Friday, June 23, 2017

Strange New World

Of all the things Chris and I have in common, one of my favorite things is the dream we share.
The dream of serving together in Turkey.

That's right, Turkey.

When we were dating, we tried to make plans for our future. Chris came from a construction background in Warwick and I came from need greating in Thailand. That was where our skills were best put to use while we were single. But since we can't be in two places at once, where would we be best put to use as a couple?

This is one of many adjustments new couples have to make. Chris and I had different skill sets and goals we wanted to pursue. But what we didn't know is that Jehovah is able to assess us as a couple, despite our differences, and find an assignment that is enjoyable for us both. However, getting to that assignment may take a little patience, flexibility, and humility.

The advice we were given was to take a year just to learn how to be... married. This advice was priceless! A new field will present its own challenges so it's best to enter it as a team who already has experience in their new roles. I was told to look on my marriage as my own need greater field, because nobody could work on it for me! My marriage deserved my full attention. Especially being a sister adapting to my new head. That's a strange new world all by itself... But after the first year was up and we had many valuable lessons under our belt, what then?

While at Warwick, Chris heard a branch report on Turkey and the huge need there. He was hooked immediately. He mentioned it to me while we were dating, and 5 seconds after I googled Turkey, I was in too. With that goal firmly in mind, we kept things simple, prayed, planned, saved and just few months after our one year anniversary, we touched down in Turkey! There were some snags along the way, but i'll get into that later.

There are many, MANY places where the need can be described as "greater". So many in fact, that it can often be a challenge to decide which country/language/route to pursue. Initially, most people might not consider Turkey because of how it is portrayed in the media. I will address that later too. But for now, I thought i'd share some of the good things that drew Chris and I here.

Why is Turkey a great place to serve?

- it has a ratio of one publisher to 27,925 residents

- there was an 8% increase last year

- JW Language is available in Turkish

- english and other foreign language groups desperately need help

- you can live and preach in the same cities you read about in the Bible

- visas are easy and affordable

- theocratic schools are now available in english

- LDC projects are on the increase



Interested in trying out this strange new world too?

Below are a few links that provide extremely helpful information:

Just in case you need more convincing:

This beach is in Turkey. Fethiye, to be exact.
Did I mention that Fethiye has a small english group with big needs?

The food is pretty great too.

Chris and I are serving in Bodrum currently. Soon, we will have to return home to work. But we intend to come back immediately! Next time, i'll share a few more details on what it's really like to live here. 

Bye for now!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Back to the Future

Goodness gracious. I had long hair the last time I posted?

The beautiful natural surroundings of Kanchanaburi
were a welcome change after Pattaya.
That was a long time ago.

After my last post, I returned to Thailand for 6 wonderful months and served in the unforgettably zealous Kanchanaburi group with my dear friend Amy. I had some of the best times of my life in that little group. They became my family.

The field missionaries and special pioneers taught me a new kind of work ethic. My amazing neighbor Minna with her insatiable enthusiasm for life showed me everything else. I had wonderful Bible students, ate some of the best food of my life and at one point, was even part owner of a canoe. On Sundays I would paddle out into the river and practice the ukulele. Of course, I struggled there too. Particularly when it came to dealing with loneliness and exhaustion. But in the end, everything I went through there taught me who I wanted to be.

Thailand became the permanent shape of my heart.

At one pioneer meeting, an elder immortalized us in caricature. And like always, there was eating,     singing, and sharing the stories of how we came from all over the world and ended up here.

We worked hard, we played hard. You like caves and waterfalls? You like preaching in as many languages as you can stand? Join this group. You might end up having the time of your life.

I know real life involved a lot more sweat and frustration than this picture implies. 

But I like remembering it this way. 

These moments were real too. They accented the deep respect I felt every day for those around me who put copious amounts of love and effort into sharing the good news. 

Plus, this picture documents the existence of my scooter accident scar! Pretty much nothing left of it now.

