Day 2 of the convention started much like the previous 4 days we had stayed at the Cresta Lodge – by going downstairs to enjoy the full breakfast, which is included in the price of your room.
Before we get to that, a side note – Zimbabwe is not cheap. If you want to have top quality food and lodging for an affordable price, South Africa is where you want to be. Seriously. South Africa is so affordable. I don’t think there’s any place I’ve ever been where you get so much bang for your buck. We stayed in the heart of one of the trendiest parts of Cape Town in a fantastic B&B with great breakfasts for about $70 per night. Top-notch dinners with drinks were $35 for both of us.
Zimbabwe is not like that. But if you go, you have to remember that the country is quite economically depressed. Their economy went belly-up just a few years back, where hyper-inflation caused their dollar to basically become worthless. They are on the US dollar now, and they’re doing better – but don’t expect bang for your buck in Zim. Cresta Lodge was quite ordinary (although a bit nicer than where many of our fellow delegates stayed) and it still wasn’t cheap, even with the discount that the branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses was able to negotiate. It’s worth going to Zim, but don’t expect great food and lodging for great prices. (I digress…)
That being said, the Cresta Lodge breakfast was a pretty sweet deal. I made sure to take advantage of the grill, where they would make your eggs and meat whatever way you preferred. So that was cool. But we had to hurry to catch our 6:45 bus, because of course, we like to take as much time as possible to sleep in until the last minute, and we ended up arriving at breakfast at about 6:25. So we shoveled down our food and hopped on the bus.
We arrived to another beautiful day at National Sports Stadium. As is always the case when a large group of Jehovah’s Witnesses get together, it’s easy to make a lot of friends.
Ruben and Christiane, delegates from Germany
William and Morrison, local brothers from Harare
A group of brothers from the Bethel branch in Zimbabwe
We learned an Ndebele greeting…
I’ll never forget this group of young brothers. They were so cool! They totally reminded me of myself when I was 16. They were working in the parking department, helping brothers and sisters park their cars, as well as the huge tour buses. It was so cool to see them so amped up to help out the brothers and sisters and taking joy in their assignments, but also cutting up and goofing off. They were joking around with each other. Dylan (the one on my right) was teasing the brother on his right about a girl that he saw while on his assignment that he thought was cute. So of course I got in on it and started busting their chops too. It is such an authentic experience for a young person growing up as a Witness – you’re working so hard in your assignment to do your best for your brothers and for Jehovah…but of course! you’re still young and you have that goofy side, and of course! you may be innocently distracted from your assignment when you think there’s a girl who might be interested in you. I can totally relate to that feeling. That was a good time in my life, and I hope these guys are enjoying it too. Great bunch of zealous brothers.
The convention continued to be an overwhelming success. At conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Saturday is the day when baptisms are held. At this time, Bible students who have decided to dedicate themselves to God can symbolize their dedication by baptism, as Jesus did. About 600 were baptized at the English convention at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey in June (with another 600 in the Spanish convention the following week), and up to that point, that was by far the largest group I’ve ever seen baptized at one convention. (By comparison, I was baptized with about 12 others at an assembly of 1,000.) The Harare convention outdid all of them, though, with a total baptism of 1,568! What a privilege it was to welcome 1,568 brothers and sisters that day.
It took 10 pools to baptize all the new ones!
For anyone who really knows me (Husband), I’m bored by things that go according to plan. I always like to have little distractions, especially if I can laugh at them. As much as I love meetings and conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s hard for me to sit for hours on end. I need to have something to joke about, something to laugh at. (Now Jolyn, of course, she’s the opposite – if anything is a distraction, it must be eliminated.) So when I’m at the meeting and someone makes an off-the-wall comment or does something that’s way off, that’s the kind of stuff I relish (while my wife cringes). Why? I don’t know, it just makes everything more human. Humans have foibles, so why not just acknowledge that? I love to laugh, and I think I would have a hard time in a congregation where people didn’t laugh regularly. (I would never be a good congregation Coordinator, because I always love some minor chaos during a meeting.) So you can imagine my excitement when I realized that in Zimbabwe, there are a lot of cute little kids. And often, parents would let their cute little kids out of their sight for a few minutes. And when the parents let said children out of their sight for a few minutes, they would RUN. And…nobody would necessarily notice…or care…for a little while. Like, when he got dangerously close to unplugging some sound equipment or running on stage. And this happened, with different kids, every few hours. And it was awesome.
Go, little buddy!
Annnnnd…he takes a spill in front of the screen.
And Mom’s located him…and she takes off running! And there he goes!
Another little guy rolling around in the grass later in the day
I just love how this seemed to be such a normal way of life for the Zimbabwean friends.
“Hey, your kid is running across the grass in front of 70,000 people and may be about to run on stage.”
“You don’t say.”
