Sustained by My Confidence in Jehovah
AS TOLD BY AGENOR DA PAIXÃO
Our only son, Paul, died of bronchitis when he was just 11 months old. Three months later, on August 15, 1945, my precious wife died of pneumonia. I was 28, and these blows left me sad and distressed. Yet confidence in Jehovah and his promises sustained me. Let me relate how I came to have this confidence.
FROM the time of my birth in Salvador, Bahia State, Brazil, on January 5, 1917, Mother taught me to worship the “saints” of the Catholic Church. She even woke my brothers and me up early in the morning so that we could pray together. However, my parents also attended sessions of candomblé, the African-Brazilian voodoo rites. I respected these beliefs, but I had no confidence in the so-called saints of Catholicism or in candomblé. What particularly disappointed me was the racial prejudice manifested within these religions.
In time my two older brothers left home to look for work. Later my father abandoned the family. So at the age of nine, I had to find work to help my mother and my younger sister. About 16 years later, conversations with a fellow factory worker proved to be a turning point in my life.
Acquiring Confidence in Jehovah
I met Fernando Teles in 1942. He often said that it was wrong to worship “saints.” (1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 John 5:21) At first I did not pay any attention to him. But his sincerity and his interest in people, regardless of their color, attracted me, and I came to admire his Bible knowledge, particularly what he said about God’s Kingdom and a paradise earth. (Isaiah 9:6, 7; Daniel 2:44; Revelation 21:3, 4) Noting my interest, he gave me a Bible and some Bible literature.
A few weeks later, I accepted an invitation to a congregation Bible study. The group was studying the book Religion, published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. I enjoyed the study and began to attend all the congregation meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. What especially impressed me was the absence of prejudice and the way I was immediately accepted. About that time I began to court Lindaura. When I spoke with her about what I was learning, she began to attend the meetings with me.
Another thing that impressed me at the meetings was the emphasis placed on the preaching work. (Matthew 24:14; Acts 20:20) Encouraged by the pioneers, as full-time ministers are called, I began to speak informally to others on the train as I traveled back and forth to work. When I found someone who was interested, I would get his address and visit him to try to cultivate that interest.
In the meantime, my confidence in Jehovah and in the organization that he is using kept growing. Thus, after listening to a Bible discourse on Christian dedication, I was baptized, in the Atlantic Ocean, on April 19, 1943. On that same day, I shared for the first time in the regular house-to-house ministry.
Two weeks later, on May 5, Lindaura and I were married. Then, in August 1943, she was baptized during the first assembly held by Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Salvador. The 1973 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses said regarding that assembly: “Clergy action managed to silence the public lecture in Salvador, but not before a great deal of fine advertising . . . had taken place.” The evidence of Jehovah’s guidance in the face of severe persecution strengthened my confidence in him.
As I related at the beginning, just two years after Lindaura’s baptism—and three months after the death of our son—my dear wife died. She was only 22. But the confidence I had in Jehovah sustained me during those difficult months.
Strengthened by Spiritual Activity
In 1946, a year after losing my wife and son, I was appointed Bible study servant in the one congregation then existing in Salvador. That same year the Theocratic Ministry School started in the congregations in Brazil, and I became the first school conductor in the state of Bahia. Then in October 1946, the “Glad Nations” Theocratic Assembly was held in the city of São Paulo. My employer of ten years said that he needed me and pressured me not to go. However, after I explained to him how much my attending the assembly would mean to me, he gave me a generous gift and wished me well on the trip.
The assembly sessions in São Paulo’s Municipal Theater were conducted in Portuguese—the language of Brazil—as well as in English, German, Hungarian, Polish, and Russian. At that assembly the Awake! magazine was released in Portuguese. I was so moved by the assembly—some 1,700 attended the public talk—that I filled out an application to begin pioneering on November 1, 1946.
At that time we used the phonograph extensively in our pioneer work. The talk “Protection” was one we often played to householders. Afterward, we said: “To protect ourselves from an invisible enemy, we have to stick to a friend who is also invisible. Jehovah is our greatest friend and is much more powerful than our enemy, Satan. So we have to stick close to Jehovah to protect ourselves from him.” Then we offered the booklet Protection, which provided further information.
I had pioneered less than a year when I received an invitation to serve as a special pioneer with the Carioca Congregation in Rio de Janeiro. There we sometimes faced strong opposition. My partner, Ivan Brenner, once was actually attacked by a householder. The neighbors called the police, and we were all taken to the police station.
During the interrogation, the enraged householder accused us of disturbing the peace. The chief of police ordered him to keep quiet. Then the police chief turned to us and in a mild tone said we were free to go. He held our accuser and charged him with assault. Situations like that sustained my confidence in Jehovah.
