "I love God," and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar." and 1 John 3:15 even takes it a step further saying: "Everyone who hates his brother is a manslayer..." So that can help us to remember what the more important things are when it comes to how we treat one another and what God requires of us. And the second point I wanted to mention, was that even Jesus' own fleshly relatives and brothers didn't put faith in him or believe him right away. The account leading up to Mark 3:21 shows how on one particular occasion when Jesus was teaching a big crowd that had gathered at a house, his relatives showed up to come and take him away, since they actually said to themselves: "He has gone out of his mind." (haha. that scripture always makes me laugh) And we know his own half-brother James didn't put faith in him until after his death. So if even Jesus himself experienced such an unreceptive attitude during the years of his preaching activity from his own relatives, that can really bolster us and help us not to worry when we experience a similar attitude from others, since we know many had a change of heart later on, including a large group of priests and Jews who had previously rejected him. So that can help us to perservere in our ministry and maintain a positive, hopeful outlook. =)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Yearbook Experiences - Panapa & Ane

(experience of Panapa Lui on pg 135 of the 2009 Yearbook)

*in line with today's text, the following experiences are positive examples of 2 young people who showed courage by sharing their beliefs and sticking to their principles even when it would have been easier just to compromise or give up.

When we enrolled our son, Sopa in primary school, I gave the principal a copy of the brochure Jehovah's Witnesses and Education and explained our stand on religious and nationalistic activities. The next day, however, Sopa told us that the principal tore up the brochure before the assembled children and teachers and demanded that the Witness children sing a religious hymn. When they refused, he stood them before the entire assembly and demanded that they sing one of their own religious songs. He expected that this would frighten them into submission. However, Sopa urged the Witness children, "Let's sing 'We Thank You Jehovah,' " and he led the children in singing the song. The principal was impressed and commended Sopa for his courage. He and some of the other teachers later showed interest in the truth. Whenever this principal sees us, he asks about Sopa and sends his greetings. Sopa continued to make good spiritual progress and was baptized in 2005.

*This experience reminded me about how even though me and my sister always gave our teachers that same 'Jehovah's Witnesses and Education' brochure at the beginning of each school year, and our mom made a personal visit to our teachers to explain our beliefs, I was really suprised to find so many holiday-related arts and crafts projects when I was looking through this 'school memorabilia' box where me and my sister saved our old school papers. Especially from the early elementary years, since I know that when we were old enough to stand up for our beliefs we didn't participate, and would usually just work on a different arts and crafts project while the rest of the class was making national or holiday-related stuff. But it was a little unsettling to discover so many examples of projects that I don't even remember doing, especially since my mom specifically discussed the matter with all our teachers showing them why we couldn't participate due to our religious beliefs. When I was talking to my sister about it, she said that when she was really little, one of her teachers kept trying to force her to make a holiday decoration to the point that she actually made my sister cry because she just wouldn't back down. That's messed up. Fortunately, I don't remember having any bad experiences like that, since most of my teachers were really nice and I liked them (except my kindergarten teacher who spanked me in front of everyone in class because I wouldn't settle down! lol)

(experience of Ane Ropati on pg 131 of the 2009 Yearbook)

In Samoa, parents train their young children to cook, clean, tend the family vegetable garden, and care for younger siblings. Such early training may help to explain why many Samoan children also accept their spiritual responsibilities at an early age, some even taking their stand for Jehovah without the help of family members. Ane Ropati was 13 years old when her parents stopped attending meetings. So she regularly gathered her two brothers and her sister and walked five miles to the Kingdom Hall to attend the meetings. She later pioneered and worked on the Siusega branch office construction. "Missionaries," writes Ane, "had a big impact on my life and helped me to progress spiritually." On the construction site, she met Steve Gauld, a volunteer worker from Australia. The two got married and served as international servants on construction sites in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Russia before returning to Samoa Bethel. Both now serve at the Australia branch.

daily text 07/29

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
"I have come to abhor this life of mine." (Genesis 27:46)

We need God-given courage and strength to cope with depressing problems. When Esau took two Hittite women as wives, “they were a source of bitterness of spirit to [his parents] Isaac and Rebekah.” (Genesis 26:34, 35) Isaac took matters in hand and sent Jacob away to find a wife among the worshippers of Jehovah. God gave Isaac and Rebekah the wisdom, courage, and strength to remain faithful to Him. If we pray for needed help, Jehovah will do the same for us. (Psalm 118:5) Centuries later, a little Israelite girl in servitude to the Syrian army commander Naaman courageously told his wife: ‘If my master would go to Israel, Jehovah’s prophet would cure him of his leprosy.’ Naaman did go to Israel, and he was miraculously healed. (2 Kings 5:1-3) What a fine example that girl is for youngsters who rely on Jehovah for the courage to witness to teachers, schoolmates, and others!
(Watchtower issue: 02/15/08, 2:13, 14)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Using God's Name

* I just wanted to mention some additional info related to this week's #3 part on the theocratic ministry school, "Who Is Your God?" and the importance of using God's name. One sister gave a good illustration about a little kid who gets lost from their mom at the grocery store. She said that if one of the grocery store clerks were to try to page the child's mother over the loudspeaker and says: "Would MOM please come to the front of the store, your child is looking for you" -what would happen? There are dozens of MOMs shopping at any given moment, so obviously you would need to address the woman by her personal NAME not just a general TITLE. Or if one of your good friends never used your name when they talked to you, but just called you "friend" all the time, that would be a little strange and impersonal right? So those are some good ways to illustrate the importance of using Jehovah's personal name instead of just using the titles LORD and GOD, since 1 Corinthians 8:5 says that "there are many "gods" and many "lords." Even Satan is referred to as the "god" of this system of things. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

And even if a person isn't familiar with Jehovah's name because its not in their Bible, there are many outside secular and religious references confirming that fact, which we can show them. It's in the Catholic Encyclopedia, and the "foreward" or "preface" in many King James Bibles (usually the older ones) has a disclaimer stating that any place where the word LORD appears in capital letters is where the name Jehovah was removed. I was suprised seeing this clip where even Pat Robertson explains it! (he was a little bit on the 'untactful' side though. lol) Also the word "Hallelujah" (which everyone is familiar with) means "praise Jah" (Jah being a shortened form of Jehovah).

Yearbook Experience - Fred Wegener

(experience of Fred Wegener on pgs 109 & 110 of the 2009 Yearbook)

*this experience shows the type of setbacks we can experience in life even while trying to put the preaching work first, but how Jehovah keeps helping us get through difficult circumstances along the way.

We moved from Australia to American Samoa as newlyweds in 1956 to serve as special pioneers. Our first assignment was Lauli'i, a small village at the eastern entrance of Pago Pago Harbor. There we moved into a run-down shack with no doors, windows, ceilings, or running water. After making it livable, we immediately had a new addition to our family. Wallace Pedro, a local youth who had been evicted from his home by his opposed parents, came to live and pioneer with us. Two years later, we attended Gilead and were assigned to Tahiti as missionaries. Our stay there, however, was short-lived. The government rejected our missionary applications and politely informed us by letter that we must leave on the next plane. After returning to American Samoa, we served with Paul and Frances Evans and Ron and Dolly Sellars at the Fagatogo missionary home in Pago Pago. Here I printed the Samoan Watchtower and Our Kingdom Ministry on an old mimeograph machine set up on the dining room table. In 1962, Shirley and I were invited to take up circuit work. Our first circuit covered most of the South Pacific, including American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
Eight years later, our son, Darryl, was born, and we settled in American Samoa. I served as a special pioneer, and Shirley spent most of her time translating Bible literature into Samoan. About this time, I worked with a Witness abalone diver to replenish our family funds. The outboard motor on his small boat broke down, and we were lost at sea for four days. We drifted hundreds of miles, survived a fierce storm, sighted 32 passing vessels, and were nearly crushed by a huge container ship before being rescued. Soon afterward, Shirley and I learned that another baby was on the way, so in 1974 we reluctantly decided to return to Australia, where our daughter, Tamari, was born.
In the years that followed, we often thought about returning to our cherished missionary assignment. Imagine our delight when Shirley and I were invited to return to Samoa in 1995 with Tamari, to serve at Bethel. One year later, Shirley and I were invited to resume circuit work - after a break of 26 years! What a joy it was to meet up with the many faithful old-timers whom we had worked with years earlier in Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga! (3 John 4)
Today, Shirley and I serve alongside Tamari and her husband, Hideyuki Motoi, in Samoa Bethel. How glad we are that we kept coming back!

