Why I Gave Up a Lucrative Career
As told by Martha Teresa Márquez
I ALWAYS loved to sing, even singing on the radio as a child. I never went to school beyond kindergarten, but later I took voice lessons in Mexico City under the director of the country’s symphony orchestra.
In 1969, when I was 24, a friend who was a dancer invited me to audition at the then-prestigious La Rampa Azul restaurant-bar. I sang the famous Cucurrucucú Paloma by Mexican composer Tomás Méndez, and audiences liked it. That was the real beginning of my professional career. I performed as a soloist using the name Romelia Romel.
I worked with Tomás Méndez, as well as other talented Mexican songwriters and singers, including Cuco Sánchez and Juan Gabriel. It was thrilling to see my name up in lights and in newspapers and magazines. I sang in nightclubs, on the radio, and on tours in Mexico and Belize. I also worked with the popular Mexican comedienne Leonorilda Ochoa when her television show was relatively new in Mexico.
In time, I achieved a certain amount of fame and was earning good money—enough to be able to enjoy such luxuries as jewels, mink coats, and penthouse living. I apparently had it all, but I was unhappy. I felt empty. Although raised Roman Catholic, I was ashamed to go to church. I felt too dirty because of my immoral lifestyle.
How I Came to Love Jehovah
While rehearsing for my first record, I confided my feelings to a friend, a ranchera singer named Lorena Wong. I told her I would like to be a nun and help the less fortunate. “A nun? You’re crazy!” she exclaimed.
Then she asked: “Do you know God’s name?”
“The Lord Jesus Christ,” I answered.
“No, his name is Jehovah,” she said. “Jesus is his Son.”
“Jehovah?” I asked. The name was completely foreign to me. Lorena gave me a Bible and promised to send her teacher, who was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to visit me.a
Every time I saw Lorena, I asked, “When are you going to send your teacher?” I was spiritually hungry.
Meanwhile, I began to read the Bible on my own and saw that God’s name was indeed Jehovah. (Psalm 83:18) I was surprised. I also came across the Ten Commandments and was struck by the one that said: “You must not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14) At the time, I was living with a married man, who was the father of my eight-month-old baby boy. The boy was my second child. I already had a young son by another man, to whom I was also never married.
One day while I was rehearsing a song for a new show, there was a knock at my penthouse door. It was Lorena’s teacher, Mauricio Linares, and his wife. They showed me what God’s purpose for mankind is and left me the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life.b I read it through in just one night, despite struggling with the more difficult words. That is when I began to love Jehovah.
Changing My Lifestyle
As the Witnesses helped me both to study the Bible and to improve my reading ability, I realized that I had to make changes in my life in order to please Jehovah. I began to get rid of my images, medals, and good-luck charms, even though they were made of gold.
I found it especially hard to give up smoking and drinking to excess. When I passed a liquor store, my mouth would water. I had to cut off associating with all my friends, because they offered me drinks and invited me to wine and dine in fancy restaurants. I knew that this would inevitably lead to alcohol abuse.
It was also hard for me to stop going to parties of the rich and famous. When invited to the birthday party of a well-known Cuban boxer, I prayed: “Just this last one, Jehovah. I’ll never go again to such an affair or engage in conduct that you don’t approve of.” And I never did.
I terminated my relationship with my second son’s father. I did this in spite of all his riches and all that he promised he would give me if I did not leave him. It was a very difficult thing for me to do because I was in love with him, and he knew it. Arrogantly, he asserted: “I am your God! I am your Christ!”
“You may have been,” I responded, “but now Jehovah is my God.” He threatened to take away my son whom he had fathered and to do me bodily harm.
At the time, some people told me that singing was just a career like any other—that I could be a Witness and sing too. Yet, others reminded me, “You are not going to have a fence around you to protect you from smoking, drinking, and the immoral suggestions of your fans.” I realized the wisdom of this latter statement.
When I was a popular singer, people tried to buy favors from me. I was determined not to expose myself to such temptations any longer. So in 1975, I broke my contract to tour China, and six months later I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Challenges and Joys
How would I support myself and my family? I had practically no schooling and did not really know how to do anything but sing. My older sister, Irma, and her three children, as well as my own two young boys, depended on me. We had to move from my expensive suite into two small rooms. The drastic change from a life of luxury to one of deprivation was a real challenge. For a time my sister and the children reproached me and pressured me to continue as a singer, but I remained determined to do what I needed to do to serve Jehovah.
I began selling my valuables—my jewels, my furs, my car—and we lived on the proceeds. In time, that money was gone. In order to escape being harassed by the father of my second son, we moved in 1981 to a city on the other side of the country, where he couldn’t find us.
In this place the Witnesses taught me how to make tamales, doughnuts, and other food to sell. Later I obtained a job in a factory and worked nights. But this job was affecting my attendance at Christian meetings and my service to God. So eventually I resigned and began making tamales at home. I would then take them in baskets and sell them on the street. In this way I have been able to support myself in the full-time ministry.
A Choice I Have Never Regretted
When people ask me how I feel about having left my promising career as a singer, I tell them that I would not exchange my knowledge of Jehovah and an understanding of his wonderful purposes for anything. It has been a joy to see my sons progress in Bible knowledge, dedicate their lives to Jehovah, and then marry fellow believers. Both of my sons, with the cooperation of their wives, are rearing their children to serve our God, Jehovah.
I have been a pioneer, as Jehovah’s Witnesses call those in the full-time preaching work, for nearly three decades. With God’s help I have been able to assist scores of people, including Irma and her daughter, to learn Bible truths and dedicate their lives to God. It is a great joy to meet up with such “spiritual children” and find them still walking in the truth—many also serving as pioneers. (3 John 4) Today, at the age of 64, I am conducting 18 Bible studies with others.
The spiritual void I felt as a young singer has been filled, and the desire to help others has been satisfied by obeying Jesus’ command to ‘go and make disciples.’ (Matthew 28:19, 20) How grateful I am that Jehovah has sustained me all these years and continues to do so! I have truly ‘tasted and seen that he is good.’—Psalm 34:8.
a Lorena Wong later became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
b Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses but now out of print.
[Picture on page 25]
With my sons, their wives, and my older sister, with whom I continue to pioneer
[Picture on page 26]
I have continued to make tamales and sell them on the street to support myself in the full-time ministry