I’ve worked to stay consistent with my barber shop call on Tuesdays. Both to continue our spiritual conversations and to get my shave! James had been out of town for a period of time, so I haven’t been able to see him for a while. However, Charles is always there, as it’s his shop. I’ve found it a bit difficult to get him to commit to actually stopping and studying. When we are at his workplace, he’s often busy with clients. His only day off is Sundays, and despite his suggestions that we get together on a Sunday, they never seem to pan out.
While I was on my road trip, I had Sylvester stop by and visit Charles, and they were in fact able to have a brief study about the Kingdom. That’s great! I thought, determined to continue such a discussion the next time I stopped by. It went a little differently than I planned.
I’d texted a fellow pioneer named Marga to see if she wanted to start service a bit early one Friday. The meeting for service was at 4:30, but I figured I’d get an early start considering I’d only gotten back from the road trip the day before. She graciously agreed and I came up with a game plan. I’d have her join me at the barber shop at 2:30, come to my return visit on the far side of town at 3:30 and then head back to the hall for the 4:30 meeting for service.
Charles had warned me in the past that his shop gets busy on Fridays. But I figured I’d left myself enough time. I’d be good, right? Ha! That was definitely wrong. He apparently knew his business slightly better than I did. There were three guys ahead of me. That might not sound like much, but with each person taking 30 minutes or more, the time would’ve crawled by.
I kept brief spurts of conversation going related to spiritual things. But I knew that I was in not position to actually conduct a study with them then, even to have much of an extended conversation at all. But my primary concern shifted to Marga. We were going to meet at my next call at 3:30. It would take me more than half an hour to get there on the metro, as the clock slowly ticked toward the 3 o’clock hour.
What could I do? I definitely needed to shave before the meeting. The vacation beard was in full swing and had to go. And then it clicked.
“Charles, can I just shave myself?”
“You know how to do it?”
“Yeah, I do it all the time at home!”
Sweet. That would save me more than enough time. I splashed some alcohol on the supplies, threw him some change and went about my way. I left minutes later with a fresh face and time to get my afternoon service started. I met with Marga for a bit, and we did some street work. One goal I wanted to make sure I accomplished that day was mailing off my letters to Russia. The deadline was approaching and I didn’t want to delay. I thought the letter writing campaign was so encouraging. How cool to see the entire world band together to take a stand for our brothers in Russia. It was historic and exciting. I look forward to seeing the outcome when the case finishes. Obviously, no matter the outcome, Jehovah will take care of the brothers there. I’m just privileged to have played a small part in such a historical effort.
* * *
Charles was pleasant as usual and as he finished up with his first haircut I slipped right in there to show him the Memorial video. I’d gone back a bit earlier than normal for my regular visit to the barber shop.
“So what language did you grow up speaking, Charles?” I asked him, taking a more relaxed approach than usual because I could see that his shop wasn’t as busy as it was the last time.
“English” he replied, thick Nigerian accent fully in tact. This isn’t what I was getting at.
“Besides English though!”
“Oh, it is just a local language”
“Igbo? Edo?” I inquired, naming the common Nigerian languages we often encountered.
“Edo” he replied with a smile. “But you will not have it.”
I looked at my partner Joel (Marga’s husband) with a quick, knowing glance. “I won’t have it, huh?”
If he’d asked me that a few months ago in California, he would’ve been spot on. But today? Oh no, no, no, not today my friend. I was in Bilbao! I was a pioneer! I was ready!
I hit play.
His face lit up as the Memorial video began to play in his own language. I loved not having any idea what was being said. But it was obvious that this touched him personally. I asked him how he enjoyed it, end the answer was clear. “I will try to come if I can close the shop early.” Yes, it was a typical Nigerian non-committal answer. But I would take it.me over the past few years. I liked that our campaign centered around focusing on addresses we already had, instead of finding new ones in search work. I felt guaranteed to have conversations in my language and even more in my comfort zone. And that happened. I pulled some long days working hard to get the invitation out as much as I could. I went out in some random afternoons with a fellow pioneer brother from Ghana named Isaac. His schedule required him to go out at odd times, and when he told me this often requires him to go out by himself, I told him I’d change my schedule to support him. working and in college. My schedule, understandably, was tight and didn’t have a ton of room for flexibility. During part of that time I had to go out Monday evenings. However, I couldn’t drum up support during that time, and I obviously didn’t want to go out every week alone. But I reached out to a friend in my hall at the time. He was new to our congregation at the time. Service wasn’t his initial inclination. But he began to join me every week. That support was huge to me and it’s something I will definitely always appreciate. That friend eventually went on to become a pioneer himself. It was a definite interchange of encouragement.
So flash forward to 6 years in the future, and here I am “giving back”. I had quite a few afternoons during odd times with Isaac. But I loved that I got to support our territory and support a fellow pioneer. Some of the Nigerians we found could be a bit evasive. They’d let us in to their complex, but just have us “leave it in the buzón (mailbox)” instead of coming to their door. But of course, despite moments of seeming disinterest, we got opportunities to play the video, have conversations and really emphasize the importance of being at the Memorial.
One thing I wanted to do during my time here was go in service in Spanish. I had made a friend in the Spanish congregation, an Angolan brother named Nelson. His English was limited, but between my solid Spanish and the bits of English he spoke, we were able to communicate just fine. One night, I had him, Jon and Maria, and a young brother visiting from Denmark named Magnus over to my place. I made dinner and we watched the Broadcast. It was cool bring able to host some people like that. But from there on, I decided to try some service over in Nelson’s territory.
Spanish service. It’s definitely different here in Spain.You know how in California, people are generally polite at the doors. The majority will take the invitation after the typical two sentence presentation I like to give. Here? Ha! The Spanish can NOT be bothered haha. Half a sentence in, they all shut us down. We’d typically ask to be let in through the intercom, not saying we were Jehovah’s Witnesses, as that would’ve been a likely deterrent. But once we came and rang their bells, they were NOT having it. I’ve gotten pretty used to the sense of rudeness that I’ve encountered here. It makes me laugh usually, so fortunately it doesn’t bother me. But you know what, hey at least these people got a Witness. They knew who we were, we left an impression on them, and what they do with that was up to them I learned not to take such rude and quick rejection personally.
I was enjoying the connections I was establishing within my congregation. The social aspect began to take shape too. We would go out for pintxos (Spanish small plates) and drinks. The group hosted an awesome BBQ in the hills of the village of Elorrio (while the congregation had their meeting, heh… having out meeting Saturdays is pretty awesome, I gotta say). I’m talking gourmet style beef, pork, kebab skewers, ribs, the works! This wasn’t a hot dog and hamburgers kinda gig. I’d take hikes with friends too, such as in the hills of Kortezubi, with images painted on the forest’s trees, forcing you to stand at just the right angle to see the full perspective.
Things were connecting.