Can You Serve Where the Need for Kingdom Publishers Is Greater?
“We led a comfortable life in the United States but were concerned that the materialistic environment there could eventually have a negative influence on us and our two sons. My wife and I had formerly served as missionaries, and we wanted to enjoy that simple but happy kind of life again.”
SPURRED by that desire, in 1991, Ralph and Pam decided to write to several branch offices to express their desire to serve where the need for Kingdom publishers is greater. The branch office in Mexico responded that there was an urgent need for Kingdom publishers who could preach to the English-speaking population in that country. In fact, that field, noted the branch, was “white for harvesting.” (John 4:35) Before long, Ralph and Pam, with their sons, then aged 8 and 12, accepted the invitation and began to make preparations to move abroad.
A Vast Territory
Ralph recounts: “Before we left the United States, some well-meaning brothers and sisters told us: ‘Moving abroad is too dangerous!’ ‘What if you get sick?’ ‘Why move to preach in an English-language territory? English-speaking people there will not be interested in the truth!’ However, our minds were made up. After all, our decision to move was not an impulsive act. We had been planning it for years. We had avoided long-term debts, saved money, and had many family discussions about the difficulties we might encounter.”
First, Ralph and his family visited the Mexico branch. There, the brothers showed them a map of the entire country and told the new arrivals, “This is your territory!” The family settled in San Miguel de Allende, a town with a considerable foreign population, located some 150 miles [240 km] northwest of Mexico City. Three years after their arrival, an English-speaking congregation of 19 publishers was formed in that town. That was the first English-speaking congregation in Mexico
There are an estimated one million citizens of the United States living in Mexico. Additionally, there are many Mexican professionals and students who speak English as a second language. Ralph explains: “We prayed for more workers. We always kept an extra bedroom in our home available for brothers and sisters who came to our area to ‘spy out the land,’ so to speak.”
They Simplified Their Life to Expand Their Ministry
Soon more brothers and sisters who wanted to expand their ministry arrived. Among them were Bill and Kathy from the United States. They had already served for 25 years in territories where the need for publishers was great. They were thinking of learning Spanish, but their plans changed after they moved to the town of Ajijic on the shores of Lake Chapala, which is a haven for retirees from the United States. Bill explains, “In Ajijic we got ever more involved in seeking out English-speaking people who wanted to learn the truth.” Within two years after arriving in that town, Bill and Kathy had the joy of seeing the formation of a congregation
Ken and Joanne from Canada wanted to simplify their lives and devote more time to Kingdom activities. They too moved to Mexico. Ken relates, “It took time to get used to living in a location where you may not have access to warm water, electricity, or telephone service for days.” However, sharing in the preaching work was a source of joy. Ken was soon appointed to be a ministerial servant and two years later, an elder. In the beginning, it was a challenge for their daughter Britanny to be part of a small English-language congregation with few other young people. However, after she began sharing in Kingdom Hall building projects, she made many fine friends throughout the country.
Patrick and Roxanne from the state of Texas in the United States were excited to learn about a missionary field not too far away where people speak English. “After visiting Monterrey, a town in northeastern Mexico, we felt that Jehovah was directing us to help there,” says Patrick. Within five days they were able to sell their home in Texas and to “step over into Macedonia,” as it were. (Acts 16:9) Making a living in Mexico has not been easy, but in just two years, they had the joy of seeing a small group of 17 Witnesses grow into a congregation of 40 publishers.
Jeff and Deb are another couple who simplified their life to expand their ministry. They sold their spacious home in the United States and moved into a small apartment in Cancún, a city on Mexico’s east coast. In the past, they were accustomed to attend assemblies in air-conditioned comfort close to home. Now they had to travel eight hours to attend the nearest assembly in English, held in an open-air facility. But they had the deep satisfaction of seeing in Cancún the formation of a congregation of some 50 publishers.
Some Mexican brothers and sisters also began to help with the preaching work in the English language. For example, when Rubén and his family heard that the first English-language congregation had been formed in San Miguel de Allende and that all of Mexico was that congregation’s territory, they immediately decided to assist. This meant learning English, getting accustomed to a different culture, and traveling long distances
Reaching Those Who Are Hard to Reach
In addition to foreigners, there are many Mexicans who speak English. It is often difficult to share the Kingdom message with them because they live in affluent areas where maids answer the door. Or if the householders do come to the door, they may not want to listen to our message because they think that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a small local sect. Yet, when such householders are approached by Witnesses from abroad, some react favorably.
