I Found Meaning in Life
As told by Gaspar Martínez
In some ways, mine is the simple story of a poor country boy who made good in the city. But you will see that the wealth I accumulated was not exactly what I had expected.
I GREW up in a barren rural area during the 1930’s in the Rioja region of northern Spain. At the age of ten, I had to leave school, but by then I had learned to read and write. Along with my six brothers and sisters, I spent my days in the fields taking care of the sheep or cultivating our meager plots of land.
Poverty led us to put great stock in material things. We became envious of those who had more than we did. Still, the bishop once remarked that ours was “the most religious village of his diocese.” Little did he realize that, in time, many would abandon Catholicism.
A Search for Something Better
I married Mercedes, a girl from the same village. Before long, we had a young son to care for. In 1957 we moved to the nearby city of Logroño, and eventually all my family did the same. I soon discovered that as an unskilled worker, I had few prospects of earning a decent wage. I wondered where to turn for guidance. I started a search in the local library, although I did not really know what to look for.
Later, I heard about a radio program that offered a Bible study course by correspondence. Soon after I completed it, some Evangelical Protestants contacted me. After a couple of visits to their place of worship, I could see rivalry among prominent members of the group. I did not return, concluding that all religions must be the same.
The Scales Fall From My Eyes
In 1964 a young man called Eugenio visited our home. He was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religion I had never heard of before. But I was more than willing to talk about the Bible. I thought I had a good knowledge of the Scriptures. I responded to him using a few of the Bible texts I had learned in my correspondence course. Although I tried to defend certain Protestant doctrines, in my heart I did not really believe them.
After two long conversations, I had to admit that Eugenio handled the Word of God like an expert. It amazed me to see how he could look up scriptures and reason on their application, though his regular schooling had been less than mine. Eugenio showed me from the Bible that we are living in the last days and that God’s Kingdom will soon usher in a paradise earth. I was intrigued.—Ps. 37:11, 29; Isa. 9:6, 7; Matt. 6:9, 10.
I readily accepted a Bible study. Virtually everything I learned was new, and it touched my heart. A prospect opened up before me, one that offered something worth living for. My search had come to an end. Now my efforts to improve my social status seemed irrelevant, and my struggle to cope with work problems became of minor importance. Even sickness and death itself will be overcome.—Isa. 33:24; 35:5, 6; Rev. 21:4.
Right away I began to tell my relatives what I was learning, enthusiastically explaining to them that God promises to bring about a paradise earth where faithful humans can live forever.
My Family Embraces Bible Truth
Soon, about a dozen of us decided to meet every Sunday afternoon in my uncle’s home to discuss Bible promises. We spent two or three hours every week doing so. When Eugenio saw that such a large group of my relatives had an interest in the Bible, he arranged to give personal attention to each family.
I had other relatives in Durango, a small town some 80 miles [120 km] away, where no Witnesses lived. So three months later, I took a couple of days’ vacation to visit them in order to explain my newfound faith. On that occasion, about ten of us got together each evening, and I spoke to them until the early hours of the morning. All of them were delighted to listen. When my brief visit came to an end, I left them some Bibles and Bible literature. Thereafter, we kept in touch.
When the Witnesses arrived in Durango—where nobody else had preached before—they found 18 people eagerly waiting for a Bible study. The Witnesses were happy to arrange for each family to have one.
Until then, Mercedes had not proved receptive, more because of fear of man than a reluctance to accept Bible teachings. The work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was banned in Spain at the time, so she thought that the authorities would expel our two children from school and that we would all become outcasts. But when she saw that the whole family was embracing Bible truth, she too wanted to study.
Within two years, 40 members of my family became Witnesses and were baptized in symbol of their dedication to serve God. Yes, my family shared my goal and purpose in life. I felt I had achieved something truly worthwhile. We had been blessed with spiritual riches in abundance.
Life Got Richer as I Got Older
For the next 20 years, I concentrated on bringing up our two boys and helping the local congregation. When Mercedes and I moved to Logroño, there were only about 20 Witnesses in that city of some 100,000 inhabitants. Before long, I received many responsibilities in the congregation.
Then, when I was 56 years of age, my company unexpectedly shut down the factory where I worked, and I found myself unemployed. I had always had a keen desire to be in the full-time ministry, so I took advantage of these new circumstances to become a pioneer. The pension that I received was meager, and living on it was not easy. Mercedes helped out by doing cleaning jobs. We were able to manage and never lacked the necessary things. I am still a pioneer, and she serves from time to time as an auxiliary pioneer, enjoying the preaching work very much.
A few years ago, Mercedes would regularly leave our magazines with a young woman named Merche who as a child had studied the Bible. Merche read our literature with interest, and Mercedes noticed that in her heart Merche still had appreciation for Bible truth. Finally, Merche accepted a Bible study and began to progress well. But Vicente, her husband, drank a lot and could not hold down a regular job. As a result, he did not support her financially; his alcohol abuse threatened to wreck their marriage.
My wife suggested to Merche that Vicente talk to me, and finally he did. After several visits, he accepted a Bible study. Vicente began to change, stopping his drinking for several days at a time. Then his periods of abstinence lasted for a week or more. Eventually, he quit drinking alcohol altogether. His countenance improved noticeably, and his family became united. His whole family, including his wife and daughter, give excellent support to the small congregation in the Canary Islands, where they now live.
Looking Back on a Meaningful Life
Although some of my relatives who learned Bible teachings years ago have now died, our extended family has continued to grow, and God has richly blessed us. (Prov. 10:22) How satisfying it is to see that practically all of those who began to study the Bible 40 years ago—along with their children and grandchildren—have continued to serve Jehovah faithfully!
I now have scores of fleshly relatives who are Witnesses, many of whom serve as elders, ministerial servants, and pioneers. My oldest son and his wife serve at the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Madrid, Spain. When I became a Witness, there were about 3,000 of us in Spain. Now there are over 100,000. I thoroughly enjoy the full-time ministry, and I am very grateful to God for a wonderful life in his service. Despite having had little formal education, I am able to serve from time to time as a substitute circuit overseer.
A few years ago, I discovered that the village where I grew up was practically deserted. Poverty eventually forced all the inhabitants to abandon their fields and their homes in search of a better life. Happily, a goodly number of those emigrants—including me—have found spiritual treasures. We learned that life does have meaning and that serving Jehovah brings the greatest joy imaginable.
[Picture on page 32]
Almost all of Brother Martínez’ family who are in the truth