I Kept My Promise
I WAS born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during a party on Carnival Sunday, 1930. Present were members of Rio’s high society—doctors, army colonels, and wealthy businessmen. Superstitiously, all of them tossed gold rings and diamonds into my first bath, believing that this would help this baby boy become rich and famous. About a year and a half later, I received a prize as the most beautiful baby in Rio in a contest sponsored by a magazine.
Shortly afterward my mother became seriously ill. When the doctors gave up all hope for her, my father abandoned her and the children. He was able to exchange me in settlement of a debt, and so I came to live with a rich family in Guarujá, on the island of Santo Amaro, in the state of São Paulo. There I grew up without remembrance of my former family. However, during a school vacation I spent in Rio de Janeiro—about 280 miles [450 km] from where I lived in Guarujá—something happened that changed my life.
A Chance Meeting
I would play with boys my age in a section of Rio called Jardim da Glória. Since my foster parents gave me plenty of money, I would buy ice cream for the whole group, so I was quite popular. One of the boys, Alberto, asked me where I was from. When I told him, he said: “I have a brother who also lives in the state of São Paulo, but I never knew him. His name is Cézar. My father gave him to a family there, and now mother cries every day because she has no hope of seeing him again.”
He added: “If you ever meet a boy about ten years old in São Paulo called Cézar, tell him that you met his brother and that his mother would like to see him.”
“I won’t forget it,” I promised. “After all, his name is the same as mine.”
A Change in Circumstances
Alberto told his mother about our conversation, and she wanted to meet me. When Alberto and I met again in Jardim da Glória the following Sunday, he said: “Mother wants to see you. I think she wants to send a message with you to my brother in São Paulo.”
Immediately Alberto took me to his mother, who was seated on a park bench. She looked me up and down carefully. Then she hugged me and started to cry. “Who are your parents?” she asked.
“Garibaldi Benzi and Nair,” I responded. “And my name is Cézar Benzi.”
She asked to meet my mother, who nearly fainted when I told her what had happened. Later the two mothers met and talked about me for a long time. Afterward Alberto said to me: “My mother is your real mother, and you’re my brother!”
Mother had recovered from her illness and, by herself, was rearing my older brother and sister. When I knew for certain that I had found my natural family, I asked to live with them, much to the disappointment of my stepmother. However, I had a strong desire to be with my own brother and sister. I also felt sorry for my mother, who had suffered, not knowing whether I was dead or alive. So I stood firm in my decision although it meant going from a luxurious home in Guarujá to a house in a poor section of Rio de Janeiro. What a change! Now I had to get out and work hard after school, since my family depended on my earnings for a living.
I Make a Promise
When I grew older, I learned to make and, later, to design jewelry. The group I worked with also dealt with imported items—much of it contraband—which proved very lucrative. Because of the easy money, I became involved in parties, women, and orgies. Then, when I was only 22, I married Dalva, a girlfriend from school days. I really didn’t deserve her. She was an ideal wife and mother—educated, polite, and well-mannered.
One night, after we had been married seven years, I was on my way home from another wild party when I began to think seriously. I reasoned that with the life I was living, I would never be able to teach proper morals to our three growing children. So I made up my mind to change. Arriving home, I woke Dalva to tell her of my decision.
“Do you mean to say you woke me up at two o’clock in the morning just to tell me that nonsense?” She had plenty of reason to distrust me. But I promised: “This time I really mean it. And to begin with, I’m going to move my shop next to our home so that we’ll have more time together as a family.” With Dalva still skeptical, we went to sleep.
The next day I located a two-story building and made plans to have our home on the top floor and my shop below. Then I went to my former companions and bid them good-bye. I was determined to keep my promise. For the first time, Dalva and I began to enjoy life together with the children.
Helped to Keep My Promise
About three months later, Fabiano Lisowski visited me. He had known me for a long time. So when I said I wanted him to meet my wife, he asked: “Your legal one?”
When Dalva came in, I introduced him to her as “a priest of some religion of the Bible.” He laughed and explained that he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I had no interest in religion, but Dalva liked the Bible. He and Dalva began to talk, but I kept quiet, since I didn’t understand anything they were talking about.
Fabiano invited us to a meeting the following Sunday. To his surprise I promised to go. Dalva was beside herself with joy. She knew that I was a man of my word and that if I said I would go to the meeting, she could count on it. Two things I had learned from dealing in contraband: You kept your word, and you were never late for an appointment.
I had always carried a revolver in my belt, but when I went to the meeting, I left the gun at home. The people were hospitable and well-mannered, so I promised to return the following Sunday. From then on we regularly attended meetings at the Kingdom Hall, and I never carried my gun again.
