Thursday, November 3, 2011

South America Adventure!

Dear friends,
I just arrived to my apartment in Buenos Aires last Thursday, and before getting back to the service routine, I must share the wonderful experiences we've had on this vacation....
As usual- the highlights:

1. Chinese District Convention, October 8-9: amazing 2-day assembly where peak attendance was 554. Speakers from Chile and Paraguay participated. Brothers learning Chinese in remote areas arrived by bus or plane to attend.

2. Iguasu Falls & the Bird Park---- I actually strongly believe the Brazilian side of the falls is the most beautiful. The Bird Park is beyond belief... I really felt I was walking in paradise because all kinds of birds hopped around you like you were a fellow bird.

3. Need-greaters in Paraguay --- During our last night in Iguasu, we had dinner with 2 Korean brothers who are serving in Paraguay. Unfortunately, due to illness, their wives were unable to attend. One brother is serving in a Chinese group of 6 brothers, another is serving in a Korean group of also less than 10 brothers.

4. Need-greaters in Brazil
---- We were privileged to be taken care of by a Korean missionary couple who has been in Brazil for about 8 years. They are in the Chinese field.
Also, we stayed with a retired couple who spoke mainly Portuguese but was learning a bit of Chinese. We have heard several stories of how this retired couple use their resources to help Chinese people learn the Bible, in spite of their language limitations.

5. Copacabana!
This world famous beach is beautiful even in the dark!

6. Cuzco & Macchu Picchu
What an experience! In addition to exploring the wonders of the ancient Inca empire, our guide purposely passed some Kingdom Halls in the small towns between Cuzco & Aguas Calientes (the town closest to Macchu Picchu)

7。 Chinese Congregations in Rio de Janeiro & Lima
It was sooo encouraging to see the efforts of the local brothers in learning Chinese; both congregations are having Chinese classes. The spirit of the local brothers & their love for the Chinese is so touching!

8. Missionary home in Lima, Peru
It was a great blessing & privilege to stay at the missionary home....there are 12 publishers living here. We met a brother whose mother was one of the first Witnesses in Peru; also, 5 single sisters from North America who have been in Peru for 40 years, and 2 young Korean couples. It was lovely to experience daily life in the missionary home (and be on vacation at the same time, LOL)

See this link for more pics:
South America Adventure!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spring is Here!

Hola friends,

Today is the first day of spring in Argentina...odd isn't it? The weather tells all- high's in the 70's (23C) already!
Some good news:

1. Ms.Chen, who I had written about in my first blog entry, just attended her first meeting this past Sunday. Actually, she lives literally around the corner from the Kingdom Hall. But since she barely speaks any Spanish, she doesn't like going outside. Anyway, last Sunday, I think she finally decided that walking half a block wouldn't be so difficult after all. I told her that she doesn't have to stay for the entire meeting, just for the 30 minute public talk. However, she stayed until after the meeting was over! She said she was very impressed by the warmth of the congregation. Several sisters already recognized her from being on her study, so they were all excited and happy to see her.
2. Noelia, a teenage girl, has been coming to my home to study the Bible. It's great having her here and learning to slowly draw her out.
3. Since August, I have a new roommate, Gabriela Lasso. She is a Latina from North Carolina, and we are having the time of our lives together! Just to illustrate the fun we are having- one of our neighbors complained to our building manager that there are 2 Americans laughing loudly all the time. We have tried to tone it down. Anyway, she's a blessing...I learn a lot from her.
Also, we have a new German missionary couple in our hall. They had served for 5 years in the Chinese congregation in Ecuador, and now are assigned to our congregation. They live right around the corner from Gabriela and me!
4. Liping, who is coming to all the meetings now, is also preparing for all the meetings! It's such a blessing to see her progress!
5. My mom is coming to South America for a month, so my next entry will be about our travels...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rolling with Rosario

Keziah and I just returned from a charming visit to Rosario, a pretty city 4 hours away from Buenos Aires.

In addition to fruitful theocratic activity, our visit was filled with singing, dancing, and laughing until your stomach hurt. Our host family, the Pereyra's, were absolutely lovely and took great care of us.

