Perseverance Leads to Progress
AS TOLD BY JOSÉ MAGLOVSKY
When the policeman grasped my arm, I looked for my father. Without my knowing it, however, he had already been taken to the police station. When I arrived there, the policemen seized all our publications, including our Bibles, and piled them on the floor. On seeing this, my father asked: “You put even the Bibles on the floor?” The chief of police apologized, then picked up the Bibles and placed them on the table.
HOW did we end up in the police station? What had we been doing? Were we in an atheistic police state, so that even the Bible was taken away from us? To answer these questions, we will have to go back to 1925, before I was even born.
In that year my father, Estefano Maglovsky, and my mother, Juliana, left what was then Yugoslavia and moved to Brazil, settling in São Paulo. Although Father was a Protestant and Mother a Catholic, religion was not a divisive factor between them. In fact, ten years later something happened that brought them together religiously. Father’s brother-in-law brought him a full-color booklet in Hungarian dealing with the condition of the dead. He had received the booklet as a present, and he asked Father to read it and give him his opinion of the contents, especially the part on “hell.” Dad spent the whole night reading and rereading the booklet, and the next day, when his brother-in-law came for his opinion, Father categorically declared: “Here is the truth!”
Since the publication was from Jehovah’s Witnesses, both went looking for them so as to learn more about their beliefs and teachings. When contact was finally made, several members of our family began to have Bible discussions with the Witnesses. That same year, 1935, a regular Bible study in Hungarian was started, with an average of eight persons attending, and ever since then we have had regular Bible studies in our home.
After two years of studying the Bible, Father was baptized in 1937 and became an enthusiastic Witness of Jehovah, sharing in the house-to-house preaching work and also serving as an appointed servant and study conductor. He aided in the formation of the first congregation in São Paulo, in the Vila Mariana section. The congregation was later transferred to the center of the city and became known as the Central Congregation. Ten years later the second congregation was formed, in the Ypiranga area, and Father was appointed as congregation servant there. In 1954 a third congregation was formed, in the Moinho Velho section, where he also served as congregation servant.
As soon as this group was well consolidated, he began to help a nearby group in São Bernardo do Campo. Thanks to Jehovah’s blessing on the efforts of these small groups of Witnesses during the years, growth has been phenomenal, so that in 1994 there were over 70,000 publishers in the 760 congregations in greater São Paulo. Unhappily, Father did not live to see this growth. He died in 1958 at the age of 57.
Striving to Follow Father’s Example
An outstanding characteristic of my father, as with other mature Christians, was his hospitality. (See 3 John 1, 5-8.) As a result, we were privileged to have as guests Antonio Andrade and his wife and son, who came to Brazil from the United States with Brother and Sister Yuille in 1936. Also guests in our home were two graduates of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, Harry Black and Dillard Leathco, who in 1945 were the first missionaries assigned to Brazil. Many others followed them. These brothers and sisters were a constant source of encouragement to everyone in our family. Appreciating this and for the benefit of my family, I have striven to imitate my father’s example in regard to the Christian quality of hospitality.
Although I was just nine years old when Father learned the truth in 1935, as the oldest son, I began to accompany him in his theocratic activities. All of us attended meetings with him at the Kingdom Hall located at the Witnesses’ headquarters in São Paulo on Eça de Queiroz Street, Number 141. Thanks to the teaching and training that Father gave me, I developed a burning desire to serve Jehovah, and in 1940, I dedicated myself to Jehovah, symbolizing this by water immersion in the now polluted Tietê River, which flows through the center of São Paulo.
I soon learned what it meant to be a regular publisher of the good news, planting and watering the message of truth in others and conducting home Bible studies with them. Now, as I see the thousands of dedicated Witnesses of Jehovah in Brazil, I feel deep joy knowing that I was used by Him to help many of them to come to a knowledge of the truth or to deepen their appreciation of it.
Among those I helped was Joaquim Melo, whom I met in the door-to-door ministry. I was talking to three other men who were listening but without much interest. Then I noticed a young lad who had joined us and was listening intently. Seeing his interest, I directed my attention to him and, after a good witness, invited him to the Congregation Book Study. He did not attend the study, but he did show up at the Theocratic Ministry School and thereafter attended meetings regularly. He made good progress, was baptized, and for several years served as a traveling minister, accompanied by his wife.
Then there was Arnaldo Orsi, whom I met at my place of work. I regularly witnessed to a fellow worker but noticed that a bearded young man always listened in, so I began to talk directly to him. He was of a staunch Catholic family but asked many questions about such matters as smoking, watching pornographic films, and practicing the martial art of judo. I showed him what the Bible had to say, and to my joyful surprise, the next day he called me over to watch as he broke his pipe and lighter along with his crucifix, destroyed his pornographic films, and shaved off his beard. A changed man in a matter of minutes! He also stopped practicing judo and asked to study the Bible with me daily. In spite of opposition from his wife and father, he made good progress spiritually with the help of the brothers who lived near him. In a short time, he was baptized and today serves as a congregation elder. His wife and children also accepted the truth.
Sharing in Kingdom Service
When I was about 14 years of age, I started to work in an advertising firm, where I learned how to paint signs. This proved very useful, and for several years I was the only brother in São Paulo used to paint the placards and overhead street signs advertising public discourses and conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For nearly 30 years, I had the privilege of serving as overseer of the convention Sign Department. I always saved my vacations so as to work at the conventions, even sleeping in the convention hall in order to get the signs painted on time.