Preaching in Thailand the second time involved a great deal of video showing. It's amazing how quickly that became a way of life. My first year, I used mainly the old style tracts. When I came back, it was with new tracts and videos! They took the ministry to a whole new level, multiplying my limited Thai by leaps and bounds. What a gift from Jehovah.

We were working on sign language too! Minna and I helped one of our elders occasionally with his deaf student. Our group may have had only 16 publishers, but they knew how to pack out a hall for Sunday meeting.


It almost seems cruel to reduce the people who meant so much to me during that time to a paragraph and a few photos. It does not do any of them justice, for they are all larger than life and refuse to fit on this page. If you want, you can visit and meet them for yourself, which I highly recommend.

But my six months came to an end. I went home for a visit and something else happened to my heart.

A boy.

Christopher Clayton Ross Dowding, to be exact.

In almost less time than it takes to write it, we fell in love. The serious kind. He was at Warwick and I was in Washington, so it took a little maneuvering to make it work. But we had the determination. He was everything I did and did not expect. And yet a very sure voice inside of me calmly said yes, so that was that.

We got married.

He was there long term and I was only there temporarily but I am so thankful we had the privilege of working together on World Headquarters! My dad and I went out together for painting. The three of us dated quite well together. And as you can see, we remained highly visible at all times.

We had a lovely little wedding on Whidbey Island, Washington.

We now live and pioneer in Mason, Michigan. What's Mason like, you ask? Well, Mason is the kind of place where not only does everyone know your name, but they know your mother's and your grandmother's name too. Chris grew up near there and knows just about everyone. I'm trying to keep up.

In Mason, the wheat and corn fields stretch for miles and there are barns a-plenty. Some of them are even adorned with wild cats. One has a real stuffed polar bear inside. Or so i've heard.

Around here, it's country living at its best.
We buy our eggs and honey off the side of the road. A sister is always baking something and bringing it to the hall. One of Chris' Bible students even has a small farm and gives us milk straight from the cow. I make ice cream with it.

However, the seasons are a bit drastic and i'm learning about snow. Sometimes the hard way. But one thing's for sure. In Mason, the leaves look better dead than alive. Come to Mason in Fall. You'll see.

We own and operate a small painting business to support ourselves. We work together and I like it that way. Chris gets the high stuff. He's got longer arms than me.

But I didn't crack open this dusty old blog just to tell you all that.

As pleasant as it's been to reminisce about the past three years, I've got something more exciting to share with you. So let's just leave the past in the past.

It's time to go back to the future.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Party of the Year

If Jehovah threw a party,
what would it look like?

After this year's string of larger than life International Conventions, I feel like we all got a glimpse.

Convention on the whole did not feel like convention. 
It felt like a party. 
The excitement levels were through the roof!
We had been preping for months, making jewelery, candy gift bags, buttons, cards and other souvenirs. And that was just our family! The amount of time that was dedicated and sacrificed for this event was mind blowing. 

I only knew how many late nights I did. I would work on various projects in almost any spare moment I had (and plenty I didn't). I couldn't seem to stop. It was making me so happy it almost felt like an addiction. And it dawned on me that this was being repeated in households all across Washington in thousands of different ways.

For many brothers and sisters, this summer felt like the busiest of our lives. While exhaustion was a constant threat, it never fully got the upper hand. Working for Jehovah is its own reward. It was a joy of gift giving on a level I have never experienced before. Knowing we were all selflessly working together to welcome our brothers we had never met unified us in a new way. 

We were all doing things that had maybe only been a hobby before, but now doing it for our God and brotherhood elevated and dignified our various pastimes. It was a fun couple of months. And that was just the gifts!

More than 500 brothers and sisters were also part of entertaining our guests. Incredible videos, (one of which made it to the first JW TV broadcast) songs, dances and dramas were prepared, rehearsed and refined over and over and OVER again.

I got to be part of a singing group that performed for our evening gatherings. That was a privilege that really meant a lot to me. Many times we give up little things we enjoy that aren't wrong but that we simply don't have the time for in our spiritual routines. Music had been one of those things for me for a while. So to be assigned to practice something I loved with a group of awesome friends every week for months... well that was a blessing I never saw coming. There again, singing is fun. Singing for Jehovah? Even better.