The highlights of our 4- day visit were as follows:

1. Taking advantage of our ability to speak Chinese, the brothers drove us to preach in 7 Chinese supermarkets and 1 Taiwanese health products store. It might not sound like a lot to you, but most of the markets were in another city farther from Rosario, and the Chinese there had rarely spoken to Witnesses. We placed some magazines and tracts, and 1 Bible Teach book with a lady who was quite excited to know we were Bible teachers.
2. Keziah and I did a demo in Spanish during the Service meeting on Thursday, reenacting a real informal witnessing opportunity that had happened when I spoke to a neighbor.
3.. We had the opportunity to associate and have fun with some Haitian Bible students. This was quite special for me, because it was my first time to talk Haitian students. The kids we met had been in Haiti during the recent earthquake, and had endured unspeakable tragedy. We were especially touched when on one occasion, a young student expressed his gratitude because we gave him what he had left behind in Haiti, a feeling of home & family.
4. On Sunday, we had a cultural show, directed by Lalo, which consisted of Peruvian dancing, Chinese folk singing, Congolese music, and featuring 2 special performances by Lalo's neighbor, Marcelo. A Peruvian couple, Keziah, the Haitian students, and I were all in the show. We found out that we had unexpectedly given Marcelo a good witness; he was impressed by the love that thrived in the multiracial group.

5. Sunday evening, Lalo, Lili, Keziah, and I prepared "Chinese" noodles for the last gathering that day. That was hilarious- because I was the "chef" that day, and I felt like the blind leading the blind. The highlight of the evening was a great dance all the girls did together, based on the hit song Kuduro.

Lalo counted that we had met 29 people in the 4-day visit. The best part of the visit for me was the number of people we were able to encourage unexpectedly. I truly feel that Jehovah is always directing things behind the scenes!
Click on the image for our awesome dance video!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Great Happenings

Pic: Diego, Charlie, Kay, Me, Anto, Keziah

Hi friends,

I am inspired to write this evening and decided I better take advantage of the flame before it goes out....

First, I must write about Liping- an advanced Bible student who was given to me because her Bible teacher went back to the Spanish congregation.
Liping has been making considerable effort to come to all the Sunday meetings. We set a goal for her to try to attend more Tuesday meetings as well. This is a challenge for her because she owns a laundry business, and she stays up until 2am during the weekdays folding and ironing clothes. However, during the co visit last week, she came to both the Tuesday and Thursday meetings. On both occasions, you could tell she rushed over, her hair wet from a shower. Several friends in the congregation commended her for her effort. During our study, I told her how one of our elders noticed her progressed. She shed tears of joy, and expressed how grateful she was that people did not criticize her for not wearing the right clothes to the meeting (That's another thing we have to work on, setting a date to go shopping with her and replace glittery sequined jeans with modest skirts). She is very humble, and mentions that she wants to get baptized. I am so grateful to Jehovah for letting me taste the joy of helping a Bible student progress!

Another beautiful Bible student that fell into my lap from Jehovah is a lady who owns a laundromat around the corner from the Kingdom Hall. I had found her daughter, Jessica, the first day that I went out in service in Buenos Aires. For a few times, I could not get past just sharing a few scriptures at the door with Jessica. However, one day, the mother, Ms. Chen, came out and eagerly asked me how God can help us during times of distress. This is because one of her relatives was diagnosed with a terminal illness. She wanted to know if somehow prayer could cure the illness. I was invited into their laundromat, which is also their makeshift home. Since then, I have been studying on a regular basis with Ms. Chen. Jessica had been studying with us, but recently, she moved to her father's store and I have to track her down.

Ms. Chen is a wonderful student. I asked her to prepare for each lesson, and she writes out the scriptures. Last week, her homework was to read the Sermon on the Mount. She asked me what Matthew 6:24 meant ("cannot slave for 2 masters"). My preaching companion, an Argentine sister, explained the scripture in excellent Chinese. Ms. Chen's reaction was remarkable- she commented that the scripture spoke of her heart, because she knew that making money was her greatest priority. Seeing her humility and appreciation for the Bible was so rewarding- she was the last Bible student of the week, and I had arrived quite exhausted, but she made me so happy I wanted to cry.

