Thursday, November 26, 2015

(SPECIAL POSTING) Reunions and additional stories from 20 countries during the last 3 years



-BACKGROUND INFO FOR THIS SPECIAL POSTING-

Good intentions are dismissed with procrastination. I started making a special posting for NZ back in 2013. In January 2016, just a little over a month from now it will be 3 years since that convention. Why do a special blog for NZ instead of just including it in the normal blog about life in Indonesia? Because the special convention in NZ was a landmark in life for me... 

It started as a game of monopoly when I was a kid. My cousin Eddie was able to survive getting around the board fully loaded with hotels with only $1.00. I then got the idea I would like to travel across U.S.A on $1.00. In fact I put that in my sign off in my high-school yearbook. Spurned by this event, a large part of who I am to this day became based of experiencing and enjoying whatever life brings you. Whether outside my comfort zone, or my known parameters.

In 2003 a settlement for a car accident provided the springboard for some financial support for me to be able to travel. Really though, it became for me a way to 'test the truth.' I wanted to prove that this religion that I was brought up in, really is what it claims to be. Is it really the 'truth?' Is it a "worldwide brotherhood?" Is it true that wherever you go in the world we as JW's are the same? Is it really so that the meetings, publications, thoughts, beliefs, and actions based on love make us who we are? Does love for Jehovah, his word, and our desire to help others by preaching unify us? This I had to find out... 

So in July of 2003 with a back-pack, a pocket size Bible, and a around-the-world ticket I literally began a trip pioneering around the globe for 1 calendar year. I didn't know where I would sleep, where I would eat, where I would go, what I would do, how I would do it, but it didn't matter... 

(The day I said goodbye to my family with a unknown reality in front of me)


To my surprise my mother at the last minute was the one who provided me with the confidence that everything would be o.k. She said something like, 'the brothers will be there for you wherever you go. Don't worry.' It was a simple statement, but for a mother who is seeing her son go away I know it was gut-wrenching. We just went through a horrific tragedy of my childhood best friend and cousin April passing away through a long battle with cancer. We were only 10 months apart, and now I was leaving. April proved her integrity to the end, and I had to now imitate her faith. 

What happened during that year? Indescribable in a few paragraphs on a blog. 



(10 minutes showing a lifetime worth of memories)

I saw the truth from the outside in. I grew in my relationship with Jehovah to a place it had never been. I saw that unmatched and undeniably that Jehovah's Witnesses are a true united brotherhood. I didn't know it, but I was born winning the spiritual lottery ticket. I was humbled... 

That year I traveled to 37 countries, 14 conventions and assembly's, 5 oceans, 4 international conventions, 2 hemispheres, and read 1 Bible from cover to cover for the first time. 

That year probably 75% of my pioneer ministry was preaching informal to people wherever I could open my mouth, or move my hands. I stayed with so many beautiful people that I had never met, and most have never met again. They are burned into my heart and mind. These dear friends unknown to them, by showing hospitality to a stranger helped me to stay, and grow in the 'truth.' 

I realized that the most amazing thing to see and experience in the world; is the individual and collective beauty of Jehovah's people. The brotherhood supersedes any entertainment, location, thrill, meal, or drink. After that, Jehovah's nature comes in 2nd with it's endless ways to make us smile and be in awe. 3rd was usually preaching and sharing the truth with someone who needs it. Last, was what I wanted to do. In Jehovah's fatherly way, he seems to be able to combine all of the 3 listed above with what I want to do as well. That's special of him.

That trip changed me forever. As great as it was, I cannot recommend it as the theocratic thing to do. You have no set congregation, physical or spiritual family. You are tempted by sex, drugs, drinking, revelries, empty heading thing, illegal activities, and on and on wherever Satan has a opportunity. For that, it's not the wisest course. 

(Will I keep my integrity, or not. -Sunrise on Mediterranean Sea, Spain)


During that trip, I realized that Indonesia would be the place for me to serve long-term. The Indonesian Sign Language got off the ground, but it had heaps of work to go. I also found that South Island New Zealand is the most beautiful place on the planet. My hope was the next time I was in New Zealand, it would to be for a honeymoon. 

(South Island is unlike anything else. Pancake Rocks 2003)


(South Island is unlike anything else. Pancake Rocks 2013)


So now were back to the begininning. Why was this special convention so special? It really represented to me a 10 year reunion of the trip that changed my life to a whole new direction forever. I was a publisher when I came first came here. I had some some dreams, but needed a lot of internal work. I had to 'put on the new personality,' work on modesty and humility. Deal with disappointments and being misunderstood. Learn new cultures and languages. Many, many things and training happened in that 10 year period. Goals I had set as a child such as MTS school, foreign field, special full-time service, serving as an elder had been reached. It was reassuring to me that Jehovah had, and was still molding me as a "vessel for an honorable use." (Romans 9:21) 

2003 - 2013 10 years later in New Zealand

After teaching a Indonesian Sign Language class in 2004, the class gift was 3 beautiful Batik shirts. They represented to me the love that local friends show to those who are need-greaters. They represented all the training and ideas we get as a child from our parents and the organization to step over into Macedonia and use your youth and energy to serve Jehovah. 

Meeting a young brother at the convention, I found out he was a fatherless boy. His mom opened up her heart of how proud she was of her son despite many obstacles he was facing. She told me about his progress, and his difficulties. I was touched. Something moved me to give to him something dear to me. My favorite shirt. The next day, I saw him wearing it. It made me super happy, but hoping he gave it a wash. I met another young guy the next day, pictured below. I felt for him. He was around the truth growing up like me, but was seeming to lead in the other direction. When you show up to a convention with a tank top, a guitar and tattoos it shows your trying.I gave him my 2nd favorite shirt. 

(Hey guys,,, may it lead to dreams)


Nearly a year later, I received this email-

Hello tom
i dont know if you remember me but i met you at our international convention in christchurch NZ, SafeGaurd You Heart. early this year my name is ?????, and we had a great talk and you even gave me the beautiful bukti shirt right off your back :). a great show of love and a precious gift soo thankyou very very much for that. over the past 10 - 11 months i have made many many changes and adjustments to my life thanks to Jehovah and his organization, giving up Drugs, alcohol, parties, girls, dumb things really and i have worked my way to have a good standing with jehovah. and also i have been an unbaptized publisher for 5and a half months. and love it very very much, it is really the best work we can ever do, i have come to appreciate jehovahs beautiful arrangements and organization sooooooooooooo much :). and also his endearing qualities. i have had many battles with old addictions and with unbelieving family members but i have stuck to jehavah and now they are happy for me and are even taking a little interest in the things i am doing in the truth, soooooo i thought that i would share with you that after all these efforts jehovah our great god has blessed my by approving me for baptism and i am going to be getting baptised on saturday the 23rd of november 2013 at timaru in NZ and i will then be your brother. i am soooo thankful for the encouragement you gave me back then and hearing ewhat you said then which was that there is nothing else in the world that even comes close to jehovahs organization so thankyou very much brother. i hope that you are doing well and working hard for jehovah i know that we will meet again one day soon, soo please write back i look forward to talking maybe, have a good one 

(I'm speechless... That touched my heart...)