Expanded Full-Time Ministry
On July 1, 1949, I was thrilled to be invited to serve at Bethel, as the principal facilities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in a country are called. The Bethel in Brazil was then located at 330 Licínio Cardoso Street in Rio de Janeiro. At the time, there were only 17 in the entire Bethel family. For a while I attended the local Engenho de Dentro Congregation, but later I was assigned as the presiding overseer in the only congregation in Belford Roxo, a city located a few miles from Rio de Janeiro.
Weekends were very busy. On Saturdays I traveled to Belford Roxo by train, shared in the field ministry in the afternoon, and then went to the Theocratic Ministry School and Service Meeting in the evening. I stayed overnight with the brothers and participated in the field ministry the next morning. That afternoon I attended the public Bible talk and Watchtower Study and returned to Bethel about half past nine at night. Today there are 18 congregations in Belford Roxo.
In 1954, after three and a half years of that schedule, I was assigned back to Rio de Janeiro as the presiding overseer in the São Cristóvão Congregation. For the next ten years, I served with that congregation.
My Bethel Assignments
My first assignment at Bethel was to build a garage for the Society’s lone vehicle, a 1949 Dodge van nicknamed Chocolate because of its brown color. When the garage was completed, I was assigned to work in the kitchen, where I stayed for three years. Then I was transferred to the Job Press Department, which is where I have been now for over 40 years.
Much of the printing equipment we had was secondhand. For example, for many years we had an old platen press that we affectionately called Sarah, after Abraham’s wife. It had been used for years in the factory at the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. Then in the 1950’s, it was shipped to Brazil. Here, like Abraham’s wife, in its old age it produced fruitage—in the form of Watchtower and Awake! magazines.
I have never ceased to be amazed at the increase in the number of publications produced in Brazil’s printing plant. In the entire year of 1953, we printed 324,400 magazines, but now the production is more than three million each month!
Our Bethel Facilities
It has been exciting over the years to watch the expansion of our Bethel facilities in Brazil. In 1952 we built a two-story factory behind our home in Rio de Janeiro. Then in 1968, Bethel was transferred to a new building in the city of São Paulo. When we moved in, everything seemed large and spacious for our Bethel family of 42 members. We really thought that this building would serve for all our future growth. However, in 1971 two five-story additions were built, and an adjoining factory was purchased, remodeled, and tied in to this complex. But within a few years, the continued increase of Kingdom proclaimers—we passed the 100,000 mark in 1975—demanded more room.
Therefore, a new complex of buildings was constructed about 90 miles [140 km] from São Paulo near the small town of Cesário Lange. In 1980 our Bethel family of 170 members was transferred to these new facilities. Since then the Kingdom work has grown dramatically. We now have over 410,000 sharing regularly in the preaching work in Brazil! To care for the spiritual needs of all these Kingdom proclaimers, we have had to keep building new factories to print Bible literature and new residences to accommodate Bethel volunteers. We presently have about 1,100 Bethel family members!
I count Bethel service as a precious privilege. Thus, although in earlier years I considered remarriage, I chose to focus fully on my privileges at Bethel and in the preaching work. Here I have had the pleasure of serving alongside countless young people in the printery and of training them in their assignments. I have attempted to deal with them as if they were my sons. Their zeal and unselfishness have been a source of great encouragement to me.
Another privilege has been to enjoy the company of fine roommates over the years. True, differences in personality at times have presented a challenge. Yet I learned not to expect perfection from others. I have striven to keep from making mountains out of molehills or taking myself too seriously. Laughing at my own mistakes has helped me to put up with those of others.
Another precious privilege I enjoyed was that of being able to attend large international conventions in the United States. One of these was the “Everlasting Good News” Assembly, held at Yankee Stadium, New York, in 1963, and the other was the “Peace on Earth” International Assembly held at the same place in 1969. While I was there, I had the joy of visiting the nearby world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York!
It was also my privilege for ten years to share—in rotation with others—in presiding at the morning worship of the Bethel family. Still, the grandest privilege, one that has brought me great joy and encouragement, is that of taking the Kingdom message to honesthearted ones, even as our Master, Jesus Christ, did.
In recent years I have faced the challenge of living with Parkinson’s disease. The loving care of the brothers and sisters in Bethel’s infirmary has been a source of constant help and comfort to me. With full confidence, I pray that Jehovah may give me the strength to continue doing my best in behalf of his true worship.
[Picture on page 23]
The Brazil branch where I now live
[Pictures on page 23]
With my wife, who died in 1945