On a lighter note, we had a great time with our circuit overseer and his wife- Charlie and Kay Kim. They are (obviously) Korean, and very lovely. They were very zealous in going preaching with all of us. I had the privilege of making Teriyaki chicken for them here. The hilarious thing is- Argentinians have never heard of teriyaki chicken!!! They think I'm the best cook ever with that recipe!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Learning to show real love

top:Diego and Susie, special pioneer couple at our apartment; our first gathering for some friends in our hall.
bottom: me, Christine, and Elody, a sister from Belgium watching a tango show at Cafe Tortoni

Hi friends,
As I had written in my last email, there are several Bible students that are progressing quite well in this congregation. After listening to how they gradually started learning the Bible, Christine and I came to one conclusion: SHOW LOVE.
One Bible student, who had just become a publisher when we arrived, said that she did not really understand her Bible teacher very well, but she was deeply touched by the tender love that her Bible student had for her, and her perseverance in coming to visit even though at times the student had a less than friendly attitude.
So, Christine and I are constantly praying that we will reach the hearts of Bible students by cultivating and showing deep love for them.
Coincidentally, our first chance to really practice showing love came when we met the family, who own the supermarket across the street. In the beginning, we would just pass by to chit-chat, especially to the daughter Lucia. One time, I pulled out a magazine to share, but Lucia just said she was not interested. I didn't push it. However, we would always make sure to say hi or stop by to chit-chat sometimes at the end of the day.
Yesterday, I really felt like I hit the jackpot though. I was just chit-chatting with Lucia, feeling like I was not really getting anywhere. But she started telling me how much she disliked working at the market, and how every day she felt like her life was a routine. I tried to sympathize with her, and listened for a while. Finally, I tried to help her see the positive side- that she was developing good work skills, and learning to be a responsible adult. However, most importantly, I emphasized that her situation is temporary. She had a future to look forward to. I discreetly pulled out the BT book and shared the first question on "Is this what God purposed?" She seemed really curious, but also expressed that she felt religion was just in the mind. I told her that if it really gave us the solid truth about life, it is more than just a mental illusion.
Anyway, I think the final icebreaker was when I invited her to come to our apartment for some coffee and dessert. Actually, Christine was the first to suggest that we should have her over. So, we will have her over on Monday.
This is definitely a first for me- to invite someone to my home and to really extend my friendship to them before jumping in on a Bible study. But it is definitely a way to practice the love of neighbor we should all cultivate.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Christine's Perspective

Well, OK, I read Tina's blog, and I think that there were somethings that should be said. Yes, the mugging was NOT fun, but NOT as bad as what people have been thinking. The muggers here are not out to hurt you, all they want most of the time is your cell or wallet and then they'll leave; unlike the US where sometimes they will hurt you and get violent with you. I don't wan't to minimize what has happened, but there was a big positive that was left out that I felt was way more important then the mugging itself--Jehovah's protection and unexpected blessings. As you read in Tina's blog, a man walked over and told the mugger to back off (which the mugger did immediately, eventhough all he got from the sister was an old beat-up cell. He didn't take anything away from me). So we were a little shaken but unharmed because really, Jehovah protected us. I felt very bad for the sister because she's a pioneer and now she has no phone to contact other pioneers to make service arrangements. However, the sister still kept a positive attitude and we went to her study. She then borrowed the study's phone to call the cell company to stop service on the phone and call another pioneer sister to make arrangements. The study asked her why she needed to stop her cell service and the sister told her that her cell phone was stolen (we didn't want to tell the study that we were mugged, because we didn't want the study to feel bad that we got mugged on the way to her place). Anyway, the study then immediately pulled out her old cell phone and gave it to the pioneer sister for free. This cell phone was similar to that of the sister's, just newer and nicer (the sister's old phone was black-and-white screen and half broken, where as this one was in excellent condition and had colored screen). I told the pioneer sister that Jehovah knew that it was time for her to upgrade her cell phone. We both laughed, had a great study. Honestly, things like that would have really bothered me and make me really hate the muggers (like I would wish that he got ran over by a truck or somthing like that....) but this time it didn't. It made me become more aware of my surroundings and put me into the habbit of turning my head to check behind me often, but I wasn't bothered by it or freaked out. I think I really come to understand that people (the mugger was probably Peruvian or Chilian who came to Argentina in hopes for better life but found things to be harder and had no money to go back home) do things because Satan's system often force good people into doing bad things out of despiration. It made me treasure more of God's kingdom and I feel that Jehovah has not only protected us physically, but also mentally. I was not bitter, instead like what Jesus said, to love your enemy. This is the first time ever that I could experience what it means, that forgiving brings peace of mind and helped me move on. And when we continued to put our focus on the ministry, the joy that Jehovah gaved through holy spirit really washed away fear and any negative feelings. In fact, we got a good laugh out of it and a good story to tell. Like I said, it made us more aware of our surroundings, but it didn't rob us of any joy. Especially when you get to experience the peace of mind that Jehovah provides, and the positive change in the way you see things.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day of Unforeseen Circumstances....