The people you stay with also make an impression. This family were my hosts. I contacted them from Indonesia. I asked, what can I bring you as a gift from Indonesia. They replied: "Go visit my son." He's inactive in Indonesia. We found him, tracked him down, and interestingly enough, his wife is no studying and making progress.


(Only by the angels)



If you look around during a convention you will see little acts of love and other qualities happening around you. Try it some time. Just go and stand there with no purpose but to watch pure unadulterated kindness happen before your eyes.

(I have no idea why, I just know I could feel that hug through the lens)


(I don't know you, but I'm going to kiss you with my black lipstick!)


It's not everyday you see witnesses with tatoo's. It's a whole other thing when they are on your face! Our dear brother here was very high up in the Maori religion and well, mafia. He came in the truth but there still after him. It's very similar to the Sicilian mafia. If your in, your in for life. One thing that was beautiful to me was the fact that he was consulted for the project to entertain the brothers. He even went so far as working along to write new music to praise Jehovah in his language. That he said made him overjoyed being able to use his culture for something that was never done before in its history- praise Jah!

(Maori meets Mexico, Merica, and Mbah Desy & Mas Franklin)



I got to hand it to the Kiwis and the Aussie for having a good time. None-the-less Br. Geoff Jackson. Being the special GB host he made slight fun that he was happy that he didn't have an accent giving his talks. Brother Flodin did. Another thing he later said in conversation was the 'after the assembly was over show' would probably get him fired. Why? They did a live performance on stage after the program. Well 3 years later, he is still a part of the team. Again, knowing a little how huge it was to have that much Marori culture even made it to the national Maori news in NZ. It really was huge for the country, the preaching, and comfort for our brothers in Christchurch who were still dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake. 

(We were in awe)



And then... it was over. I watched the brothers take down the big sign WELCOME DELEGATES in the front of the stadium. It was a surreal moment. Time just keeps moving in 1 direction doesn't it. 
With the convention over, It was time to do a 'bucket list' item. Like I said in the opening; I was hoping to be back to NZ for my honeymoon. Well, plan B. Be a single guy to the full. Get a motorcycle and travel around the country on a bike. Where would I go, sleep, eat? Minor details. Just get to the airport for departure. 

Here are some of the highlights of the beauty of Jehovah's people and the beauty of South Island New Zealand. 

(It was like being in a real live videogame. Every turn you take was breathtaking)




AUSTRALIA


Since time moves in one direction, you can also make the best of it. I had 6 hours to see Sydney again. That's enough time to meet up with friends and going swimming on Bondi beach. Jen, Jasin, and Jeannette provided me with the most amazing picnic. I mean from the second they picked me up in the airport it was 1st class service with wine, cheese, olives, fancy snacks, and stuff I had never even tried before. 

(A fried Mars chocolate bar cooked in oil that fries seafood, really? OK)


CHINA 

Leave it to Jesse and Mimi the travel gurus to have me somehow on business class to NZ that takes me through China, Guam, Thailand, Australia, and Japan. So getting through immigration in China after a lot of strange looks, I exited the airport and was ready to get a cab and explore Shanghai for a few hours. Looking at the complete smog and seeing nothing, I decided- 

(Umm, let's just hang out in the business lounge for a few hours)


GUAM

Being in special full-time service it's a nice treat to stay at different Bethel's around the world. Guam was no exception. It was a cute branch with some interesting people from all over. One of the things I especially liked was the GB approval they could have a special magazine. This magazine was made just for islands serious issue of beetle nut. 

(I don't remember that cover article? Oh we didn't have it)


One of the local Bethelites has a amazing story. Grew up the son of a missionary couple. Ended up in US Bethel years later. One day Behtel said: "were sending you to service dept back home in Guam. You start your training next week, later we are sending you for additional training for MTS school in SE Asia, then to service department. Do you accept? How do you say no? Anyways they were so cool because they set up some basketball, beer, and bbq for me after a long trip. 

(Was great meeting all of you!)


Bethel arranged for a local brother to be my tour guide the next day. They had a feeling it would be good. We hit it off. Like only the truth can do, it turns out that his mom was in the very same congregation my dad came in the truth nearly 40 years earlier. We called my father and him and Todd started telling stories of people and places like they were both in Florida Keys like it was yesterday. 

(The beach front with the fancy hotels)



Todd spent years of practical isolation on the island of Yap. So he likes things that are off the beat and path a bit. My type of tour guide. He took me to spots that are not on the tour. Literally no roads...

(Fly like an eagle)



We ended up at some waterfalls, spots to jump off volcanic cliffs, and in this crystal clear turquoise blue cave lagoon. We just talked about life and learned from each other. Great too when you can mix that up with theocracy.

(Ah, no worries, just a poisonous spider)


JAPAN

I had the privilege of being the MC for a couple in my congregation in Jakarta. I really adore Leo and Nana. Her parents and I also became friends. So, when it turned out my flight took me through Japan, I had to stop and see them. 

(Greeted at the airport with signs, owww, so sweet)


Remember, that morning I'm jumping off waterfalls in Guam in tropical blue waters with warm temperatures. Now, that evening i'm in Japan where it snowed in the morning. Swim and snow in the same day. What to do? Of course to a traditional Japanese Onsen {hot bath}. I always love these things. Your body feels reborn, but I get a bigger kick out of these middle age ladies cleaning up the trash and things with a bunch of naked men. I also love the old man who can literally sit for 30 minutes in the sauna where us young guys maybe last 5. 

(I could see my breathe)


Japanese do have a reputation for many things, and it is true that they know how to eat, and how to drink! My goodness! From sashimi, to beef, to meet on sticks, to noodles, to beer and saki- it's incredible. 

(It was even fresher and better than it looked. The chef was deaf ironically as well)


So that was the 2013 trip back to New Zealand. Just like I learned in 2003. Jehovah's people, Jehovah's creation, preaching, and what I want to do all mixed in one. "Best life ever."
------------------------------

USA

Unexpectedly a blessing came upon me for going home to America. My last time to America was in 2010 right after I graduated MTS School. Now 3 years later the opportunity provided itself to be a Indonesian tour guide for friends visiting Bethel for the first time. Many of us Americans do not appreciate the fact that most JW's around the world goal is to get to tour Bethel for 1 time in their life. If your anywhere near Bethel its considered 'wow.'
So I did some research, and help organize a personalize tour for 23 Indonesians. 




NEW YORK



(We laughed, we giggled, we saw how America fits in Bible Prophecy)







I did tons of research on the history of America, Bible prophecy, etc. Would you like to guess how many times America is directly identified, or indirectly in the Bible? Ten times. There are 10 different references I found how the US fits into Bible prophecy. All from Daniel and Revelation. Have fun with that project! :)

(Every once in a while I got some time to take it all in)



DC/PENNSYLVANIA

The friends were great. It was non-stop itinerary from the time we landed to the time they left. From seeing what had to be done in NY, we were down to Philly and D.C. Every night was a different Hotel, breakfast buffet, asian restaurant and once-in-a-while American food. 

(Philadelphia helped make America the world power it is today)


One of our brothers had the talk in the Philadelphia Indonesian congregation. This is something you don't see everyday in a congregation in USA.