Fabiano arranged to visit us each Wednesday evening, along with his wife and mother-in-law. Knowing that I was an atheist, he talked mostly to Dalva. Feeling left out, I started to talk to him about other things, and he politely began to pay more attention to me. I saw that he had a book, “Let God Be True,” but he was reluctant to offer it to me. Finally, I asked: “What’s the book for?”
Taken aback, he answered: “To study in.”
“If it’s to study in,” I answered, “let’s see what it says.”
Everyone was surprised and did not know just what to expect. However, the study was started, and I listened attentively. Dalva was radiant, and even the three children liked Fabiano’s explanations.
During the study, Fabiano’s wife noticed that I smoked steadily, and she commented: “You seem to smoke a lot.”
“I’ve smoked since my school days,” I explained. “And while I study the designs for jewelry, I smoke constantly.”
Tactfully, she said: “Many people try to quit smoking but can’t.”
“I can quit any time I want to,” I retorted.
“That’s what you think,” she answered.
“Just to show you, I’m quitting today,” I told her. I did, and I’ve never smoked since.
During the first few months of our study, things were not easy. Former friends sought me out and presented shady business propositions, and women I used to party with came to our home looking for me. But I was determined to change my life, and by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, I was able to do so. My business dropped off at first, and we had to lower our standard of living. But happily, Dalva was a constant source of encouragement.
After five months of Bible study, all my doubts were removed. I was convinced that Jehovah is the true God and that the Bible is his written Word. So on January 12, 1962, Dalva and I were among the 1,269 persons baptized at the first large convention in São Paulo, held in Ibirapuera Park. What a sight to see some 48,000 persons in attendance!
Teaching Our Children
That convention helped to impress on me the responsibility of teaching and training our children. So we immediately arranged for a family Bible study on Wednesday nights. Even today, Wednesday continues to be our night for family study. Now, however, Dalva and I study alone, since all the children are married.
Our study with the children included discussion of the problems common to youngsters in our day, such as styles of dress and grooming and proper conduct between the sexes. Also, if one of the children had a part on the Theocratic Ministry School, it would be rehearsed Wednesday night.
In addition, we showed the children the beauty of Jehovah’s creation by taking them to zoos and other places. We would help them to appreciate that the animals and birds were created by Jehovah for man’s enjoyment and that soon we would have the pleasure of seeing them, not in cages or behind bars, but out in the open, where they could be petted and caressed.
While the children were still very young, we posted a schedule in our pantry for reading the Watchtower and Awake! magazines and other publications of the Watch Tower Society. All of them did their best to keep up with the schedule so that they could tell us what they had learned. We can truly say that training our children in this way brought us rich rewards. Each of the three children was baptized before they reached their teens.
Cézar, our youngest, was the first to show a desire for the full-time ministry. When he was nine, he was called without prior notification to the platform by a traveling overseer, who asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. “Bethelite, circuit overseer, or missionary,” Cézar responded.
At 17, Cézar became a full-time pioneer minister. In the meantime he took a course in printing, thus preparing himself to work at the Watch Tower Society’s branch office in Brazil. Soon afterward he was invited to Bethel, and he served there for four years. He then married, and he and his wife became special pioneers; they continued as such until their son was born. Now Cézar serves as a Christian elder, and his wife is a regular pioneer. Their son was baptized in 1990, when he was 11 years old.
Sandra, one of our girls, entered the pioneer service in 1981. The following year she married Sílvio Chagas, a member of the Bethel family. They served together for eight years as special pioneers and are now in the circuit work, visiting congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sandra’s twin sister, Solange, and her husband served for three years as special pioneers. Their son, Hornan, was recently baptized. Solange’s husband is a Christian elder.
Dalva and I feel that the spiritual development of our children was due in large part to our regular Wednesday night family study, begun some 30 years ago. Another help in raising them was our regularly entertaining in our home traveling overseers and other full-time ministers. These Christian brothers and sisters assisted the children to develop the goal of the full-time ministry.
Dalva and I have passed many milestones since that main one back in 1962, when we were baptized. For a time I served as a substitute circuit overseer, and we enjoyed the privilege of visiting congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I also had a share in the construction of our Assembly Hall in Duque de Caxias, a project that lasted five years. And I have often appeared before civil, medical, and military authorities, including the vice-governor of the state. The purpose of these appearances was to rent stadiums for our conventions and to explain our position of neutrality, as well as why Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions.
When I look back and think of all the marvelous blessings that I have received since that crucial night when I woke Dalva up to tell her of my promise, I can truthfully say that the greatest blessing of all has been to be a publisher of the good news of God’s Kingdom. Dalva and I are convinced that the manner in which Jehovah God leads us by means of his organization is truly “The Way” that leads to a happy life now and eventually to eternal life in God’s new world. (Acts 9:2; 19:9)—As told by Cézar A. Guimarães.
[Picture on page 23]
Cézar Guimarães and his family today