This post might be a little longer than usual, but there were so many interesting things we learned, I really wanted to include as much as I could. So just a warning… Soldier on dear readers!
Today we were scheduled to take a tour of the local Assembly hall and Bethel branch office. This was one of our earliest days… Up at 5:00 AM!
First we were headed to the local branch office. The local branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses can take care of different things, depending on the needs, or location of other offices. Everyone who works here are volunteers. They are usually paid a small stipend for personal expenses (in the US it’s around $100 a month, but not sure what it would be here.) In support of their volunteering, they are also provided a small apartment, food, cleaning services, and the like. What goes on there? The main purpose is to support the area with things like local language translation, oversight of Kingdom Hall construction, and things like this. But more on the details to come!
Pulling into the parking lot, everyone came out to greet us! And what a welcome it was!!
We were split up into groups and went to the different stations; our tour guide’s name was Lovely! A quick aside on the unusual names we came across; I kept a running list of all the interesting names of people I met:
Happy & Pretty (Pretty, wife, was married to her husband, Happy)
Surprise (and yes, I made the joke everyone likely makes when they meet her)
Challenge (Rise above your name, dear sir!)
Precious coffee (I didn’t personally meet this person but a delegate did!)
This, That, Then (Siblings! Haha!)
How fun are some of these names!?! I met another sister later at the convention that explained it to me in a way that made complete sense. (BTW, JW’s call one another brothers and sisters, for many reasons, but one is that we all share one father, Jehovah God, since really, he is the beginning of all things, and second, it reminds us we are all the same and we should treat each other with the same love and consideration. I really appreciate this as it keeps you in such a positive mindset about one another. Just an explanation if it sounds kooky or weird!)
First, in the local native language, Shona, if you are given a Shona name, usually it has a meaning (beauty, peace, blessing, etc.) And then over the years with British control and English becoming more prominent, a lot of those names just translated directly from Shona to English. Makes sense! Also she offered another reason, which would explain the other unusual names (This, That, or Then anyone?): some peoples or areas might have less experience or education in English. So when they learn a word in English, like This, they might simply like the way it sounds to their ears without a concern (or even an understanding) of what the word means. After this explanation, I found myself falling in love even more with every unusual name I came across!
Back to the tour!
First we were taken to lawn and landscaping. This is interesting because much of the local area has a lot of trash and rubbish along the street, so this provides such a contrast. Interesting fact: the sisters primarily cut the grass since they are more careful and more detailed! Haha!
Next was maintenance. Interesting fact: EVERYTHING has a maintenance schedule. Even something as simple as a door. Weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc. Why should they bother? It was explained this way- all of the local branch offices are supported by voluntary contributions. Every single one, all over the world! So in appreciation and deep respect for this fact, they provide regular maintenance down to something as simple as a door so as not to needlessly replace things because they haven’t been maintained properly. A misaligned door, because screws had become loosened, will unevenly wear down paint on the jamb, roughen up the wood, and exert stress on the lock. All costing money to be repaired or replaced. Why should any contributions be squandered due to lack of maintenance? What an appreciation for our contributions!
Next was a station that shows you all their local food.
They gave you a little bag with a sampling. A few of the local foods:
Mahau- a drink made of corn and sugar, and left to ferment in the sun… Verdict? A little thick and lumpy. Not a fan, but thoroughly appreciate the resourcefulness of a DIY cocktail. In preparation for any coming famine, I’ll keep this in mind.
Mopanni- worms. At your own risk, google how they are made (haha we learned the hard way) but they are the outside of a caterpillar, dried and spiced. I tried it! (A video of that later.) High in protein, a bit chewy and the taste of a piece of beef jerky marinated in clam juice.
Snot apple- Accurately graded an A+ in the ‘most unfortunately named foods’ category, this is a hard small fruit you peel and chew. And chew. And chew some more. When you really get going, it starts to get a slippery consistency and considered like a gum. Fun to try! But I’ll stick to my Trident for now.
From there, next was translation. Quick! What are the main languages of Zimbabwe? Oh you’re close, it’s actually Shona, Ndebele (this is a language similar to Zulu with the clicking sounds!) , Chichanana, Kalanga, and Chitanga. This group will take our English magazines and books and kindly spend much time and effort to make sure people can read and understand in their mother tongue.
And we also learned about Zimbabwe Sign Language. How different is it from ASL? A lot of differences! Reason is that some signs in ASL just don’t make sense for the Zimbabwe people. The brother at this station explained that in ASL, for example, the sign for ‘milk’ is a hand movement that simulates a mechanical cow milking (kind of like a squeezing motion) whereas the local people don’t understand that as there is no ‘factory farming’ here. So in Zimbabwe, the sign for milk is an up and down movement, like if you were to milk a cow by hand. Whoddathought?
This is me trying my hand at signing in ZSL. I can’t remember if I was saying “hello”, or “here”, so… Not very helpful I guess!
Then we were treated to a beautiful choir. They practiced for 9 months just for us! Box of tissues alert!
And then our tasty lunch!
After, we said a tearful goodbye and off to our next stop!
Onward to the local assembly hall!
Brother Smart (his first name!) told us this was the first of its kind in Zimbabwe. It became needed because, for the 2 times a year Jehovah’s Witnesses meet together as a larger group of several congregations, the local brothers were running into so many issues! First, most of the larger halls were really not dignified (no toilets, dirty, or structurally unsafe) or they would book a location and their reservation would be cancelled a few days before their event, for any old reason! So a decision was made to build their own location!
Construction was dependent solely on volunteers (as all of our meeting places are) and it was scheduled for completion in 24 months. It was so well supported, they finished in 15 months! This was despite the fact there were times they were worried if there would be enough food to feed the volunteers each day they were there! But Brother Smart said it all worked out. A few more pictures:
More goodbyes, and too fast end to the day! What’s up next? This!