I was by myself at this point as Bernard had begun a conversation with another nearby man in the same park. “How are you today?” I asked. “I’m fine” he abruptly answered, continuing to stare off ahead. I didn’t let the lack of eye contact discourage me. We exchanged names and I continued.
“Well Nicholas, I’m here talking to people about world events. We see so much suffering and violence in the world, and often that makes people wonder, who really controls the world.”
“It’s God” he answered in response to the question on the front of my little yellow tract.
“You know, so many people feel the same way. But take a look at what the scriptures say about that.” I shared 1 John 5:19 from the inside cover of the tract. I could see his face react at learning how the scriptures show that Satan actually controls the world.
I allowed him to reason on how much sense that scripture really makes, since there’s no way the world would be as terrible as it is if God really controlled it. I still didn’t feel an overwhelming connection with him, but I still wanted to turn it into an attempt to talk to him again.
“Maybe I could call you or WhatsApp you to get in touch again?” I suggested.
“I’m always here, I don’t work,” he confessed, “you can find me here.”
Alright, I thought to myself, I’m not gonna push it.
“Ok Nicholas, that sounds good. Hopefully I’ll catch you soon.”
I went and sat on the other side of the park, and allowed Bernard time to wrap up his extended conversation with the other man in the park. “Ok, it didn’t feel that special, but you never know,” I pondered.
So that was Tuesday. Let’s fast forward to Thursday. Bernard decided to make a return visit on the same man he’d been talking to that day. Once we got to the area, the park immediately looked familiar to me. Nicholas crossed my mind briefly and I glanced around for him, but with no success. I was focused on being here to support Bernard on his new study. Joining the two of us was Daniel, the same young brother I’d met on my first night in Zaragoza. Daniel offered to stay behind and let us Bernard and me go up to make the visit, but Bernard insisted that Daniel join us too.
So the three of us trekked up a few flights of stairs to the flat where Bernard’s visit. He opened the door and let us in with warm welcoming. Two other African men were inside there with him. One of them looked familiar… Was it…? Hmm I wasn’t sure if it was Nicholas… Wouldn’t he have said hi to me by now?
Minutes into our arrival, Bernard had started his study, and by this time I was determined to confirm my suspicion about the man next to whom I sat in a bit of awkward silence. “What was your name again?” I asked. I was kinda faking it, as if I had met him that day upon our arrival and wanted to remind myself of his name. I was hoping he’d say Nicholas…
“You don’t remember my name?” he retorted, with a friendly smirk. Then I knew I’d struck gold. I pretended to rack my brain.
“Umm… don’t tell me…. Hmmm…. Nicholas?”
“That’s right.” (Psh, yeah it was)
So after leaving our initial visit without a phone number, not knowing where he lived, or how I could reasonably find him again, he’s conveniently the roommate of another person’s call. Coincidence? I doubt it.
“Hey, I thought that was it. Glad I found you!” I made some small talk with him as well as the third roommate who sat next to him. My eyes darted a glance to the side and noticed Bernard well into a full on study. Well, I guess this was as god a time as any to do the same thing. I was so happy I had stocked my service bag with Good News brochures the night before at the meeting. I handed a new one to Nicholas.
“This brochure is great. It’s helped a lot of people answer some really common questions they have about the Bible.” After showing him the contents on the back, he paused for a few moments to peruse them.
“I’ve wondered about this one,” he explained in his thick African accent, pointing to the lesson on why God allows evil and suffering.
I told him how that’s the most common question we’re asked as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and told him we could either start there on that chapter, or start from the beginning and make our way to it. He decided on the latter.
It reminded me of a really cool scripture that I like at Acts 8:30, 31 when Phillip finds the Ethiopian eunuch who’s reading Isaiah and asks him “Do you actually know what you are reading?” The Eunuch then replies “Really, how could I ever do so unless someone guided me?” Philip is then urged by the eunuch to “get on and sit down with him.” So I got on and sat down with Nicholas. And we had a great first study, as did Bernard with Nicholas’s roommate.
It was a test of my ability to go niiiice and sloooow. There’s a language and understanding barrier, so I had to fight the urge to just speed through everything like I might do with my American student back home.
I left with a boost of energy. It was cool to have started study in under a week in Zaragoza. It got me excited for the upcoming months.
That Saturday saw day one of the Memorial campaign. We had a huge group out in the hall that day to kick off the invitation work. However, my favorite thing about that day wasn’t how many people from our hall were out. It wasn’t finding a decent number of people at home. It was what we saw in the streets.
We were everywhere.
In the hours that we were out, we saw Witnesses EVERYWHERE. Every five minutes or so we’d cross paths with other Witnesses from the local Spanish congregations. It got to the point where it wasn’t that big a deal after a while. Zaragoza was invaded with Witnesses like locusts. That was really exciting to see. And that trend continued past that day. Most days when I’m out in service I’ll see other Witnesses from other halls. This makes sense as we are in a foreign language territory, whose territory crosses paths with all those in Spanish congregations. Even at that, though, it’s really exciting to see our brothers and sisters flooding the city.
The days to come were full of great conversations. People would even sometimes walk up to US recognizing us as Jehovah’s Witnesses and wanting to talk. It was easy to ask for numbers, easy to make return visits, easy to get people agree to study.
Life has been good. But as big of a part of my life here as service has been, social life is important to me too. And slowly, but surely, I’ve gotten to experience even more of that as well.