(A sister doing the sound system)







Down in D.C. we had enough time to see the holocaust museum and some of Smithsonian and our nations capitol. I got to admit, I didn't know there was an oval office, and the white house were different buildings. You can really sense by the symbols and setup of Washington that higher ups were involved in it's design. 

(This place takes your breathe away, but you leave with confidence)


I was so stoked because we got a really classic Italian American restaurant for lunch. Chicken Parmesan, some nice red-wine, caesar salad and good bread. 

(The Indonesains asked: "where's the rice?")


In the middle of Pennsylvania on your weigh up to Canada you may find this classic house built by a famous US Architect Frank Lloyd Right. Anytime you can have a river turn into a waterfall into your home, your doing something right. 

(In Paradise I assume the water will be generating electricity)




CANADA



NIAGRA FALLS, TORONTO, MONTREAL, QUEBEC, OTTAWA, TROIS RIVERES



The eastern cities of Canada feel like your in part of Europe. The people, temperature are also quite nice. For me it was the first time to see Ottawa, Quebec, and Trois Riveres. Thrown in with Maid of the Mist, A horse and carriage ride, boat tour on the hudson, the CN Tower, all made it magnifique!



(The guy with the cowboy hat is getting married on the boat at that moment!)



(The eerie fog that came through the church on a fall evening)


We met my old roommate in Jakarta at a random restaurant in Toronto. That is where in 2003 I attended the TESOL course conducted by Professor Harry Cotton. That proved to be a way to live and stay in Indonesia for many years. 

(Jump for joy we made it!)


This is a classic story of east meets west. So were here at a famous Quebec restaurant from 1640. I mean the building design, and everything about it is classic french. It was really elegant, 4 course meal. One of the main courses was a tenderloin steak. Some of the Indonesians asked him for tabasco sauce. {That's the closest thing in North America for what they are used to called Sambal} When the waiter saw them putting loads of tabasco on a really nice steak he said: "what are they doing, what are they doing, you cannot put tabasco on a delicious steak like this?!?" And he left the room!

(I was laughing, and eating my cherry cheesecake by this point)



Montreal was one of the first places my friends growing up went years ago when they hit 18. Why? Legal to drink. It is a fun city with a lot to do. We enjoyed going to the location where the picture from www.jw.org was taken using a stand.

(Look ma, no hands)


USA
NEW HAMPSHIRE, MASS, RI, CT

Growing up, the drive through NH always thrilled me. The mountains, the greens, the quiteness. So I arranged for the bus from Canada to go through NH and VT down to Boston. We stopped by a small town to a pizzeria. There Vandy and Megan met up with us. 
I have to give a quick story about Vandy. On Christmas night in 2000 I needed a place to sleep in VT after ski-boarding at Mt. Okemo.  Quite late in the evening I ended up at this cabin in the woods in the middle of VT on a snowy new england night. There unknown to me Vandy, a bethelite couple, and another couple were in deep discussion on Bible talks that were on a deeper level spiritually then I was use to. It opened my ears and eyes. That night I don't know what time I slept but it was a life-changing experience. I slept under a electronic blanket with snow coming on me in the bedroom with the open window on the porch. It was one of the best nights sleep in my life. 

(Vandy; friend for life. Megan rocking the Indonesian in NH and now NYC!)


(Baahston, a city like no other)


We stopped and had a tour in Newport RI. There they got to eat some good ole classic New England clam chowder, lobster bisque, and fried clam cakes. {Not on a indonesian menu}

(Newport is an endless picture opportunity)


(Home sweet home Watch Hill, RI)


We also headed to an old fishing town called Mystic, CT. There we were all hanging out by the docks just taking selfies. A guy pulled up to fill up his boat with gas. I asked him where he's from. We both were from Westerly. I told him I was a tour guide with these friends of mine from Indonesia. He said, you want me to take them for a ride? YA! WHY NOT. This guy and his girlfriend were so kind that they took most of the group that were around on the boat up the mystic river. Never-mind that he gave us some beer, cheese and crackers as well.

(Human Kindness still has no bounds) 


That night we had a surprise family gathering for all the friends. My family organized others to come over for a meal, drinks, stories, and gifts. The result was some 40 people exchanging stories, interviews laughs and tears. My nonnie (grandmother) who was famous for her and my poppy (grandfather)for having guests over the decades. She made this comment to the group. "In all my years showing hospitality this was the best one and most encouraging of them all." That saying something since she's been baptised since 1941. I know she has had brother henschel, and other Bethelites, CO's, DO's, come by. 

(The last stop.., was as you said the highlight)





NEW JERSEY



Then the Indonesians were off, and so was I. The end of a group trip is always emotional difficult because you bond with each other during that time. Now though, I was going to congregation elder school. What a loving provision to have it English back in the US. Thanks branch. I happen to have two serious veteran teachers. One of them Dick Morlan made the point out that his favorite theocratic school is the Congregation eldres. What you get in those 5 days is tremondous. Dick had stories going back to the 1950's. Someone needs to record him and save it for the next generation. My favorite line from him was "don't quote me on this, because i'll deny it."



(Instructor 2- Tiger and Sugar. They were newly weds when in my parents circuit in the 1970's. 40 years later still on honeymoon)





To attend the school I needed a place to stay. My old buddy Rheem and her husband Steve from my days in 2005 and 2006 at the NJ Assembly Hall was happy to help. Rheem's family is from Jordan. Nothing like sharing some Muslim stories.

(mmmm, goat, it's what's for dinner) 


I had to swing by and see Matt and Reggie at the assembly hall. This was my home for a year. They were my boys. That year was also was the shot in the arm I needed before heading back to Indonesia in 2006. I read a lot of old books, listened to some morning worships, attended parts of a assembly nearly every few weeks, met witnesses from all over the world. It was the boost I new I had to prepare for the world that is in Indonesia.

(This was the view from where I slept. Every morning this was how I started my day)


USA FAMILY

After this whirlwind tour it was time to visit the main reason why you go home. Loved ones. And of course they find ways to embarrass you. As were walking around the hallways at Walkill my father with all good intentions says out loud with Bethelites walking by: "Tom this is where you were conceived." WHAT??? You should have seen the smiles on some peoples faces. What my dad meant in his broken English was that was the first time my parents met some 35 years ago. 

(Shout out to all couples who met for the first time at Bethel)


Mom and I had a shepherding call day. Really nice to spend the day with her visiting people that could use the encouragement and a story or two to brighten them up. We had a perfect New England day and had some nice New England snacks. 

(Apple pie comes from fresh apples)


My Dad, sister, and I did a Providence, Worcester, Springfield, Albany NY tour day. Visiting good buddy Dave G, and my old dancing, ptalk, and basketball buddies the Lewis's. My dad is the only one in his family that's a JW. He was so impressed that God's name was Jehovah it started him on a journey that lead him to where he is today.

(Always good to see some of the NY crew)


Last year I tallied all the congregations I served in over the years. The number was rediculous. Since I started pioneering I have been in some 15 groups and congregations. That means on average I'm in 1 group or congregation every 1 year and 2 months. Certain congregations do touch you a little more then others. Maurice and Marc Lubas really helped me as a man, a brother, and as a employee. D2, well there's no-one on the planet like D2. He's another ski-boarding story. I stayed at his house somewhere off the map on Christmas Day in 2001. What I got was a friend for life whose helped me on so many things in so many ways.

