Success in Serving Jehovah Despite Obstacles
As told by Florentino Banda
WHEN I was a young man, there were two things that bothered me about religion. I could not accept the teaching that man has an immortal soul. And I was repelled by the preoccupation of the churches with money; it seemed that collections were always being taken. So I decided, more or less, to shun religion.
In 1923, I left Mexico and immigrated to the United States, where there is a great number of religious sects. On occasion, as I passed by churches, I would go inside just to see what the people there were doing. Sure enough, from time to time they passed the collection plate! I would say to myself, “Exploiters!”
FINDING A RELIGION THAT DOES NOT EXPLOIT PEOPLE
I lived in Houston, Texas, in 1928, and on one occasion I passed by the home of some acquaintances as they were leaving. “Where are you going?” I asked. They told me: “We are going to a meeting. Won’t you come along?” I asked: “What is it all about? Because if it has to do with politics or religion, I don’t like it.” They answered: “It has to do with study of the Bible.”
“Ah,” I said, “religion! Maybe another time.” And I left.
Several days passed, and I met these acquaintances again; they renewed their invitation for me to attend the meeting. This time, out of courtesy, I accepted.
We were received kindly by the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s witnesses were then known. But I found it difficult to understand the Bible discussions. Despite this obstacle, I did find something rare. Do you know what? At this meeting no collection was taken!
When we were leaving, someone asked me, “What do you think about it?” Since I understood so little, my answer was: “Well, you are very kind.” The next time there was no need for them to invite me. I came on my own, and fifteen minutes before the meeting time at that! Since I did not understand much about the Bible, why was I so eager and punctual? Well, I wanted to see if a collection was taken up before the meeting began. But none was.
During the four meetings I attended that month, I did not discover any collections being taken. So I asked one of the Bible Students: “Is this the only meeting you have?” He explained that there were others, such as one on Sunday morning. The next Sunday I was there, because I thought that this was the time for taking the collection! But even then no collections were taken.
Another month went by. I kept on attending meetings, but still no collections. When I asked again if they had any more meetings, they told me that they had another one on Thursday in the evening, but at another place. I made a note of it, saying to myself, “I am going to this meeting because it must be that they take up the collection at this other place.”
But no collection was taken at any of the meetings. After another month I asked one of the Bible Students: “Don’t you pay rent for the hall? I have never seen any collections being taken, so who pays it?” He explained that there was a box for voluntary contributions.
When I saw that there was no exploitation and that love was manifested among them and for me too, I resolved to continue going to the meetings, even though some of my friends began to stop talking to me because of my association with these Bible students.
But how could I serve God successfully? I knew so little about the Bible. How could I succeed with such a handicap? I thought it over and said to myself: “Well, I don’t know what it’s all about, but I will continue attending the meetings and in time I will get to know.”
LEARNING BIBLE TRUTH AND SHARING IT WITH OTHERS
About three months later, at one of the meetings, the Bible truth about the soul was explained. Now I could understand that the Bible does not teach the doctrine of the inherent immortality of the human soul. I knew now for a certainty that the churches were teaching a false doctrine, as I had suspected. I learned from Genesis 2:7 that “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” So, man himself was a soul; he did not have an immortal soul, some shadowy thing that merely inhabits the body or that can exist apart from a person!
I knew this Bible truth now, and I felt that even though I was extremely limited in Bible knowledge, still there was something I could share with people. I wanted to tell others the truth about the soul, that your soul is really you, and that the soul can really die. (Ezek. 18:4, 20) And I wanted people to know that the churches were teaching a falsehood! So I immediately asked for some territory in which to work from house to house. Without anyone telling me what to say, I began knocking on doors. At each house I spoke about the soul and told them there was no such thing as an immortal soul, as the churches teach about humans.
In a short time people began to say about me, “There comes that one who takes away the soul.” But I was not discouraged; my knowledge was increasing.
As I continued attending meetings, I learned that not all good people would go to heaven but that most of obedient mankind will gain everlasting life on earth. I also learned that the church teaching of the Trinity was not a true Bible teaching. Here was another falsehood that I wanted to expose. Little by little, the great obstacle of Bible ignorance was being overcome, and my knowledge increased so that I could help people by discussing a variety of subjects. No longer did I have to talk only about the soul.
I regularly talked about the Bible to one of my work companions, and he too progressed in Bible knowledge. Finally, in 1930, he told me that he would like to be baptized as a true Christian before he moved to Mexico. Later, when I also returned to Mexico, I had the joy of seeing him and his family preaching the Bible’s truths from house to house.
I had now decided to serve Jehovah, and showed it by being baptized in water on February 2, 1931. By attending the meetings, and with the help of my Christian brothers, I learned how to use the Bible. What a blessing to overcome a great obstacle! Success in serving Jehovah was indeed possible!
