Preaching From Village to Village in Spain
JESUS CHRIST traveled “from city to city and from village to village, teaching and continuing on his journey to Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:22) To accomplish the ministry, Jesus and his disciples preached not only “from city to city” but also “from village to village.” Though it would have been easier to concentrate on the cities, they did not bypass the many villages in the countryside.*
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Spain were faced with a challenge like the one that confronted Jesus. As late as 1970, there were huge areas of untouched rural territory ready for harvesting. (Matthew 9:37, 38) Hundreds of villages in the rainy mountains of the north, on the arid central plains, and along the coast had never been reached with the Kingdom message.
The Spanish Witnesses of Jehovah were determined to spare no effort in order to take the good news to these regions. But why did people in these areas have to wait so long to hear the Kingdom message? And how did they respond?
Legal Recognition Spurs Rural Witnessing
The work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Spain had been under ban since the end of the civil war in 1939. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, zealous Witnesses preached with caution in the cities, where their presence was less noticeable. When their work was finally legalized in 1970, there were some 10,000 Kingdom publishers in Spain. Almost all of them lived in cities and large towns, but the villages of Spain also needed to hear the Kingdom message. Who would meet the challenge?
In the 1970’s a campaign was launched to reach all areas of the peninsula with the good news. Nearly every month from 1973 until 1979, special notices outlining the need in different regions of the country appeared in Our Kingdom Ministry, the monthly service publication for the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many willing and responsive families answered the call and volunteered to serve where the need was greater.
Typical is the example of Rosendo and his wife, Luci. They were sent as special pioneers (full-time Kingdom preachers) to a fishing village in northwest Spain and then decided to stay in the area when they became parents. “I must admit that we went through very difficult times,” acknowledges Rosendo. “Secular work was hard to find, but we counted on Jehovah’s help and never went hungry or lacked a roof over our heads. It was certainly worth it.” Over the years, they have been able to help in the formation of four congregations in this region of Spain.
‘Search Out Who Is Deserving’
Jesus told his disciples to “search out” the deserving ones in each city or village. (Matthew 10:11) In rural areas of Spain, the search requires diligence and initiative, as discovered by Ángel, a brother from Alcoy (Alicante). He had just finished calling at some homes in the village of Masías when he heard the sound of a cock crowing. He thought to himself, “If there is a cock, there must be a house somewhere—a house we have overlooked.” After searching around, Ángel found a path that led over the ridge of a hillside and finally to an isolated house.
On this farmstead lived José and Dolores, fleshly brother and sister in their 60’s. They listened attentively and immediately accepted the offer of a Bible study. However, it was not easy to study with these humble individuals, since they could not read or write, and everything had to be translated from Spanish into the Valencian tongue, the only language they understood. Furthermore, they faced considerable opposition from their neighbors. Despite these obstacles, both José and Dolores progressed in the truth, even though attending the meetings meant a long journey over the mountains. Eventually, they qualified for baptism, and both of them continue serving Jehovah faithfully.
Rosendo and Luci, mentioned earlier, recall how a paralyzed individual in an isolated house near Moaña, northwest Spain, accepted the truth. Her name was María. When she first spoke to the Witnesses, she could neither read nor write and had been bedridden for years because of having been stricken with polio as a child. Her house was over a mile from the nearest road. Nevertheless, she was eager to study the Bible, and her determination to serve Jehovah soon became apparent. María learned to read and write and began to attend the meetings, thanks to the devoted efforts of the congregation. Brothers carried her for two hundred yards [200 m] from her house to an unpaved lane where they would carefully lower her into a car. Despite initial opposition from her family, she progressed to the point of baptism. Because of the confidence that her spiritual advancement gave her, she has now learned to drive a specially adapted car and has completed a course of basic education. “Being able to help people like María makes any sacrifice worthwhile,” explains Rosendo.
Bible Readers Respond Readily
In the 1970’s the Bible for the first time became available to the general public in Spain. Many Spaniards bought a copy, and some began to read the Scriptures. Pilar, from Medina del Campo (Valladolid), was already reading the Bible when Jehovah’s Witnesses first came to her town in 1973. Being a Catholic, she was wary of accepting literature from the Witnesses, but she did want to understand the Bible. Consequently, she agreed to have weekly discussions to answer her Bible questions.
Making good use of literature published by the Watch Tower Society, the pioneer sister who visited Pilar was able to answer her many questions. Impressed by what she was learning, Pilar after several weeks agreed to study the Bible using the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. Before completing her study of the Truth book, she finished reading the entire Bible and was convinced that she had found the truth. She became the first Witness in Medina del Campo, which now has a fine Kingdom Hall and a congregation of 63 publishers.
Spanish Witnesses still find people who are “conscious of their spiritual need” and who regularly read the Bible in an effort to understand God’s will. (Matthew 5:3) Pepi, a former Catholic who once taught the catechism in the parish of Zumaia (northern Spain), was preaching in a nearby village when she met the parish priest.
“Pepi, you are wasting your time,” the priest told her. “In this village of Itziar, there are only two people—a married couple—who are spiritually inclined. The rest just go to church out of habit.”