(Then there's Ray too! I was his interpreter for his wedding talk)




CAYMAN ISLANDS


As good as, and as many other friends there are to talk about, I can only say; I got nothing but love for ya. There are also new friends that come into the picture. On this blog in earlier additions you have seen some pictures of my Uncle Fu. How do you spell your name? Anyways, timing worked out that Fu was out of Indonesia back in his second home of Cayman. I heard tons of Cayman stories over the years so it was a treat to see it first hand. We were in a place right across the street from the beach. 

(You can see my dad talking and telling stories as a picture perfect sunset is happening :)


Without being biased, Joe Kittrick is one of the people you need to go out in service with once in your life. The guy is something else. So to do a father and son trip was an unexpected blessing.

(Had to go preaching, but see nature at the same time)


Fu had bragged about the best mudslides in Cayman Islands. So we had to test his theory by taking his boat over to one of the islands and testing whether he was right or not. 

(Yup, a mudslide on a little island with your own boat ain't to bad)


(You can't be in the middle of the Caribbean and not enjoy the sunset)


It was nice to have dinner with the Cayman Breakfast Club. I have never been around a more sarcastic bunch! One of them Cris was someone I met on that trip around the world in 2003 at his home in Ireland. I had not heard, nor contacted him in 10 years. We picked up like we last did in the living room in County Cork. Laughing and talking about spiritual things.

(Fu, Why are you in Indonesia again?)


USA NORTH CAROLINA

So with 5 hour stopover in Charlotte North Carolina, why not go down to the city for some soul food. That's what we did. For something like 6.95 you see the size and the portion we got. The whole time we ended up preaching to a woman next to us who was so impressed with what JW's did she changed her viewpoint.

(Cornbread included, but too big for the picture)


USA ANNUAL MEETING

So with all the activity that was going on up to this point, it's hard to believe that the highlight of the trip hadn't happened. That being the 2013 Annual meeting of JW's. There was now a new exhibit that could be toured. Of course the lobby of the 25 building the days leading up to annual meeting is as insane as JFK during a snow storm. But in the madness you see so many people from every nation tribe and tongue. You bump into people you haven't seen in years! 

The highlight for me from the Bible tour with Jehovah's name is the fact they put the cliff notes from Br. Franz bible. I found that interesting to see how a Bible interpreter is thinkning. You wonder why the publications were so deep. 

(What a job assignment!)



On the other tour, you see both sides of the seed at work; Satan's and Jehovah's. This picture was from the famous talks that Br. Russel had given in his debates.

(He turned the hose on hell)


I can't thank Todd enough for getting me in as his guest for the annual meeting. I think all of us were blown away. I don't know where they got all the time to do all the work that they have to do. Just on a side note. Every talk was dealing with the release of the Bible. For me personally, after they explained why it was needed and released it I was fine. "Gotta guys, we trust you, next." I was ready for now to be talks on Bible prophecy, needs of something, etc. It continued on that topic. I got this feeling that they felt there would be doubters of why and how. Funny that there are long-timers who have a hard time to just go with the current flow. On another note, you could really sense how this group of GB are genuine friends. They were teasing and smiling with each other. You could sense they want all of us to know that.

(Back home in Stanley for something beyond my expectations)


Annual meeting weekend brings in all sorts of people from all over the world. The fun part is it seems everyone you talk too is in some sort of full-time service. Construction workers to missionaries to everything in between. And, of course, if your in America it's that shot in the arm by having a 'shot' that adds to the event. Was a privilege to be able to attend a couple of these gatherings and chit chat with everyone with a story.

(From Slovenia and Mavored with Love)


(Right place, right time, unforgettable)


UNITED ARAB EMIRATES DUBAI

What a way to go home with a new Bible. Well not yet. It's time for a brief stop in Dubai. I forget the statistics but it's around half the population is Arab, half is something else. In the middle of the desert you can have a organized and well-designed city.  

(The water show at Burj Khalifa)


I ended up chatting with a young guy from Upstate NY who works for the PEACECORE and having a great chat about the truth, life, etc. We got a random mall tour by a kind woman from the US. Later, he was able to come with me as a met up with a friend. She came down a few hours just to receive the new Bible. Who knows how long it would have taken her to get it here. It proved to our guest how we as JW are a united brotherhood. 

(The other sign said no kissing or public displays of affection)


Before this picture was taken at the beach, inside the mall they had a mini place to ski with even some penguins. An hour later, I went swimming in the sea.

(Snow and Sand in the same afternoon)


There is still is an old part of Dubai which gives you the feel that although some things in life have changed over 1000's of years, others have stayed the same.

(Tea, politics, and stress from wife)


(Where's the wine and bread?)


So there it is. My first trip home to the US in 3 years. Something about the beginning of October to go back to the US. The crisp air, the colors on the trees, the positive feeling of all after a wonderful summer. I thank again the Indonesian friends for allowing me the opportunity to go home and have the chance to share the joys of where I am from. To be part of the more than 1 million who attended the annual meeting was a milestone not to be forgotten. "The Lord’s blessing is our greatest wealth. All our work adds nothing to it!." (Proverbs 10:22 TLB)

SINGAPORE

Sometime later Indonesia was invited to attend our next-door neighbors special assembly in Philippines. Thats a real quick trip from Jakarta. Literally was gone for only 3 days. The stopover was in Singapore. So over the years of being in Singapore there is a few things that I have got accustomed to doing. One involves swinging by Sentosa island to go for a swim and play some beach volleyball. 

(This time through in some Universal)


My first time to Singapore was in 2004 where I met some of the deaf and hearing supporting the deaf. Two sisters Angela and Audrey are sterling examples of faithfulness, patience and endurance. Finally after a decade or so it became a sign cong. James has been a friend to chat with and listen to since 2006. He could write a book of what it's like to be a expat in Singapore, with a few chapters on the theocratic experience. 

(Nice to see all of you lah)


Singapore is a great place to visit, but 3 days is enough. See this picture at night

(Many things in Singapore put US to shame)


PHILIPPINES 

This was my second time in Manila. The last was in 2006 for the Sign Language convention. They are sweet people. I found a place to stay where I started to witness to one of the other guests from U.K. His name was Tom and his story was something like this: His mom had passed away and left him some money. Her instructions were to use it for a trip to expand your horizons. So he chose Philippines and I told him right away you should start your trip off right by coming to see a worldwide brotherhood. He came! He arrived like 11 p.m. that night and the next morning by 7 a.m. we were out the door. 

(Of course the program, the people, the brotherhood touched his heart. Including the drama on resurrection brought tears to his eyes)


If you take the time to meet people at the assembly's you will meet people and hear their stories that will change your life for the better. This brother was one of them. Not too big right? I wouldn't say that to his face. He was a champion street and MMA fighther. Literally his whole body is a deadly weapon. He has broke bones and faces on 5 people at a time. He was locked away for nearly killing a cop, but released because he was good for business. Anyways, he got the truth. It's interesting that he has all broken bones in his neck. So to literally keep from being curled up in a ball he has to work out everyday to keep functioning.

