I Received ‘the Requests of My Heart’
AS TOLD BY DOMINIQUE MORGOU
At last, in December 1998, I was in Africa! A childhood dream was now a reality. I had always been thrilled by the thought of Africa’s wide-open spaces and fascinating wildlife. Now I was actually there! At the same time, another dream had come true. I was a full-time evangelizer serving in a foreign land. To many, this might have seemed impossible. My sight is severely limited, and I walk the sandy streets of African villages with the help of a guide dog trained for the streets of European cities. Let me tell you how serving in Africa became possible for me and how Jehovah gave me ‘the requests of my heart.’—Psalm 37:4.
I WAS born on June 9, 1966, in southern France. I was the youngest of seven children—two boys and five girls—all of us cared for by loving parents. However, there was one dark spot in my young life. Like my grandmother, my mother, and one of my sisters, I suffer from a hereditary disease that eventually leads to total blindness.
As a teenager, I was confronted with racism, prejudice, and hypocrisy, which made me rebel against society. It was during this difficult time that we moved to the region of Hérault. There, something wonderful happened.
One Sunday morning, two of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to our door. My mother knew them and invited them in. One of the women asked Mother if she remembered that she once promised that someday she would accept a Bible study. Mother remembered and asked, “When do we start?” They agreed to meet every Sunday morning, and in this way my mother began learning “the truth of the good news.”—Galatians 2:14.
Mother spared no effort to understand and remember what she learned. Being blind, she had to memorize everything. The Witnesses were very patient with her. As for me, whenever the Witnesses came, I hid in my room and only came out when they left. One afternoon, however, Eugénie, one of the Witnesses, met me and spoke to me. She told me that God’s Kingdom would end all hypocrisy, hatred, and prejudice in the world. “Only God holds the key to the solution,” she said. Did I want to know more? The next day, I started my Bible study.
Everything I learned was new to me. I now understood that God is temporarily permitting wickedness on earth for good reasons. (Genesis 3:15; John 3:16; Romans 9:17) I further learned that Jehovah does not leave us without hope. He has given us his wonderful promise of everlasting life on a paradise earth. (Psalm 37:29; 96:11, 12; Isaiah 35:1, 2; 45:18) In that Paradise, I would recover the gift of sight, which I was losing gradually.—Isaiah 35:5.
Taking Up Full-Time Service
On December 12, 1985, I symbolized my dedication to Jehovah by water baptism, joining my sister Marie-Claire, who had already taken this step. My brother Jean-Pierre soon followed suit, as did my dear mother.
In the congregation with which I was associated, there were several regular pioneers, or full-time evangelizers. I warmed to their joy and enthusiasm for the ministry. Even Marie-Claire, suffering from an eye affliction and wearing an orthopedic device on one leg, entered the full-time service. To this day she continues to give me spiritual encouragement. Being surrounded by pioneers in the congregation and in the family helped me to develop a keen desire to share in full-time service myself. So in November 1990, I began serving in Béziers as a pioneer.—Psalm 94:17-19.
Coping With Discouragement
In the ministry, I was helped by the watchful care of other pioneers. Even so, from time to time, I felt discouraged because of my limitations and wished that I could do more. However, Jehovah sustained me through those periods of discouragement. I did research in the Watch Tower Publications Index, looking for life stories of pioneers who like me suffered from impaired vision. I was amazed how many there were! These practical and encouraging accounts taught me to appreciate what I was able to do and to accept my limitations.
To care for my needs, I did cleaning work at shopping malls together with other Witnesses. One day I noticed that my coworkers were going back over the areas that I had just cleaned. Obviously, I was missing a lot of dirt. I went to see Valérie, who was the pioneer in charge of our cleaning team, and I asked her to be frank with me and to tell me if I was making things difficult for everyone else. She kindly left it to me to decide when I felt I could no longer do the job. In March 1994, I gave up my cleaning job.
Again, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of uselessness. I prayed fervently to Jehovah, and I know that he heard my petitions. Once more, studying the Bible and Christian publications was a great help. Even so, while my eyesight was weakening, my desire to serve Jehovah was growing stronger. What could I do?
First a Waiting List, Then a Quick Decision
I applied for training at the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Nîmes and eventually was admitted for three months. It was time well spent. I came to understand the extent of my handicap and learned to adapt to it. Mixing with people who suffered from all kinds of infirmities helped me to realize how precious my Christian hope is. I at least had a goal and could do something productive. In addition, I learned French Braille.
When I returned home, my family noticed how much the training had helped me. One thing, though, that I really did not like was the white cane I had to use. I had a hard time coming to terms with that “stick.” It would be nice to have another aid—perhaps a guide dog.
I filed a request for a dog but was told that there was a long waiting list. Also, the agency would have to conduct an investigation. A guide dog is not given to just anybody. One day a woman who helps run an association for the blind told me that a local tennis club was going to donate a guide dog to a blind or partially sighted person living in our area. She said that she had thought of me. Would I accept? I discerned Jehovah’s hand in the matter and accepted the kind offer. Nevertheless, I had to wait for the dog.