“Well,” replied Pepi, “if there are two people who are spiritually inclined, they will become Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Pepi continued her house-to-house preaching work along with the other Witnesses until the village was completed. And sure enough, in an isolated house, the brothers found the very couple that the priest had mentioned. They were reading the Bible but did not understand it. They eagerly accepted a Bible study, progressed rapidly, and were baptized in April 1991.
Some honesthearted people have learned the truth simply by reading on their own the Bible-based literature published by the Watch Tower Society. For instance, the Witnesses from Almadén (Ciudad Real) were preaching in the small town of Ciruelas (Badajoz) when they found a lady who listened intently to their message. In view of her evident interest, they offered her a home Bible study. She declined, however, saying that an elderly gentleman was already giving her Bible lessons. Several other people in the area also mentioned the same thing. Their curiosity aroused, the brothers inquired about the elderly gentleman. They got his address and went to pay him a visit.
To their surprise they discovered that in Madrid this man, named Felipe, had obtained the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth. After reading it through, he understood that it was his responsibility to share the good news with his neighbors. Hence, he had been using the book to give them Bible lessons. The brothers made arrangements to study with him. A lady with whom he studied the Bible also accepted a study. Though 80 years of age and not enjoying good health, Felipe is making good progress in the truth.
Rural territories pose certain unique problems. Religious traditions and superstitions usually have a strong hold in such areas, and many people living in the rurals have an ingrained suspicion of a “new religion.” Some villagers are especially sensitive about what their neighbors and relatives would think if they changed their religion. But the power of God’s Word can overcome such problems and change a person’s life. This was the case in the fishing village of Cangas de Morrazo in northwest Spain.
Roberto, a native of this village, went to sea at the age of 14 because he yearned for independence. His life as a merchant seaman brought him into company with other young sailors who drank heavily and used drugs to pass away the lonely hours spent at sea. Before long, Roberto also became a heavy drinker and a drug addict.
In time Roberto returned home but was unable and unwilling to give up his bad habits. To finance his drug addiction, he became a thief and ended up in prison on six different occasions. When he was 18, he consumed an almost fatal mixture of wine and tranquilizers. Doctors saved his life, but he lost the use of his arms and legs. He left the hospital a quadriplegic. Even being confined to a wheelchair did not make him break the drug habit. He was disillusioned with religion, and drugs seemed to be all he had to make life worth living—until three years later when he was visited by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Learning about fulfilled Bible prophecies helped Roberto to overcome his skepticism. The warm welcome he received at the Kingdom Hall convinced him that true religion does enrich people’s lives. Within nine months, Roberto had overcome his drug addiction and was baptized. Despite his severe physical disabilities, he has been serving as a pioneer for eight years. He has also been a congregation elder for the last two years. Francisco, one of his former companions, was so impressed by the changes in Roberto’s life that he too became a Witness and is now a ministerial servant. The remarkable change in this supposedly incurable addict helped people in that locality to appreciate better the nature of our work. One woman even brought her young drug addict son to the Kingdom Hall to see if the Witnesses could cure him.
Searching the Bible for the Truth
Generally, country folk have such appreciation for the truth that this often puts the worldly-wise to shame. (1 Corinthians 1:26, 27) Adelina, a shy middle-aged woman, is one of these appreciative ones. She used to take her Catholic faith very seriously. Each morning without fail she would kneel down to pray, saying several Our Fathers and Hail Marys. She would direct her prayers to a different “saint” each day of the week—just to be on the safe side.
When Adelina began studying the Bible, she directed this same religious zeal to her newfound faith. Even her shyness did not hold her back, although the first time she and her husband went to the Kingdom Hall, it took them ten minutes to muster up enough courage to enter. Once inside, however, she listened intently. On one occasion, she learned about the Thousand Year Reign of Christ. This subject fascinated her, and when she returned home, she wanted to read more about it in her Bible. But neither she nor her husband knew where the information could be found, although they thought it was mentioned somewhere in the book of Revelation. So Adelina began to read Revelation that night and kept reading until she finally arrived at chapter 20 in the early hours of the morning.
On another occasion, Adelina learned that it was appropriate for a husband to represent his wife in prayer. Although he was willing to pray, her husband did not know what to say in prayer. That very night, Adelina decided to look for instructions in the Bible. At two o’clock in the morning, she woke her husband up to tell him that she had found Matthew chapter 6, which considers the subject of prayer in detail. After reading Jesus’ instructions, her husband finally said a prayer for the two of them. Now both Adelina and her husband are Witnesses of Jehovah.
A Fine Harvest
After nearly 25 years of rural witnessing by zealous servants of Jehovah, every corner of Spain has heard the good news. As was true of Asia Minor in the first century, ‘the word of Jehovah is being carried throughout the whole country.’ (Acts 13:49) Consequently, thousands of village folk have responded favorably.
In Spain and elsewhere, preaching thoroughly in rural areas does require patience and self-sacrifice. But since God’s will is that ‘all kinds of people be saved,’ Jehovah’s Witnesses are happy to search out appreciative ones. (1 Timothy 2:4) And as the foregoing experiences demonstrate, Jehovah has richly rewarded efforts put forth to preach from village to village in Spain.
Josephus calculated that there were a total of 204 “cities and villages” in Galilee, and he described the region as having “very many villages.”
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Puebla de Sanabria, Zamora
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