Consider the example of Gloria in the city of Querétaro, in central Mexico. She explains: “I had been contacted before by Spanish-speaking Witnesses but did not listen to them. However, when my family and friends started to have problems, I became depressed and turned to God in prayer, begging him to show me a way out. Shortly thereafter, an English-speaking woman called at my door. She asked if anyone in the home spoke English. Because she was a foreigner, I was curious about her, and I told her that I did speak English. As she gave her presentation, I was thinking, ‘What is this crazy American doing here in my neighborhood?’ But I had asked God for a sign. So maybe this foreigner was God’s answer to my prayer.” Gloria accepted a Bible study and progressed very quickly to baptism, in spite of family opposition. Today, Gloria serves as a regular pioneer, and her husband and son also serve Jehovah.
Rewards for Those Who Expand Their Ministry
Serving where the need for Kingdom publishers is greater has its challenges, but the rewards are many. Ralph, mentioned at the outset, states: “We conducted Bible studies with people from Britain, China, Jamaica, Sweden, and even with royalty from Ghana. Some of these Bible students entered the full-time service themselves. Over the past years, our family has witnessed the formation of seven English congregations. Both our sons began pioneering with us, and they are now serving at Bethel in the United States.”
In Mexico, there are presently 88 English-language congregations and numerous groups. What accounts for such rapid growth? Many English-speaking people in Mexico had never before been contacted by the Witnesses. Others responded favorably because they did not feel the peer pressure that could have hindered them back in their homelands. Still others accepted the offer to study the Bible because they had retired and had time to pursue spiritual interests. In addition, more than one third of the publishers in the English-speaking congregations serve as pioneers, which contributes much to the enthusiasm and growth in those congregations.
Blessings Await You
No doubt more people around the world will respond favorably as they hear the Kingdom message preached to them in their own language. It is therefore heartwarming to note that numerous spiritually-minded brothers and sisters
For more information on serving where the need is greater, see Organized to Do Jehovah’s Will, pages 111-112.
[Box on page 21]
Happy Retirees Draw Attention
Beryl emigrated from Britain to Canada. There she worked as a manager for several international companies. She also became an accomplished equestrienne and was even chosen to represent Canada in the 1980 Olympics. Upon retirement to Chapala, Mexico, Beryl and her husband often ate out in local restaurants. When she noticed English-speaking retirees who appeared to be happy, she introduced herself to them and asked what they were doing in Mexico. The happy diners almost always turned out to be Jehovah’s Witnesses. Beryl and her husband thought that if happiness and a purpose in life come from knowing God, then they too wanted to know him. After attending Christian meetings for several months, Beryl agreed to study the Bible and became a Witness. For several years, Beryl was able to serve as a regular pioneer.
[Box on page 22]
“It Is a Blessing to Have Them With Us”
Those who move to lands where the need for Kingdom publishers is greater are much appreciated by the local brothers. One branch office in the Caribbean wrote: “If the hundreds of foreigners who serve here were to leave, the stability of the congregations would be affected. It is a blessing to have them with us.”
God’s Word states that “the women telling the good news are a large army.” (Ps. 68:11) Thus, it is not surprising that there are many single sisters among those serving abroad. Such self-sacrificing sisters are of great help. A branch office in Eastern Europe observed: “In many of our congregations, there is a high percentage of sisters, at times up to 70 percent. Most of them are new in the truth, but single pioneer sisters who came from other lands provide invaluable assistance by training such new ones. These sisters from abroad are a true gift to us!”
How do such sisters feel about serving in foreign countries? “The challenges are many,” says Angelica, a sister in her mid-30’s who served several years abroad as a single pioneer. “In one assignment, day after day, I trudged through muddy roads and was surrounded by depressing scenes of human suffering. But I felt satisfaction in helping people in the ministry. I was also touched by the many expressions of gratitude from local sisters who often thanked me for coming to help them. One sister told me that my example in coming all the way to her country to serve as a pioneer had moved her also to take up full-time service.”
Sue, a pioneer in her early 50’s, says: “You are definitely faced with challenges, but these cannot compare with the blessings you receive. The ministry is exciting! Since I spend much time in service with young sisters, I share with them what I have learned from the Bible and our publications on how to deal with obstacles. They often tell me that my example of coping with problems while serving for many years as a single pioneer helps them to see that they too can overcome challenges in their life. Helping these sisters gives me a deep sense of fulfillment.”
[Map on page 20]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
San Miguel de Allende
[Picture on page 23]
Some have the joy of witnessing to foreigners who are hearing the good news for the first time