Wednesday, December 29, 2010

District Convention in Togo, West Africa

My nephew posted some pics from their recent District Convention. Here are the sisters cleaning up before the assembly starts.

My nephew, the tall one, and another brother being interviewed for Assembly part.

The brothers and sisters lining up to receive their new releases.

The "cool" brothers, according to my nephew! Ha!

The participants in the drama.

Some of the sweetest smiles you will ever see!

I hope you enjoyed your visit to a Togo Assembly.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Historic 1000th Kingdom Hall Built in Malawi

Emailed report from friends:

Last week on Wednesday, September 29, the 1000th Kingdom Hall was completed. This represents a real milestone in the theocratic story of Jehovah's people here in Malawi.

The program started in 1999 with the first Kingdom Hall being built in Lilongwe for the Naifisi Congregation. At that time people viewed Jehovah's Witnesses as a religion withouty churches. But that view has drastically changed now with the 1000th Kingdom Hall now completed. Kingdom Halls are need each year to care for the continued growth as there are now 1,230 congregations.

To prove the point, a Chichewa dictionary (which is the main language of the contry) that gives the equivalent English word to the Chichewa, there is an entry for Jehovah's Witnesses. The dictionary gives an example of how the words can be used in a sentence. The example is: "Jehovah's Witnesses have built many churches."

The brothers and sisters are extremely grateful to Jehovah and his organization for this wonderful arrangement of building Kingdom Halls in lands with limited resources.

Manoywe Congregation, in Balantyre,. Kingdom Hall number 1000 as it neared completion.

Also noteworthy to mention are the District Conventions that finished last month in September. They strated with something special, the complete New World Translarion in Chichewa was released by Brother Gerrit Losch of the governing body. Three stadiums in the three largest cities were connected together by telephone tie-in for this historic event. The bible was released on Friday morning of the convention so that all could use their new bibles for the rest of the convention.

Brother Losch's other 3 talks were also heard by telephone tie-in at the other three stadiums. During that weekend the total attendance was 5,478 and 487 were baptized.

People in Malawi love the bible, and when they received the tract inviting them to 3 days of bible instruction, many of them came.

The District conventions were held in 6 different languages, Chichewa, Tumbuka, Sign language, Tonga, Yaw and English.

Sign Language

Brother Losch giving a special talk to the Sign Language section.

And one final piece of good news is that we had a new peak in the past service year of 79,157 publishers who spent almost 14,000000 hours in the preaching work. That equals just a bit more than 1 hour preaching for each man, woman and child in Malawi.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Giving Wisely-Jehovah's Witnesses Do Just That

This is from an article in the Phoenix Examiner.
(Picture from John and Marie Goode,Missionaries)

Unless you’re a robot, the tragedy in Haiti can’t help but pull at your heartstrings. Unfortunately, there are people out there who are as soulless as robots, who will use your emotions to rip you off. Here are some recommendations from various watchdog organizations on giving.

• Avoid giving food, clothing or other in-kind gifts unless they are specifically requested, and you know the group has a way to quickly and efficiently distribute them. • Find out if the group you're planning to donate to already has an on-the-ground presence in Haiti. Transportation in and out was poor at first, but it is getting better, so if a group doesn’t already have a significant presence there, what are they waiting for? • Giving online is dangerous. Make sure you know who is operating the site. Spammers have hijacked what look very much like legitimate sites. • Be highly suspicious of claims that 100 percent of your donation will go to victims. Every legitimate charity involves some operating costs. A claim of 60% to 85% of money raised actually reaching Haiti is considered reasonable. (Not by me, but it's considered reasonable by watchdog organizations. I'd set the bar a lot higher.) Legitimate costs are salaries for workers and executives, advertising the charity, etc. The problem is that since charities are non-profits, they are mostly unaccountable for what they take in and how they spend it. Do your homework. Google the officers of the charity, see if you can find out how high on the hog they are living. • Don’t text your donation! I know, it’s convenient, but the money won’t likely get to the charity right away. Why not? (I know you would never do this but) some of your friends may have called a 900 number at some time. Does “900-meet-asian-chicks” get the money right away? No. First, your phone company has to bill you. Then you have to pay the bill. Then the phone company has to forward the portion collected to the 900 company. Same thing is true of texting money to charity. It could be a few months before your money is doing any good in Haiti, and in the meantime, the phone company is making money off the billing fees and the interest.

