Fitting into God’s Purpose
As told by Juan Muñiz
HOW apparent it is that the Master Designer of this marvelous universe is a God of purpose! When I look back over my long life, I rejoice that I was privileged to come to a knowledge of his purposes, and was moved to harmonize my life with them. Permit me to share with you some of the experiences that have convinced me that we must individually fit our lives in with God’s purposes.
My life began on October 29, 1885, as a member of a modest family in Asturias, Spain. After attending a common country school, I went to a school directed by monks, where I received theological instruction. But it was difficult for me to harmonize what they taught with what they practiced, so I decided to leave my studies and do something in the world—perhaps some good for humanity. In the factory where I worked, I entered the Socialist party. I was then nineteen years old.
But it was not long before I recognized that it was a lost cause. I was amazed at the ignorance of the workers, their constant fights among themselves and their vile language. Not only did I perceive contradictions in their meetings, but I saw hypocrisy in their leaders. So in 1909 I decided to leave the party. I determined to go to the United States to live in order to get away from politics and religion.
FINDING THE TRUTH
With my brother, I settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1910. After working two years in the building trade, we decided to put up a little store together. It was there that the opportunity opened up for me to learn the truth.
One fine day a man came preaching the Bible. I do not recall what he said, but it renewed my desire to read the Bible. As a storekeeper I had time to read when there were no customers. I started to read, and when I got to the book of Job I was deeply moved. Despite a hard exterior, I am a man of great sentiment. Tears would fall from my eyes as I read about the suffering of that righteous man.
But reading is not enough, and needed help came when one of Jehovah’s people visited my store. I bought the book The Divine Plan of the Ages from him. When he came back, I obtained the other volumes in the “Studies in the Scriptures” series.
In 1916 I began attending meetings in the only congregation in Philadelphia, which at that time had around three hundred members. I observed that no one smoked. I was a champion smoker. Why, in my store there were thirty-seven brands of cigars alone! But each time I lit one up I felt uncomfortable, especially in the presence of others. Then I reasoned to myself: “This is the truth, is it not? If I want to stay with this organization, someday I will have to tell others what is right. Then why don’t I start telling myself now! Muñiz, you must quit smoking!” So I quit.
I continued attending meetings and studying, and by 1917 I began to preach in company with the brothers. I was baptized in North Philadelphia in 1917.
During the difficult years through which we all passed, till 1919, I always kept busy. I had learned early that good things had to be fought for.
One time we had to get signatures for a petition in protest of the unjust imprisonment of the Watch Tower Society’s directors. The petition used strong language to expose the perversion of justice committed by the judges. Even though I realized that this was powerful language for a minority group to use, I was never fearful. I got 150 signatures.
Later a group of us were arrested for distributing copies of the famous lecture “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.” Despite my broken English and the fact that there were seven of us present, I defended the group before the magistrate. During the whole episode, the brother that brought me the truth was entirely silent. I could see fear overcoming him. After we were released he disappeared, never to be heard from again.
When these difficulties arose toward the end of World War I, some thought that all the preaching work was done, and that there was nothing to do but wait and be carried away to heaven. I believed that the end was near—and still do—but I never dedicated my life to a date or dates; rather, to Jehovah God. I have always had the firm conviction that there was a lot of work to be done. Forty-seven years have passed since that time, and I still feel the same way—only stronger!
Now that I was spending more time in the preaching work my business became a burden to me. So in 1920 I sold my business and devoted myself fully to the ministry.
The question of how to care for my physical needs was soon solved. The solution came about as a result of a back-call that I had on a man of German descent, a jeweler. One day he asked me what I was going to do since I had sold my business. How would I provide for myself? He asked me to work for him, but I told him that I knew nothing about watch repairing. He replied: “I don’t care about that; you’re just the man I want. I have to have a man I can trust with valuable things.” So I worked for him, and he taught me watch repairing. Of course, I had no idea that I would be using that training later in Spain.
BACK TO SPAIN
Brother Rutherford, then president of the Watchtower Society, requested that I go back to Spain to preach the good news there. So I paid for my own trip and went. From the very start I preached under adverse conditions. It was a great advantage to be able to live with my fleshly sister, but I still had to depend on watch repairing, sewing machine repairs and money received from literature placements for support. Progress was slow, but there were truth-loving people who listened to the message.
I shall never forget an experience I had in a mining town. After preaching during the day, I came to the inn where I was to sleep. I started to speak to the men who were present at the bar, explaining to them that they were spending their money foolishly, wasting their time and neglecting their families. So how could they call themselves Christians? I talked about an hour and a half to them in this way. They asked me, half mockingly, what I did for a living. I was able to open my tool case and show them my tools, proving in this way that I was not like their priests who lived off the people. It impressed them greatly. Like the apostle Paul, I could say: “These hands have attended to the needs of me and of those with me.”—Acts 20:34.