(Thanks my brother, I'll never forget you, see you in a Awake magazine)


Sometimes we as people tend to make these rules that are based off our on preference, culture, and background. Clothing and facial hair is one of those. I got to hand it to Br. Splane for rocking all 3 days the barong. I'm waiting for that day for us wearing our Batik in Indonesia.

(Thanks! Good example to adapt to the culture!)


Harry and his wife know very well my MTS instructor the Benig's as well as my good buddy Rick. The Dutch who are in full-time service around the world tend to know each other. Harry was the back-up to Brother Splane final talk in case the power went out at our satellite location. He said something funny: "I had a hard time keeping up with him where he was on the outline." Well, I guess if you help write the outlines, your not as bound to it.

(Smile away, we will see you singing about Nasi Goreng at the Indonesian Branch Dedication Project!) 


It wouldn't be a complete trip without some entertainment. The Filipinos can have fun like the best of them. Nothing like some sticks to jump in, and smiles and photos galore!

(Proof of cuteness)


15 Years of Full-Time Service

My real goal was to be a fork lift driver at 360 Furman in Bethel NY. I didn't want to pioneer. Pioneering was a requirement to go to Bethel. Little did I know how much pioneering would grow on me and become me. There are so many factors that can take this privilege away. To be able to still do it is something special for me. So when my old pioneer friends in Sign Language Joel and Esther invited me to come to Uganda for a convention and a tour it was time. They graduated Gilead in 2005 and I hadn't seen them since. 

AFRICA, UGANDA

Again the travel Guru's Clarks assisted me with this amazing itinerary. So after a nice posh business class flight I get picked up from the Airport from a single brother. He brings the Bethel van and uh-oh. We get stuck. Nothing like huge floods in Kempala after arriving making some roads impassable. 

(I got screened in the airport for Ebola, I should have been screened for pushing a car up a muddy hill)


It took us 2 to 3 hours to get the car stuck out of the mud and pushing it. My dear brother overheated the engine. We got muddy and dirty, but placed a lot of magazines with others who were stuck! 

(Welcome to Africa)


Joel and Esther use every September to do a little trip. Which way to go? Waterfalls in the north, safari in the south, lakes and peace on the Rwanda border? How about we combine 2 out of 3! We did a safari and camped out in the middle of lake. I have never done a trip like this before. It was something to have no itinerary but picnic, talk, and take it easy. The best was no electricity, and listening to the birds.

(Washing your hands traditional style)


On our little island we got a dug out log as a raft and we went exploring. This woman was really sick and had to paddle over to another island far away for a check-up.

(Smile away your in Africa!)


We saw zebras, antelope, birds, etc, but I found these warthogs funny. One of them even seemed to pose for us. 

(Jehovah sense of humor when you see his face)


We saw a sign on the side of the rode that looked interesting, so why not take it. We found a resort run by foreigners that was the definition of 'getaway to Africa.' We had our picnic cheese, brandy, homemade pickles, Indonesian snacks, and french meats.

(At one time this would have been filled with animals)


TURKEY,ISTANBUL

From Africa it was a trip up to the gateway between Europe and Asia-Istanbul. Arguably on of the worlds most special cities. It was the seat of the Eastern Holy Roman Empire. 


My old circuit overseer Alan and Tamara were reassigned from Indonesia to Turkey. They used to be in a turkish group years ago before Gilead. Things were going great in Istanbul, they gave me a wonderful tour, and then... A phone call that a Turkish Bible Tour Guide sister is giving some Canadians on a cruise a tour of Ephesus and the surrounding area the next day if I can get down there. 

(The mosques were works of art. Interestingly the Adhan {call to prayer} was nowhere near as loud or long as Indonesia)


EFESUS


After a midnight flight, a 2 hour bus ride I reached a small town near Ephesus. I ended up preaching the whole time to this Kurdish kid living in US. He had met JW's before. He was on his way to visit his family in East of Turkey. On a side note- the buses in Turkey are like being on a plane. Amazing service, amazing snacks and drinks, wifi, movies, the works! For breakfast I had to get some scrumptious baklava. Oh me oh my turkish pastries. 

(This is where Paul walked, preached, and a cong was formed)


My faith was definitely increased by going here. You could sense what Paul had to go through. You could go into the old baths, see the statues to the God's, and laughingly see the last pillar rebuilt of the Temple of Artemis. Haha Mr. Demetrius the 'temple of the living God' outlasted Ms. Artemis.

(The stadium where the city recorder quieted the crowds. Paul was insanely brave or stupid. The sound travels incredibly. I could imagine the roar from thousands of insane Ephesians- Acts 18:38)


After Ephesus we went to a mom and pop turkish buffett with white wine and a perfect day. We did a tour through some villages selling all the tourist things you can imagine.



(We went to a turkish coffee shop that was 750 years old)




HIEROPOLIS, COLOSSAE, LAODICIA


Our sister made the point that so many things in the Bible come from Turkey. Really you need a 3 weeks to see it all. From the underground gaves where CHristians hid out to survive. To parts where yes- Abraham lived, to 1st century Christians life, it's endless. She gave me advice to see Hierapolis. She was right.


I'll try to keep this short. The only mention of it in the Bible comes from Colossians 4:12,13. Apparently Epaphras opened the worked there based on Paul's preaching in Ephesus. It became prosperous in the peaceful Roman period as a center of devotion to Cybele. Her worship there was enhanced by two natural phenomena, mineral springs and the Plutonium, or Charonion, a deep, narrow chasm that emitted deadly fumes. Colossa and Laodicia are right around the corner. When I read the book of Ephesians, Colossians, and the warning to the Laodicia congregation in Revelation the Bible hit my heart in a whole new way like it never did before. The information in the bible is just as beneficial, appropriate, and up-to-date as it was 2000 years ago. There's no time difference.
You had idols and pagan gods. At the same time you had natural hot springs, beautiful architecture, beautiful people, stadiums and slavery. Here some 2000 years later it's a tourist spot for it's hot springs and history yet I felt like Epaphras. It's a good life yet most people go unnotice. I'm in the museum seeing the statues our brothers saw. I'm feeling how many in his ministry wouldn't listen, and others would. Here most were in bikinis and shorts enjoying the spa and a beer. I don't know it hit me. The bible is really and truly inspired.

(You could see Colossae and Laodiciea off in the distance)


KUSADASI

Just a side note, from the picture above where the hot spring is to Laodicia is over 5km. You can understand why the water was now lukewarm. (Revelation 2: I tried rushing from Laodicia to make the ferry over to Greece. I made it in time, but the computer system wouldn't let me through because less than 20 minutes. So what to do? I found out not only was there a Kingdom Hall, but also a meeting that night. So with a few hours to kill, I went to the beach for a sunset and a swim.


(Night time brings out it's colors)


It turns out the GB had approved a special preaching campaign in all of turkey for any European witnesses supporting Turkish to come over to help the preaching for a few weeks. So here were a bunch of Germans and Austrians at the meeting coming to help. 

Now, on this trip it was the first time in my life I got to grow out a beard. I have wanted to grow out a beard for decades. I never did because, I don't know- tradition? This time I didn't shave and sure enough-busted! The german sisters were teasing me asking me the yeartext, what does Bethel mean, what is the theocratic school for the week etc. That night at dinner 2 of the couples sure enough had Indonesian connections. One of the sister's childhood best-friends lives next to my home in Batam. The other was a roommate in Selters of a friend of mine in Jakarta Bethel. 