daily text 07/28

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
"Trust in Jehovah with all your heart." (Proverbs 3:5)

We need to trust in God especially when we are depressed because our future seems bleak. Consider elderly Naomi, who lost her husband and her two sons to the enemy death. Yet, she kept on trusting in Jehovah. And how things changed for her! Naomi's widowed daughter-in-law Ruth became the wife of Boaz and gave birth to a son. Naomi became the child's nurse, and the account says: "The neighbor ladies gave it a name, saying: 'A son has been born to Naomi.' And they began to call his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, David's father." (Ruth 4:14-17) When Naomi is resurrected to life on earth, she will learn that Ruth, who will also be there, became an ancestress of Jesus, the Messiah. (Matthew 1:5, 6, 16) Like Naomi, we cannot be sure of how negative situations will turn out. Therefore, let us always trust in God, just as we are admonished in today's text.
(Watchtower issue: 02/15/08, 1:14, 15)

*this is slightly off topic, but you know how Oprah relates the story about how she got her name from the Bible character "Orpah" (Naomi's other daughter-in-law) but her mother didn't know how to spell it correctly, so she ended up naming her Oprah instead? Well I was thinking that Oprah's mom didn't just make a mistake in the spelling, she picked the wrong daughter-in-law altogether! Because it was Ruth who stuck with Naomi...Orpah was the one who left her. So maybe Oprah's mom mixed up the names of the women in the story, which means Oprah should have been named Ruth all along. lol.

*if you put yourself in Naomi's shoes, you can see why she told everyone to stop calling her Naomi (which means "My pleasantness") and to call her Mara instead (which means "bitterness") because her life seemed to have one tragedy happen after another. First, having to leave your homeland of Judah to go live in a foreign land because of the famine. Then experiencing the death of your husband soon after, leaving you with just your two sons. Then after your sons get married and you're thinking to yourself you might be a grandmother soon, having them both die at a relatively young age. So now you're neither a wife or a mother, and it looks like you'll never be a grandmother either. And on top of that, you're most likely going to have to make the journey back to your homeland all alone in your old age, since your daughters-in-law are not Israelites, so why would they want to come with you when that would mean leaving behind all their relatives and friends in Moab, and giving up the chance to remarry and have children? If that was running through your mind after experiencing one loss after another, the future would look quite dreary wouldn't it?
But in addition to what was already mentioned in today's text discussion, there are 2 other positive things that came from Naomi's adverse circumstances. First, it gave her the opportunity to see just how strong a bond of love & friendship existed between her and Ruth (who was more than willing to give up the prospect of returning to her homeland & former family, and remarrying & having children, in order to go with her). And secondly, it showed her that Jehovah can manuever matters to take care of his servants in ways that they could not possibly expect, or see coming. If we never went through hardships in life, we might never get to experience the same deep bond of love and friendship of others, expressed in our behalf (like Naomi did) or see Jehovah's ability to care for us in ways we would've never thought possible, regardless of the circumstance.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Awake! Experience - Living With ALS, Jason Stuart

(experience of Jason Stuart - pgs 25-29 of the 01/06 Awake!)
*description of ALS at the bottom of this post

I was born on March 2, 1978, in Redwood City, California, U.S.A., the third of four children born to Jim and Kathy Stuart. My parents had a strong love for God, and they instilled deep respect for spiritual values in me and my siblings - Matthew, Jenifer, and Johnathan. As far back as I can recall, sharing in the door-to-door ministry, studying the Bible, and attending Christian meetings were a regular part of our family routine. That spiritual upbringing helped me to build strong faith in Jehovah God. Little did I know how my faith would be put to the test.
A Boyhood Dream Comes True
In 1985 my father took our family to New York to visit Brooklyn Bethel, the world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses. Although I was just seven years old, I felt that there was something special about Bethel. Everyone seemed to find joy in his work. I thought, 'When I grow up, I'm going to come to Bethel and help make Bibles for Jehovah.' On October 18, 1992, I symbolized my dedication to Jehovah by water baptism. A few weeks later, when I was 17, my father took me to visit Bethel again. Being older, I was able to appreciate much more the importance of the work that is done there. I came home more determined than ever to reach my goal of going to Bethel. In September 1996, I began serving as a regular pioneer, or full-time evangelizer. To keep my mind on track, I immersed myself in spiritual things. I increased my daily Bible reading and personal study. At night I listened to recordings of Bible talks. Some of these talks mentioned experiences of Christians who had faced death with unwavering faith in the coming Paradise and the resurrection. (Luke 23:43; Revelation 21:3, 4) Soon I had all the talks memorized. I had no way of knowing then just how valuable such upbuilding information would prove to be in the near future.
On July 11, 1998, a letter arrived from Brooklyn. Yes, I had been invited to go to Bethel. A month later I was in my Bethel room. I was assigned to work in the bindery, making books that are shipped to many congregations. My boyhood dream had come true. I was at Bethel, 'making Bibles for Jehovah'!

The Disease Takes Hold
A month or so before going to Bethel, however, I noticed that I was not able to extend my right index finger fully. About the same time, I found that my work as a pool cleaner was leaving me quickly exhausted. I figured that I just wasn't trying hard enough. After all, I had held jobs that were far more physically demanding with no problem. Within a few weeks of my arrival at Bethel, the symptoms worsened. I could not keep up with the other young men as they bounded up and down flights of stairs. My work in the bindery involved lifting bundles of book signatures. Not only would I tire easily but my right hand was curling up. Also, my thumb muscle began to atrophy, and soon I could not move my thumb at all.
In mid-October, just two months after my arrival at Bethel, the doctor diagnosed my condition as ALS. As I left the doctor's office, I immediately began to recall those Bible talks I had memorized. Jehovah's spirit must have been with me because the thought of dying didn't frighten me. I simply went outside and waited for my ride back to Bethel. I prayed that Jehovah would strengthen my family when I told them the news.
As I mentioned at the outset, I could not help but feel blessed. My boyhood dream of going to Bethel had come true. That evening I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, and I thanked Jehovah for allowing me to reach my goal. I also fervently asked for his help to face this dreadful ordeal. Many friends called to offer support and encouragement. I tried to be upbeat and positive. However, about a week after the diagnosis, when I was on the phone with my mom, she said that it was good that I was being so brave but that it was OK to cry. The words had barely left her lips before I started sobbing. It hit me that I was about to lose everything I had dreamed about. Mom and Papa were eager to get me home, so they surprised me one morning in late October by knocking on my door. Over the next couple of days, I showed them around Bethel and introducd them to my friends as well as to older, longtime members of the Bethel family. Those precious days when I got to share my Bethel experience with my parents are among the happiest memories of my life.
Counting My Blessings
Since then, Jehovah has continued to bless me in many ways. In September 1999, I gave my first public discourse. I was able to give several more in various congregations, but soon my speech became so slurred that it was necessary for me to stop giving public talks. Another blessing has been the unwavering love and support of my family as well as my spiritual family of brothers and sisters. As my legs grew weaker, friends held my hands to help me walk in the ministry. Some even came over to our home to help take care of me. Among the greatest blessings has been my wife, Amanda. When I came back from Bethel, we became friends, and I was impressed by her spiritual maturity. I told her everything about my ALS and the doctor's prognosis. We spent much time together in the ministry before we began courting. We were married on August 5, 2000.
Amanda explains: "I was attracted to Jason because of his love for God and his zeal for spiritual things. People young and old were naturally drawn to him. I am quiet and reserved by nature, and he was so alive and animated, very outgoing. We both have a sense of humor, so we laughed a lot together. I felt so comfortable with him, as if we had always known each other. Jason made sure that I was fully aware of his illness and of what was to come. But I figured that we would enjoy as much time as we could together. Besides, there are never any guarantees in this system of things. 'Time and unforeseen occurence' befall even those with good health." (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