What about donating through your church? I don't mean the Pat Robertson/Jimmy Swaggert type of televangelist/con-men, I mean your corner church. Last week, I selected 30 churches at random from the Phoenix phone book, and emailed them some questions about Haiti donations. Not surprisingly, most churches are reluctant to talk about the tons of loot they are raking in. Below is the text of my email, and the very few replies I got.

Dear Sir:

I write a column for I’m currently working on a column about donations for Haiti. I’m sending this email to a couple dozen churches in the Phoenix area. I would like your answers to the following questions: • How many different services do you have in a week? • What is your average attendance? • Do you pass a collection plate at each service? • Do you pass it more than once? • Do you suggest/require a donation amount? How much? • Do you communicate by letter, email, or phone call with your members regarding amounts they are suggested/required to donate? • Besides the upkeep of your facility, what are the donations used for? • Do you have salaried ministers or other local employees of the church? • Are you asking your members to give something extra for Haiti? • If so, are you taking that money from the regular donations, or do you have some special arrangement? (Passing a collection plate again, sending out request letters, etc.) • If you are making special donation arrangements for Haiti, do you have a target figure? • What percentage of the funds earmarked for Haiti do you expect to reach Haiti? (For example, the American Red Cross gets less than stellar reviews in several places on the web for spending too much on administrative costs.) • Where are you sending the Haiti funds? (your organization’s upper management, CARE, United Way, etc.) • What arrangement do you have for informing members of what they are contributing and how their money is being used? I look forward to hearing from you.

A Baptist church replied: “We have 3 Sunday Worship Celebrations. And then a Wednesday evening Service that is a little different than Sunday's. Our total Sunday worship attendance is slightly more than 200, and we have Sunday small groups for all ages with attendance of about 150. Yes, we pass a collection plate at each service. No, we do not pass it more than once. We do not require a donation amount.” However, he followed that up with, “We do believe that a Christ Follower will be generous in giving and that the biblical minimum standard goal is the tithe, which is 10 percent of their income.” (For the record, tithing was a Jewish arrangement to support the Levites, who were not allowed to own land. It is not and never has been a Christian requirement. If it were, Jesus would not have died with no possessions other than the clothes on his back.) The minister hedged a bit on the question about sending collection letters. “To date 'no' to the suggested donations, and we do not 'require' donations.” His reply to how the money is used was also a bit vague: “Ministry, Missions, Personnel.” As to salaries, “1 full time pastor, and other part time staff.” Yes to the question of asking for something extra for Haiti. As to the question of special collections for Haiti: “Last Sunday all of our undesignated offerings (normal offerings not marked for a specific purpose) went to the Haitian Disaster Relief efforts. And now we will encourage our people to give if they wish to give more. We will have information in the Sunday bulletin and on our website that direct people to a trusted site for supporting the work.” On the question of what percentage of funds earmarked Haiti will be put to that use, he replied, “100%.” But the next question, where are you sending the Haiti funds, he answered, “It is going through our Arizona Southern Baptist Convention or through the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.” But he already acknowledged that “pastors” and “staff” collect salaries, so how could “100%” be reaching Haiti? On the question of advising members about how the money is used: “We keep confidential records of all contributions that come through [our] Church, and give a report back to individuals who contribute. Regarding the Haitian Relief efforts the agencies through which we contribute will have various measures of reporting.”

