Grateful that Jehovah Answered Our Prayers
As told by Angelo Clave
“REJOICE in the hope. Endure under tribulation. Persevere in prayer.” Keeping this advice in mind has helped me to enjoy a life of full-time service to Jehovah.—Rom. 12:12.
The youngest of six children, I was born in 1936 on the small island of Anda near a famous tourist area known as the One Hundred Islands in Pangasinan, the Philippines. Our wood and bamboo home, half a kilometer (0.3 mi.) from the sea, was surrounded by flowers and mango trees, to the delight of both eyes and taste buds. Tragically, my father died when I was only three years old. Aside from the painful sorrow of losing her husband, my mother was deeply concerned about how to raise us in the best way. At least, she still had a little farm by which to fill the granary behind our house with a supply of rice. She was a woman devoted to her religious beliefs as a member of the Philippine Independent Church.
In 1945, just after World War II had ravaged the Philippines, far-reaching changes began with the visit by two young women who were declaring that God’s kingdom was the only hope for mankind. My mother was not interested, but my older brother Presalino eagerly welcomed the two witnesses of Jehovah and discussed many Bible topics with them from morning until late that night. The following day, Presalino invited my cousin Eduardo to go with him as he took these women back to their home by boat.
When my brother and cousin returned a few days later, they enthusiastically told everyone that they had already been baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses! Presalino eagerly explained that the kingdom for which we had prayed so often in the Lord’s Prayer would bring many persons everlasting life on a paradise earth. (Matt. 6:9, 10; Luke 23:43) My mother, though at first not interested, soon was convinced that this was the truth. She immediately cleaned our home of its crucifix and idols of Joseph, Mary and other “saints.” Also, she quit chewing betel nut. A few months later, the father of the two Witness girls came to visit us. He was thrilled to find a group studying the Bible under the direction of Presalino. Twelve persons were then baptized, including my mother, two brothers, my sister and two sisters-in-law. Immediately, they were formed into a congregation. Two of my brothers, along with my cousin Eduardo, were appointed to take oversight.
At our little school of about 120 pupils, often I was ridiculed because of my growing faith. All the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses came under pressure for refusing to share in idolatrous acts at school. These pressures eventually prevented me from gaining a higher secular education. This was a disappointment. However, my mother helped me to rely on Jehovah and to build up my relationship with him by prayer and further Bible study. The result? At 15 years of age I was among the 522 baptized on April 22, 1951, at the Quezon City national assembly.
MY PRAYERS TO BECOME A FULL-TIME PREACHER ANSWERED
This assembly stirred up my desire to become a pioneer, as full-time Kingdom proclaimers are called. On the return journey and in family discussions, this was the main subject on my mind and in my prayers. Though my mother’s initial reaction was negative, she finally permitted me to become a “vacation” pioneer for several months. These few months were richly rewarding, and strengthened my determination to become a regular pioneer.
On March 1, 1953, I realized this goal. With this I started to learn a new language—Iloko. Why was this necessary? There are at least 87 dialects in the Philippines and I am Bolinao, but in my witnessing territory there were many Iloko people. This was the first of many new languages I would need to learn in order to teach more people the truth of the Bible. Each time, I have relied heavily on Jehovah’s help, praying that he would bless my efforts.
It was while working with the Ilogmalino Congregation in a little village adjoining a white sandy beach on the China Sea that I had an unusual experience. A young man whom I met in his home became so emotionally disturbed when he realized I was a Witness that he drove me out with a warning not to return. The following week the traveling circuit overseer visited us and we were to call at homes in the same area. Not knowing of my experience, the circuit overseer told me to start from the very house where the young man had been so hostile.
My first thought was to skip that home; but after prayer to Jehovah I decided to call once more. What a surprise! The young man listened carefully, agreed to study the Bible and came to his first meeting that week. He made rapid spiritual progress and was baptized at an assembly just a few months later. What had caused the sudden change in one week? After treating me so badly, he had met with an accident. Viewing this as punishment, he decided at least to be polite to the next Witness he saw. He was, and liked what he heard.
Three of us pioneers often used a six-meter (20-foot) fishing boat to visit nearby islands and give talks. As we were returning home late one night, the weather suddenly changed. We were in trouble! High waves swamped the boat and we had to swim in the boiling sea, two kilometers (1.25 miles) to the shore. Somehow my nephew and I found the strength to help my niece, and, though our belongings were lost, we made it safely to shore. We thanked Jehovah for giving us our lives.
My next assignment took me to a town farther from home. There I experienced the truth of Jesus’ words: “Everyone that has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive many times more and will inherit everlasting life.” (Matt. 19:29) The brothers and sisters were so kind and loving that in a short time we enjoyed a fine, wholesome, close relationship. The bond was so strong that when later I left for my first special pioneer assignment in Bulacan Province none of us could control the tears that streamed down our faces as we said good-bye.
In my next two assignments I had new partners and learned how to live and cooperate with people having different personalities. The first of these assignments resulted in my learning another language, Tagalog, the national tongue. In the second of these assignments, I experienced for the first time the unique joy of helping to establish a new congregation. This took more than two years of diligent work, constant prayers and reliance on Jehovah who ‘makes things grow.’—1 Cor. 3:5-9.
