‘Buying Out Time’ in Italy
‘BUY out the opportune time,’ the apostle Paul twice urged fellow Christians while he was in Rome, Italy. (Ephesians 5:15, 16; Colossians 4:5) His readers in the first century responded well. They looked for opportune times to spread the “good news” and help others to become worshipers of the true God.—Matthew 24:14.
Modern-day servants of Jehovah in Italy, where Paul wrote those letters, are still responding well to his advice. Like the early Christians, they look for ways to increase their share in the Kingdom-preaching work. How do they find “the opportune time”?
Benefits of Identification
Giuseppe, an elderly full-time minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Rome, recalls the time that he held a secular job. He had made sure that all his colleagues knew that he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This identification led to an “opportune” time for sharing Bible truths. One day he was assigned to train a man named Gianni. Right away the other workers told Gianni that his teacher was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As soon as the worker was alone with Giuseppe, he told Giuseppe: “Now we talk about our job, but at lunchtime I want to learn something about Jehovah.”
During lunchtimes, they had several discussions. Giuseppe taught Gianni that God has a name, Jehovah. He also explained God’s purpose for the earth. What happened, though, when the training period was over? “I gave him my phone number and some Bible literature,” says Giuseppe. “He accepted the literature but said: ‘If I find something in these publications that is not in harmony with Bible truth, I will come back here and prove you wrong in front of all your colleagues.’”
Months passed by. No word from Gianni. “But then,” continues Giuseppe, “one day he called me and said that he wanted to see me. We met, and he had a list of questions. We talked for ten hours! He accepted my offer to study the Bible regularly.” What was the result? Giuseppe says: “The favorable changes he made impressed his wife and his mother so much that they, too, began to show interest in the Bible study. Today Gianni, his wife, and his mother are all faithful servants of Jehovah.”
Forced to Burn His Bible
Fine Christian conduct also leads to ‘opportune times’ for sharing Bible truths with others. As the apostle Paul says, good conduct can “adorn the teaching of our Savior, God, in all things.”—Titus 2:10.
Pietro, now a Witness in his late 20’s, was attracted to such “teaching” by the Christian conduct of a classmate. “I was in the fifth grade,” recalls Pietro, “but I still remember that boy’s conduct. He was the only one who refused to stay in class during religious instruction.”
One day Pietro asked the boy why he always left. The boy explained that he was exempted from class because he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Pietro’s interest was aroused. He asked the boy to bring him a Bible. After reading some parts of the Bible, “I understood that it contained the truth,” says Pietro. “I decided that I wanted to follow it from then on. I took the Bible to school with me and told everybody that I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was only ten years old.”
Troubles began. Pietro continues: “The priest who conducted the religious classes at school told my parents that I was using the Bible at school, and he advised them to destroy it. When I came home, my mother tried to grab my Bible, but I held it as tightly as I could. Then Mother began to hit me and tore it out of my hands. After that she forced me to burn my own Bible.” Pietro lost his Bible but not his faith. He thought: ‘As soon as I grow up, I’ll buy a new Bible and go out to others to share its message.’
Two years went by. Then Pietro learned that a Bible study was conducted in the house of one of his friends. He secretly attended the study. “One day,” says Pietro, “I told my parents, ‘I have decided to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This time nothing will change my mind!’” Seeing the determination of their 12-year-old son, the parents gave in. Pietro began attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall right away. Four years later he was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Today, 18 years after he first learned the truth from the Bible because of the faithful conduct of his classmate, Pietro is “buying out the opportune time” by serving as a full-time minister in Italy.
Zealous at 70 Years of Age
Mafalda, a Christian woman from Livorno, is another of the more than 22,000 zealous pioneers, or full-time ministers, in Italy. She began working as a pioneer at age 56. “Pioneer work,” she explains, “requires that at least 1,000 hours a year are dedicated to the preaching work. But since this is an important message, I spend 2,000 hours each year as a pioneer worker.” Mafalda is now 70 years old. What are her plans? “Among the first-century Christians, there were hardworking housewives who shared in the ministry,” she says. “Like them, I want to continue announcing God’s Kingdom. That’s the goal in my life.”
Indeed, from the snow-tipped mountain peaks in the alpine north to the Mediterranean island of Sicily in the south, modern-day witnesses of Jehovah in Italy reflect the zeal of their first-century counterparts. Each day of the year they spend, on an average, over 100,000 hours in the Kingdom-preaching work. The result? Last year alone, almost 12,000 persons were baptized and became ordained ministers of Jehovah. Now they, together with the 131,000 other witnesses of Jehovah, are “buying out the opportune time” in Italy.