My life as an adult was just beginning. I had moved in with a friend to a small town in my home state. It was a step in the right direction toward reaching my biggest goal, to become a missionary. My roommate and I discovered we shared that goal in common! At the convention that summer we met a family who had moved to Ecuador. The enthusiasm and joy literally sparked from their eyes as they told us about it, and we hung on every word. Ecuador was the perfect place for us to go. The government is relatively stable and welcoming to foreigners. The cost of living is low. The branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses there has a practice of welcoming need-greaters (as we call people who move to away from their home area to preach).
I’ve been reading in my journals from that time in my life:
“I can’t believe it! We’re going to Ecuador. Life is so crazy. You work so hard for something for so long and it just seems like it’s not happening. Then all of a sudden, boom! Jehovah blesses you. It’s hard to even imagine what it will be like.”
And then I read the exact same thought in a thank you note from a dear friend of mine who moved to Ecuador a couple of years later. Here’s what she wrote:
“I am just excited that I am finally getting to go to Ecuador. It still doesn’t seem totally real. You plan something so long you just think it will always be a plan. ”
So you adventure seeking intrepid young pioneers out there, DON’T STOP PLANNING! Jehovah will get you there. We had our fears of course. Before we went, we spent many sleepless nights agonizing over the unknowns. We heard countless warnings and doubts expressed.
These fears are also reflected in my journal entries. To do lists. Letters to the branch office. Notes to organise our thoughts for phone calls requesting more information.
In the one above, my friend has a bullet point; “find out if Cara’s hair needs to be dyed”. I mean really!?! Apparently someone had suggested that as a safety measure, so I wouldn’t stand out as much.
On another page were worries about living arrangements. We didn’t have an apartment or even a specific town chosen when we went. And honestly, I think that was a good way.
After experiencing firsthand Jehovah’s guidance and the love of our worldwide brotherhood, I will never let fear of the unknown stop me! And I’m beyond glad that I didn’t let it stop me then!
I ended up spending 2 months in Ecuador. My roommate stayed for 10 months. My friend who wrote the card I quoted stayed 8 years!
By going there I met friends who truly influenced my life for the better. Like the family who took us in and helped us get settled. The father of that family presided over lunch at siesta time and made reading the daily Bible text an event you didn’t want to miss. The mother treated us like her own daughters. Their sons and daughters treated us like siblings. Friends like the American boys of a need greater family who truly understood what we were feeling because they had been there. Like the coordinators at the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses who welcomed us personally despite the busy schedule they already have. The Irish family in the jungle who’s five year old blonde braided daughter spoke Spanish with an Ecuadorian accent and peppered her English with Spanish words.
I had adventures like being herded off a bus and crossing a raging river on a log. On the other side another bus was waiting to take us the rest of the way. We climbed mountains, swam in caves, held snakes, white water rafted on a tributary to the Amazon, danced all night (with the required hip movements that were definitely not in our northern Minnesota dance repertoire), preached all day. The humble people loved to learn about the Bible. It was easy to start conversations.
Being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses can be so much more than just a religion, a Sunday ritual. Jehovah knows what we need. He pushes even the shyest to break out by requesting that we preach the good news. He knows that it’s good for us. This satisfaction is not to be had from any other job or career. I knew that before I went, but I felt it in my heart afterwards.