“Yes, he really is. There he goes.”
It’s honestly a refreshing balance from the American lifestyle, where we pump kids so full of candy and games on their iPad that they have no interest in running or the outdoors whatsoever. And it also says a lot about the Zimbabwean people, and I mean that in a good way. Kids are well-behaved, get a little nutty sometimes, but that’s because they’re kids. There’s no reason to freak out.
Although yeah, one of the attendants probably should have grabbed the kid. But I didn’t mind.
Saturday ended up being even more successful than Friday, with 74,000 in attendance – a total of 14,000 more than the capacity of the stadium! Many of our friends were diverted to a screen and speakers that were set up just outside the stadium. The management of the stadium didn’t want as many friends to sit on the grass, so instead the friends in the overflow area had a whole space to themselves. So while the audience looks smaller, it’s only because so many were diverted to the outside overflow section – there were 8,000 more in attendance than on Friday.
One of the cool things that Jehovah’s Witnesses do for international conventions is make signs and gifts to welcome their brothers and sisters. Although a simple gesture, they really go a long way to show you how international our brotherhood is.
And so, Day 2 drew to a close. We left exhausted but happy.
Jolyn and our Zimbabwean friends with the new release, God’s Kingdom Rules!
Friends from Sao Paolo, Brazil
The Hamburgs from Oregon – these guys were so cool. We spent a bus ride bonding with them. Such a great couple – it was truly encouraging to meet them!
The stadium on the way out
One of the many encouraging examples came from our dear brothers in the picture below. These brothers in Zimbabwe, although having very little materially, would sacrifice comfort to make sure they were at the convention. It took at least an hour to get out of the stadium with all of the traffic; additionally, it could have taken these brothers an hour or longer to get home. And despite having to cram into the bed of this pickup truck, they were all smiles. What a powerful lesson to those of us who may get impatient if there is any minor hiccup on our way to the meeting – if it’s hard to find parking, if we have to rush to make it on time…these brothers have us beat, and it gives me encouragement to be happy with what I have.
It was an awesome and fulfilling day. However, we were both exhausted. Jolyn spent a good part of the day helping cleaning the ladies restrooms too which were not equipped to handle the sheer volume of attendees. Toilets were not flushing and sinks were not working, so our dear sisters were working overtime to make sure everything in the ladies’ room was in order. Additionally, we spent a lot of time volunteering with the lunch crew. Combine that with the hot, sticky Zimbabwe winter (about 80 degrees Fahrenheit), and we were both spent!
Wife here- Hi! Yes this day was awesome and such a blessing, but after all our excursions in Zimbabwe, our entire previous portion of vacation, and all the get up early to then stay up late, I was exhausted! Like the weepy, negative, I-don’t-want-to-live-anymore sadness. I guess it’s that really overspent feeling everyone gets from time to time. It all came to a culmination when late in the day I was waiting in the ever-snaking line for the women’s restrooms. (I see above that I had been gone so long, John assumed I was cleaning. Nope! Just standing in that line!!) When I finally made it to the front, and as I was chatting with some of the locals, we noticed this little five year-old girl whimpering and nervously looking from side to side and whispering ‘Moommmma?’ It was clear that she must have gotten separated from her mother and she was on the brink of a post-toddler meltdown. It broke my heart to see this so I had to do something to help! So I came up to her and said ‘hey let’s go find mom together!’ And so off to lost and found we went, which is where we are instructed to bring lost children. She whimpered along the way, even though I did my best to distract her telling stories about my plane ride over or Caleb and Sophia videos. We arrived at Lost and Found to discover 3 other children were there! Hey with an attendance of 74,000 I guess only 3 was pretty good. So I brought her inside and delivered her to the attendant overseeing that department. I said goodbye and she gave me the sad, cow-eyes and cried tears that whispered ‘you can’t leave me too!’ I started to cry a little and hugged her and told her that this was where mommies go to get their lost children, so she wouldn’t have to wait long. I had some candy and snacks left over from lunch, so I dug into my purse and gave each of the sad, lost children some of the bounty on the condition they stop crying and be courageous! Zimbabwe kids looove their candy, so they easily complied with this request. And as a side note, a unique gesture that Zimbabwe children perform as a thank you to adults is a quick double clap. And they all did it as I handed out juice boxes, candy, and chips I was holding onto for who knows what reason, but I did and was happy to see a smile. And so I left to return to the restroom line. And I was done. DONE! Elvis had left the building, and I was ready to take my toys and go home! I was extremely exhausted and didn’t know how I could handle a third day! But I didn’t want to feel that way and knew I shouldn’t feel that way. So I prayed. And didn’t know exactly what to pray for, but just asked if I could have a better attitude. So I left it in God’s hands… and was completely unprepared for how my prayers would be answered the next day!
…Next time, on Day 3.