I Made the Right Career Choice
As told by Sonia Acuña Quevedo
I was offered a promotion at the bank. The job meant a measure of prestige and a higher salary. However, I had just been invited to serve in a distant congregation as a full-time pioneer minister. Looking back 32 years later, I know that I chose wisely.
MOTHER was raised a Roman Catholic but questioned church doctrine. Why, she wondered, should images—the product of human hands—be venerated? Religious truth was important to her, and she went from one church to another for answers, but to no avail.
One day she was sitting outside our house in Tuxtla, Mexico, enjoying the breeze when one of Jehovah’s Witnesses called. Impressed by his Biblical answers to her questions, she agreed to see him again. When he returned, Mother was waiting with an Adventist minister, a Catholic priest, and a Nazarene preacher. She raised a question about the Sabbath, and only the Witness gave a satisfying Scriptural answer. In fact, he alone had a Bible! In 1956, after just six months of Bible study, she was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was eight years old.
Father’s Sincere Concerns
Father did not oppose Mother in her study of the Bible. But when she started teaching us four children—two boys and two girls—and attending Christian meetings, Father destroyed her literature. Convinced that we were being misled, he tried to use a Catholic Bible to prove that the Witnesses had deceptively put God’s name—Jehovah—in their version. When Mother showed him that very name in his Bible, he was very surprised, and his attitude toward the Witnesses began to change.—Psalm 83:18.
In Mexico, a girl’s 15th birthday is a special occasion. Since birthday celebrations are unscriptural, I had stopped celebrating mine.* But Father insisted on doing something special for me. I thought the matter over and said, “I want you to be my gift by accompanying me to the next assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” He accepted, and his interest in the Bible grew.
One night, after a severe storm, Father was badly injured when he came in contact with a downed power line. While he was recovering in the hospital, local Witnesses gave him 24-hour care—a display of Christian love he never forgot. Later, he began to share in the public ministry and dedicated his life to Jehovah. Sadly, on September 30, 1975, one month before he was to be baptized, he died. How we yearn to embrace him in the resurrection!—Acts 24:15.
Healthy Family Influence
My older sister, Carmen, had always held the full-time ministry in high esteem. Soon after her baptism in 1967, she became a regular pioneer, spending about 100 hours in the ministry each month. In time, she moved to the city of Toluca, in central Mexico. I got a job with a bank and was baptized on July 18, 1970.
The full-time ministry brought Carmen great happiness, and she encouraged me to join her in Toluca. That thought was on my mind one day as I listened to a talk showing that Jesus’ followers were to use their precious spiritual assets to glorify God. (Matthew 25:14-30) I asked myself, ‘Am I working hard with the spiritual gifts entrusted to me?’ Such thoughts kindled within me the desire to do more for Jehovah.
Deciding Between Two Goals
In 1974, I applied to serve as a pioneer minister in another territory. Soon thereafter, I received a phone call at work from a Christian elder in Toluca. “We have been waiting for you. Why aren’t you here?” he asked. To my surprise, I had been appointed to serve in Toluca as a special pioneer, but my assignment letter apparently went astray in the mail! (Special pioneers agree to serve full-time wherever Jehovah’s organization directs them.)
I promptly advised the bank of my decision to leave. “Wait a minute, Sonia,” said my boss, waving a piece of paper. “We have just been informed that you are one of seven women selected to become assistant managers. Our company has never appointed women to that position before. Won’t you accept it?” As mentioned at the outset, this promotion meant a measure of prestige and a higher salary. Still, I thanked my boss and told him that I was resolved to serve God more fully. “Go ahead, then,” he said. “But remember, the bank will always be open for you should you want a job.” Two days later I was in Toluca.
