Venezuelans Take Advantage of Jehovah’s Unfailing Treasure
THE millions of dollars that are pouring into Venezuela at present—over nineteen million dollars a day—are accustoming many there to the highest per capita income in South America. But the wealthiest of all the Latin-American countries is running out of its fabulous black treasure—oil. Informed persons are worried by the reports showing that the proven reserves are down to 17.7 billion barrels, which, at the present rate of production, may last for only another twenty years.
One troubled person, Monsignor Ovidio Pérez Morales, secretary of the Roman Catholic Episcopate, in a recent admonitory message, stated: “We are living in an inundation of waste, of luxury and of collective foolishness. . . . The philosophy of the easy life, of exaggerated profit and of triumph at any cost is being spread and in such a way a country cannot be built.”
However, many Venezuelans are being helped to get a positive outlook for the future. Jehovah’s Christian witnesses in that land are telling them about a treasure far more valuable than oil, a spiritual treasure that will never be exhausted. (Isa. 33:6) Thirty years ago, in 1946, there were just thirteen persons carrying on this Bible educational work. By 1976, however, there were more than thirteen thousand (13,749) visiting their thirteen million neighbors with the message of a future free from fear, under Christ’s rule. Half this number were baptized just during the last four years.
There are several factors that have aided Jehovah’s Witnesses to teach the truth of God’s Word to so many. In these days most Venezuelans know how to read, because the government has made a conscientious effort to provide enough schools. In the last few years the people have come to look at the Bible in a better light. The Roman Catholic Church has sponsored the “Week of the Bible,” during which one may buy the Catholic Bible at a reduced rate, and Bible reading is encouraged. This has helped to erase the ideas that the Bible is an ‘immoral book’ and that ‘one could go insane’ reading it.
One especially useful benefit of the oil bonanza is the network of good roads over much of Venezuela. This has made it much easier to contact people with the “good news” of the Kingdom. But there are still places that must be reached by plane, riverboat, curiara (dugout canoe), burro or other transportation.
BLIND MAN AIDED TO HELP OTHERS
Persons in all walks of life and in a variety of circumstances are finding delight in gaining an accurate knowledge of God’s Word. On the island of Margarita, five hours off the Caribbean coast by ferry, a twenty-one-year-old blind man accepted the Bible’s message. At the age of twelve he had lost his sight when playing with tumbarancho firecrackers, the “jumbo” type. He had been making a living as a singer with a local group of musicians. Upon becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, he gave up this work to avoid the atmosphere of overdrinking and rowdiness associated with it. For almost a year now he has been devoting about ninety hours monthly to sharing Bible truth with others. How does he do it?
Witnesses have opened their homes to him, and different ones help him to get to the territory where he shares in the public proclamation of the “good news.” He makes his living by repairing reed furniture—a skill he acquired at the School for the Blind in Caracas, the capital. There he also learned Braille. This has been especially useful to him. For example, from tape recordings of the Bible handbook The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, he has made a translation into Braille for his own use, and this has enabled him to teach the Bible to others. Three of his students are now Witnesses.
MARVELOUS PERSONALITY CHANGES
The precious message of the Bible has assisted many Venezuelans to change their personalities for the better. A Portuguese immigrant relates:
“A few years ago I had friends who, just like me, robbed and took all kinds of drugs, including LSD. One night I was walking with the gang when, suddenly, someone shouted, ‘The four J’s!’ (The initial of each of our names was “J”; Joao, Jesús, Jorge and José.) Just a short time later Jorge and José died in a gun battle.
“When I found myself at the police station for the tenth time, guilty of robbery, within myself I prayed to God with all my heart. I promised him that I would never rob again. That morning I was freed.
“I tried to leave all this violent world behind and went to work with my brother Manuel in his bakery. An old man came there and left me a copy of Awake! I liked the magazine so much that I asked him for more literature. When he came to take me to a meeting in the Kingdom Hall, I had already read all the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life.
“As the book showed that one should get baptized, I wanted to be ready. I said to myself, ‘I’m too shy to speak to the Witnesses about baptism, but in case they mention it to me, why, I’ll have my swimming trunks on!’ So, the first time that I went to the Kingdom Hall I wore my swimming trunks under my trousers.
“My brother Manuel was very angry with me for associating with the Witnesses and called me names. But my conduct was very different now. I was no longer taking drugs, robbing, getting drunk and committing sexual immorality.
