ARE you looking to expand your ministry by moving to where the need is greater, perhaps a foreign land? If so, you may benefit from the experience of Brother and Sister Bergame.
Jack and Marie-Line have been in full-time service together since 1988. Known for their remarkable adaptability, they have accepted many assignments in Guadeloupe and French Guiana. Both places are now under the supervision of the France branch. Let us ask Jack and Marie-Line a few questions.
What motivated you to take up full-time service?
Marie-Line: As a child growing up in Guadeloupe, I often preached all day with my mother, who was a zealous Witness. I love people, so as soon as I finished school, in 1985, I started pioneering.
Jack: As a youngster, I was surrounded by full-time servants who loved the ministry. I used to auxiliary pioneer during school vacations. On weekends, we would sometimes take a bus to join the pioneers in their territory. We preached all day—ending at the beach. Those days were such fun!
Shortly after marrying Marie-Line in 1988, I said to myself, ‛We are free, so why not do more in the ministry?’ I joined Marie-Line in the pioneer service. A year later, after attending pioneer school, we were appointed as special pioneers. We had several enjoyable assignments in Guadeloupe before being invited to move to French Guiana.
You have received many changes of assignment over the years. What has helped you to adapt to new circumstances?
Marie-Line: The brothers at the French Guiana Bethel knew that our favorite scripture is Isaiah 6:8. So when they called us, they would often start by playfully saying, “Do you remember your favorite scripture?” We knew it meant that an assignment change was coming, so we would say, “Here we are! Send us!”
We avoid making comparisons with past assignments because doing so could prevent us from appreciating what we have. We also take the initiative to get to know our brothers and sisters.
Jack: In the past, some well-intentioned friends tried to discourage us from moving because they wanted us to stay near them. But when we left Guadeloupe, one brother reminded us of Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 13:38: “The field is the world.” So when we change assignments, we remind ourselves that we are still serving in the same field no matter where we are. After all, the people and the territory count the most!
When we arrive in a new territory, we see that others are able to live there quite happily. Hence, we try to live as the locals do. The food may be different, but we eat what they eat and we drink what they drink, taking the appropriate health precautions. We make an effort to speak positively about every assignment.
Marie-Line: We also learn much from the local brothers. I remember when we first arrived in French Guiana. It was raining hard, so we thought we would have to wait for the rain to stop before we could go out preaching. But then a sister asked me, “Shall we go?” Surprised, I responded, “How?” She answered, “Take your umbrella, and we will go on our bikes.” Thus I learned how to hold an umbrella and ride a bike at the same time. Had I not learned, I would never have preached during the rainy season!
You have moved some 15 times. Do you have any tips for others about moving?
Marie-Line: Moving can be a challenge. Still, it is important to find a place where you will feel at home when you come back from the ministry.
Jack: I usually repaint the interior of our home. The brothers at the branch, realizing that we might not be staying long, would sometimes say, “Jack, don’t bother painting this time!”
Marie-Line is an expert packer! She puts everything in boxes and labels them “bathroom,” “bedroom,” “kitchen,” and the like. So when we arrive at our new home, we can more easily place the boxes into the appropriate rooms. She makes a list of the contents in each box so that we can quickly find what we need.
Marie-Line: Because we have learned to be well-organized, we can get right into our routine.
How do you schedule your time so that you “fully accomplish your ministry”?—2 Tim. 4:5.
Marie-Line: On Mondays, we rest and prepare for the meetings. From Tuesday on, we go out in the ministry.
Jack: Although we have an hour requirement, we don’t focus on that. The ministry is the center of our lives. From the time we leave home until the time we return, we strive to speak to all whom we meet.
Marie-Line: When we go on a picnic, for example, I always take tracts with me. Some people approach us and ask for publications, even though we haven’t told them that we are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Accordingly, we are careful about the way we dress and behave. People notice such things.
Jack: We also witness by being good neighbors. I pick up papers, take out the trash, and rake the garden around our home. Our neighbors take notice and sometimes ask, “Would you by any chance have a Bible for me?”