I also had the opportunity to work with the Society’s sound car, which was a real novelty at the time. We would place our Bible publications on a stand, and as the sound car broadcast a recorded message, we would talk to the people who came out of their homes to see what was happening. Another means we employed to make known the good news of the Kingdom was the portable gramophone, and I still have the records used to present the Society’s publications. Much Bible literature was placed as a result.
In those days the Catholic Church had long processions in the streets of São Paulo, often with men out in front clearing the way. One Sunday, Father and I were offering The Watchtower and Awake! on the street when a long procession appeared. Father, as was his custom, was wearing his hat. One of the men in front of the procession shouted: “Take off your hat! Don’t you see that a procession is coming?” When Father did not remove his hat, more men came, pushing us aside against a store window and creating a disturbance. This caught the attention of a policeman, who came to see what was happening. One of the men took him by the arm, wanting to talk with him. “Take your hand off my uniform!” the policeman ordered, slapping the man’s hand. Then he asked what was going on. The man explained that Father would not remove his hat for the procession, adding: “I am an apostolic Roman Catholic.” The unexpected answer was: “You say you are a Roman? Then go back to Rome! This is Brazil.” Then he turned to us, asking: “Who was here first?” When Father answered that we were, the policeman sent the men away and told us to continue with our work. He stood beside us until the whole procession had passed—and Father’s hat stayed on!
Incidents such as this were rare. But when they did happen, it was encouraging to know that there were people who believed in justice for minorities and who were not kowtowing to the Catholic Church.
On another occasion, I met a teenager who showed interest and asked me to return the next week. Upon my return he received me well and asked me inside. How surprised I was to find myself surrounded by a gang of youths mocking and trying to provoke me! The situation worsened, and I felt that they would soon attack me. I told the one who had invited me in that if anything happened to me, he would be solely responsible and that my family knew where I was. I asked them to let me go, and they agreed. However, before leaving, I said that if any of them wanted to talk to me alone, I would be available. Later, I learned that they were a group of fanatics, friends of the local priest who had put them up to this meeting. I was happy to be out of their grasp.
In the beginning, of course, progress in Brazil was slow, almost imperceptible. We were in the initial phase of “planting,” with little time available for “cultivating” and “harvesting” the fruits of our labors. We always remembered what the apostle Paul wrote: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7) With the arrival of the first two graduates of Gilead in 1945, we felt that the time had arrived for this long-awaited growth.
Boldness in the Face of Opposition
Growth was not to come without opposition, however, especially after World War II began in Europe. There was outright persecution because the people in general and some of the authorities did not understand our neutral stand. On one occasion, in 1940, while we were doing street work with placards in the center of São Paulo, a policeman came up to me from behind, ripped off the placards, and seized me by the arm to take me to the police station. I looked around for my father, but he was nowhere to be seen. Unknown to me, he and several other brothers and sisters, including Brother Yuille, who had oversight of the work in Brazil, had already been taken to the police station. As indicated in the opening paragraph, there I met Father again.
Since I was a minor, I could not be detained and was soon taken home by a policeman and handed over to my mother. That same evening the sisters were also released. Later the police decided to release all the brothers, about ten in number, except Brother Yuille. However, the brothers insisted: “Either we all go or no one does.” The policemen were adamant, so all spent the night together in a cold room on a cement floor. The next day all were released unconditionally. Several times brothers were arrested for witnessing with placards. The signs announced a public talk and also a booklet entitled Fascism or Freedom, and some authorities took it to mean that we were in favor of Fascism, which naturally led to misunderstandings.
Compulsory military service also presented problems for the young brothers. In 1948, I was the first one imprisoned in Brazil over this issue. The authorities just did not know what to do with me. I was transferred to the army barracks in Caçapava and put to work planting and caring for vegetables in the garden as well as cleaning the room used by the officials for fencing. I had many opportunities to witness and to place publications with the men. The officer in charge was the first to accept a copy of the Society’s book Children. Later, I was even assigned to give classes on religion to about 30 or 40 soldiers who were unable to exercise and were confined to a room. Finally, after about ten months in prison, I was brought to trial and released. I feel grateful to Jehovah, who gave me the strength to face up to the threats, indignities, and mockery that I received from some of the men.
A Faithful and Loyal Helper
On June 2, 1951, I married Barbara, and since then she has been a loyal and faithful companion in educating our children and raising them in “the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) Of our five children, four are joyfully serving Jehovah in different capacities. Our hope is that, together with us, they will continue to persevere in the truth and to contribute to the progress of the organization and the work being done. The family members in the accompanying photograph are all dedicated servants of Jehovah except the youngest, a babe in arms. Four are elders and two are also regular pioneers, illustrating the truthfulness of Proverbs 17:6: “The crown of old men is the grandsons, and the beauty of sons is their fathers.”
Now, at 68 years of age, my health is not the best. In 1991, I submitted to a triple-bypass operation and later to angioplasty. However, I am happy to be able to continue to serve as presiding overseer in a congregation in São Bernardo do Campo, following in the footsteps of my father, who was among the first to initiate the work here. Our generation is indeed unique, having the opportunity to share in the never-to-be-repeated privilege of announcing the establishment of Jehovah’s Messianic Kingdom. So we must never forget Paul’s words to Timothy: “You, though, . . . do the work of an evangelizer, fully accomplish your ministry.”—2 Timothy 4:5.
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My parents, Estefano and Juliana Maglovsky
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José and Barbara with members of their family of dedicated servants of Jehovah