Finding Ways to Communicate
As my speech became less and less understandable, Amanda began serving as my translator. When I could no longer speak at all, we devised a special system of communicating. Amanda says the letters of the alphabet, and when she says the letter I want, I blink my eyes. She remembers that letter, and then we go on to the next one. In this way I am able to spell out entire sentences. Amanda and I have become quite proficient at this method of communicating. Now thanks to modern technology, I have a laptop computer that allows me to communicate. I type what I want to say, and the computer voice will speak whatever I have typed. Since I can no longer use my hands, an infrared sensor is aimed at my cheek and senses any movement. A box containing the alphabet appears in the corner of the computer screen. By moving my cheek, I can highlight the letter I want and type out words. With this computer I can write letters to people who are interested in the Bible - those my wife finds in the ministry. Using my computer voice, I can offer prepared presentations from door to door and conduct Bible studies. In these ways I have been able to continue serving as a regular pioneer. More recently, I have once again been able to give talks and handle other teaching assignments in the congregation, where I am a ministerial servant. (what??? a paralyzed pioneer AND ministerial servant? that is incredible!!!)

(special laptop computer aids in speaking & giving congregation talks)

Maintaining a Sense of Humor
We have had our share of harrowing ordeals. As my legs grew weaker, falling down became a recurring problem. More than once, I fell backward and split my scalp open. My muscles would lock up, so I would fall down like a tree. Those around me would be horrified and rush to my aid. But I would often make a joke to break the tension. I have always tried to maintain a sense of humor. What else could I do? I could get angry about how difficult my life was becoming, but what good would that have done? One night when I was out with Amanda and two friends, I suddenly fell backward and hit my head. I remember the three concerned faces looking down at me and one of my friends asking if I was all right. "Yes," I said, "but I'm seeing stars." "Are you serious?" my friend asked. "Really, look," I replied, pointing to the sky. "They're beautiful." Everyone laughed.

Coping With the Daily Challenges
As my muscles continued to atrophy, I began to experience more and more challenges. Simple tasks, such as eating, bathing, using the toilet, and buttoning my clothes, soon became exhausting and frustrating daily rituals. Now my condition has deteriorated to the point where I am no longer able to move, speak, eat, or breathe without assistance. I have a feeding tube in my stomach through which I am fed a liquid diet. I have a ventilator connected to a tube in my throat, which allows me to breathe. Although I was determined to be self-sufficient for as long as possible, Amanda was ever willing to assist me. As I have become more dependent, she has never caused me to feel like less of a man. She has always allowed me my dignity. The work she now does in caring for me is nothing short of amazing, but I know it has not been easy.
Amanda describes her feelings: "Jason's decline has been gradual, so I have learned how to take care of him as we have gone along. Since he is on a ventilator, he requires 24-hour care. A lot of phlegm and saliva build up in his lungs, which must be vacuumed out using a suction device. As a result, it is hard for either of us to get a good night's sleep. I feel alone and frustrated at times. Though we are always together, it is difficult to communicate. He was such an animated person, and now only his eyes are animated. He is still very funny, and his mind is sharp. But I miss his voice, I also miss having him hug me and just hold my hand.
"People sometimes ask me how I cope. Well, this ordeal has taught me how much I need to rely on Jehovah. If I rely on myself, I get so consumed with my situation that I feel like I cannot even breathe. Prayer helps, for Jehovah is the only one who truly understands me and what I am going through. Jason's parents have been a big help. They are always available whenever I need a break or want to go out in the field ministry. I appreciate the help and support we have received from the brothers and sisters in our congregation. Something else that helps me is remembering that any suffering in this system is 'momentary and light.' (2 Corinthians 4:17) I try to focus on the coming new world, where Jehovah will fix everything. I will probably laugh and cry at the same time when all this pressure is gone and Jason is Jason again."

Fighting Depression
I must admit that at times it can be very discouraging for me, as a man, to sit here in this wheelchair, completely helpless. I remember one time when we were at my sister's home for a family gathering, I had not yet had my food, so I was hungry. Everyone was enjoying barbecued hamburgers and corn on the cob. As I watched the others eating and playing with the babies, I got very depressed. I began thinking: 'This just isn't fair! Why do I have to miss out on these things?' I did not want to spoil the evening for everyone, so I begged Jehovah to help me hold back the tears. I reminded myself that by keeping faithful I can give Jehovah an opportunity 'to make a reply to Satan, who is taunting him.' (Proverbs 27:11) This gave me strength, for I realized that there are much more important issues than whether I can eat corn on the cob or play with babies. I am very well aware of how easy it is for a sick person like me to become absorbed in his own problems. But I have found it helpful to have "plenty to do in the work of the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58) By keeping busy in the ministry, I don't have time to be anxious about my own problems. Focusing on helping others to develop faith in Jehovah has been a key to happiness for me.
Something else has helped me to fight depression. I reflect on the experiences of faithful ones who have been imprisoned, some in solitary confinement, because they refused to stop preaching about God's Kingdom. I pretend that my room is my prison cell and that I am in prison for my faith. I reflect on the advantages that I have over some of them. I have access to Bible literature, I can attend Christian meetings, either in person or by telephone. I am free to carry out my ministry. I have my precious wife to keep me company. Meditating in this way helps me to appreciate how blessed I am.
The words of the apostle Paul are especially close to my heart: "We do not give up, but even if the man we are outside is wasting away, certainly the man we are inside is being renewed from day to day." I am most definitely a man who is wasting away on the outside. But I am determined not to give up. What sustains me is keeping my eyes of faith focused on "the things unseen," including the blessings of the coming new world, where I know that Jehovah will make me whole again. (2 Corinthians 4:16, 18)


*What is ALS? ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a disease that progresses rapidly and attacks the motor neurons (nerve cells) in the spinal cord and lower brain. The motor neurons are responsible for transmitting messages from the brain to the voluntary muscles throughout the body. ALS causes the motor neurons to degenerate or die, leading to progressive paralysis

*Why is ALS also called Lou Gehrig's disease? Lou Gehrig was a famous American baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS in 1939 and died in 1941 at 38 years of age. In some lands ALS is called motor neuron disease, which is a broader category of illnesses that includes ALS. ALS is also sometimes referred to as Charcot's disease, after Jean-Martin Charcot, the French neurologist who first described it in 1869.

*What causes ALS? The cause of ALS is not known. According to researchers, the suspected causes include viruses, protein deficiencies, genetic defects (especially in familial ALS) heavy metals, neuro-toxins (especially in Guamanian ALS), immune-system abnormalities, and enzyme abnormalities.

*What is the prognosis? As the disease progresses, muscle weakness and atrophy spread throughout the body. In later stages the disease weakens the muscles of the respiratory system, and eventually patients must depend on a ventilator. Because the disease affects only the motor neurons, it does not impair the patient's mind, personality, intelligence, or memory. Neither does it impair the senses - patients are able to see, smell, taste, hear, and recognize touch. ALS usually proves fatal within three to five years of the onset of symptoms, but up to 10 percent of patients may survive for ten years or more.

*What is done to treat the disease? There is no known cure for ALS. A doctor may prescribe medications to help reduce the discomforts associated with certain symptoms. Depending on the symptoms and the stage of the disease, the patient may benefit from certain rehabilitation services, including physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, and various assistive devices.