OTHER PRIVILEGES OF SERVICE
My gratefulness was increased when, after three years in the special pioneer service, I was appointed to make circuit visits on some 20 congregations, including my hometown. Can you imagine my joy in going on a Bible study with my own mother and helping her to teach someone else the truths that she herself had been so reluctant to accept? After two years in the circuit work, there was a joy of another kind, as Lucrecia and I were married on January 17, 1962. Her seven and a half years of regular and special pioneering before our marriage had given evidence of her love of serving Jehovah, and she has continued to be a source of help and encouragement in the years since then. Surely, another reason to be grateful to Jehovah!—Prov. 19:14.
Making circuit visits often was difficult, but great were the rewards. Why, to reach Agumanay Village we had to struggle upward into the mountains over a slippery, muddy trail for 12 hours! But what joy to find on arrival that most of the villagers were Jehovah’s Witnesses! They welcomed us with melodies of praise to Jehovah—songs that they themselves had composed. Daily, about 50 of these humble brothers accompanied us as we visited nearby villages to spread the Kingdom good news.
But certain living conditions do present dangers, and eventually I contracted hepatitis. This necessitated a change to special pioneer service from February 1965 until July 1966, when I was well enough to resume the circuit visits, this time in Tarlac Province on central Luzon. There the Huks (guerrillas) made things dangerous, and many people had been killed. While regular meetings often could not be held, it was possible to aid fellow believers spiritually by visiting them in their homes. One day, while having breakfast with a brother and his family in their little wood and bamboo home with its iron roof, two truckloads of soldiers suddenly surrounded the house. With guns pointed, they interrogated us, one by one. I had the rare opportunity of explaining the “good news” to the commanding officer. Satisfied that we were not Huks, they left. Once again our trust in Jehovah had been rewarded.—Prov. 29:25.
ANOTHER LANGUAGE TO LEARN
A letter dated August 31, 1967, from the Watch Tower Society greatly surprised us. It invited us to take up missionary service in Indonesia. In prayer, we sought Jehovah’s guidance and then accepted the invitation. So it was that we, along with six other Filipinos, arrived in Jakarta on February 18, 1968.
At the first meetings we attended in Indonesian, all I could say to my spiritual brothers and sisters was “Selamat sore. Selamat datang. Silahkan masuk.” (“Good afternoon. Welcome. Please come in.”) An 11-hour-a-day “crash course” in the Indonesian language began immediately. On completion of this course, I was appointed to care for a new congregation. What a test for me! Obviously, I needed to improve my knowledge of the language. We found that the best way to learn it was to share diligently in the house-to-house witnessing work. Jakartans were hospitable and helpful, invited us into their homes and politely tried to understand us. In this way we made rapid progress, for Indonesian is somewhat similar to some Philippine dialects. Thus, after only eight months, we were again assigned to make circuit visits, using our newly acquired Indonesian.
After some time in the Jakarta area, we were assigned to visit the congregations on the island of Sulawesi. There lack of transport and rough roads were a trial, but again the love of the brothers made our efforts worth while. At one congregation meeting, a woman approached my wife and said: ‘Please pray for me that I may be able to endure the suffering my husband inflicts on me for the sake of the truth.’ We offered some encouragement and comfort from the Bible and did pray for her, but later lost track of this woman, as her husband moved to various isolated areas to get his wife away from the Witnesses. A couple of years later, what a surprise it was to see her among those baptized at a circuit assembly!
In 1976, we were trying to arrange for an assembly of Sulawesi brothers in Manado. We applied for five different halls, but were rejected. Finally, a suitable hall was located but the rent of Rp260,000 ($627, U.S.) was beyond our resources. How surprised we were when a non-Witness donated Rp100,000! Then a fellow believer made a sizable contribution, bringing the hall within our financial reach. A fine assembly was held, which was providential, for it proved to be the last big gathering for our brothers in that area, as opposition to our activity increased.
First, we were forbidden to make house-to-house calls. But the brothers learned how to locate people to whom they could talk. Hence, many interested persons were located and the work continued to progress.
Then we were forbidden to meet in private homes. The brothers started to build more Kingdom Halls. But on December 24, 1976, a total ban was announced on the activities and meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses as individuals, as well as those of their legal corporation, the Bible Students Association of Indonesia. We knew our visas would not be renewed, but were glad that we were not forced to leave immediately. Further extensions were requested and an immigration officer finally gave us another 10 days. The day before our departure, we had a picnic with 200 brothers. It was a fine opportunity for an interchange of encouragement. (Rom. 1:11, 12) Thus we were forced to leave our dear Indonesian brothers and sisters after nine gratifying years of service with them.
SERVING IN ANOTHER LAND
We were pleased, however, that it was possible to serve Jehovah elsewhere—this time in Taiwan. Again we had our language study, but now in Mandarin Chinese, a tongue totally dissimilar to any we had ever learned. Although it is a language with tones that change the meanings of words having the same sound and it is not written in Latin letters, we are making progress. As in times past, we pray for Jehovah’s help in preaching the “good news of the kingdom.” (Matt. 24:14) We work in the rapidly growing industrial city of Kaohsiung, with its more than 1,000,000 inhabitants. Our small congregation of 30 proclaimers of the “good news” has a big assignment. But how happy we are to see more than twice our number assemble for Kingdom Hall meetings!
During the almost 30 years since we dedicated ourselves to Jehovah, countless times we have seen that the course advised by the apostle Paul has been the best. Having spent 25 of those years in full-time service, we know that if a person ‘rejoices in the hope ahead, endures under tribulation and perseveres in prayer’ Jehovah’s blessing will enrich his life.—Rom. 12:12.