I also got to help out with a shadow dance. We performed it silhouetted behind a screen as we told the story of a couple's life from their childhood all the way through Armaggedon. While the two main characters did their thing, the rest of us rolled, folded and generally shape shifted into trees, planes, cars and benches around them. It was crazy. Another wonderful unexpected memory from convention.

After our performances, we got to give the delegates an enthusiastic send off that turned into a love riot. We sang, clapped, yelled, posed and had such a rush of brotherly affection that some people were almost floating off the ground. Love among strangers and joy among hard working volunteers may happen every day among Jehovah's people but it never loses its beauty.

Then suddenly, after months of preparation, convention arrived. Even more suddenly, 4 am arrived when we had to wake up and hit the road to beat the traffic. We met in a beautiful outdoor stadium that had only been used for the university's football team. We had approached them before but they were never interested in renting to us, until Jehovah wanted their stadium for his convention that is. Then they found themselves saying yes.

Anyways, that's where we had the party, I mean... convention. Why did it feel like a party? Well half of us were in costumes to start off with. And almost everyone was getting gifts. The delegates had gigantic bags stuffed with souvenirs that got refilled each day! And of course if you count the days before and after, there was loads of singing, dancing and music. Not to mention, when the missionaries came onto the field, we were all very moved. We tried to contain ourselves, and being Seattle, we did quite well. Until the missionaries started leaving the grounds. The clapping gave way to a roar of cheers and shouting.

So there we were, meeting beautiful people and feeling so appreciative to be brought together. Not only was the love between each other fully evident, but the love of the governing body shone bright as THEY bestowed THEIR gifts on us! Gifts they had been preparing all year, videos, books and tracts. I think the governing body gives us more gifts than anybody else. They felt like the warm and generous hosts of these great and international parties, beaming with love and friendship across giant screens all around the world.

But the true source of all this delight and joy is our happy god. It was he that first gave us peace of mind and heart,  he that introduced us to our like minded friends, he who organized us by his faithful slave and he who blesses our hard work and sacrifices with truly astounding and refreshing events like these! It reminds me of the festivals Jehovah organized for the nation of Israel. Those must have been something. Of course, ours are pretty incredible too. If this is what we can do stuck in the middle of Satan's system, I'm thrilled to imagine the kind of festivals we will have in paradise. Jehovah knows better than any of us what makes the heart of mortal man rejoice so it only follows that HIS festivals will be some of the highlights of our future lives.

And now, after that wonderful send off and a global campaign to finish off the service year, I'm happily back in Thailand! More to come soon...

An assortment of gifts the delegates brought for us. Covered our dining room table.

My sign made it to the big screen!
There were alot of great ones out there including the much anticipated "We love you more than coffee!"

So my friend got married at the branch in Cote d'Ivoire and none of us could be there for it. But lo and behold! One of the sisters that was in her wedding came to our convention! And I ended up randomly sitting next to her. Details were extracted.

Our cast, one of the 4 giant crews that performed at the evening gatherings.

Part of our smaller but no less adorable group that performed for the congregation service day.

OH! and that's the last time you're gonna see me with long hair for a while. Just a heads up :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Falling in Love

With Myanmar.

You might too after watching this! There are a few versions of this video floating around, but this is the one I made for my aunt and uncle who came with us to the convention from Florida. They are in the Cambodian group in Jacksonville. After Myanmar, they finally got to go to Cambodia to see what it was like for themselves. They loved the ministry there!

If you'd asked me two years ago if I would ever go to international convention, I would have said probably not. I thought it would always be prohibitively expensive, seeing as how we had been accepted to several in the past but repeatedly chosen to back out.

Once again, in the month before convention, I felt a financial squeeze. I worried I had been frivolous. Was Special Convention a need? Was it wise to shorten an assignment to pay for a vacation? I had mixed emotions.

Then I went to Myanmar. It soon became clear that I could have paid twice as much for that experience and it still would have been a bargain. It probably changed the course of my life. But i'm still figuring that out!