*There are three common classifications of ALS: sporadic (the most common), familial (about 5 to 10 percent of cases have a family history), and Guamanian (a high number of cases have occured in Guam and the trust territories of the Pacific).

daily text 07/27

Monday, July 27th, 2009
"Be kind to yourself, Lord." (Matthew 16:22)

Every day, we are confronted with trials and decisions, large and small. What should be the determining factor in our response? For example, when we are face-to-face with temptation to do something that would jeopardize our Christian standing, how do we react? When Peter told Jesus to be kind to himself, Jesus exclaimed: "Get behind me, Satan! . . . You think, not God's thoughts, but those of men." (Matthew 16:21-23) Or when we are offered opportunities for financial or career advancement at the cost of our spiritual welfare, do we react as Jesus did? When Jesus sensed that those who saw his miracles "were about to come and seize him to make him king," he quickly withdrew from them. (John 6:15) Jesus saw clearly that more than his personal safety or advantage was involved. He wanted to do his Father's will and uphold Jehovah's sovereignty at all costs. (Matthew 26:50-54)
(Watchtower issue: 12/01/07, 2:14, 15)

*I had a minor epiphany or lightbulb moment while I was studying earlier, and coincidently it ties into the point made in today's text about making sure we keep Jehovah's will as our prime focus like Jesus did. I started thinking about the growing number of people who have all these very admirable goals and good-intentions, when it comes to humanitarian efforts, and working towards improving the environment and protecting wildlife etc, etc. And those things are definitely important since when you think about the type of people that would make up an "ideal society," those "type" of people would seem to make the perfect citizens, right? So with such a positive, healthy attitude, you would think they would be receptive to God's plans for mankind and the earth as well, right? And I'm sure maybe some of them are, but here's the interesting part that really shows why having "good intentions" and being "a good person" isn't enough.
Excluding God from the picture is no small matter. Case in point: EVE. Think about it, Eve wasn't a terribly "wicked" person (according to what most people would consider wicked) She wasn't a murderer, or an adulterer, or a lying slanderer, etc. And based on the fact that Adam loved her so much that he was willing to forgo his relationship with God and the chance for eternal life, rather than give her up, shows she must have been a pretty incredible woman and wife. (Since obviously Jehovah could have provided Adam with a new wife if he had chosen to remain obedient instead of following her lead)
-Now stop and think about what the activities of her everyday life would have been like, and tell me if this doesn't ring a bell, (when you think about the type of positive, "good intentioned" people in our modern society today, which I just described above)...She had a healthy, loving relationship with her husband, she had an active share in taking care of the environment, and her 'garden home', and caring for the animals. But what was missing? What ruined any good intentioned plans she may have had for the earth and her future family? -First, she desired to have something which she did not have the permission, or 'the right' to, and secondly, she willingly chose to EXCLUDE GOD from the picture, by "taking matters into her own hands" and wanting to do things "her own way." Additionally, she also showed a lack of love, submission and respect for her husband, and the headship arrangement, by going ahead and doing what SHE wanted to do, without consulting him or making him aware of it first. You can hardly call that "real love" when her irresponsible decision directly contributed to Adam losing his life.

So I can't help noticing how that very same attitude has started creeping into people's thinking in a more subtle way lately. Because hello? Who would deny that trying to help save humanity and the planet is a bad thing? (which, in-and-of-itself, is not) But if you strip away the surface, you can see that its the very same ideology that Satan promoted to Eve -that she could rule herself independently from God. Because instead of recognizing Jehovah's Sovereignty and his RIGHT to rule his creation, there's this overall attitude of: "we can fix the planet and humanity ourselves" while pushing God completely out of the picture. It may "sound nice" and the people who promote that ideology may seem to have "good intentions," but bottomline... Satan hasn't changed... Eve was lied to.
Which is why we need to take just as firm a stand against subtle ideas presented that attempt to divert us from doing God's will, or keeping that at the forefront in our lives, just like Jesus had to firmly reject those ideas, even when they came from well intentioned friends (like Peter), in order to stay on course.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Awake! Experience -Former Military Commander, Mark Lewis

(experience of Mark Lewis, pgs 12-15 of the 02/08 Awake!)

I was born in Perth, Western Australia, in 1951 and was raised in a military family. At 15 years of age, I joined a gliding club. So began a lifelong love of flying. Soon afterward, my parents seperated, and our family disintegrated. The commanding officer of an Air Force jet fighter squadron and his family kindly took me in while I finished high school. His influence prompted me to become an officer cadet at the Royal Australian Air Force Academy.

I Received My "Wings"
Some six years later, I graduated as an Air Force officer with a science degree and my pilot's wings. My first job involved flying military transport aircraft throughout Australia, the South Pacific, and Southeast Asia. We often flew through high mountain passes and into deep valleys where we landed on grass airstrips. It was dangerous work. Our squadron lost several planes and some good people in those years. Yet, our missions helped those who lived in isolated regions. We flew in materials for bridges, small bulldozers for use in building roads, emergency food aid, and medical teams. We also flew on medical evacuations.
In 1978, I qualified as a flying instructor and returned to the Air Force Academy to join the teaching staff. Here I renewed my acquaintance with Diane, a young widow with a three-year-old daughter. Diane's husband had been an Academy classmate of mine but later died in a flying accident. When I asked her to marry me, she asked for time to think about it. She wasn't sure she wanted another pilot for a husband. In the meantime, I accepted a 12-month posting as an Aide-de-Camp to the Governor-General of Australia. Life at Government House, in Canberra, gave me insight into the workings of political life and involved close association with civil, military, and religious authorities. When my tenure there ended, I resumed work as a flying instructor. Diane and I married soon afterward, in 1980.
In 1982, I accepted a two-year exchange assignment with the United States Air Force as a flying-safety officer. The work took me throughout the United States and as far afield as Northern Ireland. It involved investigating aircraft accidents and evaluating aircraft design and flying operations with a view to improving safety.

Back to Australia
After I returned to Australia, our family grew to four when our daughter Kerry was born. Because of my workload, Diane was mother and father to our girls, and our family life suffered. Three years later, I received my first command - The Air Force VIP squadron, mentioned earlier. When the Persian Gulf War broke out in 1991, my squadron supported that UN operation and then others in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Africa, and Israel. In 1992, I became Staff Officer to the Chief of the Defence Force. Serving as a personal assistant to the most senior military commander in Australia gave me a close-up view of the relationship between the military, politics, and the UN. I concluded that the UN was flawed in many ways. Yet, it seemed to be our only hope for a better world. Then developments at home made me reevaluate my views.

Diane's Questions Answered
After her first husband died, Diane, a Roman Catholic, had searched for answers to her questions, but in vain. Matters became more serious, however, when our elder daughter, Renee, developed an interest in the occult. While at a friend's house, Diane noticed an issue of Awake! announcing an upcoming article on Satanism. She had never seen Awake! before. All the way home, she thought, 'How can I get hold of that issue?' Three days later Jehovah's Witnesses came to our door, and Diane got her magazine. Later she accepted a Bible study and then began attending Christian meetings. I was happy for her to study and even accompanied her to some meetings, but I didn't feel the need to get involved. I did not consider myself to be religious. I believed in God but had seen too much hypocrisy to take religion seriously. I could not understand, for example, why military chaplains preached love and peace but supported war.
Diane discreetly left copies of the Watchtower and Awake! around for me to read. I read some of them and carefully returned them to their original position. I didn't want her to think I might be interested. As my Bible knowledge grew, two scripture references troubled me. One was Revelation 19:17, 18, which spoke of birds eating the fleshy parts of "military commanders." The other was Revelation 17:3, which mentioned "a scarlet-colored wild beast." The Witnesses saw this beast as a symbol of the UN, a view that challenged my ideas about that world body. But I pushed any questions to the back of my mind.
In 1993, Diane invited me to attend her baptism. Her request caught me off guard. I asked her, "If you had to choose, would you choose Jehovah or me?" She answered: "Jehovah. But it doesn't have to be a choice. I want you both in my life." I realized then that I needed to learn more about this other person in her life. A local Christian elder offered to study the Bible with me, and I accepted. I became very interested in Bible prophecy, particularly as it relates to military and political history. For example, during my Air Force training, I had studied the military exploits of the ancient Greeks. I now learned that much of that history had been recorded centuries in advance in Daniel chapter 8. This prophecy, and others, gradually convinced me that the Bible is inspired of God.