(You can't go anywhere without 3 degrees of witnesses)


GREECE, SAMOS

After a ferry and motorbike rental it was off exploring the island of Samos where apparently Paul had swung by as well. For some reason, I have always enjoyed going into supermarkets overseas. I love seeing what's good, cheap, and tasty. Here it was beer, cheese, and crackers. 


(Good place for a lunch snack) 


When your on a motorbike compared to a car, you see things from a different perspective. A few times on this island, I was moved so much to just pull over take it in, take a breathe, and talk to dad. 

(Sometimes I think it's hard to imagine paradise even better)



Buying a incredibly cheap 10 pack of beer allows you to share a beer with random people. Anyone who get's a free beer will tell you loads of stories. One of them was an old greek orthodox priest. We had quite a chat...

(Sometimes there's nothing to think about)



ATHENS


Following the travel guru's advice I made a stop to Athens just to read a chapter of the Bible. Acts 17:16-34. Sitting there and meditating on what I was reading I could pick up in the natural environment around me many of the things Paul was using in his defense. I could imagine him gesturing to the mountains, trees, Agora, statues, etc. I mean you could sense he was a pioneer's pioneer.

(Can you imagine a vacation with Moses around the Red Sea?)


There is the famous story of Pheidippides who ran back to announce the victory but also to warn the Athenians that the Persians are on his way. The story goes after the arduous 26 mile run he died from exhaustion. But his efforts were not in vain since that allowed the men to prepare for defense. This in turn helps shape the face of Bible prophecy. 


(Pheidippides would have had battle armor not a batik and shorts)


ITALY TUSA, SICILY

The longer your away from home, the more you appreciate your culture. I had a very strong desire to go see my family's roots in a small town in Tusa, Sicily. I still had family there I have never met. 


(The olive trees that go back hundreds of years)


I walked by the streets my uncles and aunties and great grandparents walked on. We saw the church they attended. It was surreal actually. It was this grandmother who got the truth shortly after coming over to America in the early 1920's. She was the first one to become a witness. There were +/- 10,000 witnesses in the world at that time. She partook of the emblems until 1935 when she happily stopped partaking. 

(Abandoned wine caste would make a sweet table or anything)


My cousin is the local 'get it done' guy. He ran the only bar in town till a few others popped up. We arranged to go have a traditional Sicilian dinner. Oh me oh my the food was good. It was great to use SKYPE and call my grandmother who spoked with her cousin for the first time.

(Now I understand why Olive oil and Vinegar were so important-Preservation)



My buddy Gio took care of me like no other. We toured around Sicily and some of the outer islands. Again, a motorbike is the way to go. One wine tasting was from a vineyard that you could taste the volcanic ingredients in the wine. Very unique.

(Always a place to swim)


The recession definitely hit Greece and Sicily. You could see many abandoned homes and properties. 


(No one home, so let's take a break and a photo)


AUSTRIA

Gio and I drove up the Italian coast in 1 evening up to Austria on the way to Germany. Unfortunately we missed my cousin Nick by about a hour or two too late. The scenery going through northern Italy changes to beautiful mountains and some lakes. Into Austria it get's so green.


(The hills are alive with music)


You can't stop in Austria without a brief picnic in the Alps.

(Gio and a bottle of red)


GERMANY

I sent out emails to a lot of the people I met in 2003 to see if any could meet up. A few could! I attended a meeting in the Munich Sign Language group. After the meeting a brother working for BMW is given one of the new test cars to use for the weekend to see if he likes it.


(Not a bad job)



After the meeting it was time to hang out with some German's. There's Germany, and there is Bavaria. Once a year Bavarians through a festival in September called Octoberfest. For a years I thought that it can't be a good thing. Reality is, it's a fun family thing for many; including witnesses. Many go after their Sunday meeting. It felt like a county fair for kids, with a big kid section.

(Family Section)



Like I mentioned I needed my perspective enlarged. This sister works at Octoberfest as well as some 20 other witnesses. Her and her husband can work everyday for 2 weeks straight and make enough money to serve in Nicaragua for 1 year. 

(Serving beer to serve where the need is great)



QATAR

The trip to remember 15 years wasn't over yet... I had time to go see Doha. A random brother I never met was able to come pick me up at the airport late in the evening to see the city. He and I exchanged stories. His story from the country he came from was really remarkable. All's I can say is his father's example really helped him, but later in life. He learned, but it took a while. Even some prison time. When he wanted to hear about growing up in the truth and my family that are witnessing and really just 'making the truth your own,' he was so touched. Again, sometimes it's not until you leave your comfort zone that you see how much you had.

(Some posh clubs, hotels, and boardwalks)


Somehow I was given a free hotel room by the airline, but I needed some food. We went out for the real deal middle eastern. If I wasn't still full from bratwurst, pretzels, and brew I would have been in heaven. It was so good and healthy. Anyways, we did informal witnessing and it was interesting way of preaching. Videos on your electronic device. Basically, hello, which country you from? So you speak ...? I want to show you something. Before JW.ORG it was a different world.

(Thanks my friend, stay faithful)


It was a unexpected kind of unplanned journey. I just wanted to be a fork-lift driver. My mom wanted me to be a accountant. Reality took a different course. I am happy to have given these 15 years of my youth to the ministry. (Ecc 12:1)

USA (2015)

Due to some personal reasons, my parents requested me to come home this year. Normally it turns out every 3 years I go back, but 2 would be just fine. 

Of course, October. Again, it's hard to miss Annual Meeting. This year they opened up the JW Studio for a special tour. I attended the event back at my old temporary stomping grounds in Walkill, Bethel. I was at a fork in the road in July 2002 whether to pursue a longer duration in Bethel, or whether to go back to RI to take the Sign Language Foreign Language Class. That decision was hard. I finally had my foot in the door in Bethel like I dreamed since I was a kid. Now though, I had 10 stuides, a apt, helping a FLG, what to do. Ironically on this temp time Bethel is where I met my Indonesian contact. That encounter leads me to today.


(Many Indos think the guy on my left is GB)



The meeting was incredible as always. I don't think there's been enough buzz about the new understandings in Bible Prophecy. I think most buzz was about the new meetings and reduction in Bethel and SP. I personally enjoyed Br. Sanderson's talk about the stick. I had just done that in my personal Bible reading and had looked at those cross-references in John 10:16. The new revision made the link so clear of the harmony of the two groups. 


(My buddy since birth Spencer coming though, and Ashley who everyone was like- hmm, I know I've seen you before? -Chorus-)


If your in NY it's hard to pass up the tour of the woman and the seed or the World Power tour. My cousin Nick is stopped everywhere as well and asked for pictures, etc. I gotta say, he handles it very cordial. Going through the MET museum and hearing and seeing the links was great. I felt like I was back in Ephesus.

(Concludes the tour with a bonus feature with the NAME)






Nick is busy working, pioneering, and helping at Bethel. Really the chorus friends and orchestra make a LOT of sacrifices to do what they do. So after he did a MET tour, he had secular work singing in front of a broadway type audience. That evening for work connections we had dinner in a unique home. Upper West Side at it's best. 