So not only did I learn that special/international conventions are a privilege to always reach out for, but I learned to stop guessing what I can do or where I will be. Because two years ago, I thought I would never make it to an international convention. But now i'm attending two in one year! Not to mention, at the second convention, we won't simply be attending. We'll be hosting! Seattle's international convention is coming up fast and there's so much to do. It's incredible. Jehovah has so many surprises waiting for us.


Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Search for Enlightenment

This video is based on information and footage from the 2014 International Convention tours in Myanmar. 
It briefly reviews things we learned to help us teach Buddhists more effectively. 

Buddhism takes many forms and can be accompanied by a wide range of beliefs and practices. However, because it often focuses on the life and teachings of one man, Buddhists may initially find it easier to relate to the life and teachings of Jesus. 

Belief in a Creator is not taught, nor are answers often sought to such questions as, 'Where do we come from?' or 'Why does God allow suffering?' 

The highest point in Thailand
Family is of utmost importance to many cultures that embrace Buddhism. Showing how the Bible can improve their family life is often of great interest to both men and women. 

Buddhism teaches that the end of suffering is reached only by countless lifetimes of good deeds and meditation. Since the reward is so far off, many Buddhists simply focus on giving offerings to ancestors and monks as well as being kind to others, while making the most of their life now. 

In contrast to Buddhist teaching, the solution to mankind's problems as presented in the Bible is quite simple and easy to understand. One teacher even referred to it as "a shortcut." By having faith in the ransom, a person only needs one lifetime to escape the effects of sin and death. Appreciation for the ransom can help them gradually build faith in God.

Hope this helps!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The 2014 Awesome Awards


Last year meant something different to each of us. Maybe it was good. Maybe it was tough.
But each of us have certain people without which the year would have just been less.

This is about those people.

Together we went on studies, ate som tam, sweated and laughed at ourselves. You made me pies, fixed my bike and taught me Thai. For your friendship, self-sacrifice, weirdness, enthusiasm, advice, comfort and heart, I thank you. I could not have done it without your support and general acts of awesomeness.

You are extraordinary and this is for you.

Last day of convention in Myanmar

So many more videos to come! A month travelling in Thailand produces insane amounts of footage.
Bye for now :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

This Is My Life

Welcome to my territory.

I live alone now and as I suspected, I have begun talking to myself.
Amy had to go home for a bit to attend a wedding, so it's just been me and the cats. 

And the cockroaches.
Oh, and a mouse.
Hey, it's a party up in here!

My bathroom has been surprising me lately. This girl talks a lot about her bathroom, you say? I know. I'm appalled as well. Before Thailand, bathrooms were never a big deal. But now...

Ok, so a cockroach lives in my sink. He only comes out at night. And out of the kindness of his heart, he only sticks his antennae out at me. Either out of the overflow hole or sometimes out from under the rim of the sink. Just waving his little antennae at me, inches away. Same spot every night. Broadcasting who knows what.
Anyways, he has a buddy that lives on the door. So when I open the door, I hear an awful scuffling in the dark and I duck to make sure he doesn't get excited and fall on my head or anything. He's always shocked that I open the door, really he should know by now. Anyways, to remove this nightly scuffle, i've started leaving the door open. Also, breaking news. One of them now likes the soap.

The other day after service I was taking a much needed and relaxing shower when I happened to glance down and see something coming out of the drain. Something ALIVE. Things come out of the drain sometimes but this was the first time it had been alive. A long thin body eeked its way out... to my absolute horror I discovered it was a millipede. And it should have been drowning. (because my shower always floods, the drain is the worst drain in the world) But it wasn't! This little monster could breathe UNDERWATER. I couldn't help myself,  I had to watch his every move for the remainder of my no longer peaceful shower.

But what about that mouse?

I was cleaning the bathroom. I picked up the trash can and saw that a piece of trash had fallen on the ground behind it. Oh wait. That's not trash. That's a rat.
Shut the door. Think.