I also took a fresh look at the UN. I knew that the military could not solve mankind's problems, that real peace could not come from the threat of war, and that the UN could not resolve the political, religious, and ethnic divisions that foment war. I began to see that only God could solve mankind's problems. Indeed, it appeared that he was already doing so among the global brotherhood of Jehovah's Witnesses. (Psalm 133:1; Isaiah 2:2-4) 'But could I leave my military career to serve God?' I wondered.

(the Bible Drama at the 1994 District Convention in Sydney)

Taking a Stand for Bible Truth
Matters came to a head in 1994 when I attended a district convention of Jehovah's Witnesses in Sydney. The program featured a full-costume drama that highlighted the choice the ancient nation of Israel had to make between serving Jehovah or Baal, a Canaanite god. Jehovah's prophet Elijah challenged the Israelites: "How long will you be limping upon two different opinions? If Jehovah is the true God, go following him; but if Baal is, go following him." (1 Kings 18:21) Those words cut deeply into my heart. Like the Israelites, I was sitting on the fence. I needed to make a choice: Would I serve Jehovah or continue my military career? Driving home that night, I told Diane I was going to leave the Air Force to become one of Jehovah's Witnesses. She was suprised by the suddenness of my decision but was fully supportive. Several days later my decision still hadn't changed, so I handed in my resignation.
At that time, I was the Commanding Officer of the Corps of Officer Cadets at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, the national capital. I oversaw the military and academic training of some 1,300 Army, Navy, and Air Force officer cadets and staff. On the last day of the academic year, I told an assembly of 400 senior cadets and staff that I was leaving the military to go from house to house teaching people the Bible as a volunteer Christian minister. That announcement led to some interesting discussions. (I'll bet! lol)

(Mark, Diane, and Kerry today)

Becoming a Full-Time Minister
I started in the preaching work the day after my resignation took effect. Three months later, in April 1995, I was baptized. Then, at the earliest opportunity, I enrolled as a regular pioneer minister, which meant spending my full time in the public ministry. My transformation from military commander to "soldier of Christ" meant making numerous adjustments. (2 Timothy 2:3) One of my first assignments was handling microphones during Christian meetings. Instead of giving orders, I had to learn to ask for things to be done. Consideration and love became more important that efficiency, although I still struggle to balance these qualities. And because of my reduced income, our family had to simplify our lifestyle. I really enjoyed the preaching work and still do. Once when witnessing with our then nine-year-old daughter Kerry, I asked her to observe the reactions of the householders. We soon saw that many people were not interested but that some were nice and even interested. It was encouraging for both of us. Our other daughter studied the Bible for a while but has chosen not to serve Jehovah at this time. Diane and I encouraged Kerry to reach out for the full-time ministry. Recently, I had the thrill of attending the Pioneer Service School with her. It was her first time and my second. What a joy it is to see her and other young ones progressing spiritually and pursuing the Christian ministry! (Psalm 110:3)

(Mark and Kerry at the Pioneer Service School)

Blessings in Abundance
Looking back, I see parallels and contrasts between serving in the military and being a soldier of Christ. Both roles require loyalty, obedience, integrity, self-discipline, and self-sacrifice. But while many in the military may be willing to die for their country and friends, true Christians are called upon to love even their enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48) And whereas military heroes can be decorated for a single act of courage, true Christians gain God's approval by enduring in faithful service - which may mean showing courage in the face of opposition, ridicule, and other trials year after year. (Hebrews 10:36-39) Fellow Christians are the finest people I know. In contrast with the greetings mentioned at the start of this story, my greetings nowadays are "Good morning, Sister," or "Good evening, Brother." What a joy it is to serve in the Christian ministry with people who truly love God! The greatest honor, though, is to serve the Most High, Jehovah, himself! I could not think of a more rewarding way to spend my life.

daily text 07/26

Sunday, July 26th, 2009
"They began to rejoice and to glorify the word of Jehovah, and all those who were rightly disposed for everlasting life became believers." (Acts 13:48)

Can you make it your goal to read the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation meditatively once every year? By reading about four chapters a day, you can read the Bible's 1189 chapters in one year. Each king of Israel was to read Jehovah's Law "all the days of his life." Evidently, Joshua did something similar. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20; Joshua 1:7, 8) How important it is that spiritual shepherds read God's Word daily, for this helps them to impart "healthful teachings"! (Titus 2:1) The nearness of Jehovah's day should move you to attend Christian meetings regularly and participate in them as fully as possible. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Doing so will help you to hone your skills as a Kingdom proclaimer who seeks to find and help those rightly disposed for everlasting life.
(Watchtower issue: 12/15/07, 1:11, 12)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Have You Ever Wondered?

...why on earth was sheep-shearing time in ancient Israel such a big hootenanny?
The reason I bring this up is because every year about this time, my dog Toby, who is a Siberian Husky, has his annual summer 'fur-shedding fest' and the layers upon layers of fur that come off when I brush him, makes me think of all the effort it must take to shear a sheep! I decided to take photos this time before I sweep up. Just look at this big mess! =)

(it looks smaller in the photo but that pile is almost 2x2' wide and about a foot high! AND thats just ROUND ONE! It'll be a few more grooming sessions before I get all his undercoat off!)

(closeup of Toby)

(outside in the yard)

(being attacked by my 'fearless' Miniature Schnauzer, Sasha. - hahaha, I love this photo)
so back to the original question... I got curious and decided to look up sheep-shearing. This is what the Insight on the Scriptures (Vol 2, pg 916) said:
"The time for shearing the sheep was looked forward to with anticipation, as it was much like a harvest. Feasting and rejoicing attended the event." And some scriptural references were mentioned also: (1 Samuel 25:2, 11, 36; 2 Samuel 13:23, 24, 28)
Plus "sheep's wool furnished the fiber for what was probably the most common material for clothing (Job 31:20; Proverbs 27:26)" So maybe it was also the time of year when everyone got "new editions" to their wardrobe, and you know that would get all the women excited! lol.
So there you have it.

daily text 07/25

Saturday, July 25th, 2009
"I, even I, have installed my king upon Zion, my holy mountain." (Psalm 2:6)

The second psalm speaks prophetically of the installation of Jesus as King upon heavenly Mount Zion. (Psalm 110:1, 2) However, this psalm also indicates that there is a period of time when earth’s rulers, along with their subjects, are given an opportunity to submit to Christ’s rule. They are admonished to “exercise insight” and to allow themselves to be “corrected.” Yes, during that time “happy are all those taking refuge in him [God]” by serving Jehovah and his appointed King. So, then, a window of opportunity is opened during Jesus’ presence in kingly power. (Psalm 2:10-12) Unbelievers, though, would not understand these matters or even recognize Jesus as their future King. However, Jesus said that his disciples would see the sign of his presence just as clearly as they would see “lightning, by its flashing, [which] shines from one part under heaven to another part.”—Luke 17:24-29.
(Watchtower issue: 02/15/08, 5:7-9)

*this is good to keep in mind so that we don't get frustrated when someone doesn't seem to "see" or understand what is so clear to us. Plus its already been written aforetime that even when those "goat-like" people who rebel against God, DO finally SEE it, even then they won't repent, because Revelation 9:20, 21 says:

"But the rest of the men who were not killed by these plagues did not repent of the works of their hands, so that they should not worship the demons and the idols of gold and silver...and they did not repent of their murders nor of their spiritistic practices nor of their fornication nor of their thefts."

and whats even more dumb, is that when they are going through all this, they will KNOW why this is happening to them, since Revelation 16:8-11 says "they blasphemed the name of God" which obviously shows they recognize his authority, but refuse to submit to it.