Still Thinking About Africa
While waiting, I turned my attention in another direction. As mentioned earlier, since childhood I have had a deep interest in Africa. Despite my deteriorating eyesight, that interest was stronger than ever, especially since I had learned that so many people in Africa are interested in the Bible and in serving Jehovah. Some time earlier, I had casually mentioned to Valérie that I would like to go to Africa for a visit. Would she like to come with me? She agreed, and we wrote to several French-speaking branches of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Africa.
A reply came from Togo. Thrilled, I asked Valérie to read it to me. The letter was encouraging, so Valérie said: “Well, why not?” After corresponding with the brothers at the branch, I was put in touch with Sandra, a pioneer in Lomé, the capital city. We set our departure date for December 1, 1998.
What a contrast, but what a delight! After landing in Lomé, we exited the plane and felt the African heat engulf us like a blanket. Sandra met us. We had never seen one another before, but right away we felt like old friends. Shortly before our arrival, Sandra and her partner, Christine, had been appointed as special pioneers in Tabligbo, a small town in the interior. We now had the privilege of accompanying them to their new assignment. We stayed about two months, and when we left, I knew that I would return.
A Delight to Be Back
In France, I immediately began preparing for my second trip to Togo. With my family’s support, I was able to make arrangements to stay there for six months. So in September 1999, I was again on a plane bound for Togo. This time, however, I was alone. Imagine the feelings of my family when they saw me leave on my own in spite of my disability! But there was no reason to worry. I assured my parents that my friends, who had already become like family to me, would be waiting for me in Lomé.
What a delight it was to be back in an area where so many people show an interest in the Bible! It is not unusual to see people reading the Bible on the street. In Tabligbo people call you over just to have a Bible discussion. And what a privilege it was to share modest accommodations with two special pioneer sisters! I came to know another culture, a different way of looking at things. First and foremost, I noticed that our Christian brothers and sisters in Africa put Kingdom interests first in their lives. For example, having to walk many miles to the Kingdom Hall does not prevent them from attending meetings. I also learned many lessons from their warmth and hospitality.
One day when returning from field service, I confided to Sandra that I was afraid of returning to France. My eyesight had deteriorated further. I thought of the crowded and noisy streets in Béziers, of the stairs in apartment buildings, and of so many other things that make life difficult for someone with limited vision. In contrast, the streets in Tabligbo, although not paved, were quiet—no large crowds and not much traffic. How would I manage in France now that I was used to Tabligbo?
Two days later my mother called to let me know that the school for guide dogs was waiting for me. A young Labrador retriever named Océane was ready to become my “eyes.” Once again, my needs were cared for and my anxieties dispelled. After six months of happy service in Tabligbo, I was on my way back to France to meet Océane.
After several months of training, Océane was entrusted to my care. Initially, it was not easy. We had to learn to understand each other. Gradually, though, I came to realize how much I needed Océane. In reality, Océane is now a part of me. How did people in Béziers react when they saw me coming to their door with a dog? I met with much respect and kindness. Océane became the “hero” of the neighborhood. Since many people are uncomfortable in the presence of a disabled person, having the dog enabled me to speak of my infirmity in a natural way. People relaxed and listened to me. Indeed, Océane became the best possible conversation opener.
In Africa With Océane
I had not forgotten Africa, and I now set about preparing for my third journey. This time, Océane came along. I was also accompanied by a young couple, Anthony and Aurore, and my friend Caroline—all pioneers like me. On September 10, 2000, we arrived in Lomé.
At first, many were afraid of Océane. Few people in Lomé had ever seen such a big dog, since most dogs in Togo are small. When they saw her harness, some thought that she was a vicious animal that needed to be restrained. For her part, Océane adopted a defensive attitude, ready to protect me against anything she perceived as a threat. Still, Océane soon felt at home in the new environment. When she wears the harness, she is on the job—disciplined, responsible, staying by my side. When she is released, she is playful, sometimes naughty. We have a lot of fun together.
All of us were invited to stay with Sandra and Christine in Tabligbo. To help the local brothers and sisters get used to Océane, we invited them to visit us and explained the role of a guide dog, why I needed one, and how they should act around her. The elders agreed that Océane should come along with me to the Kingdom Hall. Since this arrangement was so unusual in Togo, an announcement explaining the matter was made to the congregation. As for the ministry, Océane came along only when I was making return visits and conducting Bible studies—situations where her presence would be more easily understood.
Preaching in this territory continues to be delightful. I was always touched by the thoughtfulness of the gentle people, demonstrated by kind actions, such as their eagerness to provide me with a chair. In October 2001, my mother came with me on my fourth trip to Togo. After three weeks she returned to France, reassured and happy.
I am deeply grateful to Jehovah that I have been able to serve in Togo. I am confident that Jehovah will continue to give me ‘the requests of my heart’ as I continue to use all I have in his service.a
a Sister Morgou returned to France and was able to make a fifth trip to Togo from October 6, 2003, to February 6, 2004. Sadly, because of medical complications, that trip might be her last to Togo in this system of things. Nevertheless, her strongest desire continues to be to serve Jehovah.
[Pictures on page 10]
I had always been thrilled by the thought of Africa’s wide-open spaces and fascinating wildlife
[Picture on page 10]
Océane came along on return visits
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The elders agreed that I should bring Océane to meetings