(This house was decorated from ceiling to wall to floor themed. It was so unique it was like being in a world within a world)





Every time I'm back home their are certain things I kind of need to check off. Is it for nostalgia? Is it for memories? I'm not sure, but on this trip there were a few. There were things I have in the back of my mind to do and see that even I forgot about. It seems Jehovah didn't. Some dancing, foods, family, friends, talks, sunset, association, C.A., pioneer meeting, HS people, good laughs, clarity, direction, meditation, where I was, where I'm going...

(Some of my family came for a talk I had on Romans 8. We have 6 generations in the truth. So nice to have a big turkey dinner with family and friends after)





Growing up, the Denobragas have always been very special to me. My Uncle has quite the sense of humor that can get you rolling with just a brief statement. We went for a hike up Latern Hill in CT and the view was breathtaking. My dad of course gives my Uncle T plenty of material for his comedic routine. On this trip we meet some Marines hiking 25 miles plus a day for their comrades. My dad of course was trying to establish common ground to preach and said: "oh ya, the marines, your slogan is Sante Fe right?" Oh nooo, thanks for helping out Uncle T.

(Semper Fi "always faithful")


Just driving around New England taking in life and meditating on a road from a child to the present will bring you across moments in time. For locals it's "Hasted Farm's" for those of us used to craziness in SE Asia it's serenity.

(Thanks for the ride on the 4-wheeler Jess)



A brother named Tom who did a lot of training and shepherding on me when I was young is a certain stop-over when home. This brother has a interesting story before the truth. He worked in one of the worlds earliest companies that made video games. He's got one of those brains. His research and history and way he explains it could be a PBS show for kids. He took us in the woods to see the ancient Narragansett Indian relics. Interestingly enough, one of their sacred animals is a turtle. The turtle idol is still there in the woods to this day. The same is true here in Central Java at Candi Sukuh. The temple was Hindu. The turtle was a symbol of blessing and the eggs fertility.

(Besides the history class, the leaves made you feel alive)


Watch Hill is always on my places to visit. I can't spend enough time there. This time we went down for a sunrise. We left with smiles and some fresh fish a local fisherman gave me. When I was a kid, my dad use to take me here for body surfing. Sometimes if the waves were just right, we would go all the way to about 6:20 p.m. We then would take a quick shower somewhere to wipe off the sand, change in the car, and arrive at the meeting around 6:45 where my dad would conduct the T.M.S

(I can see why people enjoy fishing)


Not to far from this point is another spot near Watch Hill. Another dear friend John Romano is fighting cancer. He's still positive and still active. 


(Nobody around but peace and joy)


Like I mentioned earlier going to the pioneer meeting with the circuit was something I haven't done in over a decade. Here in the year 2000 I  pioneer school. It also was my congregation for a while. Many of these dear pioneers are still going. Some before I was born, others I started with, others still new. 

(Just to know their still there, still going warms my heart)



The baby boomers are starting to get old. They are an interesting bunch that can always entertain. Mixed with stories of Bob Dylan, drugs, Nixon, and people now out of the truth, you never know where these ex-pot heads are going to take the conversation. I mean that in the utmost respect. This trip I wanted to see the band back together. Growing up these 4 gentleman always had my head spinning. Listening to their conversation was like listening to a episode of Twilight Zone played backwords. Surprisingly enjoyable. 

(Mr. Peanut, Joe Joe, Fitzy, and just Bob)


There were generational age groups growing up in my congregation and those around. The guys above our age were about 4 years older than us. They were a huge influence on our thinking because we looked up to them as the cool guys. I asked Gavin if we could get together and he got a bunch to meet up last minute. It was nice to tell stories and hear details of life gone by and life to come.

(Meant a lot Westerly crew. The pumpkin ale and Bourbon brew were exceptional as well)


After the C.A. I had a nice goodbye dinner with some family and friends. A huge prime-rib dinner in the heart of Boston. Nothing like waking up the next morning with snow on the car. Time to leave.

MEXICO

The trip back home to Indonesia took me through Cabo, Mexico to meet an incredible family again. The Feyka's. We met a few years earlier in Bali. They gotta be up their as the most hospitable people I know. One of the kids has her own Starbucks drink. The 8 year old makes the best Mojitos in the Baja.

The view from the guest room made you want to just sit in your bed all day

(We crammed a lot in those few days. Gracias!)


Spencer came down as well and we got to do some traveling together for the first time in a while. We went out fishing and got 'skunked' for the first time in our lives. The reason is the biggest hurricane in the history of Mexico just happen to be coming through. 

(We missed the storm, so had to do some flying)


There are places in life and around nature that seem to help you figure out whatever needs to be figured. The sunrise here on a deserted beach was perfect for that. Just the sand in between your toes and the water's sound to shake out the stress. 

(Dedicated to the people who like sand in their toes)


Mexican food was gnarly. The brothers and sisters were groovy. The storm kicked up some serious surf. Looking at this picture, I still don't know what the heck I was thinking going out in that. I got roughed up, but it was a experience.

(The waves are the oceans way of 'saying go back home')


It wouldn't be a complete trip to Mexico without getting lost somewhere in the desert. We did, but we had good music and a good jeep. We were sooo lost, but didn't give up. We were rewarded for our quest.

(The nearby mountains provide a small piece of bliss)



USA, LOS ANGELES

Leaving Cabo, I had a stopover in L.A. for about 7 hours. This was enough time for a congregation going away party for someone in the Indonesian congregation. I have heard and met many of the friends from this congregation over the years, now it's the first time I can finally hang out with them. Good buddy from Indonesia David Bui, and the James family were there.

(All the best helping the Indo's in Taiwan!) 



THAILAND, CHIANG MAI

Back from home in USA and Mexico it was just a brief time before heading up to the special convention in Thailand. Over the years Thailand has always been a great stop. From Ko Phi-Phi to the side streets of Bangkok. To the food, to the worship of the King and much more. I happened to be in Thailand in October 2007 at the D.C. which released the Bible in Thai. 
(See the blog posting here- 

Fast Forward to November 2015 and here we go again with the New Bible! Br. Lett teased the audience as he released it. 

(What was touching was seeing members of the Branch Committee and Bethelites personally handing out the Bibles)



Anytime you go to a special or international convention you meet random people that make you laugh, touch your heart, or otherwise. It seems you can just start talking about anything and everything with your brothers ands sisters. People come from all sorts of life. This convention was unique since half the publishers in Thailand are Thai, the other half are foreigners. 

(The hat guy, the bow tie guy, the mustache guy)



This was the first time I saw  drone being flown over for baptism footage. At this convention it was also the first time I saw the majority of people wearing native dress than suits. One sister from the U.S. was able to find a old 1800's georgia peach type dress. It was endless. It was sweet. It's one of the few places you would see men in skirts.


(We needed a Fijian, a Samoan, and a Scot)


There are so many stories that touch you. There's also old friends you bump into. I got to meet a brother I had been emailing off and on for over 10 years. Persons you meet in Bethel, people who know your people. Then you meet people that your just encouraged by. This family showed up on 2 motorbikes to the convention. Dad driving 1, and Mom the other. They are need-greaters from NZ helping out. I know how much and how hard it is to be a need-greater. So anytime a family with little ones can do it, really encourages me. 

