Now I Play a Different Tune
AS A ten-year-old the countries I heard of around the Mediterranean were in my childish imagination remote exotic places wrapped in mystery. Their strange music had chords with mystic associations and ancient sounds that fascinated me. I never imagined that as an adult I would get to see many of these countries. Yet later, as a musician in a Spanish dance-band, I played in Morocco, Ethiopia, Greece, Libya, the Sudan, Egypt, and others.
I was born in the village of Cervera del Río Alhama of the famous wine region of La Rioja, in northern Spain. Since childhood, my father had forced me to study the trumpet; my mother made sure that I got a strict religious upbringing. She taught me to go to Mass every Sunday and on the holy days.
This custom was so strongly rooted in me that years later as I traveled I always looked for a church so I could go to Mass.
A Different Instrument
In 1959 I signed up to play in the Spanish Five (Los Cinco de España) orchestra. On one occasion while playing in Cyprus, another musician asked me what I liked to read. My answer was, “Sacred history.” “If you like sacred history,” he said, “I know someone who can teach you.”
I never got to meet that person, but he left me a Bible. What an unexpected gift! I began to read it avidly. It became like a new instrument to me—a magnificent instrument. But in my hands it was like a professional accordion in the hands of a beginner.
Later I arrived in Libya and met a Greek called Panos. He was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Purely by chance we shared the same bedroom. The first day, when I unpacked, I pulled out my illuminated crucifix that I plugged into the wall. Then I took out some pictures of “saints” and spread them out on the table. In the case, I still had four more crucifixes that I had bought for my sisters back in Spain. I also wore around my neck my own crucifix on a gold chain. The last thing I took out was the Bible I had been given in Cyprus.
Panos observed me, but he made no comment. A few days later the subject arose and a discussion ensued. I was very impressed at how Panos could handle the Bible. He spoke about Exodus chapter 20, verses 1 to 7, and Deuteronomy chapter 7, verse 25.
I read them. “What’s this?” I asked. “You must not make a graven image nor a form like anything in the heavens or earth . . . You must not bow down to them nor be led to serve them.” And, “The graven images of their gods you should burn in the fire. You must not desire the silver and the gold upon them.”
I looked at my illuminated cross, the pictures of “saints,” my gold crucifix. I thought of the churches full of images where I had attended Mass—for me those were objects of worship and adoration!
Several days passed after that conversation. I meditated on what the Bible said and finally made my decision. I did not waver. I took a heavy stone and smashed those images and threw the pieces into the sea. A regular study of the Bible with the help of that Greek musician did away with my doubts.
A Different Tune
Before returning to Spain, I began to write to my family about my newfound faith—sometimes not too tactfully. When I got back to my hometown, I collected all my symbols of worship and smashed and burned them.
One night I brought together about 80 of my neighbors and friends and gave them a witness. Someone warned me that I would pay dearly for my zeal. In those years, prior to 1970, religious freedom for Jehovah’s Witnesses did not exist in Spain. I was even told that in a neighboring town, they had prepared a stake from which to hang me. But I viewed it as an idle threat. The important thing was that I was acquiring ability in using the instrument of instruments—the Bible.
As I used it more and more, it became easier to prove points with texts: Exodus 20:1-5, God disapproves of the use of images in worship; Ezekiel 18:4, 20, the soul is not immortal; John 1:1, 18, Jesus is the Son of God, not God himself. From a simple solid basis, I could prove my faith.
Playing in a Better Cause
Later, during a concert tour of Holland, I was baptized on May 19, 1968.
That represented for me the beginning of a new career. I returned to the Rioja region, where my sister and my niece had also got baptized. They were the firstfruits of my early, impetuous preaching. During this period I was arrested while preaching with a circuit overseer in Soria. This was prior to the 1970 legalization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Spain. After 12 hours of interrogation, I was jailed for three days. I used that time profitably preaching in prison. One of the prisoners, from Seville, became interested in the truth. On his return to Andalusia, he accepted a Bible study and in time got baptized.
Now dedicated and baptized, I decided to go into the full-time ministry. In 1970 I was appointed as a special pioneer minister, and in the years that followed, I preached in many different areas of Spain. In all these assignments, people responded to the melody of the good news of God’s Kingdom by Christ. Strong congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses are active where 20 years ago there were only tiny groups or nothing at all.
It has been my privilege to play a small part in that expansion, not with my trumpet, but with God’s Word, the Bible. (Psalm 9:11)—As told by José María Peláez.
[Picture on page 26]
Now the Bible is my instrument, and the Kingdom message is its melody