"And the fourth one poured out his bowl upon the sun; and to [the sun] it was granted to scorch the men with fire. And the men were scorched with great heat, but they blasphemed the name of God, who has the authority over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give glory to him.
And the fifth one poured out his bowl upon the throne of the wild beast. And its kingdom became darkened, and they began to gnaw their tongues for [their] pain, but they blasphemed the God of heaven for their pains and for their ulcers, and they did not repent of their works."

*So knowing this ahead of time, and knowing that throughout history there have always been people who refuse to heed "warning signs" in general (like those who perish in natural disasters because they refuse to evacuate) will help us not to be suprised by the rebellious reaction or attitude of people to our message.

Friday, July 24, 2009

More info from Zimbabwe & Zambia

(this is a view of the Southern half of Africa - just to get an idea of where Zimbabwe and Zambia are located in relation to each other)

Zimbabwe (This was the situation reported for the country in October 2008)
"This African country is a scene of great political unrest, after violent summer elections and an inflation rate of two million percent! The economy has collapsed; unemployment is 80%. Prices double every few days. Many Jehovah's Witnesses were forced to flee, but there still was a publisher peak of 33,516.
One local elder overheard a youth militia group plotting to kill Jehovah's Witnesses and burn their homes in one village for their neutral stand. He warned the brothers, who fled. The next day this brother was captured and ordered to repeat political slogans. He refused. After watching them beat and torture local villagers, our brother was forced to run for one-half mile in front of the militia, all the while being beaten while they threatened to kill him. When the brother reached an intersection, a police vehicle was there. The mob fled and our brother escaped. Although his home and harvest of 2 tons of corn went up in flames, our dear brother escaped with his life."

*for some "good news" - here's a cute experience about a school girl in Zimbabwe on pg 46 of the 2009 Yearbook and one from Zambia on pg 14 of the 2007 Yearbook...

Zimbabwe: "Decibel, who is nine years old, preaches to her classmates and teachers. One day she noticed that her teacher looked miserable, so Decibel approached her and asked if there was something making her unhappy. The teacher replied that her sister had lost a child in death. Decibel promised to bring the teacher something that would comfort her. She obtained the brochure When Someone You Love Dies from her parents and brought it the following day. The teacher read a few paragraphs from the brochure and cried out for joy. Later, she wrote a note to Decibel's parents thanking them for the training they had given their daughter and the comfort Decibel had given her during her time of distress."

Zambia: "Goliath, a village headman who had two wives and ten children, is no giant, but he and his family have taken giant steps spiritually. Goliath began making changes soon after reading the Bible Teach book. In January 2006 he and his family started attending Christian meetings, and in February he asked his second wife to leave and legalized his relationship with his first wife. (Matthew 19:4-6, 1 Timothy 3:2) During March he resigned as village headman, and in April he and his wife, Esther, became unbaptized publishers."

daily text 07/24

Friday, July 24th, 2009
"Do not toil to gain riches. Cease from your own understanding. Have you caused your eyes to glance at it, when it is nothing? For without fail it makes wings for itself like those of an eagle and flies away." (Proverbs 23:4, 5)

To most people, the expression "the real life" conjures up an image of luxury and pleasure. One Asian news magazine notes: "Those who watch films or TV learn to desire what they see, to dream of what they might have." Many people make the attaining of riches and status their purpose in life. Many sacrifice their youth, health, family life, and spiritual values in pursuit of these things. Few stop to think that such media images are no more than a reflection of "the spirit of the world" - the dominant pattern of thinking that influences the majority of earth's billions and moves them to act in opposition to God's purpose for us. (1 Corinthians 2:12; Ephesians 2:2) No wonder there are so many unhappy people today! (Proverbs 18:11)
(Watchtower issue: 10/01/07, 1:8)

*It might be difficult for some people to believe that their desire for wealth and prominence could ever reflect an attitude or thinking pattern similar to Satan's, but check out this interesting reference describing what led Satan down the path he eventually took. Ezekiel chapter 28 describes the "leader or King of Tyre" which is a symbolic reference to Satan and the vast commercial empire he has built up. Notice how God describes the angelic spirit creature he originally was before he turned wicked...
(Ezekiel 28:13-15) "You are sealing up a pattern, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. In E´den, the garden of God, you proved to be. Every precious stone was your covering,...You are the anointed cherub that is covering, and I have set you. On the holy mountain of God you proved to be. In the midst of fiery stones you walked about. You were faultless in your ways from the day of your being created until unrighteousness was found in you."

so now look where it all started:

(28:3-5) "There are no secrets that have proved a match for you. By your wisdom and by your discernment you have made wealth for your own self, and you keep getting gold and silver in your storehouses. By the abundance of your wisdom, by your sales goods, you have made your wealth abound, and your heart began to be haughty because of your wealth."

"Because of the abundance of your sales goods they filled the midst of you with violence, and you began to sin. And I shall put you as profane out of the mountain of God, and I shall destroy you, O cherub...Your heart became haughty because of your beauty. You brought your wisdom to ruin on account of your beaming splendor. Onto the earth I will throw you...Owing to the abundance of your errors, because of the injustice of your sales goods, you have profaned your sanctuaries..."

Interesting aye???

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yearbook Experience - Earthquake in Kobe, Japan

(Kobe, Japan - 1995 earthquake / photo & experience on pgs 142-145 of the 1998 Yearbook)
*I'm gonna look for more yearbook info about the brothers in Zimbabwe, but in the meantime, I wanted to post this yearbook experience that took place after the earthquake in Kobe, Japan in 1995, to show how important it is to actively demonstrate our love and support for our brothers during a time of crisis, and how much can be accomplished when we all work together to get things done.

Love Coupled With Organization
As foretold by Jesus Christ, in these last days great earthquakes continue to strike in one place after another. (Matthew 24:3, 7) One of these struck the Kobe area on Tuesday, January 17, 1995. The earthquake, measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale, took over 5000 lives and left thousands homeless. Among the 9,000 Witnesses living in the affected area, 13 baptized Witnesses and 2 unbaptized publishers lost their lives. Hiroshi and Kazu Kaneko, a special pioneer couple serving in the Nishinomiya Central Congregation, were found under the rubble of an old apartment that morning. It took more than four hours to dig Brother Kaneko out, but his wife, Kazu, had been crushed to death. Because Hiroshi had been under the weight of the rubble for a long time, his kidneys stopped functioning, leaving him in critical condition for many days. "It hit me hard how useless material belongings are," Hiroshi said. "In contrast, I realized the importance of inner qualities such as faith and hope. Those qualities help us overcome the worst of conditions that we may face."

Moved by intense love for their brothers, Witnesses quickly acted to provide help. Providentially, the circuits around Kobe had been organized to cut across the city from north to south. Since the quake hit the area along the coastline from east to west, each circuit had unaffected congregations that could assist those in need. Elders in the unaffected congregations nearby took the initiative in organizing the relief work. On the day after the first jolt, a convoy of 16 motorcycles delivered food and water to the congregations in downtown Kobe. Circuit overseers at once set up temporary relief centers to care for Witnesses in the affected area. The branch designated six Kingdom Halls that were not destroyed as depots for relief supplies. "Within five hours, those halls were filled to capacity," recalls Yoshihiro Nagasaki, a member of the Branch Committee who got into the affected area by riding on the back of a motorcycle belonging to a fellow Witness. "We had to ask the brothers to reroute the relief supplies to nearby Assembly Halls." Supply centers were set up where representatives from the local congregations could pick up the needed items, and the elders in each congregation would then distribute the supplies to its members.
The Bible encourages Christians to "work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith." (Galatians 6:10) The Witnesses gladly shared with their neighbors what they received. Two days after the Kobe earthquake, when a Witness elder realized that the relief supplies for the Witnesses were sufficient but that other people were in desperate need, he quickly dispatched two vans full of food supplies to a local refugee center.

