Malta’s Hospitality Brings Blessings
MALTA provided a welcome landfall for the apostle Paul when he was shipwrecked in the first century C.E. The island’s inhabitants received him and his fellow voyagers “helpfully.” In fact, the Maltese showed the travelers “extraordinary human kindness.”—Acts 28:1, 2.
Later, the island’s principal man, Publius, received Paul and his companions hospitably and ‘entertained them benevolently for three days.’ When news spread that the apostle had cured Publius’ father of fever and dysentery, “the rest of the people on the island who had sicknesses also began to come to him and be cured.” (Acts 28:7-9) But Paul did more. He sowed seeds of truth in the hearts of the people, and this resulted in many blessings for these hospitable islanders. Today, the same thing is taking place on Malta. Come and see how.
Visitors Bring Good News
Viewed from the air, sunlit Malta shines like a jewel set in the blue Mediterranean. Upon approaching Luqa Airport, a visitor sees a sun-drenched land with seemingly little vegetation. When on the ground, he learns that this seven- by ten-mile [11-16 km] island is the home of an estimated 347,000 inhabitants. The domes and spires of Malta’s numerous churches and cathedrals reveal its religious background. But in this 20th century, how have the Maltese people benefited from visits of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
One traveling overseer named David called at the home of Juliana and found a ready response to the Kingdom message. “I had become very disgruntled with the involvement of the church in politics,” says Juliana, “and I therefore tried to find in the Bible the truth about God’s government. But as I read it, there were things I could not easily understand. Imagine how intrigued I was when this caller at my door asked if I knew what God’s Kingdom was! Immediately, I asked him to show me the answer in my Catholic Bible. He did. That very day I knew I had found the truth.”
A local Witness arranged to study the Bible with Juliana. When David returned to Malta six months later, what a pleasant surprise to have Juliana welcome him into the Kingdom Hall! She was soon ready to be a publisher of the good news of the Kingdom.
Juliana’s husband, Francis, had also been confused by church teachings. While visiting her on an occasion when she was in the hospital, he found her listening to tape recordings of public Bible talks delivered at the Kingdom Hall. Upon hearing a presentation on the subject of the family, Francis noted how sound the Biblical advice was, and as a result, he decided to begin attending Christian meetings. Soon he became aware of a problem that had to be solved. What was it?
For some 20 years, Francis had worked as a croupier at the casino. He now realized that employment that involved gambling was incompatible with Christian principles that condemn greed and covetousness. (Romans 13:9, 10; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) “Though at first I lacked the faith needed to change my job,” admits Francis, “I prayed for Jehovah’s help. Finally, I found other work that enables me to care for my wife and son, Sandro.” Today, Francis serves as an elder in the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Comfort From the Scriptures
Rose had been happily married to George for six years when he was tragically killed in an accident. She found no comfort at all in the priest’s contention that God had taken George because of being jealous of the love she had for her husband. Rose became so depressed that she contemplated taking the life of her three children and then committing suicide.
But what a change came over Rose when a neighboring Witness named Helen started to conduct a Bible study with her! Rose was soon comforted by the Scriptural teaching of the resurrection. (John 5:28, 29) At the same time, encouragement came from Peter, another visiting overseer. She benefited greatly from his talks about the resurrection. Spurred on by this hope, Rose joined Helen in public witnessing, and both of them now serve as regular pioneers, or full-time Kingdom preachers.
Encouragement to Be Zealous
Joe comes from a large family, for he has 12 brothers and sisters. Encouraged by a traveling overseer, he zealously witnessed to his many relatives. “In the beginning,” he says, “my family knew that what I explained to them from the Bible made sense. But when they saw that my interest in becoming a Witness grew, they changed their mind, and all of them were against me—especially my father.” Did their attitude quench Joe’s zeal?
Not at all! For instance, when the baby of one of his sisters was ill and about to die, Joe witnessed to her, speaking to her about the resurrection hope. Now this sister is a baptized Witness of Jehovah. Next, one of Joe’s older brothers and his family showed interest in the truth. Then the eldest brother and his family took a stand for God’s Kingdom. Meanwhile, Joe’s father was becoming more and more angry. When Joe’s youngest sister also started to study the Bible, the father put Joe out of the family home. Undeterred, Joe used every occasion to visit his relatives and talk about the Bible’s message. Still, his father reacted angrily and said: “Why don’t you speak to the priest? He knows the Bible best!” Joe replied that he would gladly do so if his father would accompany him. How did their visit turn out?
“We arranged a day and time,” Joe recounts, “but the priest wanted to know the subject to prepare for, explaining that since he had left the seminary seven years earlier, he would now need to do some research. . . . But after a week, a month, and even two months, the priest had not kept any appointment. When my father observed this, he changed his mind about the church and gradually realized that what I had learned from the Bible was true.” Joe’s father finally accepted the truth, bringing to 29 the number of his family members engaged in Jehovah’s service.
Helpful Advice Brings Blessings
Speaking enthusiastically of yet another visiting overseer, a married pioneer minister named Ignatio explains: “Paul and his wife came to stay with us. They helped both of us in our marriage relationship as well as in the field ministry. He always emphasized the importance of preaching.”
Ignatio recalls what happened when Paul met with the congregation elders and ministerial servants during his last visit. “When I said I had to take time from the preaching work that morning to prepare my part on the program at a meeting,” says Ignatio, “Paul said that he would go out in the field service as arranged even if I could not accompany him. At that, I decided to go too. How Jehovah blessed my decision! That morning I started a Bible study, and from it, there are now six people in the truth.”—Compare 3 John 4.
An Interchange of Encouragement
Each time a traveling elder visits fellow Witnesses on Malta, they receive him hospitably and are eager to benefit from his encouragement and exhortation. (Compare 3 John 5-8.) As a result, more and more Maltese people are taking a firm stand for Jehovah God and his Kingdom. By the end of the 1989 service year, 389 of these hospitable islanders had done so. Now organized into five thriving congregations (four on Malta and one on the nearby island of Gozo), they proclaim the good news with boldness.
All traveling overseers assigned to visit Malta in recent years have felt as did the apostle Paul, who told Roman Christians: “I am longing to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to you in order for you to be made firm.” Their visits truly have resulted in a refreshing “interchange of encouragement.” (Romans 1:11, 12) Moreover, the Kingdom-preaching activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses are bringing rich spiritual blessings to the hospitable people of Malta.
[Map/Pictures on page 24, 25]
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