I have cats!! Yay!! I grabbed the nearest cat, shoved it in the bathroom and shut the door. I listened hopefully for the sounds of a live action Tom and Jerry play being reinacted in my home. But all was quiet. I opened the door. My dainty little girl looked up at me with wide eyes.
I put her almost on top of the mouse. Now keep in mind, this girl is a cockroach and lizard ASSASSIN. She leaves a trail of carnage behind her. So I could rightfully assume this was a good idea.
It wasn't. I removed her.
Thinking again. Grabbing tupperware and cutting board....
Yeah. I caught that ratmouse before it could run up my pants. (I have it on good authority that rats do this.) Then I sort of bleached the whole bathroom.

Text Messages

A Bible student cancelled a study because she was sick. She did it by text message. I understood the first part but had to Google the rest. This is the answer I got: "Sorry, I didn't go to work today. I have stomach ache for two days and plant diseases. See you next week!"
Plant diseases? Turns out she misspelled something like "i'm weak with hunger" and it quickly turned sour. I'm glad it was just a typo. Because I was momentarily starting to wonder just what kind of diseases a girl could get from the plants here.

But she's not the only one who can't spell! Another Bible student asked me to pick her up for meeting and I had to have Cut help me respond. So then I wrote, "Sure! Meet your butt later!" This is why you must double check. ALWAYS.
Study prep!

Last week I had to teach a Bible student about 1914, that segment in the back of the Bible Teach book, in Thai! And she had a question!! She did the math and ASKED, "Shouldn't the answer be 1913?" So then I had to explain the no zero year, and the fact that it happened in October of 607 so 1/4 of the year + 3/4 of the year in 1914...
In the end we all looked at each other like, "Well... that kinda makes sense. I guess." But chalk any of it making sense up to the holy spirit. A year ago, this girl was Buddhist. Then a foreigner wanders in and starts baby talking to her every week. Flash forward one year: she's dissecting Bible prophecy. Holy spirit.

Cut is doing amazing by the way. She's my REAL pioneer partner now!! She auxilliary pioneered right out of the pool practically. She was worried about meeting the hour requirement. But she beat it of course :)

You gotta try a witness parade one day. You MUST.

Some Convention Highlights
Experience: An ex-Olympian gymnast was interviewed! After he won the silver medal, he found the glory was short lived. Friends who used to support and flatter him, disappeared. Friends actually stole and sold his medals for alcohol! Two times he overdosed and have to be saved by doctors. He also spent four years in prison. Think about THAT, the next time you watch the Olympics!! Not such a great life for Olympians. All sacrifice before, all disappointment after. Of course now that he’s found the truth, he is happy. Now serving in Thailand.

Brother Noumair called this a family reunion of full-time servants and told us he was so glad we could spend this time together as a family. The governing body has respect for need greaters. We are the spark plugs of Southeast Asia. “You are the ones we need to keep strong,” he said. It’s a battlefield out there. No wonder we come home exhausted. It’s because we're fighting the teachings of the demons. 

GO outside and get a Bible study. The people will teach you the language. Every single person is your teacher.

The intellectual approach will not bring any people into the truth. Live the truth. Don’t be impatient. Show them you love the father. Let your eyes show that. I LOVE THE FATHER!! If you don’t show them, your studies will shut down. Brother Noumair admitted he shut many studies down this was when he was a missionary and he wished he knew then what he knows now. 

Never say “it seems right” and then point to a few isolated cases of when it worked. True story of a man with OCD who showered hundreds of times a day. He couldn’t take it anymore. He put a gun in his mouth and tried to commit suicide. Instead of dying, he shot out the portion of his brain that caused his disorder. He survived and went on to attend a university. But would you recommend “bullet therapy” as a solution for someone else??