Next reply was from a Lutheran church: “This time of year we average 3000 [in attendance], average weekly for the whole year 1350. We pass the plate once each service. We do not suggest or require a donation amount. No requirements, all strictly voluntary.” His reply to how the money is used was also a bit vague. “Salaries of staff, program costs, mission trips and outreach, community service.” He also acknowledged that the ministers receive a salary. (I keep mentioning that because, as previously noted, Jesus died poor, Paul made tents to support himself, and Jesus told his followers, ‘You received free, give free.’ Since none of us have paid Jesus for our biblical education, how can anyone justify charging parishioners for his services?) To the question of asking members to give something extra for Haiti he answered, “Absolutely.” The next question about how they were collecting the ‘something extra’ for Haiti he answered vaguely, “special donations.” How? He already said they only pass the plate once, and that they don’t send dunning letters. As to a target figure, he said they have no target, but that when the tsunami hit southeast Asia, they raised over $30,000. As to the percent of the funds for Haiti he expected to reach Haiti, he too replied, “100%.” On the question of where the funds are going he answered, “We send them through our national church office, to a related organization set up to handle disaster relief around the world: Lutheran Disaster Relief. No overhead, all to direct aid.” That sounds great! However, I searched for “Lutheran Disaster Relief” and found no such organization. I did find an organization called Lutheran Disaster Response, probably what he meant. When I clicked on that, it took me to the website of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, where asking for money for Haiti is clearly their top agenda at the moment. At the bottom of the page, in really tiny letters was this caveat: “Any funds not needed for this relief effort will be used for other disaster purposes as determined by LCMS World Relief and Human Care.” As with the Baptists, if their ministers and staff are salaried, they are not sending 100% to Haiti.

The next reply I got was also from a Lutheran church. "We have 3 services per week with an average attendance of a little under 500. We do pass collection plates in each service and that offering supports the overall ministry of [our church.] We have some staff people including myself (Senior Pastor), an office staff, and we operate a pre-school.” (Wait a minute, I’m just guessing here, but isn’t it likely that parents who make use of the preschool are required to pay for that service, rather than it being supported by the collection plate? Hmmm.) “We continue to encourage our members to contribute financially for the aid of the people of Haiti by supporting LC-MS World Relief and Human Care. This organization has had workers on the ground in Haiti from very early on after the disaster helping with food, water and medical needs, emergency housing and spiritual needs in many ways.” I finally got an honest answer regarding the percentage of donations that would actually reach Haiti. “I don’t know the exact percentage of administrative costs verses dollars directly to services and resources but you can likely find such information through their website.” No, actually, you can’t. What I did find, in addition to the warning already noted about how they can use your funds however they see fit, was some salary information.

As of 2006, the President of the LCMS received a salary of $158,870. The First Vice President, $129,160. The Secretary: $147,263. Vice President/Treasurer: $147,263. Chief Administrative Officer: $129,160. Executive officers of major legal entities (Corporate Synod, CPH, CHI, Church Extension Fund, Foundation) received an average annual salary of $133,864. Executive directors of Corporate Synod, WBP, other boards, commissions and departments including LCEF and LCMS Foundation) and CPH VP and other officers received an average salary of $122,350. The Lutheran minister continued: “We have published [the website] information for our members and encouraged them to give personal donations in addition to what we do collectively as a congregation.” (You might want to be careful about that… if your members start poking around like I did and discover where their money is going your donations might dry up.) “We do not require specific amounts of donations but we do know many of our members are quite generous in giving for a number of needs.” Let’s do some math, shall we? 1500 visitors a week. Since I’m not a church-goer, I have no idea what a ‘generous’ contribution is, but If each one drops a $5 in the collection plate, that’s $18,000 a month, $216,000 a year! I hope someone from the tax office reads this column. Taxing churches could quickly balance the budget.

The next reply I got was from the executive assistant to the pastor of City of Grace Church, who declined to answer the questions herself, and advised me that the pastor was unable to do so as he was in Haiti with the City of Grace Disaster Relief team.