Toward the end of 1931 I went to Corpus Christi, Texas. That same year there was an assembly of Jehovah’s people in the English language, and since I was with a friend who could speak English as well as Spanish, he told me what was being said from the platform. I learned among other things that there was opportunity to be a pioneer or full-time preacher of God’s Word under the direction of the Watch Tower Society, so I asked for an application. I was accepted, and in 1932 worked as a full-time preacher in the state of Texas.
SERVING WHERE THE NEED IS GREATER
In April 1932, I moved to Mexico, believing there was a greater need for preachers of God’s truth there. While preaching in Gómez Palacio, Durango, I found an interested person and made return visits on him. Soon he went with me in the preaching work, and we invited another family to attend a Bible meeting. Thus we began to form a congregation. Some time later, I recommended him as the presiding overseer in that congregation. He is still teaching the Bible in that area.
In 1934 I was privileged to organize a congregation in San Pedro, Coahuila. Then later in 1935, I went to Parras, Coahuila, where I worked, along with my companions, for two months. Here the priest sent nuns ahead of us to warn the people, telling them that we had “atheistic books” and that they should not listen to us. Despite this obstacle, we went right ahead. When we knocked on the doors, some people did not come out, but from inside they would say: “We do not want anything; we know what you have.” However, others said: “They just told us that you are bringing books and we want to know what kind of books they are.” Many of these persons, their curiosity aroused by the nuns, would accept the Bible literature. So despite the priest’s false charges, we left many Bible publications with the people.
While preaching God’s truth in the town of San Buenaventura, Coahuila, I bought two front wheels of an auto and made a cart with a box; then I bought a small burro. Now I did not have to carry all my things.
A SUCCESSFUL BOOKLET CAMPAIGN
I continued preaching in various towns and was told that there was a mining town at a certain distance. So I went there and started to talk to the people. At the time we had a campaign to place booklets. The first man I met took a book and I gave him the booklet Who Is God? I had some 250 copies of this booklet to distribute. How long would it take to distribute all of them? I wondered.
When I left the home of the first man I met, the church bells began to ring. It turned out that a priest had not been there for three years, and now he had come to do baptisms. But before he did, he collected enough money from the people to fill three little bags.
The following day, I began to call on more people in this mining town, wondering what the reception would be now that a priest had arrived. What a surprise I had when they began to ask me, “Do you have the booklet Who Is God?”! When I finished calling on people in the mining town, all my booklets were gone! But how did all the people know about this booklet? I found out later when I went to another small town, and they also asked me for this booklet. I asked a woman, “How did you know about the booklet?”
She answered: “The priest told us that the booklet is very good and we should read it.” What happened was that the wife of the man who took the book and to whom I first gave the booklet went to the priest to ask him if it was a good booklet. At that particular time, the priest was busy collecting money, and, not wanting to desist from this lucrative activity, simply told the woman, “Yes, it is very good, you can read it.” And so the word spread, and I ran out of booklets in a short time.
PROVISION FOR OUR NEEDS
Later I went to Santiago Papasquiaro, Durango. My companion and I stayed there a month preaching the good news, and had good success. We left three books with the mayor among others, and made some return visits on him. When we finished this town, we began to go over the mountains. However, some people told us that it would be difficult because one could not find anything to eat there. Was the mountain range too big an obstacle for us? We thought not, and said, “Jehovah is the One who will make provision for us.”
And so it was that in each town we came to, a man would be found who liked to hear the good news of God’s kingdom. Sometimes after talking to a man, he would say: “We want you to stay here tonight to talk to us about these things.” On one occasion a man kept us two days to talk about Jehovah’s purposes, and he would not let us use any provisions we had brought along, but he took care of our food needs.
ADDED PRIVILEGES OF SERVICE
In 1942 I married, and we continued preaching the good news. But then in 1946 I became sick for three months. I missed the full-time preaching work. Could I overcome an obstacle and begin again? With Jehovah’s help I did. In 1949 we were even able to take up special pioneer preaching privileges, thus devoting even more of our time to the field ministry. Thereafter, starting in May 1951, it was my joy to start in the circuit work, visiting God’s people in various congregations, to encourage and strengthen them. And we were assigned to many parts of Mexico over the years.
After eleven years of such service, problems of health, this time on the part of my wife, made it advisable to request service again as special pioneers. With the help of Jehovah, we have had the privilege of seeing increase in each of the congregations with which we have served since then.
At seventy-two years of age, I still have the energy to be a special pioneer minister, spending at least 150 hours every month to preach the good news. After many years of experience, I have come to be very confident that, despite obstacles, success is possible in Jehovah’s service, with his help.