Today was really an unbelievable day of unforeseen circumstances.
It started with my clumsy fall down the stairs from our apartment, which fortunately did not result in anything serious.
In the afternoon, when I was walking to the bus stop, I suddenly realized that my long black skirt was covered in bird poop, literally a huge pool of it. Fortunately, I had a napkin so I was able to wipe some of it off, but other parts of it were stuck on. I was also glad that at least I was heading home. I also kept stepping into "water bombs", broken pieces of cement with water that squirts up your leg when you step on it unsuspectingly.
The most dangerous event that occurred, however, was when a sister and Christine were mugged. I was not with them. They were in another part of town, just happening to talk about how the sister constantly gets mugged, when a man came from behind her and put a glass shard against her arm. The sister gave him her cell phone. The man was looking at Christine, and just when Christine was thinking about kicking the man where it hurts, a man came from behind with a blade in his hand. Christine and the sister managed to run away. It was only afterward that Christine realized the man with the blade had rescued them.
Anyway, the most comforting thing that happened today was that when people in the congregation heard about my fall, 5 people came especially to visit me. The funny thing is, I think they were expecting me to be lying in bed and slightly disabled, but I was up and about fine as can be. I thought about fooling them and lying in bed, whispering "I can't move any muscles, only my lips". But I wouldn't have been able to pull it off!
Today was also the first day of preaching for a new Fujianese publisher in the congregation. She lives very close to us, so we are hoping to preach with her more.
If you got this far, congratulations!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Settling into Buenos Aires

Hi friends,
I feel inspired again to continue writing a travel blog!
So yes, here is the blog of random funny and/or encouraging experiences that you can read when you have time (never).

Christine and I just moved into an old-style apartment that is absolutely charming. It belongs to a Witness family who live an hour away from Buenos Aires. The mother in the family, Lilliana, told me that they usually never rent the apartment out. However, because her son is a good friend of one of the elders in our congregation, she was willing to rent it to us at a very good price. I truly feel that getting this nice apartment is a blessing. Not only is the location close to Bethel and the Chinese territory, it is close to all kinds of cafes, restaurants and shopping.

Yesterday was the first time we really ventured out on our own to do return visits. All the publishers here are equipped with a little book called the Guia "T", which has all the street maps and bus routes of the city. So we were able to navigate to our calls quite easily.

It is amazingly easy to get return visits and start Bible studies here... a little unbelievable. Of course, it remains to be seen who are truly sheep, but so far, several people we meet in the territory take the time to listen to you. One reason is that much of the territory is composed of small business owners, mostly grocery store owners. When there are less customers, these people usually take the time to listen.

Today, Christine and I started 2 Bible studies with the Bible Teach book. The first one was with a grocery store lady from Fujian. She said that she believes in the powers of the supernatural world, and she prays to God. We seized the opportunity to ask her why God allows unfairness to exist, and whether he truly cares for us.

The second one was with a young woman who works with her parents at the laundromat. Christine used the theme of the last days and when the world will come to an end as a bait to catch her interest.

One thing we are still getting used to is the public transportation, which is convenient, but a bit of a hassle to get onto. The following scene repeated itself several times today: After finally figuring out that we are indeed on the right bus, we quickly get in and try to get a steady grip as the bus speeds down the road rocking us back and forth. At the same time we are trying to stuff our change into the coin slot to pay our fee, only to realize we were putting it into the wrong slot. Several times we tried to save ourselves the trouble of fumbling with coins by buying a transportation card, but those cards were sometimes a bit troublesome too because the machine would not read them if you did not place them a certain way. Anyway, just little things to get used to.

The Chinese congregation we are attending is interesting, with a mix of Argentine and Chinese culture. There are several Bible students making major changes in their lives to pursue spiritual goals. One brother left his old job for a new one that only paid half the salary so he could attend the meetings. Another young man just became an unbaptized publisher. He has been studying the Bible for only a year, and making rapid progress.