We Were Not Afraid—Jehovah Was With Us
As told by Egyptia Petridou
In 1972, the Witnesses throughout Cyprus gathered in Nicosia to hear a special talk by Nathan H. Knorr, who had long taken the lead in the ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He recognized me right away, and even before I had a chance to introduce myself, he asked: “Do you have any news from Egypt?” I had met Brother Knorr 20 years earlier in my hometown of Alexandria, Egypt.
I WAS born in Alexandria on January 23, 1914, the eldest of four children. We grew up just a stone’s throw from the sea. Alexandria was then a beautiful cosmopolitan city, renowned for its architecture and history. Since Europeans mingled with Arabs, we children learned to speak Arabic, English, French, and Italian, as well as our family’s language, Greek.
After graduating from school, I found employment in a French fashion house, where I took pride in designing and sewing elegant gowns for ladies of high society. I was also very religious and loved to read the Bible, even though I understood little of what I read.
About that time—in the mid-1930’s—I met a fine young man, a native of Cyprus. Theodotos Petrides was an accomplished wrestler, but he had also learned the art of confectionery and was employed in a well-known pastry parlor. Theodotos fell in love with me, a petite brunette. Often he serenaded me from below my window with romantic Greek songs. We were married on June 30, 1940. Those were happy days. We lived in an apartment just below my mother’s. Our first child, John, was born in 1941.
Learning Bible Truths
For some time, Theodotos had been unsettled as far as our religion was concerned, and he was asking questions about the Bible. Unbeknownst to me, Jehovah’s Witnesses had begun to study the Bible with him. One day, while I was at home with our baby, a lady knocked on our door and handed me a card with a Bible message on it. Out of politeness, I paused and read it. Then she offered me some Bible literature. Why, they were the very same books that Theodotos had brought home!
“Yes, I have these books,” I said. “Please do come inside.” Almost at once, I bombarded the Witness, Eleni Nicolaou, with questions. Patiently, she used the Bible to answer me. I liked that. Suddenly, I began to understand the Bible’s message. During a pause in our conversation, Eleni recognized a photograph of my husband. “I know that gentleman!” she exclaimed. Theodotos’ secret was out. I was taken aback. Theo was going to Christian meetings without me—without even telling me! When Theodotos came home that day, I said to him: “The place you went to last Sunday—this week I shall come with you!”
At the first meeting I went to, a group of about ten persons were discussing the Bible book of Micah. I drank in everything! From then on, every Friday evening George and Katerini Petraki visited us to study the Bible with us. My father and most of my siblings were opposed to our studying with the Witnesses, but my sister was tolerant, although she never became a Witness. Mother, however, embraced Bible truth. In 1942, Mother, Theodotos, and I were baptized in the sea at Alexandria in symbol of our dedication to Jehovah.
Our Lives Disrupted
In 1939, World War II began, and it soon escalated. By the early 1940’s, German General Erwin Rommel and his tank troops were in nearby El Alamein, and Alexandria was full of British military personnel. We stocked up on dried foods. Then Theodotos was asked to care for his employer’s new confectionery parlor in Port Taufiq, near Suez, so we moved there. Two Greek-speaking Witnesses set out to find us. Although they did not know our address, they preached from house to house until they found us.
While in Port Taufiq, we studied the Bible with Stavros and Giula Kypraios and their children, Totos and Georgia, and they became our close friends. Stavros enjoyed studying the Bible so much that he would turn all the clocks in his house back one hour so that we would miss the last train home and have to stay longer. Our discussions continued late into the night.
We lived in Port Taufiq for 18 months, after which we returned to Alexandria when my mother got sick. She died in 1947, faithful to Jehovah. Once again, we felt how Jehovah encouraged us through upbuilding association with mature Christian friends. We were also able to extend hospitality to missionaries en route to their foreign assignments when their ships docked for a short while in Alexandria.
Joys and Troubles
In 1952, I gave birth to our second son, James. As parents, we recognized the importance of raising our sons in a spiritually beneficial environment, so we made our home available for regular Bible study arrangements and often hosted full-time ministers. Thus our older son, John, developed a love for Bible truth, and while he was still in his mid-teens, he began to pioneer. At the same time, he attended night school to complete his secular education.
Not long afterward, Theodotos was diagnosed with a serious heart condition and was advised to stop his line of work. Our son James was only four. What were we to do? Had not Jehovah promised: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you”? (Isa. 41:10) Imagine our surprise and joy in 1956 when we were invited to serve as pioneers in Ismailia, near the Suez Canal! The following years proved to be turbulent ones in Egypt, and our Christian brothers were in need of encouragement.
In 1960 we had to leave Egypt with just one suitcase each. We moved to Cyprus, my husband’s island home. By this time, Theodotos was very sick and could not work. However, a kind Christian brother and his wife offered us accommodations on their property. Sadly, two years later my husband died, and I was left alone with young James. John, who had also come to Cyprus, had married and had his own family to care for.
Cared for During Difficult Times
Then Stavros and Dora Kairis offered us accommodations in their house. I knelt and thanked Jehovah for once again caring for our needs. (Ps. 145:16) When Stavros and Dora decided to sell their home and build a new one with a Kingdom Hall on the ground floor, they kindly built a small two-room annex for James and me.
Eventually, James married, and he and his wife served as pioneers until the first of their four children was born. In 1974, two years after the memorable visit of Brother Knorr, there was political upheaval in Cyprus.* Many people, including Witnesses, fled their homes and had to start afresh. My son John was among them. He moved to Canada with his wife and three children. At the same time, though, we rejoiced to see an increase in the number of Kingdom publishers in Cyprus.
When I began to receive my pension, I was able to share more fully in the ministry. But a few years ago, I suffered a slight stroke and went to live with my son James and his family. Later, when my health took a turn for the worse, I was hospitalized for several weeks and then was moved to a nursing home. Despite constant pain, I witness to the nursing staff, patients, and visitors. I also spend many hours studying alone and, with the kind assistance of my spiritual brothers, manage to attend the Congregation Book Study nearby.
Comfort in My Twilight Years
I find comfort when I hear news of those whom Theodotos and I were privileged to help. Many of their children and grandchildren are in the full-time ministry—some serving in Australia, Canada, England, Greece, and Switzerland. Today, my son John and his wife live in Canada with their son. Their older daughter and her husband are pioneers. Their youngest daughter and her husband, Linda and Joshua Snape, were invited to attend the 124th class of Gilead School.
My son James and his wife are now living in Germany. Two of their sons serve at Bethel—one in Athens, Greece, and the other in Selters, Germany. Their youngest son, their daughter, and her husband are pioneers, serving in Germany.
What stories we shall have to tell my mother and my dear Theodotos when they return in the resurrection! They will be thrilled to see what a fine heritage they left their family.*
While this article was being prepared for publication, Sister Petridou died at the age of 93.
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Once again, we felt how Jehovah encouraged us through upbuilding association with mature Christian friends
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Based on NASA/Visible Earth imagery
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With Theodotos in 1938
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My son James with his wife
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My son John with his wife