(Kids, you got great parents)



 On Sunday you really didn't want to leave. You just want to hug and say hello to all the friends. You can't though, not enough time. Sometimes a smile, a bow of the head and a passing of a gift is all that you can do. On the way out heading to my motorbike this was my last picture of the day. 

(Randomness, smiles, and showing off abit)


And then it's over. Back to life. But the event's were life. They become part of your life, from now till eternity. 


RANDOM THOUGHTS, RANDOM PEOPLE, RANDOM REUNIONS


One of my favorite all time movie quotes is:
"Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in a while; you might miss it." 

So sometimes you gotta take a step back and take it all in what's happening while time moves forward-


Here's some highlights of those last 3 years and the 3 things I mentioned at the beginning of this special post. "I realized that the most amazing thing to see and experience in the world; is the individual and collective beauty of Jehovah's people. The brotherhood supersedes any entertainment, location, thrill, meal, or drink. After that, Jehovah's nature comes in 2nd with it's endless ways to make us smile and be in awe. 3rd was usually preaching and sharing the truth with someone who needs it. Last, was what I wanted to do."

(Travel Tourism & Love)



https://youtu.be/GIxictVBjF8

Delegates really have no idea what your info when you head to a convention. 


(This is the crowd's face as a bunch of Maori come out in a Kingdom Hall looking like it's ready for war- See video above)


I believe this was the last class of B.S.S.B. in the entire world. Uganda had a exception to the rule even after the new school was introduced. 

(It was surreal to give them a 2-3 minute pep talk about the school as a allumni)


Jehovah's creation always keeps us like little children. In Thailand you can play with the tigers, or take a selfie with a elephant. I just found it so fun to be able to wash him in the river and play with him.

(Can you see what I see?)



These brotherz were super influential to me in my late teen years and early 20's. Gus, Ottawa, Chris Lew and the boys taught me many things. You can goof off, laugh, dance, eat, and crack jokes, but mix in a watchtower study, spiritual goals, and a deep point.

(1999 and 2015)


If you slow down, you might even bump into people you may have heard of, 'read of,' watched, before.


(2015 Regional Convention video on singleness, 2014 Gilead interview tv.jw.org)




(November 2015 Broadcast on tv.jw.org Philippines Disaster)


(The villian in most dramas; both Audio and Video {Pursue Goals That Honor God}- My man Dave )



(They Offered Themselves Willingly-In the Philippines w13 10/15 p. 5w13 10/15 p. 5 -Sukhi) 

(“I Was a Bottomless Barrel.” w12 5/1 p. 20-21 -Luka)



(Losing a Father, Finding a Father w14 7/15 p. 17 - Gerrit)



("Let the Many Islands Rejoice" w15 8/15 p. 3 -Geoff)



There are others too, but you get the idea. 
Sometimes even funnier is when you bump into people you haven't seen in decades, years, sometimes months!

(Perinni's. I haven't seen them since I was in my early teens and they went into circuit work. The Brend's knew me when I was just born and hadn't seen them as well in 20 years.



(Greg, it's been 15 years! Tommy Kittrick, look at you. What happened to your hair!? -When I was 18 and first went abroad for the first time to serve in Dominican Republic I had a great time with the Venables family. Not to mention the Br. Titmas on the left's father Russell was staying at my home in Indonesia at the time of this picture)



(The Long's I used to play football, bump into each other at random conventions, and sun-tan with it back in the day in Westerly, RI)



(I first met Mike in Sign Language circuit sometime back in 2002 maybe. We bump into each other, so randomly. But good friends try to make randomness happen)



("What ever. Whateeevver. You give me a hug man. We meet each other everywhere!" LT and his wife from Sign Langauge and Patterson.)



(Julie and I were in the same circuit growing up, used to pioneer and go to concerts together. Her grandpa was my C.O.  I hadn't seen Julie in probably 10 years, and we bump into each other in the Bindery in Walkil)



(Back at a random house party after the annual meeting I bump into Karen who I knew when I used to be down doing my Bethel hang out, salsa phase thing in my early 20's)



(There's of course the X-man. When did we first meet X? A random Jazz Club in Harlem when I was 20 if I remember right. Not to be forgotten is  his Hungarian wife Andrea see Awake 10/06 p.22 The Roma).



(Liisi from Finland I met when I was first learning sign language. In 2002 at the D.C. she gave me my sign language name Sleepy T which I still have to this day)



(Man, you look so familiar. I know you from somewhere. 'Hmm, wait a minute. China,Malaysia right?!? Ya! That's me. Your a bit crazy right? Yup that 's what my wife says... Wait, we stayed with you in Batam Indonesia for a visa chop like 6 years ago!)



(Katey and I met somewhere in Europe I believe Switzerland in 2003. We stayed in touch, met again in Australia and I haven't heard from her in probably 10 or 11 years!)



(I stayed with this couple in Queenstown back in 2003. They were just married and acted like it was no big deal. He was in IS, she was a RP, they got married and just kept going in full-time service. It was one of the coolest things. 10 years later, there both like ya; 'still like that,' still no worries mate.")



(Back in 2003 at a weekend getaway for people from 6 countries we just picnicked, drank wine, cheeses, meats, played cards in the Switzerland and German countryside. At night we lit a fire and just chatted. She is serving in Bolivia now)



(I stayed with Alistar in 2004 for the first time. Amazing story of Laos and where, and how it is today. Every few years we get togeher and have a bond. There's only a hand-full of us single guys in this part of the world that are in this part of the world over 10 years)



(This sister came up to me and said: "Hey Tom in Indonesia." Me and my family me you in 2009 in Korea at the international. I saw your dress and knew it was you right away)



(This sister came up to me and said: "TOM! HOW ARE YOU!, ummm great, wait, I know you! Yeaaa, we stayed in your place a few years ago in Jakarta. It's Queenie in Vietnam. HEEEEEEY how are you, where's Steve!)



(There he is, Tom give me a big hug. SURE! Remember you took us out for some Jazz music at a nice restaurant in Jakarta. I'm from London, and she's from US. Hmmmmmm,,,, ok, yes, right. Well, were married now! We started dating shortly after that night we went out!)



(Can I sit here please. Sure, the seats open. You look familiar. I recognize your mustache. WAIT! I know, in 2010 were you in NY. Yes, for annual meeting. I KNOW-Dave Semonian's office! You were in Sign Language in Asia somewhere. YA you guys in LA somewhere! etc, etc)



(WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT, we didn't know you were coming here! I stayed in the same guest home with them in New Zealand. We laughed until we cried. Stayed again in NY, then randomly the airport leaving Thailand I see Gary and Tracy again!)




(Derrek and Jess I have known since Bali. I stayed in their home many times. Rakhi and I met in 2013 in New Zealand. Alexus we seem to remember each other from some random house party in Massachussets and Brooklyn in the early 2000's!)



(So over 10 years later, and the family is still smiling. The trip to change a lifetime surely did just that. But, it will still never change the love you have for family and friends)


-I usually end this blog with a sunset-
-The sunset is all of you beautiful people that we meet and love along the way-