Further Assistance Extended
Attention was given also to emotional and spiritual needs. Arrangements were promptly made to continue the congregation meetings. One congregation met in a park on the very day of the earthquake. By the Sunday following the quake, most congregations in the area held their regular Watchtower Study. To care for the emotional and spiritual needs of those affected, seven circuit overseers were sent to the five affected circuits in addition to their regular circuit overseers. They made special visits to strengthen the brothers and to help them keep the Kingdom interests first in their lives in spite of the disaster. Ten Kingdom Halls had been rendered unfit for use. The homes of many of the brothers had been totally or partially destroyed. The 11 Regional Building Committees in Japan each organized teams of about 21 workers to repair the damaged houses. A relief team of Witnesses from the United States came at their own expense to share in the work. Before these teams had finished their work, they had repaired 1,023 houses and cleared away 4 houses that had been destroyed. Five Kingdom Halls were rebuilt, and four were repaired by self-sacrificing brothers who came from all over the country.
Unbelieving family members were treated with the same kindness as was shown to the believing members of such households. A sister with an unbelieving husband and four children lost her second son in the earthquake. The family stayed in the Kingdom Hall with 70 other Witnesses for one week. Observing how the brothers showed concern and gave practical help, the husband began to appreciate Jehovah's organization. One day he visited the relief headquarters in Suita. There he saw many brothers working hard for the benefit of people they did not know. Emotion welled up inside him, and he could not hold back his tears. That very day, he agreed to a Bible study.

daily text 07/23

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
"Your own ears will hear a word behind you saying: “This is the way. Walk in it, you people.” (Isaiah 30:21)

We cannot change our past; however, we can be resolved to choose associates and an environment that will affect our conscience in a good way. A key step is regularly being with devoted Christians who have long tried to be like their Father. Congregation meetings, including association before and after them, provide excellent opportunities for that. We can note the Bible-based thinking and reactions of fellow Christians, including their readiness to listen as their conscience echoes God’s outlook and ways. Over time, this can help us to harmonize our own conscience with Bible principles, bringing us closer to God’s image. When we attune our inner voice to our Father’s principles and yield to the good influence of fellow Christians, our conscience will be more reliable and we will be more inclined to listen to what it says.
(Watchtower issue: 10/15/07, 1:18)

*inordinate guilt over past mistakes or ruminating over our weaknesses, only serves to slow us down or halt us from making spiritual progress and moving forward. This is one of the areas that those in the prison ministry report as being the biggest obstacle for some inmates. I remember a really good discourse given by a brother who used the examples of King David and Paul to show how Jehovah sees past even serious faults and inherent flaws, and looks at our POTENTIAL. When you read the account about the apostle Paul after he first learned the truth on his way to Damascus, you can really appreciate the mental and emotional burden of guilt and shame that he must have been carrying, knowing that he was responsible for the persecution of so many Christians and approving of the death of Stephen. But that didn't stop him from taking decisive action and beginning to preach and associate with the Christians, (as difficult as it was) since they all knew about his former reputation. That's a good point to remind those who are dealing with similar issues regarding their past, if we see that they're having a hard time becoming actively involved and associating with members of the congregation. Also, we can imitate the example of Ananias and Barnabas, who reached out to Paul and supported his efforts, which made it easier for him to feel welcome and join himself to the Christian congregation. The talk "Coping With Plagues of the Heart" (on my download page) has some really encouraging advice for anyone who is struggling to overcome negative feelings regarding "the past" which can help them to press forward.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Remembering Our Brothers In Zimbabwe

*Our problems are nothing in comparison with what our brothers and sisters in other lands are dealing with right now. We need to keep them in our prayers and contributions to the worldwide work. Read this email I just got today... (also check out the latest file I just uploaded on my theocratic downloads/Nakido page. Its got news & photos from an Assembly in Zambia)

(This was during a meeting where Brother Losch of the Governing Body was fielding questions from the friends gathered)
"I asked about Zimbabwe and if we've stopped building Kingdom Halls there. I mentioned that I read Zimbabwe printed a 50 billion dollar note and that we've stopped building Halls. He confirmed that we had to stop. He said, 'We put $5,000 in a bank in the morning and by night it's worth 50 cents!' He said the friends are existing on one meal a day, sometimes less. They are starving. The one meal is just subsistence. Neighboring brothers are trucking in grain as fast as they can. We received this newsletter from a brother in the Zimbabwe Bethel:

Hi to you all,
Zimbabwe is going through a very difficult time... We have just heard that the branch has had to release 24 brothers from Bethel. That will bring the Bethel family down to about 60-odd. Some will go into the special pioneer work and others back to supporting a local congregation. That is seven married couples and ten single brothers. Others may be asked to leave if the economic situation does not improve.
The branch has also had to cut back on a large number of special pioneers. So far this does not include me..!!! Additionally the whole Kingdom Hall building programme has stopped and all construction brothers sent home. So far the programme has built about 450 new Kingdom Halls for about 530 congregations under this assistance to countries with limited resources program.
The reason for all this is the deplorable economic situation that the country and branch has to work under. Our inflation is so high that by the time money comes in to the country, goes through the banking System and goes out to be used, it has lost its value. At present US $1 is sitting at Z$100 billion. It will be worse this afternoon..!! So you may think, for example, that you are going to receive the equivalent of US$10. By the time you actually get it the value has dropped to a few cents. We can only draw Z$100 billion a day in cash if the banks have cash. Cheques and swipe cards are limited.
We have not had bread in months. Fuel is scarcely available but only in foreign money. No mealie meal, (cornmeal) the basic food item for the locals, no sugar, flour, salt, cooking oil, etc. Electricity and water are often off for long periods. Some areas for months and months. So it is all very trying. The whole country is on its knees and the politicians do nothing to help. But then this is Satan's system...

On the positive side:
We had our Kingdom Hall dedicated on Saturday... 239 came from the two congregations that will use it. One English and one Shona. The Hall itself was a major effort. The site is on clay soil and so we had to go down about three metres with eleven reinforced concrete pillars. It took as long to build our Hall as it took the brothers to build our new Assembly Hall: 15 months..!! Just had a new peak of 33,000 which is very encouraging, as about five million have left the country for greener pastures in Europe, America, Australia, and South Africa, due to the problems here. So a peak in publishers is welcome news.
Just came back from doing some rural witnessing today. We have not been out to our calls in the rural area of our territory due to the political intimidations that have been going on with the elections. Many brothers have had a very difficult time and some losing everything. The brothers warned us not to go out there, but today it was quiet and we were very well received. The truth is still good here. Sadly, we may have to leave before the year is out as we can no longer manage economically and medically. The three of us will move to England. The Medical Aid Societies have collapsed, and we had been relying on them to assist with medical expenses, along with most other institutions. It has been so sad to see such a beautiful country go down the drain. But then the whole world will be following suit.
So keep all the brothers here in your prayers, they need them. We will continue to fight the fine fight. Your faithfulness is such an encouragement to us."

daily text 07/22

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
"All of you be . . . humble in mind." (1 Peter 3:8)

To be God’s friends, we must be “humble in mind.” (Psalm 138:6) The importance of humility is shown in an illustration found in Judges chapter 9. The olive tree, the fig tree, and the vine represented worthy individuals who did not seek to rule over their fellow Israelites. But the bramble represented the kingship of proud Abimelech, a murderer eager to dominate others. Abimelech met an untimely death. (Judges 9:8-15, 22, 50-54) How much better it is to be “humble in mind”! In the first century C.E., when Herod Agrippa was giving a public address, the crowd cried out: “A god’s voice, and not a man’s!” Herod did not reject such adulation, and Jehovah’s angel struck him so that he died a terrible death “because he did not give the glory to God.” (Acts 12:20-23) What if we are somewhat skilled as a speaker or a teacher of Bible truths? Then let us credit God for what he allows us to do. (1 Corinthians 4:6, 7; James 4:6)
(Watchtower issue: 02/15/08, 2:9, 10)

*humbleness is such a rare quality because most people tend to underestimate the value of it or mistake it for a sign of weakness or low self esteem ... when in fact, its just the opposite. It takes a great deal of mental strength and self control to be humble, especially in the presence of those who are not. The basic dictionary definition of the word 'humble' is: Not proud, haughty, arrogant, assertive, or pretentious. How many people enjoy being around individuals that display those qualities? More importantly, how easy is it to get along and work with an individual who has those negative traits? The following article makes for a really good self-examination, based on what Jesus taught his disciples about humbleness and how they could cultivate that type of attitude. Even the apostles had big issues with this...right up to the night before Jesus' death! A person can have all the talent and ability in the world, but if they aren't humble, they arent TEACHABLE.