“My family observed the great change in me and, one by one, they started to study the Bible. My brother Alfonso said, ‘That religion may be very bad, but the people are good!’ Now Alfonso and his wife and my youngest brother Carlos are all baptized, and even Manuel is studying.
“My family friend José, my brother’s partner in the bakery, also appreciated my good conduct and made some changes of his own. As he was a wrestler, he had previously settled any difference of opinion with brute force. But now as a Witness he strives to be peaceable with everyone. José’s brother Ernesto was especially drawn by the Bible’s hope of a paradise here on earth. He married the mother of his four children whom he had previously abandoned, and now both are baptized Witnesses. Finally the brother of José and Ernesto, Fernando, married the mother of his children, and both of them are preparing themselves for baptism.
“I had a great desire to serve Jehovah as a pioneer, but a large debt did not permit me to do so. I prayed to Jehovah. The owner of the business offered me a raise in my daily wage. But I told him that he could give me the raise or one hour a day, and that I preferred getting off an hour earlier, leaving work at 5 p.m., instead of at 6 p.m., in order to spend two or three hours in God’s service each day as a ‘pioneer.’ At the same time I was speaking to Jehovah in prayer. The owner accepted my proposal, and immediately I took up the auxiliary pioneer work.
“I owe everything to the undeserved kindness of Jehovah, because I do not deserve it.”
YOUNG PEOPLE ARE RESPONDING
Among others making great changes in their lives are young people. Venezuela is really a land of young people, with 70 percent of the population being under thirty years of age. Instead of basing their future hopes on the liquid black treasure of Venezuela, some of them are coming to appreciate the spiritual treasure that Jehovah God offers to his people.
In a cool mountain town near Caracas, a young long-haired, bearded hippie, with a guitar slung over his shoulder, and his friend, a fanatical atheist and Communist, had been seeking the means to a better world and had been reading up on Oriental religions. Finally, they came to the branch office of the Watch Tower Society asking for a free Bible study. Both cleaned up from their former ways and are now baptized Witnesses, basing their hope for the future on the wisdom and knowledge contained in the Scriptures.
FAITHFUL DESPITE OPPOSITION
At times acceptance of Bible truth is attended by bitter family opposition. This was the experience of a young Syrian woman. She knew nothing of Venezuela until a Syrian businessman, visiting from Venezuela in his home area, picked her out for his wife. She made a new life for herself, far from her family, and had four children. She was such a devout Roman Catholic that her husband, a materialist, objected to so much praying and going to church. When called on by a “pioneer” Witness, the Syrian woman could speak no Spanish but, by gestures, conveyed her love for her Arabic Bible.
Arrangements were made for her to study in Arabic with a Lebanese Witness, generally in someone else’s home, or over the telephone. The husband became furious that his wife had stopped being a Roman Catholic (which was better for his business) and was studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses. He forbade the Witnesses to come to the house. He forbade his wife to go to the Kingdom Hall. He dismissed the maid, who was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He removed the telephone. He brought over from Syria her mother and others of her family, for them to put pressure on her. He threatened her by shouting, gave her the silent treatment, feigned illness, and left home with a revolver. He even went to the extreme of taking her to a medical clinic under false pretenses and then had her drugged, hoping thus to wipe out the name of Jehovah from her mind. But all was useless. With spiritual help from several Witness women, she continued to make progress, arranging to go to meetings, sharing in proclaiming Bible truth to others, becoming fluent in Spanish and getting baptized.
Finally, while she was pregnant with their fifth child, the husband asked for a legal separation. Nevertheless, he provided well for her, and she was now able to serve Jehovah without violent opposition at home. A year later he realized that he had lost everything—the companionship of his beautiful wife, the joy of watching his five children grow up, homecooked meals and laundry service. So, he returned home, and the family is now united.
Besides witnessing to the native population, Jehovah’s Witnesses have reached out to share the Bible’s message with the more than half a million immigrants who have entered Venezuela since World War II. Some of the Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, East European and Middle Eastern immigrants have had good success in teaching their relatives about God’s promises for a better system of things.
Jehovah’s servants in Venezuela are continuing to help honest-hearted persons to make spiritual treasures their own. Happily, some Venezuelans are responding favorably. Instead of putting their trust in the prosperity that oil can provide, they are learning to look ahead to an eternal future under God’s kingdom by Christ. May many more come to appreciate the lasting value of spiritual riches.