The innkeeper was favorably impressed with my testimony. I thought he would want to throw me out for preaching against the men’s idleness. But, instead, he let me stay there free.
In April of 1924 Brother Rutherford wrote asking about the possibility of arranging for him to give a talk in Madrid. When the permit was denied, Brother Rutherford instructed me to travel to Paris, where I met him at the Saint James Hotel in May of 1924. After considering my circumstances in Spain, he decided to give me a new assignment. So not long after returning to Spain I received a letter asking me to move to Argentina.
ON TO SOUTH AMERICA
I arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on September 12, 1924. I had been informed that a Brother Young was in Buenos Aires planting the first seeds of truth, but I did not find him. Therefore, I rented a room and started to work. I had brought along a trunk full of Bible literature, so I had material with which to sow the seeds of truth. Once again watch repairing came to the rescue as regards expenses. When giving testimony, I would look around for a stopped clock on the wall and, when I saw one, would offer to repair it. After a while I met Brother Young, who later was sent to replace me in Spain.
Since there were so many Germans in Argentina, I thought it would be good to have some German-speaking brothers here, so I asked the Society to send two or three full-time ministers from Germany. In July of 1925 the brothers arrived. They concentrated on German-speaking interested persons, but studied Spanish diligently so as to be useful in all territory.
In October 1925 we rented our first hall for meetings. I will always remember the first group of eight persons who participated in the preaching work. Some of them are still alive and active in the ministry today, nearly forty years later.
The work soon began to reach out to other cities in Argentina, and elsewhere. Not long after arriving in South America I was favored with the privilege of introducing the Kingdom message into Uruguay and also Paraguay. Later I sent some of the brothers that were with me to water the seeds planted on my first trips. One went to Uruguay, one to Paraguay and the other to Chile.
A faith-strengthening experience in connection with the work in Chile confirmed my conviction that Jehovah was directing things. The brother sent there wrote asking that I come as soon as possible to organize the congregation and handle expenses. Well, I prepared my documents and everything else, but I did not have the money for the trip. However, just then a sister who had received a sum of money came to the office and contributed 400 pesos—twice as much as I needed to make the trip!
As the organization grew, the place we had rented in Buenos Aires proved inadequate, and eventually we were able to rent another place close to the present property of the Society. Here the first congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses in Buenos Aires was formed. However, in a few years even this place was too small for the blessings with which Jehovah was crowning our efforts. So, in 1940, we purchased the ample property that the Society now owns.
In 1945 Brothers Knorr and Franz visited us, and soon afterward graduates of the recently opened Bible School of Gilead began arriving. They taught us much in the way of organization and better methods in preaching. This gave impetus to the work, resulting in even faster expansion.
VISIT TO THE UNITED STATES
A treasured event in my life was the invitation to attend the international assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1946. But first let me tell you of an incident that happened en route to Cleveland.
After disembarking in Mobile, Alabama, I stayed four days with a friend. During my stay I took part in street work with the Watchtower magazine, but when some troublemakers reported me to the police, I was picked up and taken to the police station. The immigration officer was called in to question me about working on the street. He said that my passport indicated that I was on a pleasure trip to the United States and that I could not work. I replied: “This is the greatest pleasure I know, to preach God’s Word by the written page.” He let me go free.
I was thrilled at what I heard and saw at the Cleveland assembly. Afterward I had the additional privilege of working in the Watchtower Society’s Brooklyn Bethel for five months. There I observed the excellent organization and the oneness of purpose with which all worked. Then I returned to Argentina.
HOME IN ARGENTINA
Although I realized that tremendous years of expansion lay ahead, I also realized that the growing work required a younger, more vigorous man, who could keep up with it. So in 1949, the year that Brother Knorr made his second visit to Argentina, I presented the matter to him and a change was made in the branch organization. For a time I retained the privilege of handling financial matters for the Society, but now I work in the reception room in our new Bethel home, which was completed just two years ago.
I am very grateful to Jehovah for his having used me and for continuing to use me at seventy-nine years of age. With the blessing of Jehovah, I have lived to see the building of our beautiful, three-story Bethel home. Never did I imagine that we would have anything like it in Argentina, nor that we would have over 10,000 Kingdom preachers here! Now I see flourishing branches in Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay also. What greater blessing could I ask for than to witness the hand of Jehovah in his work, in which we must just find our place!
When I review my life and the steps taken under the direction of Jehovah and his organization, I cannot but agree with Jeremiah, that we must look to Jehovah to direct our steps. (Jer. 10:23) What a privilege I have had in following His direction and fitting my life into His purposes!