You have often preached in remote territories. Do any of these travels stand out in your mind?
Jack: In Guiana, some territories are difficult to reach. We often have to travel 370 miles (600 km) in a week on bad roads. Our visit to St. Élie, in the Amazon forest, was memorable. It took us several hours to get there using an off-road vehicle and a powerboat. Most people who lived there were gold prospectors. Out of gratitude for our publications, some gave us small nuggets of gold as a contribution! In the evening, we showed one of the organization’s videos. Many locals attended.
Marie-Line: Recently, Jack was asked to give the Memorial talk in Camopi. To get there, we traveled for four hours by motorboat on the Oyapock River. It was an exciting experience.
Jack: Where the water in the river was low, the rapids could be quite dangerous. I can assure you that it is impressive to see those rapids coming into view. A boatman has to know what he is doing. But it was a fine expedition. Although there were only 6 Witnesses present, about 50 people attended the Memorial, including some Amerindians!
Marie-Line: This kind of enriching experience awaits young ones who want to give more to Jehovah. You have to trust in Jehovah in these circumstances, and your faith is strengthened. We often see Jehovah’s hand at work.
You have learned several languages. Are you gifted in languages?
Jack: Not at all. I learned these languages because there was a need. I had to conduct the Watchtower Study in Sranantongo* before I had even given a Bible reading! I asked a brother how I did. He answered, “Sometimes we didn’t understand some words, but it was very good.” The children were a great help. When I made mistakes, they would say something, whereas the adults would not. I learned a lot from the young ones.
Marie-Line: In one territory, I had Bible studies in French, Portuguese, and Sranantongo. A sister suggested that I start with the hardest language and finish with the one most familiar to me. I soon understood the wisdom of that advice.
One day, I had a Bible study in Sranantongo and a second one in Portuguese. When I started the second study, the sister with me said, “Marie-Line, I think there might be a problem!” I realized that I was speaking to a Brazilian woman in Sranantongo instead of Portuguese!
You are dearly loved by those with whom you have served. How have you been able to draw close to the brothers?
Jack: Proverbs 11:25 says: “The generous person will prosper.” We don’t hesitate to give of ourselves to others. Regarding the maintenance of the Kingdom Hall, some have said to me: “Let the publishers do that.” But I reply: “Well, I’m a publisher too. So if there is work to be done, I want to be there.” Though all of us need some privacy, we often remind ourselves that we don’t want our privacy to prevent us from doing good to others.
Marie-Line: We make an effort to show personal interest in our brothers and sisters. In that way, we come to know when they need someone to look after their children or pick them up from school. We can then reorganize our plans to be available to help. We thus develop a close bond with others, being ready to assist them when they need it.
What blessings have you received from serving where the need is greater?
Jack: Full-time service has enriched our lives. We have often been close to nature, enjoying Jehovah’s diverse creation. Although there have been challenges, we have peace of mind because we know that we have the support of God’s people wherever we are.
As a young man, I was imprisoned in French Guiana for my Christian neutrality. I never imagined that I would return there one day as a missionary and be authorized to visit prisons as a minister. Indeed, Jehovah is generous in his blessings!
Marie-Line: My greatest joy is that of giving of myself to others. We are happy to be in Jehovah’s service. It has also drawn us closer together as a couple. At times, Jack will ask if we can invite a discouraged couple over for a meal. Often I reply, “I was just thinking the same thing!” That is how it happens.
Jack: Recently, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Although Marie-Line does not like to hear it, I have said to her: “Darling, if I were to die tomorrow, I would not die ‘at a good old age.’ But I would die satisfied, knowing that I filled my life with spiritual things, with worthwhile things.”—Gen. 25:8.
Marie-Line: Jehovah has opened unexpected doors and allowed us to do things we could never have imagined. Our life has truly been filled with good things. With full confidence in God, wherever his organization asks us to go, there is where we will go!
Sranantongo is a mix of English, Dutch, Portuguese, and African languages, originally developed by slaves.