What Can You Learn From Children?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Awake! Experience - Vazir Asanov

(experience of Vazir Asanov - pgs 12-15 of the 09/08 Awake! - click on the photo to read the intro of the story)

I was born into a Kurdish family in a city in the southern part of what is now Kazakhstan, which at the time formed one of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union. My parents and relatives brought me up to believe that I could become a future leader and liberator of my people. I nutured such hatred of enemies of the Kurdish people that I was ready to kill to free our people from oppression. In the late 1980's, my mother, younger brother, and I began to study the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses. Father, however, forbade us to associate with Christians. Still, I continued to study. In a Kurdish family, disobedience to the family head is virtually unknown. I loved my father, yet I also loved the Bible truths I was learning.

Opposition at Home and at School
One time, a teacher saw a copy of the Watchtower magazine in my schoolbag and told my parents about it. In a rage, Father struck me so hard that blood spurted from my nose. "Are you still with that religion?" he shouted. After that, Father announced that he no longer considered me his son. How it hurt me to hear that! At the same time, many of my classmates began to avoid me, and some openly reviled me. My teachers lowered my grades and often mocked my faith during class, trying to convert me to their atheistic views. Despite such opposition, I still tried to attend Christian meetings and to share my newfound faith with others. A while later, Father learned that I was continuing to associate with the Witnesses and to read the Bible. One Sunday, I began looking for an excuse to leave the house to attend the meeting. Immediately, Father made me go to bed. He said firmly, "Now, every Sunday at this time you must be in bed." He threatened me with dire consequences if I disobeyed, and I was convinced that he meant it. With tears, I supplicated Jehovah, the true God, to soften Father's heart, but he remained unmoved. I recalled the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt. My father's actions reminded me of Pharaoh, who refused to let the Israelites go to worship Jehovah. (Exodus 5:1, 2)

(the Kingdom Hall in Karatau where Vazir attended as a youth)

Making Decisions
On Sunday, I decided to go to the meeting. My heart pounded with anxiety as I lay in bed praying silently to Jehovah. When my parents came into my room, I pretended to be asleep. Father proudly said, "See what an obedient son I have." He kissed me, and they quietly left. I continued to pray earnestly. Shortly after my parents left the room, as related in the introduction, I leaped up, got my shoes from under the bed, and jumped out of the window. Two hours at the meeting sped by quickly, and I wondered what would happen when I returned home. Happily, although Mother had seen that it was my clothes in the bed and not I, she said nothing to Father. However, she warned me that she would no longer conceal such actions from him. In 1992, I told my parents that a friend had a special celebration to attend and that I had been invited to go along. Actually, the special event that I planned to attend was an assembly of Jehovah's Witnesses in the city of Taraz, which was about 65 miles from our home in Karatau. There, I was to be baptized in symbol of my dedication to Jehovah. I asked Mother if I could have a bucket of sunflower seeds from the barn. I fried those seeds and sold them at the market, and that was how I was able to earn enough money to attend the assembly.
When I returned, Father asked if I had a good time with my friend. I assured him that I did. I felt that Jehovah supported me, because Father did not inquire any further about the matter. I really liked the words of Proverbs 3:5, 6: "Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight."

I Weaken Spiritually
Opposition from Father did not stop with my baptism. As I continued to associate with the Witnesses, Father would beat me severely, both when others were present and when we were alone. Almost every day I was subject to humiliation and pressure, and I often wept. Kazakhstan was then gaining independence from the Soviet Union, and my parents and relatives tried to persuade me to achieve positive goals as a politician. They thought that I was missing out on my chance. My older brother had realized achievements in sports, and Father often held him up to me as an example. Well, toward the end of 1994, I too became involved in sports. Blessed with natural ability, I was soon winning awards and praise for my skills in soccer and gymnastics. I also began to study law so that I would be in a position to help protect the interests of the Kurds. I even became interested in politics and thought about founding a Kurdish youth party. Now Father began to praise me.

"You Won, Papa"
I had become spiritually weak and had discontinued reading the Bible and attending the meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses. I comforted myself with the thought that I would serve Jehovah again when I became of age. Once, Father asked whether I was associating with Jehovah's Witnesses. "No. You won, Papa," I replied. "Are you happy now?" Upon hearing this, Father was very happy. "Now, finally, you are my son!" he said proudly. For two years I did not attend meetings, although at times I wanted to go. But feelings of shame kept me from following through on my intentions. I thought that those in the congregation would not understand my situation. At the same time, I was convinced that there was nothing better than serving Jehovah. 'After all, I love Jehovah!' I would tell myself. Then Father began pressuring me to pursue a university education. I gave in and even promised to finish school with honors. In my heart, though, I hoped that once I got to the university in Almaty, a large, modern city in southern Kazakhstan, I would find the Witnesses.

Happy Changes of Circumstances
Not long after I began studying at the university, I met two Witnesses as they were sharing in the ministry on a street in Almaty. They approached me with the question, "Who do you think rules the world?" "Satan the Devil," I replied, "the enemy of Jehovah and of all mankind." (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4) I explained that I was a baptized Witness but had become inactive. Toward the end of 1996, I again began to study the Bible with the Witnesses. After I had several studies, my desire to serve Jehovah returned in full force, and I started to take part in all the activities of the Witnesses in Almaty. In September 1997, I began serving as a pioneer, or full-time minister. A year later, Father came to visit me. I ran to him, and we hugged. He asked for my forgiveness for his actions all those years. He said that he had misunderstood both me and my faith. "Papa," I said, "I love you very much." How happy I felt when Father accepted Bible literature and requested a Bible, saying that he wanted to read it from cover to cover! A year later, he came to visit me again, this time with Mother. At the Kingdom Hall, people of various nationalities warmly greeted them by coming up and introducing themselves. This made a profound impression on Father, and he began to read the literature of the Witnesses with great interest.

(Vazir's parents, who are now favorable to the work)

Rich Blessings
In September 2001, I married a wonderful Russian girl named Yelena. She has been a baptized Witness since 1997 and began to pioneer in May 2003. To our great joy, we learned that my parents had started to study the Bible with the Witnesses and were making spiritual progress. Actually, I could not believe the news until I heard it from Father's own lips. Over the phone, he told me that Jehovah is the one true God!

(Yelena & Vazir on their wedding day)

I am so happy that here in Almaty I have had the opportunity to conduct Bible studies with people from many places, including China, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, and Turkey. Not long ago, an Iranian priest asked me to study the Bible with him in his native language, Persian. A former general from Afghanistan was greatly impressed with what he learned about Jehovah. It was also a joy to study with a person from Syria in my native Kurdish tongue as well as to study with people in Kazakh and Russian, other languages of my childhood.

(at the new branch facilities near Almaty)

Now along with Yelena, I serve in a Kasakh-speaking congregation-one of the more than 35 congregations in Almaty. Last year, Yelena and I were privileged to serve temporarily at the recently completed branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses located near Almaty.
At one time I was taught to hate, but Jehovah taught me to love. I am convinced that we should never be influenced to do otherwise, even when pressured by well-meaning relatives and friends. (Galatians 6:9) Now I am so glad that my wife and I have "plenty to do in the work of the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58)