Fulfilling My Purpose to Raise a Christian Family
as told by Leon Glass
AT THE time of my birth in 1924, nearly all the inhabitants of the Dominican Republic were Roman Catholics. The natives, along with their religion, were destroyed long ago. Under colonialism, the city now known as Santo Domingo had 17 Catholic churches in an area having a circumference of about three and a half miles (5.6 km).
Born a Catholic, I faithfully attended services at a church only about 10 yards (9 m) from our door. In front of my bed were religious images and crosses, before which I would pray as follows when retiring: “With God I lie down and with God I get up. With the Virgin Mary and with the Holy Spirit.” I knew nothing about the Bible. In the public schools, we learned only Catholic doctrines. Protestants were very few in those days. They had but a few chapels, and, at times, these were stoned. The Catholics were told that Protestants were of the Devil, and I was afraid to go near them.
CHANGES THAT LED TO MY FINDING THE TRUTH
At an early age, one of my brothers and I began to discern that it was idolatry to pray before a picture of the heart of Jesus in the form of a padlock, which padlock was the trademark of a certain soap. So later it was not difficult for us to decide to attend an Evangelical church with our grandmother. We felt a little better there because the Bible was used.
While World War II was raging, I asked the Sunday-school teacher if it was proper for a Christian to take part in the war. His answer was not in accord with the Bible, which made me so indignant that I left the church. Later, though, the fear of being in the world without any religion at all prompted me to go back to the church and accept as much of its teaching as harmonized with the Bible and to reject the rest. By that time I was 22 years of age.
One day I found five books published by the Watch Tower Society. My older brother had left these publications in my home. Their attractive covers and interesting titles impressed me. One book especially caught my attention with the words “truth” and “free” in the title. Reading this book, I could see that each chapter was exactly in accord with what I had learned from the Bible. There were many new things also, and they sounded good. I was convinced that I had found the truth.
The time had come for me to make very important decisions that would have a great bearing on my life: Would I enter the service of Jehovah? Should I marry my fiancée, Eve, whom I had already led from the Catholic Church to the Evangelical religion? Now we began to study the Bible with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Within a month, I began going from house to house, telling the people about the things that I had learned. My fiancée had led me to believe that she would do the same. However, when I said that we would attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, she said that it was dangerous to change religions. This bothered me very much because, when I was in the Evangelical religion, I would pray: “God, help me to find a Christian wife and raise a Christian family.” I had found my prospective wife. What would happen now?
I approached God in prayer again, saying: “Jehovah, if Eve is not going to be one of your servants, please cause her to leave me, because I have found no reason to leave her.” I did not have to wait long for an answer. She accepted my next invitation to accompany me to the Kingdom Hall. There one of Jehovah’s Witnesses took over and introduced her to nearly everybody in the hall. A few days later, she accompanied one of the Witnesses in the house-to-house work. The next year we were married and began to devote all our time to the preaching work. Our honeymoon was very short. The very next day we began visiting our neighbors and talking to them about the hope that we had regarding a better system of things.
During this time the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was under attack by the Trujillo dictatorship. Even from the first day that I shared in the preaching work it was feared that a ban would be put on the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. That is exactly what happened. It came as no surprise when intense persecution broke out one year later.
We Jehovah’s Witnesses had prepared ourselves mentally for prison, and that is where we went. I had found work in a company controlled by the government, where other Witnesses were also employed. One day we were asked to sign a telegram addressed to the dictator, Trujillo, assuring him of our support politically and in any action against Cuba. We refused to sign. This was considered very serious, a defiance of the dictator. Our fellow workers felt obligated to insult us. The one in charge said: “Trujillo is the boss here and, even if your Jehovah should come down from heaven, he would have to subject himself to Trujillo.” My answer was that if we signed, we would be condoning the blasphemy that he had just uttered. We were arrested and questioned by the military secret service. After being threatened, we were released, only to be called up for military service a few days later without the usual procedure. On refusing to meet the demands, we were sent to prison. There we found four other Witnesses, two of them being my fleshly brothers. After our release, we were again sentenced. This happened three times, with only one or more days between terms. We spent close to seven years in prison, the last term being five years.
Thus, after eight years as a married man, I had spent only one year—our first year—at home with my wife. The remainder of the time I had been in and out of prison. This was not a very good start toward raising a Christian family insofar as a father’s influence is concerned. Nevertheless, Eve did a good job with our three children. They were learning Bible principles and were attending the meetings at the Kingdom Hall, as well as participating in the preaching work that was still under ban. My wife would bring the children to see me in prison, and it gave me great joy to note their faithfulness even though they were very young. Eve had to suffer insults, threats and a lot of blasphemy against Jehovah. But her faith made me very happy and encouraged me. On one occasion, when she was pregnant with our first child, a guard mistreated me in her presence. I was afraid of the effect that this might have on her, but she suffered no ill effects and continued to build me up. Today, upon remembering these things, I thank Jehovah for his help. He certainly granted us a great privilege in permitting us to suffer for his name. The things that we experienced served to strengthen us and helped us to raise a united Christian family.
Besides the trials, we had many pleasant experiences in giving a witness about our hope and faith before judges, high military officials, soldiers, fellow prisoners, members of our own families who were not Witnesses, and to people on the streets while we were working under guard. Even in the dictator’s own palace we were able to give a witness about our hope. On one occasion, as we dug up grass to be transplanted, we were permitted to talk to the people in the houses along the road. Since the guards accompanied us, we really had a good audience at each home. The people were very hospitable and listened with interest, although at times with a little fear.
In the prison, we could at times go from cell to cell and from bunk to bunk to explain our Kingdom hope. This was risky, however, because, if caught, we would be put in solitary confinement. Once the man in charge of a cell block asked me not to preach in his cell because he did not want to turn me in to the authorities. One prisoner was friendly toward us, and so we talked about the Scriptures while in the prison yard. Later, I had the privilege of baptizing him while we were both still in prison. Still later, however, he was assassinated due to a family member’s taking part in a plot against Trujillo.
Strange as it may seem, our refusing to compromise gained the respect of some of the soldiers, guards, prison inmates and civilians. In fact, the prison officer who was feared most because of his harsh treatment of the prisoners was the one who trusted us most. At times, he would send us to work outside the prison without guards.
In confinement, we learned how to coordinate our work assignments so as to have time for spiritual matters. As a general rule, we were able to hold all the meetings each week. A few times, it was possible even to commemorate Christ’s death with other inmates present. Sometimes the guards would find our Bible and Biblical publications and take them away from us. Usually this occurred because some inmates had turned us in. But we always seemed to have enough literature to keep us spiritually strong.
As far as food was concerned, there were times when we could share what we had with others. We were allowed to receive some food from outside. Our brothers, both fleshly and spiritual, provided aid continually.
GRATEFUL FOR JEHOVAH’S AID
I am thankful to Jehovah for allowing me to go to prison as the apostles were imprisoned. That may sound strange to some. But all these experiences trained and tempered us in patience and endurance. Of course, at times it was certainly not pleasant. But now, many years later, I can see how these experiences had their influence for good.
When I finally left prison, it was not easy to get work, especially with a prison record. I had to accept employment with a pick and shovel, making $2.50 (U.S.) a day. But the family managed with that for a time, until I procured better employment as a public accountant. We had not gone hungry.
My greatest joy is seeing all five of my children strong in faith and active in Jehovah’s service. Really, God has blessed me greatly and has helped me to raise a Christian family. I would not trade my 32 years in Jehovah’s service for anything. My prayer to our heavenly Father is that we may be helped to serve him forever.