I Found True Love and Peace
As told by Egidio Nahakbria
I grew up feeling abandoned and unloved. Yet, now I feel loved and have genuine inner peace. How did this transformation take place? Let me explain.
I ENTERED the world in 1976 in a dirt-floor hut in the mountains of East Timor, then a part of Indonesia. I was the eighth of ten children born to poverty-stricken parents. Because my parents could not feed us all, they kept my identical twin brother and asked my cousin to raise me.
In December 1975, just before I was born, Indonesia invaded East Timor, and that triggered a guerrilla war that lasted over two decades. Thus, my earliest memories are of violence and suffering. I vividly remember soldiers attacking our village and forcing all to flee for their lives. My cousin and I trekked to a lonely mountainside where thousands of Timorese had sought refuge.
The soldiers, however, discovered our hideout, and soon enemy bombs rained down on us. I have horrible memories of the terror, death, and destruction that followed. When we finally returned to our village, I lived in constant dread. Many of our neighbors disappeared or were killed, and I feared I might be next.
When I was ten, my cousin fell sick and died, so my parents sent me to live with my grandmother. She was a widow, who was embittered with life and viewed me as a burden. She worked me like a slave. One day, when I was too sick to work, she beat me and left me to die. Fortunately, one of my uncles took me to live with his family.
At age 12, I finally started school. Soon afterward, my uncle’s wife fell ill and my uncle became severely depressed. Not wanting to burden them further, I ran away and attached myself to a group of Indonesian soldiers based in the jungle. I became their helper—washing clothes, cooking food, and cleaning camp. They treated me well, and I felt needed. But after several months, my relatives found me and pressured the soldiers to return me to my village.
After finishing high school, I moved to the capital of East Timor, Dili, and entered a university. There I met many youths with backgrounds similar to mine. We concluded that the only way to achieve national independence and social change would be through political action. Our student group organized many political demonstrations, most of which ended up in riots. Many of my friends were injured. Some were even killed.
When East Timor gained independence in 2002, the country lay in ruins, tens of thousands of people had died, and hundreds of thousands had been displaced. I hoped that conditions would improve. But widespread unemployment, poverty, and ongoing political upheaval continued.
A New Direction
At that time, I was living with some relatives, including a distant younger relative named Andre, who was studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a devout Roman Catholic, I was not happy that my relative was involved with another religion. Still, I was curious about the Bible and occasionally read the copy Andre kept in his bedroom. What I read stirred my interest further.
When, in 2004, Andre gave me a printed invitation to the Memorial of Jesus’ death, I decided to attend. Misreading the invitation, I arrived at the meeting place two hours early. When the Witnesses arrived, including locals as well as foreigners, they warmly shook my hand and made me feel welcome. I was impressed. During the Memorial discourse, I noted each cited scripture in a notebook and later checked them in my Catholic Bible to see if what the speaker said was true. It was!
The following week, I attended Mass at my church. Because some others and I arrived late, the priest grabbed a piece of wood and angrily drove us out of the church. As we stood outside, the priest ended the service by saying to the congregation, “May the peace of Jesus go with you.” One brave woman called out, “How can you talk of peace when you just drove those people out of the church?” The priest ignored her. I left the church and never returned.
Soon afterward, I began studying the Bible and attending Witness meetings along with Andre. Our relatives were alarmed and began to oppose us. Andre’s grandmother warned us: “I will dig a hole to bury you boys in if you continue to study with that new religion.” Her threats, however, did not deter us. We were determined to make spiritual progress.
As I studied the Bible, I began to feel that I had never really known love. I was tough and defensive and found it hard to trust people. The Witnesses, though, took a genuine interest in me. When I fell very sick and my relatives ignored me, the Witnesses visited me and helped me. Their love was not “just words and talk” but “true love, which shows itself in action.”—1 John 3:18, Today’s English Version.
Despite my rough appearance and disposition, the Witnesses treated me with “fellow feeling” and “brotherly affection.” (1 Peter 3:8) For the first time in my life, I began to feel loved. My personality softened, and I began to develop love for God and my fellow man. Consequently, in December 2004, I symbolized my dedication to Jehovah by water baptism. Andre was baptized soon afterward.
Blessings Amid Troubles
Following my baptism, I felt a burning desire to help other people who had never known true love or justice. Therefore, I took up the full-time Christian ministry, or pioneering, as Jehovah’s Witnesses call it. Sharing the Bible’s upbuilding message was far more refreshing than sharing in political demonstrations and riots. At last, I was truly helping people!
In 2006, political and regional tensions in East Timor erupted again. Factional groups battled over long-standing grievances. The city of Dili came under siege, and many easterners fled for their lives. Along with other Witnesses, I escaped to Baucau, a large town about 70 miles (120 km) east of Dili. There our ordeal turned into a blessing, since we were able to establish a new congregation—the first one outside Dili.
Three years later, in 2009, I received an invitation to attend a special school for full-time Christian ministers in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Witnesses in Jakarta took me into their homes and their hearts. Their genuine love deeply impressed me. I sensed I was part of a global “association of brothers,” an international “family,” who truly cared for me.—1 Peter 2:17.
Peace at Last!
After the school, I returned to Baucau, where I still live. Here I delight in helping people spiritually, just as others once helped me. For example, in one isolated village outside Baucau, I and others teach the Bible to about 20 people, including many older ones who cannot read or write. The entire group attends weekly meetings, and three individuals have joined our spiritual “family” as baptized members of the Christian congregation.
Several years ago, I met Felizarda, a warmhearted girl who accepted Bible truth and rapidly progressed to baptism. We married in 2011. I am happy to say that Andre, my relative, serves at the East Timor office of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even most of my relatives, including Andre’s grandmother, who once wanted to bury us, now respect my faith.
In the past, I felt angry, unloved, and unlovable. But thanks to Jehovah, at last I have found true love and peace!
[Picture on page 19]
Egidio as a political activist
[Picture on page 21]
Egidio and Felizarda along with members of the Baucau Congregation, East Timor