The last reply I got was from an elder at a Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall. He wrote: “Our kingdom hall is used by four congregations to avoid crowding and to allow us to get to know each other better. Each congregation meets twice a week, attendance averages 110 per meeting. No collections are ever taken in any kingdom hall anywhere in the world. No plate is passed, no dunning letters are sent out. We do not tithe. We have no paid ministers or staff. Each congregation is presided over by an unpaid body of elders, none superior to any other. We have a box at the back of the hall with a slot in the top where people can anonymously contribute what they can, if they wish, to pay for the utilities and maintenance of the building. We keep costs down by all of us – elders and publishers – jointly working together on cleaning and maintenance projects. We have another box where people can drop a contribution, if they wish, to the worldwide work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. That money supports the printing of millions of copies of The Watchtower and Awake magazines, Bibles, and other study aids. These publications are not sold; they are given freely to any who agree to read them. The brothers and sisters who live and work at the world headquarters in New York and in branch offices around the world are all volunteers. None – from the newest laborer to the members of the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses – receive a salary. The funds sent in for the worldwide work also support thousands of missionaries in other lands. Our missionaries are not school teachers or social workers. They devote their full time to teaching people the Bible. As all our meetings are about studying the Bible, money is not mentioned. Occasionally a letter is read thanking the congregation for contributions received. Every penny contributed is scrupulously accounted for, and any member of the congregation is free to ask any of the elders for an accounting of what the money was spent on. There is no special collection for Haiti; there is no need. Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide consider ourselves a brotherhood, and the problems of our brothers in Haiti are the same as if they happened to our literal family members, so there is no need to urge anyone to contribute. Jehovah’s Witnesses in Dominican Republic were on the road to Haiti with relief supplies within hours after the quake hit. Several Witness doctors from Dominican Republic and elsewhere have been working almost nonstop since the quake. Money and other supplies from the Watchtower Society headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, were sent immediately to Haiti and Dominican Republic, and supplies and money are still pouring in. Of course, no repayment will ever be asked for or expected… we know they would do the same for us.”

Well, that was refreshing. I went to and searched it for references to money, donations, charity. All I found were Watchtower articles such as “Is money your master or your servant?” and “Is pursuit of money making you sick?” Try as I might, there was no way to donate any money to the organization, nor any request for donations. The only mention of money I found, in connection with Haiti, was in a public news release at entitled “Witnesses’ relief efforts well under way for victims of earthquake in Haiti.” A single line at the bottom read, “The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is caring for these expenses by utilizing funds donated to the Witnesses’ worldwide work.

Monday, December 7, 2009


“Do not ask to walk smooth paths,

nor bear an easy load.

But pray for strength and fortitude,

to walk the rock strewn road.

May Jehovah give you courage,

remember you are not alone.

And transform every stumbling block,

into a stepping-stone.”

I was thinking about this quote as I visited this week with 2 elderly sisters. Their lives have been very different. One had a life focused on full-time service as a pioneer, and traveling with her husband in the Circuit work. The other served faithfully as a congregation publisher while raising a family with her husband.

The life choices that they made may be very different, but their faithful endurance is the same. Each has built up a record of faithful, whole-hearted service to Jehovah, are deeply loved and appreciated by their brothers and sisters and continues to be a source of strength and encouragement to everyone privileged to know them.

The word endurance takes on concrete meaning for me as I look at their lives. Each one is now dealing with the vagaries of old age… gracefully and uncomplainingly.

The “rock strewn road” is a little easier for me to travel with them leading the way.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

10 years in Africa

Got an email from my nephew serving in Africa.It was so encouraging to me,I thought it might encourage you too. :-)


Sorry that we haven't written much email lately. We had some problems with our Internet. It was out for over a month. Well, now we got it hooked up again, so here is a general email to let you all know what is
going on here in Togo.

This past Saturday (September 26) marked our 10 year anniversary. Yep,10 years ago we got off our plane wide eyed, with knees wobbling and hearts pounding, not so sure what we were getting ourselves into. Well,looking back it's been the best 10 years of our life, filled with blessings. But, what is unusual is it's also been the toughest 10 years
of our life.

We've seen first hand how Jehovah provides what we need. Materially, we have what we need, we have enough. We've learned and relearned how to be
content with what we have. (We don't really need much to be happy.) Spiritually, on the other hand, we have an abundance. We are often reassured that Jehovah is with us, helping us to endure. Facing the
difficulties of everyday life we rely on God more than if our life was

Here in Togo, life in general these past 10 years has gotten worse. It's difficult to watch that, day after day. Somehow you think that things will get better (roads, economy, sickness, poverty, etc). It's a normal desire to want to see things improve, even in this system of things. However, things haven't improved. But, the problems that surround us
daily help us to focus on the real solution for mankind woes, God's heavenly government. Man is lost. This is Satan's world and this world is going down fast. Any indications to the contrary are illusions.

We spent 18 months working at the Branch. This was a real privilege. For he past couple of months we have been back in the field, trying to readjust to preaching in the heat and dust. Has this transition been difficult? Yes, honestly it has. But, it's made us refocused on why we need to proclaim the good news. This is the most important work we could
be doing right now. It's a blessing to share the truth with others. It's also a responsibility.