Special Pioneering in Mexico
When I joined her, Carmen had been serving as a special pioneer in Toluca for two years. How happy we were to be together again! But our partnership was short-lived. Three months later Mother had an accident and would thereafter need constant home care. After consulting the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Carmen and I agreed that she would return home and care for Mother, which she did for 17 years. During that time, Carmen served as a regular pioneer, inviting her Bible students to the house for their study so she would be on hand to help Mother.
In 1976, I was reassigned to Tecamachalco, a city of contrasts—the poor lived on one side of town, and the wealthy, on the other. I began a Bible study with an elderly lady who had never married and lived with her wealthy brother. When she told him that she wanted to become a Witness, he threatened to evict her. Nevertheless, this humble woman was not intimidated, and after she was baptized, her brother carried out his threat. Even though she was then 86 years of age, she trusted fully in Jehovah. Cared for by the congregation, she remained faithful until her death.
Gilead School, Then Bolivia
I enjoyed five wonderful years in Tecamachalco. Then I received an invitation to attend the first Gilead Extension School to be held in Mexico. As its name suggests, it was an extension of the school held in New York. Both Mother and Carmen insisted that I accept the invitation, so off I went to the branch office in Mexico City for the ten-week course, a spiritual highlight of my life. Our class graduated on February 1, 1981, and I was assigned to La Paz, Bolivia, along with Enriqueta Ayala (now Fernández).
When we arrived in La Paz, the brothers who were to meet us had not arrived. “Why waste time?” we said. So we began to witness to the people at the airport. Three enjoyable hours later, we met the brothers from the branch. After apologizing, they said that the streets were clogged because of the carnival.
Witnessing Above the Clouds
La Paz is almost 12,000 feet [3,625 m] above sea level, so on most days we were above the clouds. The thin air made breathing difficult, and I felt exhausted after just a short time in the ministry. Although it took me a year to adjust to the high altitude, Jehovah’s blessings far outweighed the physical demands. For example, one morning in 1984, I climbed a rocky mountainside to a house perched on a peak. Exhausted, I knocked at the door, and a lady came out. We had a delightful conversation, and I said that I would call back in a few days.
“I doubt it,” she replied. I did return, though, and the lady asked me to teach her daughter the Bible. “That’s the parents’ responsibility,” I said. “However, I’ll help you if you want me to.” She agreed and also accepted a Bible study herself. Because she was illiterate, we started out with the booklet Learn to Read and Write, prepared by Jehovah’s Witnesses for such occasions.
In time the family grew to eight children. When I visited, some of the children would form a human chain to help me up the slope. Eventually, the entire family served Jehovah—father, mother, and eight children. Three of the girls are pioneers, and one of the boys is a congregation elder. At the time of his death in 2000, the father was a ministerial servant in the congregation. How my heart warms when I think of this wonderful family and their faithfulness! I thank Jehovah for allowing me to help them.
Together Again With Carmen
After Mother died in 1997, Carmen was again invited to serve as a special pioneer. In 1998 she was assigned to Cochabamba, Bolivia, where I was serving. Yes, after 18 years we were together again, and Carmen was granted missionary status. We had a wonderful time in Cochabamba, where the climate is so pleasant that the swallows, it is said, never leave! At present, we are in Sucre, Bolivia, a beautiful city of 220,000, set in a high valley. Once dubbed Little Vatican because it had so many Catholic churches, the city now has five congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Combined, Carmen and I have pioneered for over 60 years, and we have enjoyed the incomparable privilege of helping over a hundred people to baptism. Yes, to serve Jehovah whole-souled is, without a doubt, the most rewarding way of life!—Mark 12:30.
The only two birthday celebrations mentioned in Scripture involved pagans and are recorded in a very negative light. (Genesis 40:20-22; Mark 6:21-28) God’s Word does, however, encourage giving that is motivated by the heart, not by social or peer pressure.—Proverbs 11:25; Luke 6:38; Acts 20:35; 2 Corinthians 9:7.
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I climbed a rocky mountainside to study with this family
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In the ministry with my sister, Carmen (on right)