I remember about February last year I had visited my sister Megan's huge congregation for a couple weeks as we lived with them in Palm Coast. During the student assignments one night I got really emotional. I was feeling the sharp fresh pain of leaving Uganda. Certain little things just made me contrast and compare what it was like to be there. Every meeting in Uganda was exciting because you were often seeing new ones participate. The students took their assignments so seriously and handled them with such care. I looked at Megan with the tears starting to roll. She grabbed my hand and I asked her, "Will I ever love a congregation like I loved Mbarara congregation?"
"Yes." she whispered with a quiet confidence and a reassuring smile.
For moment I felt better. It was reassuring. But still so hard to imagine.
As a more introverted person, I'm always going to prefer being with less people. Any of you like that? However, when it comes to doing Jehovah's will my preferences come second. Preferences all too often hold us back from being all that we can be, and doing all we can do. Insisting on preferences I venture to say, could even hider Jehovah's holy spirit from working in us. So, I breath deep, push preference aside, I say my prayers, and take it one week at a time.
Now we both have really grown to love our big congregation. After a year we do feel apart of it. We still don't know everyone, despite our efforts to. Which is a reminder of how important a ministry within a congregation is. People are really struggling in this fast paced American life. Most are exhausted, stressed, sick, and it's all they can do to just get there, much less socialize. It's clear too in developed countries like here materialism is a huge hiddrence along with countless social expectations. We could see how people could easily just drift away. (Hebrews 2:1) Keeping them tethered, is our job as brothers and sisters.
Sure, it's an incredible life changing experience to move where the need is great in foreign country....So many in the field in those places want to study the Bible, and hearts are often much more receptive. The love and appreciation they express, just fills you up with joy. And we would love to do it again, Jehovah willing. But if you can't do that, or even I'd say BEFORE you do that, we believe it's good to think about what you can do where you are. On the surface it may appear there's little to do. But look deeper, and you'll probably find there is so much more than you thought. Sometimes you can even do more than you could as a need greater somewhere. It's a great joy to bring people to know Jehovah, but what about those who already know him and are slipping away? Reminds me of what Paul said. "So, then, as long as we have the opportunity, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith."-Galatians 6:10
And beside what you can do in your local congregation. With hard work there may be more to do in your field as well. We are seeing beautiful Bible studies come from our new territory. Most every Sunday our lovely students from South Sudan (a mother and adult son pictured below) have been attending meetings with us. We have several African studies with people from Rwanda and South Sudan. In addition we have some really nice studies with local people. By working "Not At Homes" thoroughly, making diligent attempts to return on interested ones, and even cultivating interest with coworkers, we've see there are many looking for answers and hugering for a relationship with God.
Our prayer is to stay focused and not become distracted by this busy life. Not easy! But we regularly talk to each other and Jehovah about our plans. We look forward to when we can soon apply for the "School for Kingdom Evangelizers". That is our goal and hope, Jehovah willing. But an immense, colossal, I'm talking tremendous, lesson I have learned is this: