The bilingual couple who married in 2008, made volunteer service a priority in their relationship and sought direction on where the need was greatest for their teaching and preaching abilities.
Keyla, who was born in Manhattan, was serving in the full-time ministry in the Bronx, and Moises, a California native serving at the world headquarters of the WatchTower Bible and Tract Society in Brooklyn, N.Y., at Bethel, wasted no time in finding where they could best be used after getting married. The newlyweds asked the service department in Bethel to provide them with a list of areas where their help was needed most.
“The top two areas were Cleveland (Tenn.) and Tell City, Ind.,” Moises said. “These were areas where they needed brothers and the preaching work was extensive.”
With their volunteer spirit, Moises and Keyla chose the Volunteer State and the City with Spirit, to offer their assistance to a growing number of Hispanics in the Cleveland community. According to the latest U.S. census for 2010, Hispanics have become the leading minority in Bradley County with 4.7 percent of the population, while blacks were at 4.3 percent.
Keyla’s parents, who were from the Dominican Republic, raised her in the Bronx where she grew up and volunteered to work with a regional building committee in New York, helping to renovate or build new Kingdom Halls in the area.
“There is a lot of cooperation during these building projects,” she said. “It’s just beautiful. Spiritual brothers and sisters work together and we get a lot done in a short period of time.”
Coming from a well organized, more structured environment in Bethel after serving there for nearly four years, Moises, whose mother was from El Salvador and his father from Mexico, realized he and Keyla would be adjusting to many new things in the South, including a new marriage. They would also have to adapt to a more religious community in the prominent “Bible belt,” as well as other Hispanic cultures.
“People from the Carribean are very loud,” Keyla explained. “We’re very loud and affectionate. Mexicans can be loud and very friendly. But the majority of Mexicans here are from Chiapas, which borderlines Guatemala. It’s a mountainous region. So they’re quiet. It can be hard because of the different cultures. Our congregation is 90 percent Mexicans from Chiapas.”
“They’re very receptive,” said Moises, regarding Cleveland’s Hispanic community. “They’re more respectful of the Bible. They listen to you. In New York no one opens the door when you’re going from door-to-door to discuss the Bible. You have to talk to people through their doors. But here they will let you come in, have you sit down. They’re far more receptive to people talking about God. It’s like, ‘Come on in! If you’re talking about God I want to hear it.’ It’s very nice.”
At one time the couple was conducting 14 home Bible studies in Cleveland. Since the Cleveland congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses divided into North and South congregations, in March, the local Spanish congregation has the highest meeting attendance among the three congregations.
The rapid growth of the 6-year-old Spanish congregation, according to Moises and Keyla, is not due to any special talent on their part, but to God’s blessing through Jesus Christ on the preaching work.
“I’m just learning how to be a better teacher,” Keyla admits. “In the time that we have been in Cleveland we have had to mature a lot and take the lead. When you’re in a congregation with 150 people who have known the truth for 30 years as opposed to people who have known the truth for three to five years, you have to be an example. But when you make sacrifices for God you see His blessings. The more you sacrifice for Jehovah the more He gives back.”
At the same time, Keyla and Moises admit they have become more studious in their personal Bible study in preparation for more Bible-based discussions in the community and to keep their own spirituality at its highest.
“It’s been very helpful to have a spiritual routine and to be organized,” Keyla said. “Your battery will run out quickly if you don’t feed yourself.”
“What was our Monday night study in Bethel is now our family worship night together,” Moises said. “Every Monday we have a family study. It’s an easier transition because of that Bethel training.”
“Tuesday and Thursday evening we are out in our ministry,” Keyla added. “For us it’s not an option. The same is true on Saturdays.”
The Cleveland newcomers said their first assignment out of New York has taught them how to make “adjustments quicker” in their marriage and ministry, bringing spiritual blessings by submitting to what they call “theocratic arrangments.”
“There are so many times when a fellow elder or traveling overseer may suggest something — and because I followed the suggestion I see Jehovah’s blessing,” Moises said. “God does not bless disobedience. I learned that following directions, even when you disagree, is the best way. The principle of respecting authority trickles down to your job, your marriage, your service to God — everything. It’s beautiful.”
Ironically, Neither Moises nor Keyla were interested in matrimony until a mutual friend introduced them and they got to know each other.
“She knew I didn’t want to get married, but she kept saying, ‘I just want you to meet him,’” Keyla recalls. “To this day she says she just wanted us to meet.”
Moises added, “She would tell me, ‘She reminds me of you and you remind me of her. I just want you two to hang out.’ So we finally met.”
A year after they met, their friendship blossomed into a romance and the two became a couple who would wed the following year on May 10, 2008.
“I realized we were such good friends that it could translate into a great relationship,” Moises said. “Once we knew — there was no reason to prolong things.”
Keyla laughed. “Love without works is dead,” she said.
Moises, who was raised in Alexandria, Va., said what he likes best about marriage is having “a strong, spiritual partner who can motivate you. We don’t let each other get comfortable.” Keyla agreed, adding, “We motivate each other. If there are times when one of us is not feeling up to engaging in our ministry, we encourage each other to keep going.”
The evangelizing couple, both 26, said they enjoy living, working and worshipping in Cleveland where people embrace diversity, respect the Word of God and welcome newcomers who wish to spread a comforting Bible message in Spanish.