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Residence:  Mesa, AZ

Life since high school:
After graduation from Terra Nova High School in 1965, I began a full-time career of Bible teaching and missionary work. In the beginning, I had as close companions in this work my sister, Marsha Zwiep (TN class of ’63) and Diane Koltzau (TN class of ’65). We worked under the direction of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Our first assignment away from home was in the spring of ’66, to Longmont, CO, on the aspen-clad eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. From there we were moved in the fall of the same year to Fairbury, NE, where we worked among the farmers of the flat mid-west. In the fall of ’67 all three were accepted as students of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, a college for prospective foreign missionaries, located in Brooklyn, New York. Graduation from the 45th class was in March of ’68. Diane was assigned to Chile, Marsha and I were sent as partners to Ecuador, South America.

Guayaquil, our first home, sprawled along the Guayas river. It was hot, steamy, noisy, delightful, very old-fashioned, of incredible architecture, and full of friendly people. Our international missionary family of 9 members was helpful as we began a crash course of Spanish, 10 hours a day of language study for the first month, then 5 hours a day the second month with 5 hours a day of using the language to begin teaching the Bible in our assigned portion of the city. By the third month, we were quite fluent, even though we admittedly made some errors that sent everyone into whoops! It was a good thing I learned Spanish quickly, because I soon met my husband-to-be, Eduardo Caicedo. He was a fellow missionary from Quito, Ecuador, and he spoke no English. We were married in 1970, and began a life of incredible adventures.

Our first assignment as a couple was high in the Andes Mountains to the south of Quito, capital of Ecuador, which well earns its name “City of Eternal Spring” – it is verdant green and full of flowers year round. “Volcano Alley” as the Andes here are dubbed, sports massive snow-clad volcanoes poking up into the clouds in a ragged north-south line. Public transportation to small villages tucked into the valleys was always a thrill, busses were packed inside and on the roof with Indians, produce and livestock. To some areas there were only paths, so we did a lot of hiking. That prepared us for a more isolated assignment, Loja, where we worked in all the towns and villages between the muggy Amazon basin and the arid, desert-like frontier with Peru. We became well acquainted with jungle birds and animals, and never tired of the wild array of orchids and other tropical blossoms, or the spectacular waterfalls. When the heat and damp were overwhelming, one could always head for another climate zone. Along with Bible principles helpful for daily living, we taught people to read and write, as illiteracy is a major challenge in these far-flung places.

It was in 1975 while in Loja that I began suffering the onset of Multiple Sclerosis, with all its accompanying woes. Walking became a challenge, but a cane helped, and was handy for fending off dogs as well!  When we moved to Babahoyo in the humid rice and banana-growing coastal region, that cane became a real boon. Babahoyo regularly floods in the long rainy season, and murky water was traversed by high narrow walkways of split bamboo. In visiting homes along these wobbly paths, my “third leg” was envied by those without an excuse for such an aid to balance!

After about a year in Babahoyo, Ed and I received a new assignment which sent us criss-crossing Ecuador to every corner of the land, visiting and working with a different congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses each week. We traveled by bus, cargo truck, boat, canoe, narrow-gauge railroad, horse, mule, donkey and on foot to reach the different groups. Sometimes we went by plane, as when we flew to the Galapagos Islands for a month, an unforgettable working vacation!

In 1982, Ed was diagnosed with terminal cancer and informed he had about two months to live. We found help for him in California, and immediately moved there, to Novato. My MS was worsening, but we kept up our Bible teaching work among the Spanish speaking population of Marin county. My mother moved in with us as a full-time nurse, and with her help we were able to cope. I lost my intrepid soul-mate in 1986. By then I was in a wheelchair, unable to walk at all.

Time to regroup! At the end of 1991 Mom and I heard of a small congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses that was in need of help, in the White Mountains of Arizona. I figured that a person could battle MS anywhere, so we may as well move!  Eagar, AZ, was our new home, in the midst of cattle ranches, vast national forests, wild mountains, lakes and rivers. Within 6 months, the MS was definitely going into remission and I went from bed-ridden to wheelchair to two canes to one cane… and freedom!  Not only was I able to walk and do our Bible education work full time again, but also do hiking, horseback riding, and even learned to work with cattle, herding them either on horseback or ATV.

There has also been opportunity to travel. My sister, Marsha, married a missionary from Germany, Gerd Breuer, in 1975 – they are still in Ecuador to this day. We have made a number of trips together, exploring Europe, visiting family and friends in various countries, hiking the Swiss Alps, even attending the first international convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses ever held in Moscow, Russia!  I have been back to Ecuador a couple of times, and find that it is still “home”.

Since my MS is in total remission and I have regained my full strength, life has taken a new turn. To my Bible teaching work, something new has been added. In 2003, I accepted an invitation to join a team of Jehovah’s Witnesses who build Kingdom Halls, as our meeting places are called. I am on the “Site Preparation Crew”, which means that I am now a ditch digger, first class! The prep work for a new Hall takes several weeks, but the actual build by the coordinated groups of volunteers takes just one, two or three weekends, depending on the size of the Hall. I not only dig ditches, but work with several crews wherever a hand is needed, including framing, lathing, stucco, insulation, roofing and so on. I am on site from four to six weeks at a time, and love every minute of it. A jollier bunch of companions would be difficult to find! As much of the current construction is in the Phoenix area, Mom and I have recently moved to the desert, where we are reveling in the unique beauty of the cactus dotted landscape, and making a whole flock of wonderful new friends!