10 years ago there was around 10,500 publishers here in Togo. Now there is over 15,000. That growth is nice to meditate on. But, even if this increase hadn't happened. We know that preaching and teaching the good news is what Jehovah wants us to do. It helps us to stay strong and focused in our service to Jehovah.

Here in Togo, at the ends of the earth, we notice that, more and more, people are making a choice. Most people have been contacted in some way by the Kingdom message. And like the Watchtower recently said, the good news divides people. Some like our message. Others reject it. And still others are opposed. Lines are being drawn. The end is near.

We often talk about how Africa will be in the new world paradise. No more famine. No more oppressive rulers. No more sickness that often takes lives. Yes, no more death. Africa will be a beautiful place filled with beautiful people that serve Jehovah.

So, that is what's been going on here. We hope to hear from you. Pray for us as we pray for you.

Martin and Quincey

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Experience a "Forest Assembly"

Sent: Monday, October 26, 2009
Subject: Some news from Russia : Experience a 'Forest Assembly'
Dear friends: Many of us have been keeping close touch with the website that has had different accounts of the legal pains that are beng used in Russia to disrupt the worship of Jehovah God there. We find it of great interest that the power behind the politicians is so obvious--and we can only wonder when Jehovah's angel might be told to do his job (Revelation 18:21)! We can pray incessantly right now for the relief and comfort for our brothers and look at ourselves and ask if we will have the fortitude they repeatedly are showing! This letter has been around the globe already for I received it from Africa --so if it comes back to those of you who have received it you will understand it does not take long for news to be received. In this case we can only rejoice for Jehovah blessed all the efforts made. There are many lessons for those of us in different places as we read this very carefully. Below, is another letter from that part of the world that is so encouraging.
Hi all!
So it didn't take us long back in Russia to get a jolt of a reminder that this IS NOT Canada !
A couple weeks ago we were all secretly told thru our Service Groups that October 4th we should be prepared for our Special Assembly Day. Besides the instruction to dress warm and bring money for transport, no other details were given. However, having the assemblies in the forest isn't something new here any more. Last summer after our venue was cancelled for the District Convention, the brothers thought up this great idea to use a plot of private land belonging to one elder and his family as a convention site. It went well despite attempted interference from police. This summer it was planned at the same location from the get-go in view of major difficulties in finding any place willing to rent to us.
But this fall was a first. An assembly in the forest in October! That means that the facility that we've used to hold the last 3 smaller assemblies in a city about 2 hours away has finally caved under pressure from the church, the authorities, the fcb {?} or all 3 and will no longer rent to us despite it being very profitable for them. So that leaves us to the forest!
This was all pretty exciting for me since I wasn't here last summer for the first forest convention and obviously this summer I wasn't in Russia either so I missed the second one. We all bundled warm, bringing extra clothing and rain gear and thermoses of hot drinks. I have to say we were very fortunate. The whole week before and the whole week after our meeting it rained every day. The day of the assembly was beautiful and sunny. It was close to freezing in the morning, of course, but at least we weren't soaking wet. By the afternoon it was actually quite pleasant! For this Special Assembly Day we had about 1800 in attendance, the whole district.
I was totally amazed at how professional the whole set up was. Hopefully you get an idea from the photos. The chairs, stage, sound system was all set up perfectly. Even tents were set up for those with children and the elderly in case of rain. Outhouses were shipped out to the site (the largest expense of the convention) and a make-shift hand washing station was set up. Nothing was overlooked. All went off without a hitch as far as I know. One of my Bible students came and one of Blazej's African Bible students, Gordon, came as well despite the cold and only understanding half of the program.
It looks like we're resigned to having such gatherings in the forest from now on since we just had a resolution read to set aside money for the purchase of portable toilets since the rental of them is so costly. How many circuits in Canada own their own Jiffy Biffys he?
But that's not all.
The authorities seem to be stepping up efforts to eliminate JWs here. It was openly stated on the news last month that efforts are being made to ban us. Last Friday a completely slanderous program was aired on TV about us and how we make millions and kill children and things like that. These get a wide audience and Russians, being rather gullible when it comes to what they see on TV, tend to believe the lies. We're meeting with a lot of questions and suspicions as to who we are and what is our organization.
For our local needs Friday, we were informed that due to efforts to ban us and our literature, we will no longer be stocking any literature in the Kingdom Hall whatsoever. Not one piece will be stored there. Just like in the old days before we had a Hall! It will be distributed thru the service groups. Also no announcement board or schedules for meetings will be posted. This Friday coming up we'll also be having a special part with more information pertinent to the situation. This is over the entire country, not just in our region. Forest assemblies have become something very common all over and the decision about literature was made at the Branch and will be effective everywhere as of this week.
We just wait and see. The preaching work goes on without problems as of yet. Who knows what will happen soon. Our nasty neighbor below us hates us and constantly writes complaints about us and accuses us of being from a sect, etc. They greet us with 'Hello Witnesses' is a snide tone. Interestingly enough, our other neighbor who we're friends with informed us that the nasty lady was invited for an official meeting with the police on the 15th (I guess that's tomorrow). We have no idea why that is but we're suspicious that suddenly they're taking an interest in her complaints because of the fact that we're Witnesses. Again, we'll see!
So that's the latest and the greatest here in ------. We'll try to keep you informed. Of course being newlyweds and all we don't email so much but we'll do our best!!
Hope you all are keeping busy in the service and never taking for granted the freedom and ease you can preach with. You never know when that might end. We'll do the same! Take care all, (End of report from Russia )
This letter came this morning from personal friends in Kazakhstan and is touching, however sad. They wrote:

Friday, a dear sister in our congregation died. Today, we had her memorial, she was 102 years old. Perhaps you're thinking that she
was one of those old timers in the truth here, but the answer is no. She started to study in 1995, when she was 88 years old and got baptized one
year later at the age 89. She has faithfully and regularly attended meetings and actively participated until a month ago when she began to have problems
with gangrene in her legs and been active in the field until within days of her death. More amazing is that she lived on the fourth floor and the buildings here
do not have elevators. She was a little thing really, very kind, never complained and was always appreciative. Jehovah draws wonderful people to his
organization. She is outlived by only two of her daughters as the son has already died. We will miss her, and yet we are confident that we will see her soon when God raises those from the memorial tombs. Her children came from Russia and were kind enough to honor her wishes for having a witness service and
burial. Something that can be a bit of a problem in these parts of the world, especially when emotions are involved.

Just wanted to share with you what's happening in our congregation. (End of letter from Kazahkstan)

Now I would like to share a very touching letter that shows the love being exhibited by and for those who use Sign Language. This letter is from South Africa :
This email was from Pumla Dwangu, a hearing sister who pioneered in East London , South Africa , sign language until her assignment in Bethel . She's associated with the Soweto Sign Language congregation. Thought you'd enjoy this.
Last week we welcomed a bus group of 35 kids from a Deaf School in Soweto . It was awesome to see such a large group of special kids. Our receptionist was taking pictures of everything and so were other people but the nice thing is that one brother organised professional photographers to capture the moment. It was awesome indeed. We are still waiting for the professional pictures.
So how did this all happen?
Last August a young boy named Karabo got baptised in August 2009! He is so zealous for the truth. He goes to St Vincent School in Rosebank. After he got baptised he asked his principal if kids from his school can go to visit Bethel and take a tour. The principal did not think it was a good idea and did not allow that. This boy did not give up because he wants other deaf kids to learn the truth, so he went to Sizwile School for the Deaf in Soweto to ask for the same thing. Bear in mind that his school is far from Soweto and he doesn't even stay in Soweto , he lives in Kagiso (another township)!
The principal there thought it was good idea and organised a group on 35 kids (all deaf) to come and visit Bethel . They came and loved the place. After the tour and lunch more pictures were taken and 31 DVD'S were placed! Isn't that great! I thought it was too!
Anyway that day ended and we were all tired from walking around and signing to them as we explained what Bethel is all about. I tell you it was all worth it. I could do it over and over again. Please whenever you come around bring deaf people to come and see this awesome place. The house of God! This is where they see just how much Jehovah loves them and that his people are willing to do whatever it takes for them to learn the truth and have a special relationship with The One and true God Jehovah!

Friday, October 9, 2009