Sunday, December 18, 2016

How a Bethel Bus Tour Changed My Life As a Youth

The year 1988 was an important one for me. I was just finishing up high school. I was 17 years old and had lots of spiritual goals. I remember well the “Divine Justice” District Convention at the Edmonton Northlands Coliseum where the book “Revelation – Its Grand Climax at Hand” was released. The moving declaration against Babylon the Great greatly impressed me and that night I dedicated my life to Jehovah in prayer.
This could be you! (Photo courtesy of
However, I was very shy about getting baptized. I knew it’s what I wanted, but I was nervous about such responsibilities as (perhaps) having to pass microphones at the Kingdom Hall! 😊

Man, how things have changed in the past 28 years. I would never have imagined that I’d be serving where the need is greater in Ecuador years later (23 years here, and counting).

Something that really changed me was one of the most profound experiences of my life. It was in the autumn of 1988 on an 8-day organized tour to visit Brooklyn Bethels, Wallkill Bethel, and Canada Bethel. Initially, only my brother was going, chaperoned by my grandma (a Witness) and grandpa (not a witness). My parents could only afford to send one of us. However, how very elated I was when a kind and generous pioneer family in the congregation offered to pay my way too!

It was my first time on an airplane, my first time to the east coast. As the trip progressed, there were many many other “firsts” as well. The Bethel tours truly changed my life, opening my horizons. I had been like a potted plant for years. The organized Bethel trip took my “roots” out of that pot and planted them in fertile soil. Being with so many brothers and sisters from all over Alberta and Saskatchewan, making so many new friends, having so many upbuilding conversations, singing Kingdom songs on the bus rides together... it was all so overwhelming - in a good way.

By the time the trip and tours were over, I decided I would get baptized as soon as possible. And so I did, December 24th, 1988 at the Edmonton, Canada Assembly Hall.

Do you have young ones that could benefit from such a tour? Or is there a low-income family in the congregation that maybe you could help out? Such Bethel Tours are still available. Give my friends David and Monica Chinchilla a call. The also serve as “need-greaters.” They serve in Costa Rica but spend part of their time in the United States organizing Bethel Tours for the friends. Please call them at +1 (817) 607-8019 or visit their website:

In the meantime, please let me share with you some old photographs I dug up. See if you could see yourself or one or two of your teens there! (Note: Youths under 18 years old need a chaperone such as a parent, older friend or grandparent.) As always, please leave your comments below. Have you enjoyed an organized group Bethel tour? Tell us your thoughts!

Wallkill Bethel (‘Watchtower Farms’)

The main entrance at Wallkill Bethel
Watchtower Farms computer systems’ central memory banks
Back in the day, the four presses at Wallkill printery produced
163 million magazines per year. Each press was worth
$2.5 million and went through 10 miles of paper per hour.
Watchtower Farms in Wallkill

Brooklyn Bethel Complexes

Office Complex at 25 Columbia Heights
Back in the day, 100,000 pieces of mail were received here
monthly and literature and magazine accounts were
maintained for about 8,500 congregations.

Printing Department in Brooklyn
Shipping Complex in Brooklyn

Jersey City Assembly Hall (“Stanley Theater”)

The marquee

The auditorium
One of the many decorative paintings

Touring New York City

Boat Tour Around Manhattan
The Brooklyn Bridge and World Trade Center

Heading to Canada

Taking a break for a group shot in Ontario.
People whom we’d never met became best of friends
The elderly sister (3rd from the right) just turned 100 this year!
Experiencing Niagara Falls in the ‘Maid of the Mist’

Experiencing Niagara Falls from ‘Table Rock Plaza’

Canada Bethel in Georgetown
Canada Bethel with my Grandfather
Entrance to Canada Bethel

Saying Farewell - Our last night together with new friends

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