About the new tracts! When we put a tract in their hand, Jehovah has just obligated that person to use their gift of free will. They must choose the world or the kingdom. You’ve done your job just by handing it to them. 
(Now after I hand them a tract, I whisper, “Choose wisely…”)

This little cutie took a seat next to me right as the program started. A sister had invited his family to attend the convention that morning at breakfast. He was the only one that came. He sat down next to me and said, "I want to learn about God!" I gave him the tracts which he immediately began using like a workbook, checking off his answer to the question on the front. I showed him god's name in the Bible but he knew it already. So I asked if he had any questions he wanted answered. He had 3 which he numbered for me:
1. When will I see you (yehova)?
2. When are you gotta destroyd Lucifer?
3. When am I got a go to heaven?

I did my best to answer them simply with a few scriptures. He couldn't stay long but before he left he got my email and a YPA book. He was only ten years old! Kids these days...

What am I looking at?

You may be asking yourself that question right now. I'll tell you. Asians are obsessed with being white. Maybe even more than we are obsessed with being tan. And their obsession is usually a bit safer than ours since it means they are incredibly careful about protecting themselves from the sun. However, some take the whitening thing too far. Here is one example.

This is for whitening your underarms.

Can you imagine?? Did you ever feel worried about the shade of your underarms? EVER? The commercials for it are preposterous too. It's always some perfect little girl riding the subway, too ashamed to raise her bedarkened arm to hold on to the rail... But she needn't worry. With a little help from some Extra Whitening Deodorant, she can transform from hideous monster into confident bleached she-hero in no time...

I only go on this rant because most of the labels on the deodorants are only in Thai, thus it takes me  f o r e v e r
to guess which one WON'T bleach my underarms. There are usually only a few! I REALLY don't want to accidentally buy this stuff. Anyways, thanks for making buying deodorant scary, Thailand.

Sarah and her sister Abby
Sez Kapow

Enjoy reading about Thailand? You should hear about life in CAMBODIA. And I know just the person you should hear about it from. Sarah! I heard about her blog from some friends. Became an instant fan. Then I actually got to meet her at convention this year! Let me just say, we've got some super fun people here in Southeast Asia. So what experiences can you expect from Sez? Well, how bout that time she got caught in a poop flood coming home from meeting? That's a good one. I only recently got caught in one of those myself. But i'll let her tell you about it. So check it out! It has cartoons!!

Serving in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Pop Quiz: What do you do when your tire blows late at night? 

Find a mechanic? 
WRONG. All the ones nearby are closed. 

Ask that lady making fried hot dogs on the corner for help? 
WRONG. You don't know how to say tire. Or exploded. And your sad puppy dog face is questionable. 

Walk it home? 
Nuh-uh. Too far babycakes. 

Give up? I did too. Then I called a dear, DEAR brother and sister (Joe & Fa) who always bail me out of crisis situations. They came and told me that you can get a motorcycle taxi* guy to fix it! That's right. Those annoyingly everywhere taxi guys always honking and beeping and yelling, "TAXI! Taxi Madame!!" Well, normally I only shake my head "NO" at them but now I find out that they are my knights in shining armor. So for anyone who may drive a scooter in Thailand in the near future: A motorcycle taxi will either GRAB a mechanic and bring him back to you or fix a tire right there on the spot! That's what happened to me. Cost me $6. Not too bad.

* you can tell they're a motorcycle taxi if they have on a vest and helmet

OK I think that's about all for now, other than the fact that I just ate a pineapple so good it made me WEEP. Next up, I have my first international convention to look forward to! Mom and dad are coming to visit in about 10 days and we will begin a whirlwind tour of Thailand, pop over to Myanmar and then i'm homeward bound. Is this my life? It's hard to believe sometimes. Pretty hard to believe. 

Picture Time

Me, Carlee, Amy, Janelle: Joyous.

Shawn with his Bible student Roger at convention.
I always look forward to Roger's original and heartfelt comments at the meetings.

Carlee, Zina, Me, Cut, Amy: After Cut's Baptism!

Floating Market in Bangkok

All the power lines are this sketchy. And that electrical box was just open.

Only one more month in Thailand???? Sad but true.

Oh and Glen and Janelle made a video that everyone should see. I love them!! And the guy laughing like a maniac at the end? He's laughing at me. Because I just smashed my head into a TV. 
It's a long story. 

Just watch the video...