“Words just can’t describe the joy that can be had from serving where the need is greater!” That is the view of Joshua, who lives in the United States but served for a time in Guyana. His joy is shared by many Witnesses who have served in this fruitful South American country.* What practical lessons can these need-greaters teach us? How can these lessons prepare you to serve in a foreign land if that is your desire?
What Motivated Them?
Before moving to Guyana, a brother named Linel preached in seldom-worked territory in his home country, the United States. “A group of 20 of us were assigned to a rural part of West Virginia,” he says. “The preaching and association I enjoyed during our two weeks there changed my life! I became even more determined to serve Jehovah as fully as possible.”
A married couple named Garth and Erica began to think seriously about serving in a foreign land, and they chose Guyana. The reason? “My husband and I knew a married couple who had moved there,” explains Erica. “Their enthusiasm and love for what they were doing motivated us to move there too.” Erica and Garth spent three happy years in what they describe as a “cherished assignment.” Garth says: “We tasted foreign service and saw that it was good.” He and his wife later went to Gilead School and now serve in Bolivia.
How Did They Prepare?
Bible principles encourage us to keep our life simple. (Hebrews 13:5) We are also encouraged to count the cost when we make big decisions in life. (Luke 14:26-33) That certainly includes decisions about moving to a foreign country! Garth writes: “Before leaving for Guyana, Erica and I had to simplify our life. This meant selling our business, our house, and all the unnecessary things stored in our house. That took a few years. Meanwhile, we maintained our desire to serve in Guyana by keeping our goal in mind and making yearly trips to that country.”
Another factor to consider is income. Need-greaters in some lands are able to work in the foreign land if the law there permits them to do so. Some do the same work they did at home by working remotely using a computer. Others choose to return to their home country for short periods of time in order to work there. A couple named Paul and Sinead went back to Ireland once a year to work. Their routine helped them to serve in Guyana for 18 rewarding years, including seven years after their daughter was born.
Psalm 37:5 says: “Commit your way to Jehovah; rely on him, and he will act in your behalf.” Christopher and Lorissa from the United States regularly prayed about their goal to serve in a foreign land. Also, during their family worship, they considered what they would have to do to make a successful move, listing both the pros and the cons. Because language was a big factor for them, they chose Guyana, where English is the official language.
Next, they acted on the principle stated at Proverbs 15:22: “Plans fail when there is no consultation, but there is accomplishment through many advisers.” They wrote to the branch office overseeing the work in Guyana,* outlining their availability and background. At the same time, they inquired about local medical services, the climate, and local customs. The branch answered their questions and put them in contact with a body of elders in the area where they would later move.
Linel, mentioned earlier, is now a traveling overseer in Guyana. Before moving there, he too applied the principle at Proverbs 15:22. “Besides saving for the trip,” he says, “I talked with others who had served in a foreign land. I discussed the matter with my family, the elders in my congregation, and our circuit overseer. And I read everything I could find in our publications about serving where the need is greater.”
Many who want to serve in a foreign country wisely decide to visit there first. “The first time we went to Guyana,” say Joseph and Christina, a married couple, “we stayed for three months. That was long enough for us to see what it was like. Then we went home, wrapped up our affairs, and made the move.”
How Did They Adjust?
To serve God successfully in a foreign land, need-greaters must have a spirit of self-sacrifice and a willingness to adjust to local conditions and customs. For example, those who move from cooler regions to the tropics often discover that their new home teems with all kinds of insects. “I wasn’t used to so many bugs,” says Joshua, quoted earlier. “And they all seemed to be larger in Guyana! But in time I got used to them. I also found that you can keep bugs to a minimum by keeping your home clean. That includes washing dirty dishes, taking out the garbage, and regularly cleaning the house.”
Adjusting to life in another country may also mean adjusting to unfamiliar foods and learning how to prepare them. “My roommate and I asked the brothers and sisters to help us learn how to cook with local ingredients,” recalls Joshua. “After we learned how to prepare a new dish, we would invite some from the congregation to share it with us. This was also an enjoyable way to get to know the brothers and to build friendships.”
Concerning local customs, Paul and Kathleen recall: “The need to adjust to new standards of etiquette and acceptable dress in the tropics was something we had not faced before. So we had to be humble and make changes, while not compromising Bible principles. Adapting to the local culture drew us closer to the congregation and had a positive effect on our ministry.”
How Did They Benefit?
Joseph and Christina speak for many when they say: “The blessings far outweigh the challenges and difficulties. Stepping outside our comfort zone helped us to adjust our priorities. The value of things we once considered important lessened in our minds. Each experience we had motivated us to continue doing all we could for Jehovah. We became truly content and satisfied.”
Erica, quoted earlier, says: “Serving as need-greaters allowed my husband and me to learn more fully just what it means to put your trust in Jehovah. We have seen his helping hand in ways we had not experienced before. And as we shared new experiences together, we drew closer as a couple.”
A history of the work in Guyana can be found in the 2005 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Trinidad and Tobago branch oversees the work there.