Can You Step Over Into Macedonia?
AT THE seaport city of Troas in Asia Minor, the apostle Paul received a vision. A Macedonian man entreated him: “Step over into Macedonia and help us.” As soon as Paul saw the vision, he and his traveling companions drew “the conclusion that God had summoned [them] to declare the good news” to the Macedonians. The result? At the principal Macedonian city of Philippi, Lydia and her household became believers. Others in that Roman province of Macedonia followed.
A similar zealous spirit is observed among Jehovah’s Witnesses today. Many have willingly moved at their own expense to areas where the need for Kingdom proclaimers is greater. For example, Lisa wanted to make the ministry more of a focus in her life. She moved from Canada to Kenya. Trevor and Emily, who also are Canadians, went to Malawi with the goal of expanding their ministry. Paul and Maggie, from England, saw their retirement as a golden opportunity to do more in Jehovah’s service and made their way to East Africa. Do you have a self-sacrificing spirit? Could you consider making such a move? If so, what Bible principles and practical suggestions may help you to succeed?
One thing you need to consider is your motives. The greatest commandment, Jesus said, is: “Love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” The reasons for serving in a foreign territory should be love for God and a desire to fulfill the commission of making disciples. Jesus continued: “The second, like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’” Love of neighbor is manifested in a sincere desire to help. (Matt. 22:36-39; 28:19, 20) Serving in a foreign land usually involves much work and a spirit of self-sacrifice. It is not just an adventure. You have to be motivated by love. Remco and Suzanne, from the Netherlands, now serving in Namibia, sum it up this way, “What keeps us here is love.”
Willie, who is a circuit overseer in Namibia, notes: “The ones who have stayed in the foreign field did not come with the expectation that the local brothers would take care of them. They came with the idea of serving along with the local brothers, helping them in the preaching work.”
After examining your motives, ask yourself: ‘What experience do I have that could be useful in a foreign field? Am I an effective minister? What languages do I speak? Am I willing to learn a new one?’ Make it a matter of serious discussion with your family. Consult with the elders in your congregation. And certainly make it a matter of prayer to Jehovah. Such an honest self-examination should help you to see whether you really have the ability and determination to serve in a foreign field.
Where to Serve
Paul was called to Macedonia in a vision. Today, Jehovah does not use supernatural means to direct us. Yet, through this magazine and other publications, God’s people learn of many territories with much need. So start by making a list of such locations. If you are not ready to learn a new language or your stay in a foreign land will not be permanent, consider serving where you already speak the predominant language of the country. Then explore such issues as visa requirements, transportation, security, general cost of living, and climate. You may find it helpful to talk to those who have already made a similar move. Have a prayerful attitude in doing so. Remember that Paul and his companions had been “forbidden by the holy spirit to speak the word in the district of Asia.” Although they tried to go into Bithynia, “the spirit of Jesus did not permit them” to do so. Similarly, it may take some time to determine where you can be of real help.
By now you may have identified a few realistic options. If you are thinking of serving in a foreign land, write to the branch offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the countries you have in mind. Outline your theocratic background as well as any specific questions you may have, such as about the cost of living, the type of accommodations you might be able to locate, available health facilities, and opportunities for secular work. Then give your letter or letters to the service committee in your congregation. They will add their letter of recommendation and send it directly to the branch offices you specified. The replies will likely help you decide where you can be most effective.
Willie, quoted earlier, observed: “Those who have done well usually visited the country first and scouted out places where, realistically, they could be happy. One couple recognized that they would find it difficult to be in a remote area. So they settled in a small town where there was a need but where they could have a standard of living that would allow them to be happy.”
Facing New Challenges
Moving away from home and entering into a completely new environment will no doubt present some challenges for you. “Feelings of loneliness can be extremely difficult,” says Lisa, mentioned earlier. What helps her? Staying close to the local congregation in her new home. She made it a goal to learn everyone’s name. To accomplish this, she arrived early for the meetings and lingered afterward to talk with the brothers and sisters. Lisa worked with others in the ministry, invited many to her home, and made new friends. She says: “I do not regret the sacrifices. Jehovah has really blessed me.”
After raising a family, Paul and Maggie moved out of their home of 30 years. He relates: “Getting rid of possessions was unexpectedly easy. Leaving family behind was the real challenge, much worse than we anticipated. We sobbed our hearts out on the plane. It’s so easy to think, ‘We just can’t do this.’ But we relied on Jehovah. Making new friends gives you added determination to carry on.”
Greg and Crystal chose to move from Canada to Namibia because they spoke English, the country’s official language. Later, though, they saw how useful it would be to learn a local language. “At times, we got discouraged. However, only after learning the local language did we understand the culture. Close association with the local brothers helped us to adjust to our new surroundings.”
Such a humble and willing attitude can have a positive effect on the local brothers too. Jenny fondly remembers families who moved to Ireland, where she grew up. “They were the hospitable ones,” she says. “They really came to serve, not to be served. They were so zealous and happy that I too had to try it.” Jenny now serves with her husband as a missionary in the Gambia.
The Blessing of Jehovah “Makes Rich”
How enriching Paul’s experience in Macedonia was! Some ten years later, he wrote to the brothers in Philippi: “I thank my God always upon every remembrance of you.”
Trevor and Emily, who served in Malawi before being invited to the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, feel similarly. “Sometimes we wondered if we were doing the right thing, but we were happy. We were closer to each other and felt Jehovah’s blessing.” Greg and Crystal, mentioned earlier, report, “There is nothing that we would rather be doing.”
Admittedly, not everyone will be in a position to serve in a foreign land. Some may do better by moving within their own country to an area where the need is greater. Others can reach out for goals of serving in other congregations near their home. The important thing is to do all you can to serve Jehovah. (Col. 3:23) Thus, the inspired words will be true for you: “The blessing of Jehovah
To examine yourself to see if you might serve in a foreign field, consider the following questions and honestly and prayerfully evaluate realistically whether such a move is for you. Information from past issues of The Watchtower can help you to do so.
• Am I a spiritual person?
• Am I an effective minister?
• Can I live away from family and friends?
• Can I learn a new language?
• Can I afford the move financially?
[Picture on page 6]
A humble and willing attitude can have a positive effect on the local brothers
[Picture on page 7]
Those who come to serve are the ones who are successful